Manga Review – Heart Break Club

Heart Break Club Volume 1

Heart Break Club
青春しょんぼりクラブ (Seishun Shonbori Club)
ASADA Nikki
Shoujo – Comedy, drama, romance
3 Volumes of 16 Volumes (complete)
Media Do (Akita Publishing)

Summary:

Poor Nima has suffered yet another heartbreak. Whenever she starts to like a guy, he ends up getting a girlfriend right in front of her! But then she’s approached by a weirdo who is dedicated to researching love. Yori invites Nima to check out her club, but what exactly is this club? And is it possible that its fellow members are even stranger than Yori…?

Review:

I’m not exactly sure how Heart Break Club will go on for 16 volumes. When we first meet Nima, our heroine, she’s witnessing the birth of a new couple — and the guy involved is her crush. It’s far from the first time this has happened, and this has captured the interest of Yori, the leader of a mysterious club dedicated to analyzing love. Nima reluctantly goes and meets the other two members: Ryo, an anime otaku, and Takeshi (nickname Okkii, from his family name), whom Nima thought was a girl at first. Nima doesn’t want to be some sort of research project, but after hearing Yori’s backstory, she decides to be her friend instead. Thus starts Nima’s days in this strange club.

Heart Break Club is different from what I expected. I did think the manga was going to treat Nima more like a science experiment, that the club was made up of people who was dedicated to healing wounded hearts. Perhaps it could have been full of people with their own sad love stories, but I didn’t think so. So I was a little surprised that the club was mostly a hangout for some random students. Ryo, for instance, joined because he was kicked out of the anime club for being too handsome. Ironically enough, the two clubs end up together all the time, mostly because the youth psychology club has a nicer TV. Yori’s purpose for starting this club is revealed (and they have to fight to keep it going), but if she weren’t the chairman’s daughter, it probably would have never gotten the green light in the first place.

Heart Break Club Sample 1

Heart Break Club, as you may have gathered, is a mix of comedy and drama. The comedy mostly involves characters messing with each other. In the middle of a conversation, Nima turns around and finds Ryo watching TV. Takeshi offers her a chance to find out for herself that he’s actually male. Yori offers to burn all her notes but then admits she has them all backed up on her computer anyway. The anime club president is very jealous of his vice president.

While Nima is often the target of jokes (or is forced into the tsukkomi role), there’s an air of longing in this manga. The subtitle or tag line of this series is “Melancholic Sentimentalism of Youth”, and it certainly fits. While Nima falls in love rather easily (mostly crushing because a guy looked serious, was working hard, etc.), she does not like how people assume she’s chill with being rejected or that she’s some type of lucky charm that everyone can take advantage of. Takeshi has his own reasons for dressing like a girl. One girl has stalker tendencies. One couple has gotten together because of the club’s help, but I’m sure Heart Break Club is going to be filled of people suppressing their feelings.

Speaking of suppressed feelings, Nima has been confirmed to have fallen for Takeshi, but she doesn’t want to admit it since she knows he’s not seeing her that way. Love triangles are a shoujo staple, and a nice guy, Daisuke, has already stepped into that role. Takeshi is aware that Daisuke likes Nima, but he doesn’t think he’ll love again. Because of his looks, Takeshi is likely to have a lot of girls (and guys?) approaching him. He’s a bit of a tease (and gets dragged into situations because of his cross dressing), and while I think he’ll probably deny his feelings and hurt Nima several times throughout the manga, I do like him as a character. He’s not the usual alpha or jerky male you tend to see as romantic leads in shoujo manga.

Otherwise, the rest of the cast is quirky. So far, the manga has introduce members of the anime club, crafts club, and the student council. The anime club, as I mentioned earlier, like the youth psychology club’s TV. The crafts club helps out with cosplay and stuff. The student council will probably keep investigating the activities of the so-called youth psychology club, especially since its members include some troublemakers… and the president has an understandable beef with Ryo. Whether the manga will mainly stick to these 11 characters or if Asada will just keep introducing new ones, I don’t know. I imagine others will show up asking for romantic advice, which will lead to more comedy and drama, but I kind of want to stick to adventures with the people already introduced. There’s a risk of the series being too episodic with the “I need help” approach. I could see a Sket Dance-like approach though where it did a good job balancing the main characters while regularly revisiting the supporting cast.

Heart Break Club Sample 2

The art is on the plain side. Backgrounds are very minimal, which makes the manga fall a bit flat on both the comedy and drama sides. The art almost has a bit of a shounen feel, as it’s relatively straightforward with a lot of solid colors and simple shading. For example, most of the characters have solid hair colors without natural highlights. Even the cover isn’t especially eye-grabbing. So far, there hasn’t been a lot of scenes outside a classroom or schoolyard, so perhaps as they go on more adventures, the background will improve. As you may be able to gather from the cover, Takeshi does cut his hair, but it looks like he’s going to have to don a wig every now and then. I kind of liked the long-haired Takeshi, as it gave him a rather unique appearance for a male love interest. So, while I wasn’t blown away by the art, it was serviceable.

Translation:

Honorifics are used. There were a couple of times that it would have been easy to erase the text in a shout/aside text bubble, but instead, the dialogue is on the outside.

Final Comments:

Heart Break Club seems like it may move slowly or feature a lot of repetitive gags or misunderstandings to last 16 volumes. It was a fairly decent start (and a good amount of credit goes to the male lead), and perhaps it does get better. From my first impression, though, I could see myself losing interest by the halfway point.

Asada’s The Prince’s Romance Gambit and The Springtime of My Life Began with You are available from Kodansha Comics. She is also the artist of the light novel series Sound! Euphonium, available from Yen On.

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