Waratte! Sotomura-san

Let’s begin this review is with a quick explanation of what a four-koma is. A four-Koma manga is a four panel manga strip, and in a sense, the Japanese equivalent of a Sunday comic strip, with an often comedic nature, building up to a punchline on the forth and final panel. In a manga format, however, it’s often seen that a collection of four-koma manga will be featured in a single chapter, with an overlying theme to tie them together. Some notable examples are Azumanga Daioh!, or a currently running example would be Seitokai Yakuindomo. Today, we’ll be looking at Waratte! Sotomura-san by Minamori Minamo, a lighthearted series that’s hit and miss in many places.

Natsuki Sotomura is a shy girl who hopes to make some new friends, but she has one problem, she has a terrifying smile! So terrifying, that her entire school is convinced that she’s a delinquent, and her inability to speak well with others doesn’t help anything. Can Sotomura fix her smile and make some friends?

That is the general backbone that the four-koma style is built around. One or two panels to set up the scenario, one panel for the misunderstanding, and one panel for the reaction. The writing complements this style by keeping each scenario short and simple, connected only by a single ongoing theme of the chapter. Despite this, many of the chapters do fall flat and whether or not those chapters are funny or not rely on the characters the series offers.

Waratte! Sotomura features a large cast of characters, with varying results. Sotomura herself is an okay character, your usual dense but charmingly cute protagonist. She’s not the most original character ever conceived, but reading her struggle to make friends despite her own shortcomings is still inspiring enough that you do root for her. Haruno is Sotomura’s first friend, an ordinary girl whose only purpose in the story is to react to Sotomura’s misunderstandings. There’s also Yukari & Himeki, two wanna-be delinquent girls who follow Sotomura. Himeki is the cliche “Cute, Rich, Out of Touch” girl, which makes for some of the better moments of the series with Sotomura. Yukari, however, lacks any real personality outside of wanting to be a follower of Sotomura, making most moments with her rather lackluster. Then there’s Satou, the class rep who acts as a personification of how scared the student body is of the rumors surround Sotomura. She’s a decent character, able to get a few good moments when paired with Sotomura, but never really gets a chuckle on her own. Finally, there’s Mikumo, the love interest for Sotomura, who’s only thing is he’s in love with her, but also terrified of her, and though it’s not very funny, it does have a good charm factor to it. With a cast this big and divided, a chapters worth really comes down to which character will be interacting, whether it’s Sotomura on her own, or a few characters get together to interact. The right combination of characters can be quite amusing, but a few of the lesser characters can drag a chapter and make it a bore.

The artwork does it’s job quite nicely here. The characters are each nicely detailed and stick out from one another, with some good detail put into the different expressions of Sotomura. The backgrounds are nicely done when applied, though the series much prefers the design backdrops, and Minamo knows how to add definition to items in the foreground required for gags.

Waratte! Sotomura-san can a mixed bag, but it is still a charming piece even at it’s worst and a chuckle here and there at it’s best, with an overall decent protagonist, and mixed group of supporting characters and a good system for the story. This isn’t a series you should pick up if you’re looking to laugh out loud, but I do think it has the ability to make you smile, and I believe there is always room in the world for something like that.


Popular Posts