The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Comic Girls: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“Learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it and keep doing it until you get it right.” –Tom Clancy

At the dormitory, Kaoruko helps Ruki with her manga, spends a day with Koyume with the beach and meets resident horror manga artist Suzu Fūra. She struggles to continue with her own serialisation, discovers that her homeroom instructor, Miharu Nijino, is fond of Tsubasa’s manga and anime culture, encounters trouble when visiting Shinjuku on her own, and spends more time with Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa. Winter approaches, bringing with it exams; Kaoruko struggles to focus on her exams amidst her manga’s rejection, and Koyume becomes concerned with her weight. When the Christmas season nears, Ruki laments her lack of a love life, prompting the others to throw her a surprise birthday party, and Tsubasa deals with her family’s opposition to her intention to become a manga artist. Through the sum of her experiences, Kaoruko continues put in an honest effort, creating a slice-of-life manga that captures her experiences with friends. Mayu approves of this concept as an insert manga and requests that Kaoruko creates a second part. While she initially struggles, support from her friends and encouragement from her mother compel her to finish before the manga dormitory closes for the winter. The result is something that Mayu praises as Kaoruko’s strongest work up until now, and by spring, she reunites with her friends, resolving to continue working and spending time with Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa. With the sum of her journey culminating in an approval amidst the sea of rejections, Kaoruko’s journey in Comic Girls thus draws to a close for the present, and in spending so much time with other manga artists, each of whom have their own style and genre, Kaoruko begins to discover her own strength lie in works that are depictions of experiences within her life.

At the end of the day, Comic Girls is a story of persistence, determination and a journey taken to discover what it means to be authentic. These well-tread themes are encapsulated in an anime about an aspiring manga artist whose discoveries lead her to create a manga about her experiences. Summarily, Comic Girls is an anime about the making of the manga that became the manga which was adapted into an anime. Despite its derivative, familiar message and an end result that was long foreseen during its run, Comic Girls‘ theme of how simple experiences and journeys, seemingly mundane and trivial, can nonetheless be relatable and interesting when presented appropriately. Kaoruko is evidently unlearned in telling love, action and horror stories; although she started out as a four-panel manga artist, frequent rejections led her to experiment with a wide variety of genres. Her time spent at the Bunhousha Dormitory provides her with an eccentric, but memorable set of experiences that impact her greatly, and by transcribing this to paper, Kaoruko manages to create a relatable, engaging story. She thus returns to the genre that four-panel manga frequently depict: common, everyday aspects of life that are missed as readers surround themselves with the ceaseless activity of their lives. By applying her recollections to a genre she had been working in, Kaoruku discovers that an effective manga is created by being oneself. The twelve episode journey it took to reach this stage shows that the process is one filled with many memories, and I speak to my readers here, that Comic Girls‘ theme of being oneself is, despite being rather obvious, is one that nonetheless is worth reiterating every now and then, especially when it is applicable to the realm of anime blogging: I’ve noticed that some of my peers in anime blogging have struggled with their content of late, along with discouragement from declining traffic, likes and interactions. As with Kaoruko, rather than trying to emulate the success of other blogs and place unnecessary pressure on oneself, I would similarly suggest that my peers be themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because of her depiction, mannerisms and size, Kaoruko is perhaps more similar to Tamias minimus, better known as the Least Chipmunk. My responses to her suffering typically are a conflicting one between pity and mild irritation: Kaoruko is prone to fits of misfortune, although lacking the long-suffering nature of Anne Happy‘s Anne, Kaoruko devolves into self-pity and shame whenever things go south.

  • An e-manga artist, I found Ruki to be the most enjoyable character to watch. Some of the content she produces implies understanding of the male anatomy and its workings: in Eromanga Sensei, Sagiri was only able to produce compelling artwork because she used herself as a model, so when asked to take things to the next level, her lack of understanding of male anatomy led to some hilarious results. By comparison, Ruki’s works are more accurate, in a manner of speaking, and so, she covers Karouko’s eyes out of embarassment, preventing Kaoruko from helping out.

