It almost goes without saying that a lot of new manga licenses this year were brought about because they got an anime adaptation. Of course, just because a manga becomes an anime doesn't mean that the source material was any good to begin with.
OK, this one is sort of cheating as this series doesn't start until the winter season starts, but it's close enough.
MASAMUNE-KUN'S REVENGE (Masamune-kun no Ribenji), written by Hazuki Takeoka with art by TIV. First published in 2012 and first published in North America in 2016.
Makabe Masamune was a porky little rich kid whose heart was broken by the cruel taunts of one Adagaki Aki. Since then, Masamune has desired nothing but revenge. He has transformed his body, his lifestyle, even his name with one goal in mind: find Aki, make her fall in love with him, and humiliate her just as badly as she did before. Masamune's plan hits a snag when he discovers something surprising: he's not the only one who wants Aki put in her place.
What a thoroughly awful manga! I don't say that lightly. It's not just that it trades in a lot of cliché like so many other bad manga, but that all of its main cast are incredibly awful people and that their awfulness is played completely straight.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: Masamune is a terrible person. It's not just that his entire motivation is petty revenge for a slight that's nearly a decade old. It's not that his transformation is entirely skin-deep and that he's still the same old petty dweeb he always was underneath. It's that he has a golden opportunity to start anew, to learn how to make friends and socialize in a normal way, and he does everything in his power to completely ignore it. No, he would rather pretend he's some sort of mastermind than just move on. That way he can lord secrets over her, secrets like "she eats a lot!" Gasp! Quelle horreur! Maybe if the story was willing to poke fun at his awfulness, the story could be saved. Instead, it would have us totally sympathize with Masamune's so-called plight. I would sooner punch him in the face.
That's not to say that Aki is any better. She's imperious and cruel, a bully who uses her popularity to maintain what she sees as social order. She's waited on hand and foot by Yoshino, who serves as both her closest confidante and her literal steward (who turns out to hate her just as much as Masamune does). Anyone would want to see this girl taken down a peg. Of course, she turns out to be just as much of a socially awkward loser as Masamune is. She just hides it under a tsundere front instead of a cool and collected one. We're meant to take this to mean that these two stupid kids are meant for one another, but what I took away from it is that they're both awful and throwing them together only amplifies their innate awfulness.
The worst part is that this plot is played entirely straight. The writer doesn't want you to realize how awful everyone is being here or poke fun at their awfulness. This is a scenario that's ripe for farce, but instead it's treated like pure sentimental drama. That is possible the worst approach, as all it does is highlight all that's terrible about the book and the characters within it.
I didn't expect much from the art here, but it even managed to not quite meet those low expectations. The character designs are super-generic. The most creative TIV gets is giving Aki a bunch of fussy and utterly impossible tendrils of hair that swirl around her like tentacles. At the same time, he seems a bit fuzzy on human anatomy. Expressions are flat, perspective gets wonky in places, and at time he doesn't seem to know how to handle things like jaw lines or even butts. He throws in a few panty shots from time to time, but it feels completely perfunctory even by the standards of unnecessary fanservice. The sad thing is that he's actually pretty good at paneling. He lets limbs and other outside elements overlap outside the panel borders in a way that directs the reader's eye. He can put together a decent sequence of talking heads, one that feels dynamic and quick. Maybe if he had something other than this particular pile of garbage to work on, those skills could be cultivated and put to good use.
Masamune-kun's Revenge is mean-spirited and aggravating. I can only hope that this manga takes the same path as First Love Monster, where both the source material and the animated version are completely ignored by the masses.
This series is published by Seven Seas. This series is ongoing in Japan with 7 volumes available. 2 volumes have been published and are currently in print.
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