High School Family: Kokosei Kazoku 001-008 – Manga Review

Synopsis: High School is rough, but imagine going to school with your whole family!(Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Review:

High School Family is one of Shonen Jump’s two newest additions to their weekly line up. The magazine is clearly in full on ‘discovery’ mode as it tries to find new, fledgling titles that can capture their readership in the same way some of their recently concluded longest running titles managed to do. Unfortunately, High School Family is a sort of ‘one hit wonder,’ with a central premise that has the potential to immediately hook, but with none of the follow through required to make it a long lasting addition. Let’s Jump In!

The plain truth is that High School Family hinges entirely on its cringe. We’re introduced to Kotaro Ietani, a typical teenage boy who is just entering his high school years. Unfortunately, as he comes to learn the morning of his first day, before he even sets foot outside his room, he’s not the only member of his family attending secondary education– so is his father. And his little sister, and his cat, and heck, even his own mother. In an absurd twist his entire family will be taking the journey of high school with him. The second hand embarrassment is strong, and the better you identify with Kotaro’s mortified apprehension and continual embarrassment the better this set up works. Each chapter is a parade through how embarrassing and uncomfortable it would be to have your family right alongside you, every step of the way, for every high school experience. From morning assembly, to homeroom, to lunch, to sports, etc, Kotaro can’t seem to find a single second to himself.

But for as effective as that second hand cringe might be early on, especially to a teenage audience, High School Family offers little to keep you sucked in once the thrill of Kotaro’s constant unease wares off. Kotaro and his entire family are the thinnest of characters. Everyone feels like a cardboard cut out of traditional expectations for a father, mother, little sister, cat and Kotaro himself. That’s probably fine for a chapter or two, but by end of Chapter 8 the series has offered almost nothing memorable to lock the characters in readers minds as unique individuals. What little we do get simply isn’t enough to keep these characters interesting. By Chapter 8 we’ve learned maybe one quirk for each family member; the mother doesn’t know how to ride a bike, the little sister can be a tad bossy, the dad has extra-human strength and physical capabilities, and the cat can’t poop without a certain scent. Kotaro himself remains the series straight-man, and outside of feeling entirely awkward with his family haunting him through his daily school life, there’s nothing of note to his character that makes him feel like a unique and individual protagonist against the countless other straight men leading the comedy shonen charge.

With 8 Chapters under its belt you’d think the series would have grown into its comedy, offering increasingly unexpected humor as characters mingle and the writer becomes familiar with his world. Unfortunately nearly all the humor is exclusively derived from that original concept, meaning as soon as the cringe’s impact wears off, High School Family feels like an increasingly dull experience. Shonen Jump has thrown a fair amount of comedy/gag manga at readers of late, but I think High School Family might be the thinnest of them yet, and I am very doubtful it’ll ever offer more than a fleeting “oh isn’t this so cringe” level of entertainment. I’d love to be proven wrong though.

That’s it for this week! Let me know your own thoughts on High School Family: Kokosei Kazoku!

High School Family: Kokosei Kazoku is published in Shonen Jump.

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