I think it’s a first on my blog where I’ve admitted to having buyer’s remorse on a series. Still, I did my best to give this series the benefit of the doubt. I tried my hardest not to bring my bias and pre-judgement, and just enjoy it for what it is. Ojou to Banken-kun is a pretty quick read in any regard, and checking out five volumes to see if I was off my mark in my assessment wasn’t too long. Regarding my original opinion I wasn’t too far off. Despite all that, I still want to talk about it here on my blog. So let’s start with the story synopsis as per usual.
Starting in spring, Sengaki Isaku will be having her high school debut which she is eagerly awaiting. Unlike a lot of high school debuts, Isaku’s goal is to be a normal high school girl, with normal high school experiences. As the granddaughter of a leader in a yakuza group, she was robbed of an average school life in elementary and jr high school. She ensures normalcy by enrolling in a school far from home and her previous schools, but… her overprotective bodyguard, Utou Keiya who is 26 years old, falsifies his age, and enters her high school life without her knowledge. As you can expect, Isaku is not-so-secretly infatuated with him, and their high school
and wannabe high school hi-jinks ensue.
From the plot synopsis, and for any long time followers of the blog, you can guess where this series has gone.
For those not in the know; it’s dropped.
I am going to do my best to simplify why I’ve dropped it. The first reason, is in this series no one actually respects Isaku’s autonomy or choices. It never occurs to any adult male character, why Isaku did what she did. In 22 chapters, there’s no a single conversation about why Isaku’s grandfather or Keiya did the things they did that crippled her early school years. I.e. she never made friends. So when Isaku, clumsily due to her inexperience with people in general, finally sets herself to have a normal life; they ruin it. More specifically Keiya, but all of them bear the burden of not going ‘hey isn’t that a bit too far?’.
The secondary factor, is of course the power dynamic and age gap between our couple. Because let’s not pretend this is a story that will have any meaningful age-appropriate love interest for Isaku. Just look at the cover art! (which, granted is what suckered me in the first place) Keiya is a decade older then Isaku. He’s been more or less as been in charge of her care since he’s known her. That’s already complicated, and then throwing in Isaku having no meaningful relationships in her early childhood development outside of the yakuza, Keiya’s near obsession with her, and only cements their odd and off-putting dynamics. It makes me all sorts of uncomfortable for a variety of reasons most fairly well-adjusted adult people understand without me outright naming them one by one.
The thing is, despite these glaring flaws, I do get why this series is popular. I really do. What teenage girl didn’t dream of having a handsome older boyfriend, especially in the awkward years of high school? What girl wouldn’t have killed to have a ~sexy~ guy, who would never do anything untoward to her, at her beck and call? As a former teenage girl who dreamed those exact things with anime/manga characters and real people alike; I get it. Ojou to Banken-kun is very much for pre-teen, early teen girl crowd to fawn and fantasize over.
I’m not saying that Ojou to Banken-kun is inhearantly bad for doing this. In fact, I actually expected it to be worse in all honesty. Every story arch reads like a fanfiction I would write when I was a teenager. Every situation is either trite school drama, or yakuza related. The truly bad of course is yakuza related where Keiya comes in guns blazing (very literal on several occasions) and saves the day! There’s no doubt that Keiya will save her, give her a wink and nod, with a bit of teasing that has enough subtext and angles to look like flirting depending on your age. It’s the perfect story of girlhood fantasy, and drama. What’s not to like?
Keiya even managed to subvert my expectations, since he’s not a complete creep! He actually seems to understand that his relationship with Isaku is complicated and that it’s his problem. As a minor, Isaku really couldn’t contribute to the current relationship beyond what she did as a child. Keiya comes off more mature in every situation like a dream, because he IS older then all of Isaku’s peers. He also knows where he has to draw the line because as the adult in this relationship he has too. Keiya as a character is pretty much exactly what happens when you let Netflix cast a teen movie, but make it a manga. The mangaka is seemingly aware with this too with how often Isaku’s peers mention that Keiya looks/talks/acts so much older. I can’t tell if these moments are meant to be funny, or what.
But at the end of the day, Ojou to Banken-kun reads like an incredibly bland, fanfiction with good illustrations. In five volumes, no events stand out as being unique to the story. Pull out a shojo troupe check-list, and I guarantee Ojou to Banken-kun will hit nearly everything listed.
I’d anticipate that the author is going to milk out the three years of high school Isaku has, and incrementally dole out developments for Isaku as a teenager. Isaku does grow a bit of a spine even in this preliminary reading. She will make attempts to get herself out of dicey situations, or improve herself through her own choices. However, none of these events are distinct or interesting enough to make me actually invested in her character. I fully anticipate that their relationship will cumulate (plus or minus some pre-18 conflicts), once she hits 18, they’ll get together, and the series may or may not get raunchy and then some falling action to round it off. This is just my speculation, and should be taken as such.
That’s all just my experience, speculation and opinions on the series though. I would love for any other reader’s to give me their thoughts since I know my own experience is so incredibly biased. I’m moving on to other manga and reviews, but don’t be afraid to comment. With that I’ll see you next post!