The Girl Living Alone
ひとり暮らしの小学生 (Hitorigurashi no Shougakusei)
Webcomic – 4-koma, comedy
3 Volumes / 1 Omnibus (complete)
Years ago, a little girl was orphaned, and she decided to run her parents’ restaurant. Unfortunately, she’s not a good cook! But despite her poverty and lack of cooking skills, Rin still does her best at home and school.
The manga opens with a teacher narrating to his students about a little fourth grader named Rin. Rin’s parents passed away, and she ran their restaurant. This it the bulk of the manga: Rin interacting with her homeroom teacher and friends(?) at school and her regular customers at her job.
Of course, the big question anyone has when reading this manga is, “Why doesn’t anyone take her in?” That question is never answered. Rin’s situation is hardly a secret, as she volunteers that information when anyone asks where her parents are. (Everyone who asks is immediately horrified when they get their answer.) She’s also clearly short on cash, wearing patched-up clothes and is often hungry. Even disregarding orphanages or other organizations, it’s strange that her parents didn’t have any friends or regulars that would decide to step up and be her guardian.
But it’s manga (well, a webcomic), so we’ll just disregard logic.
Her hometown in a tourist destination, but a combination of a bad location, limited hours, and bad food means that Rin doesn’t earn much money. She gets by thanks to three regulars. Jiro is a 40-something who dreams of becoming a music superstar, and two 20-something (unrelated) workers who are only known as Big Brother and Big Sister. The three always order coffee due to Rin’s cooking skills, but Jiro’s offbeat taste buds means he can eat and enjoy some of her odd or under/overcooked food. Sometimes only one or two show up, other times all three are at the restaurant. I like how this avoids just rotating the guest of the day.
At school, her homeroom teacher sympathizes, but he’s also a wimp. Meanwhile, there’s Ryo, a prankster, and rich girl Mieko who thinks of Rin as her rival. Mieko has some friction with her father and is the usually ojou-sama tsundere who slowly becomes her friend. Ryo, like Mieko, also can’t be honest with his feelings; readers can tell right away he has a crush on Rin (and it’s cute), but his nine-year-old self also screws up at times and ends up hurting his chances more than helping. Rin is clueless of course, as she just thinks Ryo is messing with her when actually he knows how tough she has it.
We also see other people like the neighborhood grocer or a local thief, but my favorite of these secondary characters is a female teacher that Rin’s teacher likes. She seems sweet but she’s also secretly into curses. Wish we could have seen more of her.
Anyway, despite her situation, Rin does her best, not wanting pity. Even if that means using tape as an eraser or wearing summer clothes in winter. As you might expect, she’s clearly the heart of the story, as most people are either amazed or biting back tears at Rin’s hard work. (Or maybe they’re holding back from crying because of her food…) The manga covers some school events and holidays (sports day, New Year’s), but most of it is just random days where either something interesting or funny happens, whether Rin realizes it or not.
Each chapter is about 20-25 pages long, following the usual 4-koma format of each strip having a title, ending with a joke, and combined to make an arc. They end with a little note from Rin recapping the day’s sales and expenses and her next goal. It’s all cute, and despite some minor violence (teacher gets beat up and talks about how he was bullied), it can be enjoyed by old and young readers. They will need help with some of the terms like the island’s name though. While older readers will enjoy The Girl Living Alone for its adorable heroine and the comedy, it could also serve as a reminder for younger readers that everyone has their difficulties (Mieko vs Rin).
The manga wraps up with a return to the present time, showing what happened to most of the cast. Since the manga covers only about a year, there is plenty of potential for a sequel or spinoff covering all or part of those 20 years. Because one the changes when Rin enters fifth grade, it wouldn’t be exactly the same as before, but even a series of vignettes showing some of the major events would be really nice. Yeah, it wouldn’t be The Girl Living Alone then if it focused on all the adults or Rin and friends growing up, but these characters will bring a smile to readers’ faces. It’s hard not to want to get a fuller picture of their lives.
But the weakest part of the manga is a certain supernatural incident. There’s another one that could be in this same category, but the first is really out-of-place in a slice-of-lifeish manga like this.
The art is simple, as expected of a 4-koma. This is an indie work, so it does lack the refinement of a serialized work with assistants. Mieko’s eyes, with her large pupils and sharp expression, seems to be the biggest victim here. The fact that this is in full color helps make it pop though, so that’s a fair trade-off. Some of the designs are standard, Rin just being a cute girl, but others like orange-haired middle-aged Jiro and round-eyed plump Big Brother give the art some added uniqueness.
No honorifics are used. I spotted a couple of typos. The lettering is mostly Times New Roman with Comic Sans as chapter titles and such. Those don’t look good in a webcomic or manga. Mieko talks about her parents, but I don’t know if she’s trying to cover up the fact her mom isn’t around or if it should have been worded differently in English.
Although you have to ignore the logic of why a girl would be living alone, The Girl Living Alone is cute, easygoing fun.
Anime Beans has the short anime based on this manga available on its platform.