Ikezawa, Satomi. Othello 1 (2004). 208 Pages. Del Rey. $10.95
Yaya’s high school friends haven’t been very nice. They call her “Yaya the cry-ya! Yaya the misfi-ya!” But no matter how badly they act, Yaya is just too naive and trusting to believe the worst of them. Hard-rocking, butt-kicking Nana is just the girl to grab hold of Yaya’s timid demeanor and turn it upside down. Nana exposes Yaya’s “friends” as slimeballs, doles out punishment, and does it all with style. Can there be anything that terminally shy Yaya and hyperconfident Nana have in common? Well, for one thing, they’re the same person.
Yaya Higuchi is, in a lot of ways, your typical Japanese high-schooler. She goes to school, and sometimes goes out with her “friends*” Seri and Moe. She is especially typically Japanese in that she is completely determined to fit in at all costs. It frequently seems like she has a clue that Seri and Moe are up to something bad– even if she doesn’t know what, exactly– but Yaya doesn’t want to be alone.
In This Volume
We meet the dramatis personae; Yaya, Seri, Moe, Moriyama, and Nana.
We learn about Yaya’s weekend hobby, and learn who Mimi is. Yaya gets a letter from her 10 year-old self, asking if she’s a singer yet. Nana makes an appearance at Moriyama’s concert, and Yaya’s class goes on their end-of-term trip.
This is a series which is simultaneously a great and terrible place to begin reading manga; it works within many established conventions, which can be confusing to first-time readers, however it also has cultural notes, which will help with things readers may not be familiar with; the beginning explains Japanese honorifics, –chan, -kun, -senpai and the like. The back explains specific references which they have preserved; for example, an explanation about why Moriyama is incredulous about Yaya, Seri, and Moe going out to party on New Years**.
One thing which makes this relatively unique is the fact that Yaya has a split personality which she is completely unaware of. It is not something which occurs as the focus of a manga series very frequently.
For being a fairly fun read, and being extra informative, this volume gets a 4.5/5.
* I don’t know when “frenemy” came around, but I think this is the situation it was made for.
** In Japan, Christmas is the party holiday, New Years is the quiet, family holiday.