Series Name: Medaka Box - めだかボックス
Year of Serialization: 2009
Author(s): Nishio Ishin
Artist(s): Akatsuki Akira
Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Martial Arts, School Life, Supernatural, Romance
Current Status: Completed
Moment of Reviewing: End of the series (192 chapters)
Other Formats: Anime (24 episodes)
Kurokami Medaka is what you would call a superhuman. She's world-class in practically any kind of sport by just practicing the sport once without any kind of training. She's a super genius that aces all her tests to the point she can even understand and talk coded languages by just reading or hearing them once. On top of that she's the heir to the richest and biggest business company in the world. But above all she loves mankind more than anything, her 'overflowing love' resulted in even taking the first kiss of everyone of her classmates in junior high. It's because of this attitude in combination with her godlike powers that she decided to become Student Council President in high school, hereby supported by her completely normal childhood friend Hitoyoshi Zenkichi. As President the first thing she does is making a suggestion box where students can deposit suggestions & requests 24/7 each day of the year, no matter how ridiculous, selfish or just complete whack these requests might be. What follows is how Medaka and her Student Council cope with these, more extremely blown out of proportion over the top than normal, situations.
There are several series I like, but that don't captivate me enough to make it so that I would follow them weekly. As a result I just read them once, then let the chapters pile up for a few months and then read the entire series again only this time with the new chapters. Medaka Box was one of those series and in the end I had mixed feelings about it.
High-school settings always work well with me most of the time, especially when it's mixed with some supernatural stuff. I guess it's because it's a context that most of us still easily can relate to. I personally wouldn't have mind some unrealistic stuff in my high school days. With the exception of a few arcs, most of the 192 chapters take place on the school grounds, so it should definitely be a good read for other people who like this setting.
In my opinion the strongest point of this manga is its artwork. Even a series with a superficial plot can still be fun to read as long as the artwork is good and vice versa even a series with the best plot in the world can be dull when the art is boring. A manga is still after all a 'visual' medium. I really like the art of Medaka Box. I don't really know how to explain it, but it just feels 'comfy'. All the characters can easily be distinguished from each other and have their own personal quirks. There's a girl for instance that has her entire head covered in bandages for most of the time, only leaving one eye free and having the grip of a dagger sticking out of her head. It's clear, it's cozy, it's 'warm', this in contrast with those series that only have a vague background or barely have anything in it. Especially the eyes and hair really had a strong impact on me. This series has a lot of interesting characters. I dare say that the main reason why I even was able to finish this series was because of its artwork. Especially the boobs >.>
As the name implies Medaka is pretty much the main protagonist of the story. It might sound sexist, but I'm not really into stories with a single female protagonist, let alone one that is practically the female version of Goku in this world. I still don't know if I have to love that character or hate every fibre of her body. There has never been a character that ended up so fast on both sides of my character spectrum, especially the way how she interacts with her best friend Zenkichi bugs me. I really don't understand why so many sites label this as a "shounen" manga.
Zenkichi is described as being her best and longest friend, the only normal person in the school who can understand the monster called Medaka and, surprise surprise, he loves Medaka, something he clearly shows. That super intelligent woman that loves the entire world doesn't even understand the feelings of the person closest to her. She spends all her time 'loving' the world, even her worst enemies, but completely neglects her best friend. At a certain point a flashback is shown where Medaka gets severely bullied and beaten up by someone, but for some reason she doesn't react at all. Zenkichi was so sick of it that he wanted to beat the bully himself up, but then Medaka beat him up instead for one weird reason or another. Zenkichi is supposed to be the one who understands Medaka the best, the only one who can actually stand besides her even though he is normal, but on the moments when it counts somehow he doesn't understand her at all, but her enemies do. Instead of appointing Zenkichi as her vice-president, she appoints her worst enemy. Zenkichi confessed more than once to her, but she acts like she was the one who got rejected all the time. Her behavior was simply infuriating.
