青春乙女番長! (Seishun Otome Banchou!)
Shoujo – Comedy, romance
3 Volumes (complete)
Mihane, nicknamed “Killer Demon” due to her temper and looks, is crushing on her classmate Toma. Neither of them were expecting her to blurt out a confession! Toma agrees to hold his answer for three days during a trial period. Mihane plans to go all out, but will things work out?
Queen Bee! is an option for those looking for a comedy-heavy romance for a tweens that loves craziness.
Anybody remember the manga Girl Got Game (aka Power!!)? It was released in English by Tokyopop. Well, late in the series, one of the heroine’s coworkers starts talking (bragging) about his wife. This short scene eventually led to the manga Love Attack! (aka Junai Tokkou Taichou!), which focuses on that coworker and his wife in high school. Tokyopop also started releasing this series, but they dropped it around the halfway mark. Anyway, their daughter is the protagonist of Queen Bee.
So I was a little surprised that Kodansha Comics would pick up this series. I only have a hazy memory of Love Attack!, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of references to that manga (or Girl Got Game, since they’re taking place in the same world) in Queen Bee. So this manga can be read as a stand alone, but it’s still not the type of series the company usually goes for. After all, it’s a little older, short, and the author is not a hot commodity in the English-speaking fandom.
Mihane’s parents are a scary-looking man and a short-tempered woman. And Mihane has inherited both of those traits, much to her consternation. There’s no way her crush, the handsome Toma (personal name Yoshihiro), would like her. In fact, he’s weirded out by her constant creepy stares, and when he finally confronts her, Mihane blurts out a confession. Toma is about to turn her down, but Mihane manages to convince him to hang out with her for a few days to get to know her.
Toma agrees, and Mihane tries her best to be a fit for Toma. But between her own incompetence, short fuse, and some teasing by her best friend, Maria, things keep going off-track. But things seem to be going okay — very well even — until Mihane overhears some not-so-nice things being said about her by Toma and his friends. She slightly misunderstood, but her feelings swell when Toma apologizes anyway. That still doesn’t mean he returns her feelings, though, but at least she’s been promoted from being a stalker or the butt of a joke.
Queen Bee is wholeheartedly, unabashedly a comedy. Yes, it’s a story of two high schoolers getting closer together despite one’s yankee tendencies, but the selling point is the craziness. Mihane is so awkward at smiling that she could give Jason and Pennywise a run for their money. She can carry a couple of guys her age with ease. In the first chapter, Mihane appears with a chainsaw. Meanwhile, her best friend, Maria, loves to see Mihane’s reactions and likes to “help” Mihane… like only putting on makeup on half her face so Mihane looks like a before-and-after commercial. There are also a few times where Mihane and Toma’s positions are flipped versus traditional shoujo staples (see: princess carry). However, the various forms of Mihane’s devilish smile make up the majority of the comedy. (Think Rise from Gakuen Prince in terms of her expressions.) Some other jokes may fall flat or be considered distasteful depending on the audience though (like Mihane deciding to punish some girls by lifting their skirts high with at least one boy around). On the other hand, it’s also hard to take seriously the series at face value when there’s a girl habitually standing on the roof fence to shout at the world or when another character provides some… colorful narration.
Mihane’s anger though is usually reserved for those who insult Toma, although she comes close to being violent with him a couple of times, so she is a bit yandere. She also “helps” Toma with some problems despite the unsavory implications for herself. But I doubt anyone would take Mihane’s arguably creepy behavior seriously. It’s basically this song in manga form.
I do like Toma as a character because he doesn’t quite fall into any of the usual shoujo romance hero archetypes. He’s not some super nice guy with the aura of a saint. He’s not cold. He’s not super strong. He’s not super weak. Not obtuse to Mihane’s (and his own growing) feelings, but not completely in tune either. Toma is a guy with some obvious flaws, but despite some of his more exaggerated habits/expressions (like blushing furious, stunning his friends), he feels more like a realistic teen. After all, it’s hard not to want to follow along with Mihane’s craziness, whether that’s jumping into the fray or climbing up a pole.
The manga covers Mihane’s attempts to get closer to Toma and/or to not let bad things happen to him. The manga is mostly episodic until the final chapters, which introduce a new character as Toma and Mihane grapple with their feelings. That involves both moping and getting angry. But since this series is only three volumes long, there’s no long discussion about the future or Valentine’s Day antics. It’s just some usual school events like a cooking class, field trips, and sitting in class. This is not a manga with depth, and that’s not a bad thing if that’s what you’re looking for. In addition, outside of a couple of upskirts and one boy’s comment about being interrupted during a bathroom break, Queen Bee! is tame in sexual content. Mihane does flip out a couple of times, which I guess is to be expected because of her parents, but I don’t remember if they brought in extra tools to help. (Or maybe they did later in the manga?)
It was also surprising that, despite Mihane’s habits and strength, she was not part of a girl gang or anything. I guess the author wanted to restrict the violence to Mihane to make it clear that there are some foundations to all the rumors about her. Maria is her only friend, and her penchant for interesting new developments or toys is the type of comedy that I tend to love. Otherwise, while Toma’s best friend is a somewhat significant character, that’s pretty much it in terms of the cast. Heck, the in-manga synopses only list Mihane, Toma, and Maria, so he’s definitely a step down in importance. There are a couple of recurring characters, but generally, it’s random guys/girls remarking on Mihane/Toma and how those comments drive Mihane’s actions in regards to Toma. Again, no doubt that she would be considered a stalker if the manga was set from someone else’s perspective. But the lighthearted tone means that no one should be emulating her behavior, even if Toma finds himself more and more interested in his unusually strong classmate.
I’ve already discussed at length about the various Mihane face gags, but I will add that I do like to see more gyaru/gal style protagonists in shoujo manga. I also touched upon that Mihane’s eyes are rather small/narrow for shoujo manga, although that sometimes changes with makeup or if she’s suddenly cast in a role like brave hero or rough draft drawing (seriously). But she looks like the sort of girl who would either be in a supporting character or in a shounen manga. Maria looks more like a heroine, which is played up for some laughs a few times. But the art is rather simplistic otherwise, with basic backgrounds and straightforward layouts. Assuming you or someone you know doesn’t have an issue with wielding chainsaws or flipping skirts, Queen Bee! might be a good choice for the younger crowd who is trying to get used to reading “backwards”. I mean, anyone would laugh at Mihane’s grin, especially if Maria is setting her up for a joke.
The title I felt was a strange choice. Queen bee in English usually brings up images of the leader of the popular girls in high school, or maybe an old-fashioned manager who acts higher than her station. I don’t think of wannabe girl gangsters. Maybe I’m alone here, so chime in if you think differently.
Honorifics are used. Some footnotes are used to explain things like Mihane’s codename.
Read Queen Bee! only if you want to see a wild heroine — both in personality and in looks. It’s enjoyable, but I doubt many manga readers would want to revisit this often enough to buy over other titles from Kodansha Comics’ digital-only lineup, let alone all other manga. But it is fun to see the genders reversed (female is the strong and delinquent-like one versus the normie guy) in a story like this.
Tokyopop released Seino’s Girl Got Game in full but only part of Love Attack!