  • I’ve previously mentioned that Comic Girls could have become quite tricky for me to write for because of its focus on manga creation, but as it turns out, the anime’s focus on everyday life means that things are very easy to relate to and do not require an inordinate degree of manga creation knowledge to enjoy. With this being said, a bulk of the activities and events of Comic Girls are deliberately conventional; there’s a limit to what I could say in great detail about a day at the amusement park or spending a rainy afternoon playing games with a friend.

  • When one of Ruki’s manga are released, her editor asks her to do an autograph session. Frightened at the prospect of meeting her fans, encouragement from Tsubasa and Ririko give her the courage to step out into the spotlight, where Ruki learns that her fans simply love her work and onee sama-like presence. The event is a success, and Ruki is glad to have met her fans. This is the power of good writing: ideas and thoughts can reach and impact readers authors never thought possible, and my favourite stories of good writing making a positive impact on someone’s life is from MythBusters, where their colourful and approachable application of the scientific method have inspired countless into STEM careers.

  • Between her shapely figure and outgoing manner, Koyume finds it easy to draw attention in a crowd and befriend others, respectively. Fanservice in Comic Girls exists, but is not particularly overbearing. Despite being intended as cathartic series focused around the joys of everyday lives in a wide range of scenarios, Manga Time Kirara series also seem to have a bit more fanservice than would be expected of anime purely intended to help their viewers decompress – this suggests that manga of the Kirara style also have been tailored to interest audiences of a specific demographic.

  • It suddenly strikes me that a large number of Manga Time Kirara works feature a purple-haired character with a mature and serious demenour: we have Ruri Hibarigaoka of Anne Happy, Yōko Nishikawa from Sansha San’yōGochiUsa‘s Rize Tandea and Kurumi Ebisuzawa from School Live, all of whom have similar appearances and dispositions. Invariably, they all end up being my favourite characters for their respective series.

  • According to some of my readers, my inability to comprehend yuri and its significance is my downfall. This is both true and false: I don’t typically watch series where yuri is the main focus, so I don’t purport to understand it, but for the slice-of-life series that I do watch, yuri is typically an element incorporated into the narrative to drive humour or to provide a chance for characters to get to know one another better. In the case of Comic Girls, Koyume develops an interest in Tsubasa and longs to spend time with her. This opportunity finally materialises when Koyume and Tsubasa go to an amusement park together, while Ruki and Kaoruko tail them.

  • A botched kokuhaku is the hallmark of most romance-comedy, but in slice-of-life such as Comic Girls, the decision to not have Tsubasa and Koyume’s relationship advance beyond anything more than bog-standard friendship is motivated by the fact that disruption to the status quo would quickly cause the narrative diverge from Kaoruko and her journey towards publishing a manga. Thus, in Comic Girls, Koyume remains unable to summon up the courage to ask out Tsubasa, and instead, voices her concerns about being left behind as a manga artist. I realise that my take on yuri is an unfavourable one (folks at Tango Victor Tango seem particularly hostile towards what I say), but writing about and analysing what-ifs for fictional relationships has never been my strength.

  • Suzu Fūra is the resident horror manga artist, and her onryō-like presence frightens the living daylights out of Kaoruko, who is reduced to this at the thought of a ghost haunting their dormitory. However, while Kaoruko is initially scared to be around Suzu, she’s the first to befriend her, finding a kind person underneath her terrifying exterior. Over time, Kaoruko’s strengths begin manifesting, and audiences can begin seeing how she will likely mature over time, enough to learn about what works best for her as a manga artist: she’s able to find positives for those she meets, and this particular aspect about her is a useful one for writing four-panel manga, where characters typically have a specific endearing trait about them.

