Ogawa to Yukai na Saitou-tachi
Ogawa and the Delightful Saitous
Ogawa and Team Saitou
Shoujo – Comedy, reverse harem
9 Volumes (complete)
Rio’s only special talent seems to be getting bossed around by all her classmates. One day, a classmate orders her to kick the three scariest students in school. Ogawa tries to run away, but she ends up accidentally attacking all three! She fears they’ll want revenge, but instead, she’s drafted into a friendship circle with these three friendless boys.
The art is a bit weak, but Ogawa to Yukai na Saitou-tachi is a cute gag-type comedy that all ages can enjoy.
In Ogawa to Yukai na Saitou-tachi, the titular Ogawa (given name Rio) is a second year middle school clumsy pushover with absolutely no self-esteem. Her nickname is Ogawa the Pushover (or Gofer Ogawa). Well, the leader of the mean girls (Mutsumi) orders her to kick the most frightening boys in school. Coincidentally, although they’re not related, they all share the same family name, Saitou. Well, Rio means to flee from the whole situation, but then this happens:
Yeah, that’s an oops.
So Rio’s sure she’s about to be killed, but it turns out, they’ve all heard of this super pathetic girl who was ranked #1 on some unflattering lists. The three then mention how they’ve jointly topped the ranking for categories like “scariest student” and “least likely to make friends”. Just as a fight seems ready to break out, one of them has an idea: if they’re each others’ friends, then they won’t be friendless! And that’s how the scaredy cat Rio finds herself drafted as Friend #4. Of course, at first, she’s frightened and confused by this turn of events, but Rio quickly realizes how important her new companions really are to her.
I’ve already talked a little bit about Rio. A lot of people dislike really weak protagonists, but this is a comedy. Yes, there’s the usual “power of friendship” and “believe in yourself” morals, but her own haplessness is the whole reason the story exists. She is both accepted by the three because of her nature and acts as a counterweight to them. Because Saitou, Saitou, and Saitou all earn their title of “most scary student” one way or another.
Of course, three guys having the same name gets confusing, so it’s time for their introduction:
First up, Daiki (nickname: Ooyorokobi, aka Great Joy or Happy). He’s described as a narcissistic yankee. Next up is Nakayoshi, a guy with monster strength and a tendency to space out. Finally, the youngest, Yasushige, is a mad scientist. His name, like Daiki’s, comes from the fact Rio misread their names. This is not, repeat not, meant to be a slur: poor Yasushige gets stuck with the name Homo. So his other nickname, Megane (Glasses or Four-Eyes), is definitely an upgrade.
So now that the titular characters are introduced, the story is rather simple and episodic, which works for a manga like this. Rio finds herself being targeted while Team Saitou eventually delivers Mutsumi, the Newspaper Club’s leader, or whoever’s behind it a taste of their own medicine… or Yasushige’s experiments. Occasionally, the guys also become the victims of harassment or have to face challenges like passing exams, but it’s usually Rio. Either way, as the first girl in their lives, the guys are crushing on her and often try to find ways to get ahead. (It usually fails since they all think alike.) Also, Daiki and Yasushige fight a lot, as while they both are short-tempered, one is a genius while the other is a dunce.
No matter what, this is an exaggerated, sometimes cartoonish comedy. More characters are introduced, but the manga is best when it’s just full-on outrageousness of Evil Twin-tailed Mutsumi and/or the guy in charge of the Newspaper Club trying to bust their enemies and instead get their comeuppance. And it’s not just that the perpetrators end up black and blue; yes, physical violence is used, but sometimes, let’s just say manual labor or a trip to a particular location is worse than a jumpkick to the head. Other parts also show off the four leads’ quirks: no one notices the animal they are secretly caring for has a certain feature, and in another case, a sno-cone party just goes awry because they couldn’t agree on what flavor to use. It’s just a lot of crazy fun.
Now… the art. This was Sakyou’s debut work, and she hasn’t worked much after it. And even though Sakyou improves, Rio still has giant, oversized eyes. She just gets promoted from bug to a humanoid space alien. Seriously, her eyes are HUGE. The guys don’t look nearly as awkward, but that’s because they’re usually glaring at someone. (Well, as much as Nakayoshi can glare considering “expressionless” is in his character description.) But even as a comedy based on exaggerated expressions — and there are A LOT of them –, the art is rather weak. Angles look a little awkward, and the manga sometimes feels like it goes from Point A to Point C without explaining things. Like, were there no adults as sports day that said anything about tossing water onto the track or just one racer having to crawl under a net? The pages just look busy and crammed since Sakyou wants to cram as much SD art as possible, and yet the backgrounds are minimal. The art is okay considering this series is targeted at a lower age demographic, but it is far from great. If this had been a simple gag manga, Sakyou could probably have gotten away with a simpler style.
Chance of License:
As a Nakayoshi title, Kodansha Comics USA would have first chance at it. Other companies like Yen Press and Udon Entertainment have picked up the occasional Kodansha title, but I doubt they’d be interested. While some Nakayoshi titles are for teens (Missions of Love), this series definitely targets the younger readers, a demographic that often is neglected in the West. The series is also a comedy, and comedies generally don’t do as well in sales as action or drama series, particularly one like this which is rather episodic. The series finished several years ago, and more and more licenses are focusing on titles currently being published. Combined with the cover art that doesn’t grab readers’ attention and the fact the author is rather unknown and only works occasionally to this day, I don’t see this getting picked up.
I do love a good deep, mature story. I also love a lighthearted, fun read. Ogawa to Yukai na Saitou-tachi is decidedly in the latter category. It’s a series geared toward younger readers, but sometimes that’s exactly what I am in the mood for.