Viz Select is a special imprint of Viz that digitally rereleases old fan favorite mangas that fell out of print years ago. Basically, it’s an imprint that gives old titles from companies that are no longer around a chance to be purchased once more. Most of the Select titles are from Tokyopop’s old catalogue, like Chibi Vampire, Future Diary, and D.N Angel, which is fine since that company used to have a lot of popular titles that people really liked. The Select title also keeps the original translation job the previous company did as well.
This title in particular, Girls Bravo, is the same deal as the other titles. However, this one sort of perplexes me about why it was picked. This was a popular series back in the day and a huge guilty pleasure, but this was picked over stuff like Battle Royale (questionable translation aside), Fruits Basket, Dragon Head (okay, that’s just a personal favorite of mine), or something like Chrono Crusade (yeah, it wasn’t a Tokyopop title, but still). Well whatever, let’s just take a look at this manga (which is celebrating its 10th anniversary of arriving in America this year) and see if it still holds up.
Girls Bravo Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written and drawn by: Mario Kaneda
Translated and adapted by: Asuka Yoshizu and Steve Bunche
Yukinari Sasaki has a problem. Due to constantly being victimized, insulted, and abused by girls, he has developed this extremely bizarre condition: a girl-phobia of sorts. Any physical contact with girls will cause him to break out into hives. Then out of the blue, after being punched into a bathtub by female neighbor/acquaintance named Kirie Kojima, he somehow ends up in another world where he meets this girl with pink hair named Miharu. She is the only girl who doesn’t cause an allergic reaction and when she accidently follows him back to Earth, shenanigans ensue!
Are you familiar with harem comedies by any chance? To explain simply: it’s a series where a bunch of girls are in love with or they happen to revolve around this one guy, usually a loser or average individual (typically anyways) and it’s all about the funny comedy and romantic hijinks that ensues. Sometimes the situation is reversed with a bunch of guys all pining for one girl, but it’s usually the one guy and many girls scenario. Some examples of this genre are Ranma ½, Love Hina, the Tenchi franchise, and Shuffle. Girls Bravo is one of these kinds of series and unfortunately, it feels like it is on the weak end of this niche genre.
This is totally scientifically accurate.
The first volume here is basically just setting things up, introducing some concepts (Yukinari’s issues for instance) and the cast of characters, but there’s not much beyond that. Harem comedies usually don’t have much in terms of story progression or big plots, since it’s more about the comedy and situations the characters get into. That’s fine and all, but even the minor bits of story feel rather weak, have poor setup, or have lackluster resolution to them (the third chapter taking place in the hot spring is probably the weakest point of the volume). Ultimately, it probably won’t be that big of a deal for most, but if you wanted something with a bit more story to it, this won’t be for you.
As far as the chracters go, sadly, it’s a tad on the weak side as well. Our lead, Yukinari, is a pretty weak-willed and rather standard sort of character. There’s nothing too memorable or special about him, other than his allergy issue, but even then, that one trait doesn’t feel all that well defined or explored. He states in the first chapter that he kept getting picked on by girls because of his height, which led to his allergies, but beyond that chapter, it’s never really brought up again (besides one chapter, but that was a guy doing the bullying instead). Besides that, there’s just nothing else to this guy.
Miharu is the lead female character and is the center of most of the humor in the series. Coming from a different world (that doesn’t look that different from the regular world in this series), she is basically the foreigner and has to learn from Yukinari and Kirie about Earth and try to fit into society. She is a bit of an idiot, having this running gag about asking whether or not items or things she sees or hears about are edible, and seems to know some magic (though she acts as if she is unaware of it), but she is genuinely a nice individual and very friendly. She undergoes no real development or growth, but she is the most likeable and least problematic character in this manga.
I have no idea who is complimenting Kirie given this panel.
Kirie, on the other hand, is very problematic and borders on unlikeable at points. She is quick to anger and acts out violently against someone who pisses her off whether or not any action was deliberate (aka Yukinari), but she can immediately flip-flop back to being nice. Her best moments are when she tries to be nice towards others and when she can somehow read people’s minds (more of a gag than to be taken seriously), but her abusive behavior towards Yukinari is troubling and she doesn’t have much depth to her outside of a hint of a crush towards him (abusive relationships folks!). She’ll probably be the most divisive character in the series.
Finally, there are the Fukuyama siblings, Kazuharu and Lisa. Kazuharu is a reverse Yukinari: beloved by all girls, very popular and alethic, and even has an allergy to guys (which is sadly not explained). He’s a complete and total jerk with no real dimensions beyond what we see here, but he serves his job as a one-dimensional antagonist well. Lisa is his younger sister and probably is the best character in the series (or at least my favorite) thus far. She’s not particularly deep or anything, but most of the humor involving her and her attempts to fling herself at Yukinari (she pursues him after hearing this bizarre fortune on the radio) do tend to provide the most laughs in the series. She’s a pretty big ham and can be overly dramatic at points, but she does tend to have some redeeming qualities and never feels like a pain right now.
Your dreams are very interesting if your true love is required to have that keychain.
The writing demonstrated here so far is a mixed bag. The plot structure and flow are fine for the most part, but there are some very awkward transitions between scenes and forward leaps in the story. It can lead you to feel like you missed a page or panel at points. The characterization is fine and no one really ever acts out of character once established, but there’s no real sign of growth anywhere (though Yukinari seems to flip flop on his stance of women at points). The dialogue is alright as well, but nothing really jumps out that much.
However, the biggest point to whether or not this kind of manga will work is the comedy. Is this series actually funny? Going off this first volume, the humor has more misses than hits sadly. It hasn’t aged all that well, since most of the harem style humor has been done to death now and the physical comedy of Kirie beating on Yukinari is more off-putting nowadays. Don’t get me too wrong here though, some of humor still works and does provide a good laugh. One of the best jokes was where Lisa jumps off a stage to try to land in Yukinari’s arms, but instead lands on another guy and it ends up looking like she crushed the guy. It causes a lot of people to freak out and act like the guy died or something, but one person’s reaction is extremely deadpan and unphased by what happened. Still though, the humor is on the weak side and there were more times where I was staring blankly at the pages than laughing or smiling.
The artwork on the other hand is perfectly fine. Nothing too great or amazing here, but it works. The characters look solid, though a lot of the people do tend to have the same facial structures. The layouts are alright, but they feel like they could been better structured so that the book wouldn’t have felt so jumpy. Some of the visual humor looks good overall as well. One thing to comment on though is this digital version’s presentation, at least at the time of this release. I’m not sure if Viz took the original translated edition from Tokyopop and just scanned in the pages, but there is some blurriness and pixelation problems that do take away from the experience. Like for instance, it was actually almost impossible to read some small text in the word balloons. Also, the pages that used to be in color are in black and white now and feel incredibly faded at points. Hopefully this issue is fixed soon so that people who want to read the manga or are fans of the series can get the most out of this release.
Girls Bravo Vol. 1 is a pretty standard harem comedy series that really doesn’t provide much to chew on at this point. Not much is happening with the stories, the characters are pretty mixed, and the humor tends to miss more than it hits. If you are fan of the title from the past or are just a big fan of these types of series, I could recommend the book to you. However, if you really want a good series like this, Niseoki: False Love is a much better choice.
Girls Bravo is currently available from Viz Media in digital form only. The manga was originally released in its entirety by Tokyopop and despite being out of print, it shouldn’t be too hard to find copies. An anime adaption of the series was originally brought over and translated by the now defunct Genon, but has been rescued and rereleased by Funimation. There was also a video game based on the series, but it was never released outside of Japan.