  • New experiences are an integral part of Kaoruko’s journey towards gaining a better understanding of ordinary life, leading one to wonder what Kaoruko’s life was like back home. I remark here that Comic Girls‘ finale came out prior to that of Amanchu! Advance‘s, but I felt that Comic Girls was something I should sleep on further. I thus took Sunday afternoon easy, went to a local bookstore and picked up Patrick Smith’s Cockpit Confidential (Second Edition), then enjoyed broasted chicken for dinner. Subsequently, I worked out what I wished to cover in this post.

  • Takami Karibuchi Miharu might be a strict disciplinarian, but she’s also a secret fan of Tsubasa’s work. When word reaches her ears that Tsuabasa is the author of the manga Miharu so enjoys, she is overwhelmed and becomes more forgiving of Tsubasa’s tendency to sleep in class. I’ve now been around the block long enough to be familiar with the instructor who’s also secretly into things like anime, cosplay and video games: this is done intentionally to help audiences connect with the world, and it is not implausible for a teacher to have such interests. One of my seniors at the dōjō is a teacher and watches anime, and my old data structures professor is a PC gamer.

  • One long-standing thought on my mind is that Kaoruko’s love for female figurines and the female form seems to be more of an attraction to the maternal characteristics of her peers, rather than the baser suppositions that others have put forth. I argue this because of Kaoruko’s child-like disposition and appearance, as well as how she’s innocent in the ways of the world and her propensity to become more relaxed in the presence of someone more mature.

  • While exploring Akihabara on her own, a police officer mistakes Kaoruko for a lost child, and Karouko runs off, hiding in a large cardboard box. When her friends find her, Kaoruko resembles a lost pet of sorts. The number of adventures and experiences Kaoruko finds herself on, both the good and the bad, are instrumental in giving her an idea of what people might do – her manga were unrelatable because she lacked exposure, and a large part of the journey in Comic Girls is really dealing with the sort of things that Kaoruko does, rather than the technical aspects behind manga creation. As a consequence, most discussions out there on Comic Girls largely takes the form of reactions to the various misadventures that Kaoruko goes on in her journey to create a manga that won’t be rejected.

  • Kaoruko feels that glasses might make her more mature and also help her with her vision: while there are some out there who find an appeal about eye glasses, I’ve long felt that they are an impediment for some physical activities, and they can be a pain when one is crying. I also recall a lecture during my time as a graduate student where one of the screws on my frame had loosened mid-class, causing the lens to pop out. I was stuck with only one eye for the remainder of that lecture and was forced to make haste for the campus optometrist to get my glasses fixed.

  • Watching Kaoruko see rejection after rejection is perhaps the most realistic aspect of Comic Girls: I mentioned in the Amanchu! Advance talk that the public is largely only familiar with Wernher von Braun’s successes with NASA and his well-publicised role in designing the massive Saturn V rockets, as well as the total success of the Titan II rockets used to carry Gemini capsules into orbit, but preparing the Redstone for the Mercury program was initially a challenging one. The Redstone rocket used in Mercury-Redstone 1 only managed to lift the capsule four inches off the ground, and von Braun insisted that all rockets must be proven safe before any manned flight could be attempted, delaying the American’s ability to conduct manned flights. However, once his rockets proved themselves, things picked up considerably.

  • If Comic Girls were to be a documentary, and we substituted out Kaoruko for von Braun, then the series would follow von Braun’s time between 1946 and 1961 as he developed the Redstone. Of course, no discussion of the Space Race would be complete without Sergei Korolev, the Soviet rocket engineer and designer. In Comic Girls, there is not such an equivalent, and while Kaoruko occasionally becomes envious of her friends’ successes, such as when Koyume becomes serialised. However, Kaoruko pushes forwards even when her own future is in doubt, and for all of her other shortcomings, some of which are merely in her eyes, Kaoruko’s persistence is her greatest strength.

  • Koyume’s weight becomes something of a concern for her: Koyume is rarely seen without something sweet in hand, and her liking for all things sugary is tied with her creative ability. Some folks assert that they must have sugar in order to operate, and there is some truth in this – the brain is the most energy-consuming organ in the body, and natural sugars are very easily broken down for cellular respiration. In moderation, these natural sugars provide a boost to neurological processes, improving memory, information retention and sharpness by providing energy needed for neurons to fire. However, high concentrations of sugar in the blood can reduce blood flow to the brain and lessen its performance. The lesson here should be a familiar one: moderation is key.