This behavior reached a climax somewhere in the first quarter of the second part of the series. Medaka is holding a treasure hunt to strengthen the bonds between the current and future council members. Problem is that this treasure hunt is furiously difficult and complex, far beyond the skill of a normal person like Zenkichi, but he is too stubborn to accept the help of the other members. What followed might be my favourite scene of the series and one of the most wackiest I ever read. For like the next several months you see all the council members doing extremely difficult tasks, but eventually succeed in finishing the hunt and creating a cohesive group. However then suddenly someone points out that Zenkichi isn't there and they go searching for him. They find him still at the start of the hunt and the look Medaka had in her eyes when she saw it went through flesh, bone and marrow. Like she didn't understand what Zenkichi now exactly was and she ditched the poor guy. I mean the guy who always supported her, who was in a situation that even makes the friendzone look appealing, got thrown away like garbage because some kind of superwoman couldn't apprehend that a normal, nice guy could not solve a code that was beyond the limits of normal people. You suddenly then get a complete black screen with a text saying something in the nature of "what was it all for?", meaning that that entire treasure hunt arc had been erased. It had no use whatsoever anymore and was solely meant for that scene. I hated Medaka here from the bottom of my heart, but the scene was marvelous.
In the series a division is made in 'normal' people like Zenkichi, 'abnormal' people (which are people who you could just call talented), plusses like Medaka (people who have weird powers), minuses (also people who have weird powers), non-equals (still no idea what those are) and style users. This is one of those things I really didn't like in this manga. In reality there isn't so much difference between some of the groups. What makes a plus a plus and a minus a minus? They make it appear like that their powers inherently belong in these categories, but in reality there is no difference outside that some of the minuses act like emos. In regard to these 'powers' the series really got messed up. At the start there was still more or less some kind of a rational explanation of how they work. For example there's a kid who seemingly can read minds, but in fact is just highly sensitive for electrical impulses and simply can interpret these impulses. But the further the story progresses, the less realistic these powers became. Admitted some of theme were really unique, like a girl who has the power to make any kind of scar someone ever received in his/her life whether it be physical or mental, open, but without any kind of explanation. I mean there is a guy who has the power of "All Fiction" which means that he can erase anything he wishes (and something that has been erased can not be undone, this way he erased the ability to see of someone). There is so much wrong with that ability, still no reasonable explanation is given. Even better the guy who has that power is an eternal 'loser', the complete opposite of Medaka. The style users are even worse as a 'style' is something that can be taught, but no explanation is given how they exactly work, only that it has something to do with language. Overall it's simply messed up. It becomes even better at the epilogue of the series where it is said that all of them somehow lost their powers.
The brings me to another point. Often there is played with the different meanings of kanji's and the way how they are written. For non-Japanese people such conversations of course don't make much sense. On top of that some of the dialogues are too long, boring, complicated and once again are regularly void of reason. They try to explain things using extremely abstract notions. Not to mention that too many times they tried to break the barrier between the reader and the manga. Regularly comments are made in the nature of "if this was a shonen jump manga", "do you think this is a shonen jump manga" etc. there was even a character that went into a discussion with another character because he preferred another manga magazine. This created some weird atmosphere as they keep trying to break that wall, but never succeed.
Even though it was a great read for me, it wasn't spectacular and I really have the feeling that the author severely got lost along the way, having no clear idea anymore to where he wanted to go. The title of the manga is "Medaka Box", however this box was only prominent at the start of the series and then it completely disappeared for ages and only popped back up entirely at the end as some weird kind of a nostalgic statement. In relation to the end of the series I personally find that you should take your time when finishing up such a series, while too many authors just rap it up in a flash, leaving whatever happened with most of the characters a mystery. In Medaka Box it was, compared to other finished mangas, decent, but still for me not satisfying. Especially in regard to the relationship between Medaka and Zenkichi. It's very strongly implied what was going to happen, but never shown. The only thing that should have been shown is only implied. I really really hate that.
As a final conclusion to me the entire series appeared like a manga within a manga, that within the story a story was told, but in a very abstract way, that two stories are told at the exact same time by the exact same people and only at the end, when they lost their powers, they broke free of that weird, paradoxical non-sensical situation.
- Reviewed by Caliburn