Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, March 13, 2010
      ( 3/13/2010 11:29:00 AM ) Bill S.  


“I’VE TRANSFERRED TO A LOONY BIN!” When slender schoolgirl Souka Hirayama transfers to a technical school, she doesn’t realize how different it’ll be from her old private school. The only girl in a school packed with 850 hyperactive boys, Souka finds herself in a setting characterized by regular pissing contests between her fellow classmates and a testosterone heavy “war” between juniors and seniors. “They still have them in the 21st century?” she says of the school’s gang-styled hierarchy, though circumstances will place her at the very top of the junior class pecking order.

An admittedly preposterous shojo comedy, Maya Fujikata’s My Darling! Miss Bancho (CMX) centers on Souka’s misadventures after she inadvertently knocks out the class’s reigning “bancho” (gang leader) and is forced to take his place. Her besotted classmates are all too eager to place her on a pedestal, and whenever someone comes around to challenge her place as Miss Bancho, slapstick contrivance -- and the support of handsome classmate Yuuji Katou -- keep her in the position. “In a sense,” manga writer/artist Fujikata unnecessarily tells us at one point in a free-floating note, she’s “the strongest of them all.” Of course, the fact that her largely indistinguishable juvenile delinquent classmates are about as imposing as the Sweat Hogs keeps this fact from being too impressive.

Fujikata’s treatment of her sitcom premise is broadly dramatized and frantic: suited to the brand of adolescent posturing that fuels her episodic comic manga. If she occasionally over relies on editorial comments (“Treats her like a pet,” she appends to a panel where Yuuji condescendingly pats our heroine’s head), for the most part, the Teen-rated My Darling! Miss Bancho works as a lightweight riff on school-themed stories and boy/girl sex roles. I can see this silly series appealing to a young teen girl audience -- particularly those feeling frustrated by what idiots boys their age can be . . .

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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).



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