Reviewed by: Joe
Released by: One Peace Books
Publishing Country: USA
Author: Ui Kashima (translated by Emily Balistrieri)
Page Count: 184
The hit Pashiri na Boku to Koi-suru Bancho-san, in English for the first time!
"Be mine." Unoki has always been bullied, and high school is no different. Right away, the top troublemaker, Boss Toramaru, makes him her personal errand boy. The only thing is...she thought she was asking him out?! So Toramaru is sure they're dating, while Unoki is convinced he's under her thumb. The stage is set for a rom-com of misunderstandings!
I Belong To the Baddest Girl at School is the English translation of Kadokawa's school life comedy Pashiri na Boku to Koisuru Bancho-san, which has sold over 130,000 copies worldwide. The good people from One Peace Books sent us a digital review copy to enjoy.
The story is pitched as a comedy of misunderstanding where the meek Unoki is asked out by the violent delinquent Toramaru. Unoki thinks he's her gopher, while Toramaru believes him to be her boyfriend. Hilarity ensues in the misunderstanding. Most of the first book focuses on this set up and introduces a few extra cast members to get into scrapes with.
The story starts straight away with the setup of Toramaru asking Unoki out and it gets going straight from there. One thing I found troubling was the actual character dynamics. Unoki is called sensitive in the blurb, but in reality, he's severally bullied, being targeted as a wimp and being beaten up and bruised all the time. He thinks he's Unoki's errand boy and lives in fear of being physically punished (although that doesn't actually happen). It leads to a slightly troublesome Stockholm syndrome dynamic. Toramaru on the other hand is the local delinquent gang boss girl. She has a tough exterior, but also a soft side we only see with her inner thoughts occasional hints that Unoki might pick up on.
The art is to a high consistent standard, but the more observant will notice that there are few establishing shots, most of the artwork is either close ups of the characters, the occasional full body shots, there isn't much detail in the background and buildings and other background details often just aren't there.
I Belong To the Baddest Girl at School, isn't ground breaking manga. The first volume follows its premise and lays the foundation for future volumes. It's a light and entertainment read, it's fluff. However I do find the bullying aspect Unoki troubling, as he is essentially a victim. I'm sure going forward it will ligthen up, but it is based on a troubling premise. If you want a jokey school manga rom-com with a twist then this is for you.
The good people at One Peace Books, helped us arrange an interview with the translator for this manga Emily Balistrieri. You may be familiar with Emily's other translation work which includes Kiki's Delivery Service, Overlord: The Undead King.
How did you become a professional manga translator?
Well, I won a First Prize in the Manga Translation Battle one year (with Juri Ishikawa), but I'm not sure how much that affected anything, especially since the manga we translated (a really cute series called Saya Saya to by Fumiko Tanikawa, never got published). I got a DM on Twitter about taking a translation test for Yen Press, and when I passed, they asked if I would be interested in doing Overlord, both the novels and light novels.
What was it like translating I Belong To the Baddest Girl At School?
Really refreshing! All the other manga I do is isekai stuff, so doing a rom-com set in reality (even if everyone's understanding of it is warped, haha) is a lot of fun.
Did you do much research for the manga?
Not a ton. What I did do was read some other manga featuring "delinquent"-type characters that had been translated into English, just to see what readers might expect Toramaru to sound like.
Who is your favourite character in this manga?
The cat! Haha, but hmm... I like Boss Toramaru, too. Some of the faces she makes really crack me up.
You've also translated books into manga, including the new edition of Kiki's Delivery Service. How does book translation vary compared to manga translation?
The main difference is that you're not restricted to dialogue bubbles or any other certain amount of space, so you get an extra dimension of freedom. I'm always sad when I have to adjust what my ideal translation would be in order to fit the bubble. And while manga does contain narration sometimes, in books there will be a lot more, with descriptions of the scenery, etc. I guess, as compared to manga, I think of it as more shepherding of the story. The majority of the experience is shaped by the writing.
Is there anything you really want to translate at the moment?
So much! Manga titles I'm keen on include Taiyō no tō (Tower of the Sun; by Koori Kashino, based on the novel by Tomihiko Morimi), Baiyō Niku-kun (Space meat odyssey; by Natsujikei Miyazaki), and Mukai-kun wa sugoi! (Mukai-kun is amazing!; by Shuhei Momose).
Otaku News would like to thank Emily Balistrieri for being awesome and answering our questions and One Peace Books for helping us arrange an interview with him.