  • While perhaps exaggerated, Koyume’s sugar withdrawal and attendant poor manga work is a plausible response to her quitting cold-turkey in an attempt to lose some weight. I digress from the main topic and mention that the term “serialisation” is thrown around very frequently in manga discussion. In literary terms, serialisation refers to continuous instalments of a story published to sequential volumes of a periodical publication. A manga that is published monthly to Manga Time Kirara, every month, telling a progressing story, is serialised. This is a world apart from the serialisation that a very large part of my work involves: this is the process by which data is converted into different forms for storage, for access in memory and so it can be transmitted. A typical workflow might take the form of capturing JSON data from a REST call, parsing that JSON and turning it into objects so that my programs can operate on this data, then converting these objects back into a JSON or dictionary so I can use another REST call to store the data remotely.

  • When Tsubasa’s sketchbook, containing her manuscript, is lost, the other girls work hard to help her find it. Searching through the school, top to bottom, without any results is disheartening, and at one point, Tsubasa considers throwing the towel in, but continues with her friends’ support.

  • It turns out that Miharu was once into making yaoi manga. She visits the dormitory alongside Mayu, who learns of how determined Kaoruko is towards working on a submission that will be accepted. Audiences will immediately note that yaoi content is nonexistent on this blog, and that anything of this genre is something that I will not watch or discuss. This is strictly a matter of personal preference: there are plenty of other blogs and sites out there that deal in these matters, so it should not be the end of the world when I’m not interested in writing about something that does not work for me.

  • Ultimately, it is Suzu who finds Tsubasa’s missing manuscript. She looks a world apart from her usual, ghostly self at school, and is actually quite pleasant on the eyes without her usual tendencies towards scaring the living daylights out of everyone. Viewers were shocked to learn that this is the difference between Suzu’s appearance at the dormitory and at school.

  • When the Christmas season rolls around, Ruki becomes jealous of her own fictional characters, who are able to share intimacy while she is single. The thought is persuasive enough for her to duck under the covers, which is an absolutely adorable reaction. I understand this pain rather well, and consequently, when Comic Girls presented a solution for Ruki, I found myself impressed.

  • Seeing Ruki’s melancholy prompts Tsubasa and the others to throw her a surprise birthday party: showing that they care for her and providing much-needed company is what Ruki needs to regroup. Spending time with friends and celebrating the present is a legitimate and effective way of warding off the melancholy that can permeate one’s mind if their thoughts strayed towards the loneliness of being single. This is why friendship is such a substantial component of many series: social interaction and companionship go hand-in-hand with our evolution, so we are biologically hard-wired to want to be with others. Thus, even if one is single, having good company can still be sufficient for one to remain mentally strong.

  • Like Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls takes viewers through the New Year, where the girls pray for success in the upcoming year. Over the course of the winter break, the other girls learn that Tsubasa hails from a wealthy family, but in spite of this, wishes to walk away from a lifestyle she considers stifling in favour of her own pursuits. This was introduced very late into the series and was a bit of a surprise.

  • When the time comes to burn old storyboards, Kaoruko is reluctant to see the others’ work be destroyed, but soon accepts this and brings out her rejected work to act as fuel for the fire: the others remark that this is a sign of Kaoruko’s persistence. The resulting fire is used to roast yams that the girls enjoy. For me, the most common way of enjoying yams are either through yam fries or my personal favourite: 番薯糖水 (jyutping faan1 syu4 tong4 seoi2). Made with yams, rock sugar and ginger, it is delicious. My favourite incarnation of sweet yam soup is made with purple yams (D. alata), which results in a sweet soup looking like grape juice. One practical joke one could employ with this is deceiving one’s friends into thinking it were grape juice.

