Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches Volume 1 Review
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches:
Synopsis: What if you could switch bodies with a kiss?! From the creator of “Flunk Punk Rumble,” Miki Yoshikawa brings you a fresh new take on school romantic comedy!! Suzaku High School student and problem kid, Ryu Yamada, is in a bad mood after being chewed out again by the teacher today. As if his day couldn’t get any worse, he falls down the top of the stairs with honor student, Urara Shiraishi! When he comes to, he’s switched bodies with her! Two people who couldn’t be more opposite from each other find themselves running around the school in each other’s bodies!! All from a kiss!! The problems don’t stop there in this school romantic comedy that starts with a kiss! The non-stop fun has only begun!! “A girl’s world isn’t so bad…!! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Let’s kick things off with the good news. Yamada-kun is a harem, a genre I usually despise for numerous reasons besides just fan service yet it turned out to be a fairly entertaining read even for me. Despite its harem tag, the very first volume of Yamada-kun does not actually feel like one in any way except for maybe a single second where our hero, Yamada ends up accidentally earning the admiration of a side character who is most likely doomed to remain a side character and never get to become an actual member of his harem. And unlike most harem heroines, for now, Urara Shiraishi seems to be a mentally strong girl who doesn’t melt at the first sign of Yamada helping her nor displays signs of being madly in love with him. In fact, it’s Yamada himself who seems to be the more lovelorn one for now, often assuming a random comment she said or action she did is a sign that she has a crush on him. Even then, the first volume is pretty low on romance itself and seems like a great start for readers who like their rom-com stories to be more comedy than romance.
For readers who enjoy the staples of body swapping comedies, Yamada-kun delivers on them pretty well. It features all the classic jokes that can arise of a delinquent young man suddenly finding himself in the body of a fairly attractive young girl his age and having to pretend to be one to avoid awkward or dangerous consequences, and yes, a handful of genitalia related jokes as well. The jokes in the first volume are on the low brow side but they’re likely to earn a decent chuckle out of most people. And while a lot of the jokes might feel familiar or even overdone for some, Yamada-kun features a few jewels that feel new or refreshing enough to avoid coming off as just another generic gender bending comedy.
Yamada-kun is also quick to point out the pitfalls of being a girl rather than just focusing on the jokes that can arise from a young boy enjoying being in a young girls body. The readers and our male protagonist, Yamada get to see how frustrating and offensive men can be towards women and even though most of it is done through a comedic filter, there’s some merit in how the story has our hero quickly learning that it is not all roses and rainbows being in the body of a young smart and attractive girl.
The art is the series is competent, not amazing but enough to get the job done and the story told. It’s not ugly by any means but I could see more picky readers finding certain panels they wish were done better. However, the mangaka has put in effort to ensure that some of the more exaggerated reactions or comedic panels get more attention to detail so that the hilarity really comes through and it does helps elevate the joke itself. One could even postulate that maybe it’s actually the art and expressions of the series and characters that helps to make twists and turns you see coming from a mile away, still feel amusing and entertaining when the predictable gag finally happens in the story. And what I always consider a huge bonus personally when checking out a new manga series is that Yamada-kun is a completed series so if you do end up enjoying Volume one a whole lot, you have to do absolutely zero waiting as not only is the series completed but Crunchyroll has all of it available to read in its manga library.
And now it’s time to move on to the ‘bad’. First up, Volume 1 doesn’t do the best job of really making Yamada a believable character. It can’t seem to decide just how much of a delinquent he really is. At times, he seems to embody all the cliches such as being bored of school, inattentive during classes and apparently causing unwarranted problems for others that we never really see. Other times, he seems to be just a misunderstood young man who’s minor unruly characteristics ended up earning him the label of the most unruly student. Also for a student who apparently commits several inappropriate behaviour, he never seems to actually get into any real trouble unless the plot demands it.
And while I have given Yamada-kun some credit for not coming off as just a generic harem, it still contains a fair amount of cliches and disappointments. For example, Shiraishi turns out to be your classic clever but bullied girl whose grades and conduct may be perfect but there’s a lot in her private life that isn’t. Or the fact that like most harems, it’s already pretty obvious who our hero is going to end up with at the end of this series. I’ve always felt that a lot of harem stories feature lots of girls not for the hero to have any real trouble deciding between them but to ensure that readers will find atleast one girl that’s exactly their type and thus will continue to read and support the series itself. When it’s so obvious right from the start who the ‘real’ heroine of the series will be, it takes out a lot of the fun for any reader who wants to see actual mystery and suspense regarding who our hero could finally end up with.
Then there’s the fact that as is the case with a lot of comedies, the story lets some major sleazy behaviour pass with no real consequences. For example, we discover that one of the teachers is clearly behaving inappropriately with Shiraishi but the worst punishment he gets for it is being upset when Yamada, in Shirasihi’s body, reacts to his inappropriate flirtation by ignoring it and that apparently is what makes the teacher actually feel bad about his behaviour. He yells out lines that make it come across that when the real Shiraishi would snap at him for past misconduct, it did absolutely nothing to defer him and that maybe it even was a source of pleasure for him. Yes, I get that this is a comedy and it’s not meant to taken seriously but its something that I worry someone who’s been in a similar situation in real life could actually be uncomfortable about reading. I will acknowledge that a well versed reader who picks this series up while being aware of the harem tag attached to it is most likely not going to be someone who could be offended or upset by that. However, if you’re new to manga or to harem, be aware that the jokes can get inappropriate or uncomfortable ever so often.
Now to answer the main question I try to tackle with my CrunchyCrawl series, is this a series for you? If you like comedic harem, especially with a touch of the supernatural, yes, you should check this manga out if you haven’t already. Unless you are extremely sensitive to any and all fan service, Yamada-kun is tame enough to come across as more of a pleasant read with a few slightly fan service panels, such as Yamada in Shiraishi’s body groping his ‘new’ breasts and of course, the somewhat questionable mini gags like a high school teacher becoming upset when his inappropriate flirtation with a student is met with a blind eye than an admonition. And despite its cliches and flaws, Yamada-kun’s first volume manages to be funny and still somewhat refreshing with not just its main characters but even supporting characters injecting it with personality and comedy, all supported by art that may not be mind blowing but does a good job of getting across the perfect reactions and facial expressions to help its jokes land on their feet. Unfortunately, I did some further reading and research and what I’ve seen has me concerned that the series does start to feel stale as it continues on its 28 volume journey. That is a lot of volumes for a harem, and I came across some complaints that the story starts to feel like it’s retreading its own content and might have benefited from an quicker conclusion. So in conclusion, for die hard fans of harem comedies or anyone seeking a comedy heavy harem story, Yamada-kun has the potential to be an entertaining read either all the way or atleast some of the way as it might eventually start to feel stale. However, if you’re extremely uncomfortable with sexual content and comedy of any kind or not a fan of harem cliches, Yamada-kun is likely not the series for you.