S. S. Astro 1 by Negi Banno: C

The fact that I am not the intended audience for this title was made readily apparent when the eight-page color illustration collection in the front of the book contained not only a hot springs scene (complete with buoyant bosoms), but also an image of a character looking shocked to be discovered in the act of clutching a skimpy towel around her nude and glistening body while fellating a melting popsicle (as you do).

There’s not as much concentrated fanservice in the manga itself, at least. It’s the story of long-time friends Izumi Maki and Nagumo Yuko who return to their former high school as Physical Education and Japanese teachers, respectively. There, they meet and befriend fellow teachers Arai and Karasuma. The back cover promises “hilariously juvenile” behavior from this quartet, and while the content certainly delivers on the latter part of the bargain, there isn’t much hilarity in evidence.

The Astro in the title stands for Asashio Sogo Teachers Room, but the characters hardly spend any time there at all. Much of the action takes place outside of school, like going out drinking or viewing cherry blossoms. Events occurring at school are usually outside the classroom, which is a shame, since my favorite bits are those where they were actually doing their jobs, administering tests and devising trick questions with which to trip up the students.

Because S. S. Astro is a four-panel manga that takes place in a school setting, it’s inevitable that it will get compared to Azumanga Daioh, and there are indeed some similarities. Each of the characters has one single trait that becomes the punchline for most strips featuring them (chronic sleepiness, a voracious appetite, predatory lesbianism). Female characters dominate and most of the adult males who appear are cretins. Both series also have a surfeit of annoying characters, but with S. S. Astro it’s more a case of characters who can be interesting one moment and irritating the next.

The art isn’t bad, though often these twenty-something women appear far younger. Maki, in particular, has a tendency to look twelve. Questionable content aside, the best art is to be found in the color illustrations, especially the character portraits in the very front that resemble ID badges. Care has clearly been taken with the translation, including signs and sound effects, and very informative translation notes have been included. The overall feel of the book is quite nice, with a slimmer width and slightly larger trim size than usual to set it apart from the crowd.

Lastly, a brief preview for Suzunari is included in the back of the book; Yen Press would like you to know that it also features boobs.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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