Review: ‘Tomo-chan is a Girl!’ by Fumita Yanagida

This is a review of the whole series.

The most endearing romantic comedy manga that I’ve read in a while. Our main couple are two emotionally stunted individuals who grew up competing and inflicting violence upon each other. As children, the guy often got the tingles for the titular Tomo person, but he repressed them, as he didn’t want to consider himself a homosexual. It took him until middle school to realize that his childhood friend was in fact a girl, but by then the damage was already done. Tomo is too wild, too much of a tomboy, and too generally uninterested in lovey-dovey stuff for the main guy to consider her a romantic prospect, although he doesn’t want to spend his time with anyone else.

The manga starts with both in high school. Tomo has become an extremely fit girl with uncomfortably large breasts. The guy has gotten buff from years of martial arts training in the hopes that one day he’d manage to defeat the titular Tomo. Most of the initial comedy comes from their inability to deal with their long-standing, repressed feelings for each other.

As the two remaining main characters we have a raven-haired, cynical and aloof girl who acts as Tomo’s confidant.

Also, a doll-like, mostly dumb, inexplicably British girl who bridges the difficult emotional issues of the rest of the cast with her big-breasted innocence (sort of like Chika Fujiwara from ‘Kaguya-sama: Love Is War’, but without the malice).

We meet a few memorable secondary characters. The British girl’s mother got pregnant at thirteen years old, is extremely rich, and cheerfully explains that she coddles and overprotects her daughter so she’ll never leave her side. Tomo’s mother is an older clone of herself, except married to a big oaf of a man who runs a dojo famous enough that the Yakuza is wary of its members; however, the guy can barely stare at his wife without fainting. One of my favorite “arcs” of the series comes from a pair of high schoolers who mistake Tomo for a romantic rival, but when they confront her, they quickly realize that they dared to intimidate someone who would eagerly send them to the hospital. They remain terrified of Tomo even after she takes upon herself to help them approach their romantic interest. Eventually, the two girls shift into admiring Tomo’s cool, manly demeanour, while regretting that she hadn’t been born with a dick.

For whatever reason, this series seemed to have been released on a page by page basis, with a fixed format: four stacked panels. An odd choice for a story that develops arcs for not only every main character, but for a few secondary ones as well. In any case, this is an almost entirely character-driven, consistently funny series that features well defined, contrasting personalities. I thought there was plenty more to squeeze out of these people, so it’s a bit of a shame that it has ended unambiguously.

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