Monkey High! 1 by Shouko Akira: A-

From the back cover:
Haruna Aizawa thinks that school life is just like a monkey mountain—all the monkeys form cliques, get into fights, and get back together again. The school that she just transferred to is no exception. There’s even a boy called Macharu Yamashita who reminds her of a baby monkey!

It’s hard enough fitting in at a new school while dealing with family problems… Will Haruna remain jaded and distance herself from everyone around her? Or will Macharu win her over with his monkey magic?

Viz really does have some quality shojo of the high school romance genre. Love*Com, High School Debut, We Were There, and now Monkey High!. Each one that I’ve read, I’ve really liked a lot.

Haruna Aizawa’s father is an upstart politician at the center of a corruption scandal. Because of this, she transferred into a new high school, but the group dynamics—which she compares to a gang of monkeys—are much the same. She strives to keep her distance, but one boy manages to befriend her. Macharu is rather scrawny and not generally someone a beautiful girl like Haruna would consider the ideal boyfriend, but he’s kind, considerate, and sincere and before Haruna realizes it, she’s fallen in love with him. They receive instant support from their classmates who think the mismatch has great potential to be interesting.

Haruna and Macharu are both interesting characters, and it’s awfully refreshing to read a title where the heroine is not earning the affections of the dreamiest, most popular boy in school. Also, Haruna has had boyfriends before, so is not going spazzy over having attracted a boy’s notice. There are some genuinely cute moments between them, and I’m happy to see them become a couple so quickly, as I tend to like stories where getting together is only the beginning of the story, rather than its culmination.

There are some things I found a little annoying, though. The three chapters in this volume deal with the school play, school trip, and Christmas, respectively. Is Akira-sensei just getting the clichés out of the way up front? I’m a little worried. Also, I didn’t find it funny when Haruna and Macharu’s classmates just happened to be eavesdropping on the lead pair at a few crucial moments, interrupting with their antics.

Considering how often I grumble about unfunny attempts at comedy in manga, I wouldn’t blame anyone for concluding that I simply have no sense of humor. I assure you that isn’t the case; I just don’t like it when it isn’t part of the story but instead disrupts it.

Monkey High! was originally published in Japan as Saruyama! and is complete with eight volumes total. Viz is releasing it in English and five volumes have been published so far.

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  1. Ugh, I sort of hate random humor too. It always feels like it’s stuck in there out of obligation. It’s just hard for me to imagine girls in Japan enjoying the stories more when the heroine’s friends crack the same bad jokes in every series ever written.

    I sort of liked Lovely Complex for the fact that it was clear the main love interest wasn’t someone all the other girls were gunning for. I didn’t read the beginning of that series, but he struck me as a little unpopular. Or maybe that was just people giving him grief about his height, I’m not sure.

  2. Hm, Outani’s more average than unpopular. At some point, he becomes captain of the basketball team, and I think I recall some girls cheering for him during events and stuff. And there are a couple of other girls who’ve liked him in the eight volumes I’ve read, like a new first year and his neighbor. He’s just not every girl’s dream, like in some series.


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