There’s a kind of character in anime that I call the “fang girl”. No, it isn’t a vampire; it’s a girl who is unconventionally pretty and a little uncouth but has a heart of gold and is ultimately perfect for the clueless male protagonist. This character usually has one subtle fang, the universal symbol for a girl who is a little uncouth but is cute nonetheless.In “Uzaki-Chan Wants to Hang Out!” (called Uzaki-Chan wa Asobitai, or “Uzaki-Chan Wants to Play” in Japanese), that fang girl is the cover girl above, Uzaki-Chan.
The story revolves around two college students: 20-year old, third-year Shinichi Sakurai, and 19-year old second-year Uzaki Hana. Two other characters eventually enter the picture in Volume One – Shinichi’s boss and his co-worker – but the focus is squarely on the two leads. If you enjoy this review and want to know about the next volume, why not check out our review for Uzaki-Chan Wants to Hang Out! volume 2.
Hana and Shinichi have known each other since high school, and they spend almost every day together in college. Mostly because Hana follows Shinichi practically everywhere he goes. Shinichi doesn’t dislike Hana. Still, he prefers spending time by himself (Hana often calls him “lone wolf”) and he doesn’t like others intruding on his free time.
Now, you may be asking: why would a healthy young man not want the company of an attractive young lady, especially one as well-endowed as Uzaki? The answer comes quickly as the two visit a local batting cage.
It’s a slice of life manga that is grounded in reality but is still ridiculous enough to create the kind of entertainment only manga can provide.
Hana amuses herself by making fun of Shinichi (in a friendly way, but still) at every opportunity, especially for being a loner. Hana is a pest more than a friend. While Hana certainly makes Shinichi’s life interesting, she sure doesn’t make it easy. Oh, and she also helps herself to his food.
There are two things I like about Uzaki-Chan’s story:
First, both characters are adults in college, so there is a tad more maturity here than in a typical high-school based manga slice of life.
Secondly, it deals with the issue of the characters romance straightforwardly. At one point, Shinichi is asked point-blank about his relationship with Hana, and his response is clear. People assume something is going on between the two of them, but their relationship isn’t like that. Of course, that doesn’t mean it will never get there. There’s just enough mystery here to keep you reading.
The story moves in a day-by-day fashion, with Shinichi and Hana getting into all kinds of situations. They hit the romance manga cliches (where Hana takes care of Shinichi when he is sick, and when the two of them wind up in his apartment to stay out of a rainstorm), but they also get into ridiculous situations like the one below, which happens after Shinichi unsuccessfully tries to pet a stray cat.
Shinichi works in a restaurant when he is not in school, and we eventually meet his boss and his female co-worker, who also happens to be the boss’s daughter. I initially thought that the daughter (whose name is Ami) would serve as a sort of romantic rival to Uzaki. I was glad to see no such thing happen. Uzaki-Chan isn’t a harem manga; it is all about the two main characters and their journey.
We eventually see a more mature side to Hana. Also, a softer side to Shinichi starts to emerge. Shinichi starts the volume by treating Hana like a pest but moves ever so slowly to see her as a companion by the end.
One of the most interesting parts of the volume is that we never really know what Hana is thinking. The story is told almost entirely from Shinichi’s perspective. We know his feelings about Hana (or what he thinks they are), but we’re never entirely sure what Hana thinks. Every once in awhile, however, we get a glimpse.
I like the art in this book. The characters tend towards more realistic proportions, as befitting a manga about older characters, but still, get into manga levels of facial expressions when required.
The two main characters are also visually distinctive. Shinichi is tall and athletic; Hana is short and tomboyish but still feminine. The backgrounds tend to be sparse but detailed enough to create a practical setting, and Take does a great job of creating visual gags.
An interesting aspect of the art is how nearly everyone except the two leads (plus the boss and his daughter) are muted. Shinichi and Hana have their separate circles of friends, and the volume shows them both in those circles, but we never clearly see any of them. The focus is always on the two lovebirds in the making.
Is Uzaki-Chan Wants to Hang Out worth reading?
Yes, but with a big “if”. Hana Uzaki is an aggressively in-your-face character that isn’t always easy to like. A reviewer at Otaku USA called her one of the most annoying manga characters ever created. As you can imagine, that person did not like this book.
I, however, loved it. It’s a slice of life manga that is grounded in reality but is still ridiculous enough to create the kind of entertainment only manga can provide. I think both main characters are excellent, and I’m already looking forward to Volume 2. I’m seriously considering importing the Japanese version because I don’t want to wait until January for the English language release. Try before you buy if you can, but if you’re on the fence about this book, go ahead and take the plunge. It may take a while for Hana and Shinichi to fall in love with each other, but you might wind up loving them both before you reach the last page of volume one.