Wednesday, December 23, 2015


This was the year that Seven Seas finally started to redeem itself in my eyes.  I've ragged on them for years for putting out what I've often dubbed as moe and harem garbage (well, that and a zillion Alice In the Country of Hearts spinoffs).  Yet this year they put out two of my favorite manga from this year, starting with this underrated gem of a comedy manga.

HAVEN'T YOU HEARD?  I'M SAKAMOTO (Sakamoto desu ga?), by Nami Sano.  First published in 2012 and first published in North American in 2015.


Sakamoto is the new kid in class and for all appearances he can do no wrong.  He's seemingly perfect at everything: school, work, sports, and so forth.  He's so good looking that he leaves all the girls (and even some of the teachers) swooning.  That means that some of his classmates would love to take Sakamoto down a peg or bend him to their will.  Soon enough, though, they will learn that their pranks and schemes are no match for Sakamoto's cool head and his secret skills.


Sakamoto might be one of the hardest manga I've had to review this month.  It's a comedy, but it's so subdued and strange that I can easily see a lot of people simply not getting it.  In some ways it's a riff on the standard inspirational high-school drama, but in other ways it's a character-driven piece about one weird guy and the collection of weirdos that amass around him.  It is all of these things at once, and because of that it's one of the most fascinating works I've read for this site in a good long while.

The biggest mystery and the biggest source of comedy is Sakamoto himself.  He looks like a normal teenager, but his abilities suggest something more supernatural.  He's capable of superhuman speed and agility at times and he can seemingly anticipate and counteract any plan against him, be it a gang beat-down, a scheming schoolgirl, or even an angry giant hornet.  Despite that, he rarely emotes, meeting every problem with the same cool and placid expression.  It's his inability to be ruffled that annoys so many, but it's also the very same quality that makes him so funny.  He appears to be the straightman to the insanity around him, but in truth it's he that always gets the last laugh while the others are made to be the fool.  This might be the driest manga I've ever read.

That's not to say that the rest of the cast are slackers in the personality department either.  Admittedly, most of them are one-shot opponents with little more than a grudge, but others have a bit more dimension and Sakamoto's influence gives them a new direction in life.  That's how the attention-whoring model Sena ends up becoming the class clown, how class flirt Aina learns to start making friends with other girls, or how Suna the pudgy outclass learns the value of dignity and becomes the closest thing Sakamoto has to a friend (and in doing so becomes one of the few reoccuring characters in this volume).  There aren't necessarily a lot of threads of continuity to be found here, but taken as a whole it's easy to see just how far reaching Sakamoto's influence can be.

Sakamoto might be a hard manga to pin down, but it's a something of a marvel to read.  Its sense of humor might be too odd and dry for some, but the story shines like a gem thanks to Sano's skill for packing plenty of character into a single chapter and making something utterly ridiculous seem so understated.


Much like the title character, Sakamoto is a manga that's very easy on the eyes.  Sano's characters are very appealing and realistic.  They might be a little stiff at times, but they're all very expressive (well, except Sakamoto, but that's on purpose) and the shading really gives them a sense of dimension.  That touch of reality works in the story's favor, as it helps to ground the story and thus highlight just how ridiculous the schemes against Sakamoto are.  Panels are small but efficient; no space is wasted but neither are they drowning in details.  As I said before, good art can make or break a comedy series, and this art is not only beautifully rendered but also enhances the particular tone the story is aiming for.


More people should be hearing about Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto.  In a sea of broad, bawdy ecchi comedy manga, it stands out just by virtue of being deliciously dry, beautifully drawn, and slightly odd.

This series is published by Seven Seas.  This series is complete in Japan with 4 volumes available.  2 volumes have been published and all are currently in print.

Remember to leave a comment here to enter the Holiday Giveaway to win a $25 RightStuf gift certificate!  The contest ends in just 2 days!

No comments:

Post a Comment