Aho-Girl: A Clueless Girl
Shounen – 4-koma, comedy, ecchi, gag
12 Volumes (complete)
Yoshiko, a first year in high school, is energetic, cheerful, and loves bananas. And, as her lifelong friend can attest to, she is bananas! While he hopes to get Yoshiko on the right track (and a track that leads away from him), it isn’t easy. Her future may be in doubt, but hey, all Yoshiko needs is her friends!
Aho-Girl: A Clueless Girl is a strange manga in many ways, and not just because of the titular character.
Aho-Girl‘s subtitle, as you might suspect or know, is a polite way of translating the title. Because Yoshiko goes far beyond clueless. Clueless suggests naive. But Yoshiko is clearly the favorite if her town ever were to elect a village idiot. Easily distracted, childish, nonsensical, inflated sense of self, irresponsible, gullible, no filter, no boundaries, obsessed with bananas… and just someone who doesn’t know much. To the point that she can defy the odds on multiple multiple-choice tests and get 0s on all of them.
Akuru, aka Akkun, has effectively been Yoshiko’s full-time babysitter — waking her up in the morning, reminding her to do her homework, stopping her when she goes off on a tangent, etc. Although he’s studious and a bit of a loner, it’s a job he only takes up because letting Yoshiko run wild is even worse for his sanity. Yoshiko thinks Akuru does it out of love, but he vehemently denies any attraction to her.
So the titular character drives almost every part of the manga, usually popping up and dragging others into her pace. Akuru is obviously victim #1, but Yoshiko does have friends thanks to her zest for life (and bananas) and lectures on living for the now. She’s also an incredible athlete, but she probably isn’t allowed on sports teams because of her randomness… and Yoshiko would probably never remember the rules anyway.
Here’s the rest of the important characters:
Sayaka: Sweet classmate who tries to prevent things from spiraling out of control. Worries about being boring and her chest size.
Head Monitor: A nameless, big-chested girl who keeps stalking and having ecchi fantasies about Akuru despite being on the school morals committee.
Ruri: Akuru’s little sister who tries her best who, despite not liking Yoshiko, is on the same wavelength as the older girl.
Ryuichi: Delinquent and Yoshiko’s self-proclaimed underling who becomes determined to be friends with Akuru.
Yoshie: Yoshiko’s mom. Has a perverted side and is willing to do anything to get Akuru to marry her daughter so her golden years can be peaceful and full of alone time with her husband.
Atsuko: Teacher who tries her best to get Yoshiko to learn and follow the rules.
Neighborhood kids: Made up of one girl (Nozomi) who likes Yoshiko and two boys who wonder how a high school girl can be so much more childish than they are
Gals: Classmates who got reluctantly involved with Yoshiko. Akane (hot-tempered one who wants a boyfriend and Yoshiko considers a fellow idiot), Kuroko (takes things slow with her boyfriend), & Kii (the hard-to-read one)
Oh, and then there’s the big dog who honestly is the best thing about this manga. Poor abandoned doggie!! He just needed love!! And he’s so smart!! And cute!! And… incredibly strong?!
Anyway, it’s fairly common for characters in comedic stories to drop in and out, and Aho-Girl is no exception. However, I was surprised that Ryuichi, who seemed like he would be a part of the core cast, was reduced to only the occasional appearance with a “who are you again?” gag. The teacher also drops in importance, and one girl who seemed like she would be recurring was seen… I think once more after her debut? Instead, the “Gang of Gals”, as the manga calls them, rises in popularity. So much so that they are the ones who try to add some romance to Aho-Girl. Yoshie is also much more involved in the story than most manga parents. And with her personality, that’s not necessarily a good thing for the others!
But that was hardly the biggest surprise in the manga. You see, Aho-Girl is a 4-koma… until it isn’t. Like most 4-koma, the volumes include the occasional traditional manga format story as extras. But once you open up volume 7, the 4-koma format is abandoned completely with no warning. I really am surprised this series wasn’t given an altered name or added subtitle or something to better represent the switch, like Aho-Girl II or Aho-Girl! or something if it changed magazines. So if you are looking for a longer 4-koma, this is not going to be it. In the story, this change corresponds with Yoshiko and her classmates entering their second year of high school, but I found myself a bit irritated once I realize the opening chapters were not just some sort of special extra but the new format.
Speaking of Yoshiko’s second year, in the beginning of the manga, they’re already in high school but early in the school year. Akuru agrees to help Yoshie try to get Yoshiko to mature a bit in the three years of high school. As time passes by, they agonize over how things aren’t going well at all. But the manga… just ends. The goal for Akuru and Yoshie (and readers wonder, of course) is how is Yoshiko going to survive in the real world, where she needs money to live. Aho-Girl gives some suggestions as to possible career paths for Yoshiko. But even if she got a job, there still has to be some measure of intelligence and maturity to take the cash/check and turn it over for bills. For Yoshiko, who can barely grasp the concept of basic change (and can’t even resist paying ¥1000 for a single banana), that’s a monumental ask.
But you read the first couple of chapters and expect for the series to cover all three years of Akuru’s struggles — not to mention stay a 4-koma!! — the manga doesn’t deliver. In the final bonus comic, Yoshiko brightens as the thought of a Super Aho-Girl manga, to which Akuru snaps back to let “the artist a chance to breathe”, and there’s a side note from author Hiroyuki he’d like to revisit Yoshiko and company occasionally “after things settle down”. Maybe it was burnout? In his notes, Hiroyuki did mention Kodansha wanted to go on a blitz to coincide with the anime, so that may have contributed to it. No matter what happened, this manga lacks a proper conclusion.
