One Peace Books may have made a name for themselves publishing isekai series like The Rising of the Shield Hero and The New Gate, but outside of that, they are starting to widen their selection into other genres. Part of this move is the new series I Belong to the Baddest Girl at School, which I’m here to take a look at today!
Our story follows Unoki who has unfortunately been bullied throughout his life and even now, having just started high school, things look like they’re not about to change. Right now he “belongs” to the top troublemaker of his school, Toramaru – but unbeknownst to Unoki, he’s completely misunderstood the situation he’s in!
One day Toramaru took Unoki aside and demanded he becomes hers. Toramaru meant for this to be a declaration of her feelings for him and now believes the two are dating. Meanwhile, Unoki sees himself as nothing but Toramaru’s lackey, not helped at all by her waving around a wooden sword and being very imposing.
Thanks to Toramaru’s personality, the two constantly misunderstand one another. Whenever Toramaru is happy she comes off as mad to Unoki and when he does something to cheer her up (and in his mind prevent her killing him) she falls even more in love with him, which also leads to her giving off an even more deadly aura.
Thankfully Toramaru’s delinquent friend Yutaka has an understanding of what’s really going on here and tries to lead the two, gently, in the right direction. Although Toramaru’s other underling Matsuri would be just as happy if Unoki was out of the picture and she could have her boss all to herself…
So I Belong to the Baddest Girl at School presents itself as a truly delightful romantic comedy. While some series would continue to use this misunderstanding for comedic effect with no signs of clearing it up, this one does begin to move away from it a tiny bit within Volume 1.
As the story goes on, Unoki begins to wonder if Toramaru has feelings for him as well as him falling for her himself, but for fear of her murdering him if she finds out, our protagonist is yet to act on these thoughts. Although with another six volumes to go, there is plenty of time for that and right now it’s certainly more fun to watch these two dance around each other awkwardly.
It’s also nice that, although we already have quite a large cast just from this one volume, everyone is quite developed. With Unoki we often see how his train of thought toward Toramaru has developed thanks to his years of suffering, but we also get to see how much nicer his life is since he became connected to her. No matter what happens, Toramaru won’t let anyone lay a single finger on those she cares about. Toramaru for her part could have easily been a one-note character, but thankfully we get to see her softer side enough where there is a sense of depth to her that helps the reader root for her.
I Belong to the Baddest Girl at School is by mangaka Ui Kashima and although it’s not their first work, it is their longest and first to be released into English. The storytelling on offer in this manga is great and their artwork matches the quality of it. While each page tends to be quite busy with dialogue and the general mayhem of what the cast is up to, it’s still easy to follow panel to panel. I also like how easily Kashima can swap Toramaru from her delinquent mode into her maiden in love mode too. It may seem weird for me to describe a book as being energetic, but that’s the feeling this one left me with once I finished. The story and characters are so full of life, which is a real accomplishment on Kashima’s part. The only thing I found a bit odd with the art is that Yutaka walks around with her uniform unbuttoned and nothing but tape binding her breasts. Yes, it fits the troublemaker image, but it does stray a little far out of the realm of realism for my tastes compared to the rest of the book.
As previously mentioned I Belong to the Baddest Girl at School Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to One Peace Books and has been translated by Emily Balistrieri. In the past, I have been a bit critical of releases by this publisher when it comes to translation since they’re often lacklustre, but thankfully this one is fantastic (although with Balistrieri behind it, I’d have been surprised if it wasn’t). The dialogue flows well and the cast all have distinctly different voices, but most importantly the jokes land well. It’s tremendous work from a very capable translator.
That said, I am a bit more critical of the lettering. Since there are no localisation credits in the copy provided to us, I’m not sure who is responsible, but there are times where the text isn’t quite centred enough or could have done with being a bit bigger to fit a panel. There is also one instance where the word “happiness” is slapped across a word bubble rather than fitting even remotely inside, but I’m not entirely sure if this is a gag from the Japanese side or not. It’s hard to know for sure without the original edition in front of me. I know this sounds like a lot of complaining, but it’s not enough to ruin the experience by any stretch. I’m just a bit disappointed because I like this release so much otherwise and this just needed a bit of polish.
As previously mentioned, this manga is complete at seven volumes in Japan and Volume 2 of the English release is scheduled for a release in November.
Overall, I Belong to the Baddest Girl at School is a must-have for rom-com fans. With a likeable cast of characters and hilarious set-up, this is sure to win the hearts of many looking for their next comedy fix and leave them wanting more.