Some will argue that a real ending isn’t necessary for a series like this. Because you aren’t supposed to take it seriously at all. First of all, no one could have Yoshiko’s energy. Or love bananas so much they’d weep for a banana or banana-made product that fell to the ground, wasted. And a dog couldn’t decide to be a stowaway on a plane by hanging on to the outside for dear life.
It’s a lot of ridiculous comedy, and you have to look past some problematic stuff to enjoy it. Akuru, for instance, beats up on Yoshiko constantly. But okay, Yoshiko pops back up okay eventually, and sometimes she deserves to be knocked out so that others can go about their lives. Yoshie tries to drug Akuru more than once so that Yoshiko can sleep with him. Okay, ha ha, but the manga reaches a point where the translation notes basically have to say, “Uh, yeah, this is almost certainly a crime in America, and maybe not in Japan??”
Yes, to be sure, Aho-Girl includes a lot of ecchi. It’s hard to grasp Yoshiko’s level of intelligence, but she knows a little about adult matters. But that doesn’t stop her from stripping, comparing chest sizes, and offering herself to Akuru. Her mother is not shy about the fact she wants some alone time with her husband, and we get evidence of her bedroom appetite and skills repeatedly. Head Monitor keeps fantasizing about Akuru wanting her, and she’s given a rather crude nickname by Yoshiko because of her large chest.
All of that may be expected considering the demographic and the author’s previous works, but it still went beyond what I would have thought. Yoshiko buries Head Monitor in the sand and then adds a “tower” below the belt, if you know what I mean. Forty-ish Yoshie demands to see the girls’ underwear in case they’re trying to seduce Akuru. There’s an actual boob fight — not a fight over boobs, but an actual slugfest using bosoms. So Aho-Girl is best for those who love dirty jokes… and criminal behavior like stealing panties.
But most of the manga is just dealing with Yoshiko as she decides to have fun today or just barges in on other people’s conversations. There are the recurring gags like Ryuichi wanting to be Akuru’s friend or Sayaka trying to advise Head Monitor where the titular character isn’t necessarily the star, but most of the comedy is traced back to Yoshiko in some way. With a title like Aho-Girl: A Clueless Girl, you can bet Yoshiko can reach epic levels of dumb. She doesn’t even know how to download an app! But she’ll happily admit she has no idea about anything, nor does she care to learn about anything that doesn’t interest her. So whether she’s playing with the neighborhood kids and they spend more time watching out for her than themselves, riding around her dog around town, or expressing her love of bananas, Yoshiko will give 100%.
However, while Yoshiko can go off-track, the manga isn’t full of random jokes. Most of the humor will fall into a limited number of categories like cold-hearted Akuru, Head Monitor not realizing she’s a perv, and Ruri denying she’s like Yoshiko but not knowing much either. Aho-Girl introduces some girls’ love elements late in its run (a nice touch that doesn’t feel forced), and there are some one- and two-off characters brought in occasionally. But otherwise, once you get through the first couple volumes, and even after the switch in formats, the rest of the series doesn’t do much to make you laugh in new ways. However, I felt the classic manga style also slowed down the timing, as it now it may take two or three pages to cover what a 4-koma could do in one page with two strips. The more and larger panels isn’t necessary in a manga where one of the biggest plotlines is Yoshiko wanting the world to know of the joys of the Japanese banana.
Plus, as Aho-Girl was originally a 4-koma, the art is rather simple. Hiroyuki has released several similar manga at this point, so he knows what works in the 4-koma format. Most characters are fairly typical in design (twin tails, spikey haired delinquent, etc.) A lot of the series has a very anime-esque feel to it, so even though this is a 2D monochrome work, it’s easy to “see” it playing on your TV screen. Especially with Yoshiko’s (>▽<) type faces. Each volume opens up with a cast list that occasionally replaces introductions as needed, so even if you don’t pick up every volume, it’s easy to dive back into the world. There are a lot of images of girls in their underwear and other fanservice-y pictures. The dog is anthropomorphized, and his comprehension is a running gag. Didn’t realize at first how large he was supposed to be until Yoshiko mounted him, but he’s cute. Best part of the manga, hands down.
Honorifics are used. Western name order is used. Oba-san is used by Akuru. The girl who has a crush on him (Fuuki Iinchou in Japanese) is called the Disciplinary Committee President in the anime translation, which is a more descriptive title and I think better emphasizes she’s in charge of overseeing the school’s code of ethics and standards. Versus, say, making sure no one runs in the halls like I tend to think of with “Head Monitor”. I can see why the translation wanted a shorter name for her though because of the format, and a literal translation like “Morals Chairman” sounds awkward. Dog is, of course, Inu in Japanese. Detailed translation notes are included, most of which cover the strips’ titles’ jokes and references. (Those are usually based on go lyrics.) Some notes are repeated, like what tsukkomi is. They also list how much each amount is in US dollars; most series will just say 100 yen = $1. In volume 4, the duties of a Head Monitor are finally discussed in the notes.
If you just care about ridiculousness and raunchiness, Aho-Girl: A Clueless Girl can be entertaining. But for other audiences, you’re better off choosing what type of comedy you want (4-koma versus classic style, surrealism vs slice-of-life) and go from there.
Crunchyroll has the AHO-GIRL anime available to stream. Irodori Comics published the Aho-Girl: A Clueless Girl spinoff Angel Girl and Hiroyuki’s later works Two-Timing Fair and Square and Of Girls, Love, and Money. Kodansha Comics licensed Kanojo mo Kanojo, a rework of Two-Timing Fair and Square. Media Blasters partially published Dojin Work.
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