  • As the year draws to a close, the dormitory closes, requiring that the residents leave. There’s a bit of a finality to the end of Comic Girls, with the anime giving the sense that the girls are separating for good, but this turns out not to be the case. While we are on the topic of endings, June’s blazed by unexpectedly quickly, and we’re a mere four days from the month’s end. Even though June is ending, things outside of work have managed to somehow be more busy than things at work – The Division has reopened the Outbreak global event, which sees increased headshot damage. With my Predator’s Mark gear, I’m hitting for 2.2 million points of damage with my M700 Carbon, and although the GE caches aren’t too exciting, I am trying to work towards one of the event masks. Meanwhile, the Road to Battlefield V‘s second phase has begun, with three awards being available each week for scoring 30000 points. Between all of this, the fact that I was hoping for some downtime to play Go! Go! Nippon! in full, and the fact that it’s summer, it looks like the next while will entail my trying to work out just how to manage my free time outside.

  • The page quote is a Tom Clancy one, and it’s got a familiar message that Kaoruko certainly understands. Throughout Comic Girls, she is knocked down, but with her friends’ help, she continues to get back up and keep trying. Of course, reality sometimes is a little less unkind: for example, I simply lack the physicality and hand-eye coordination to play in the NHL, but with enough practise and good documentation, I could probably spin up my own REST endpoints. However, for the most part, if one has a modicum of talent in a field, then the rest of it is persistence and dedication.

  • In the finale, Kaoruko’s mother shows up, and while she initially embarrasses Kaoruko with some photos of Kaoruko as a child, she also reminds Kaoruko of how drawing was the one thing that reliably gave her motivation. Since then, Kaoruko has come a long way, and while she’d been struggling to work on the second part of her manga since her first part was accepted, her mother’s appearance, and her friends’ encouragement gives her the motivation to create something worthwhile. The end result is a product that impresses Mayu, who counts it as Kaoruko’s best work yet.

  • I note that my reception of Comic Girls is a bit cooler than the glowing reviews others have given it: while I liked Comic Girls, the series did not particularly click with me the same way that the top-tier Manga Time Kirara works have. This series has its moments, but I did not feel a particular draw towards watching it every week – halfway into the series, it became quite clear as to where things were headed, and so, I chose not to write about Comic Girls with the same frequency that I have for Yuru Camp△ or Slow Start. Nothing about the journey kept me guessing, so it would have been difficult to consistently find something interesting to say, or speculate, about Comic Girls.

  • All told, Comic Girls scores a B grade in my books: this is equivalent to a 7.5 of ten. Middle-of-the-road in every way, Comic Girls was a relaxing watch that brings nothing particularly new to the table. It’s worth watching for anyone who is familiar with Manga Time Kirara adaptations, but beyond this, won’t astound or impress for being novel. This is perfectly fine: I don’t expect every series to blow me away, and there’s nothing wrong with another take on a familiar concept. With this, the only remaining series left to write about is Sword Art Online Alternative, and then we’re off to the summer anime season, where I will be working on episodic reviews for Harukana Receive.

Overall, Comic Girls presents a message that is relatable and relevant. While the journey it took to reach this point is nothing novel, and meanders somewhat, the characters appear to have grown very subtly since Comic Girls began. This is most visible in Kaoruko – while she remains quite prone to tears and fits of self-depreciation, she’s also learned to pick up herself and has awareness of what works for her as a manga artist. The focus of Comic Girls is largely on Kaoruko’s growth; Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa remain as they did when introduced in Comic Girls, acting as static characters that provide a reference point. Beyond this, a large part of Comic Girls‘ progression is rooted in familiar jokes and presentation which, while smoothly presented, offers very little to make it stand out from other Manga Time Kirara series. Similarly, repetition of some things, especially Suzu’s onryō-like presence and Kaoruko’s tendency to dissolve into a blubbering mess when faced with adversity, wears thin rapidly. Overall, Comic Girls is a middle-of-the-road series: there are limitations in this series that make less memorable, but otherwise, did not diminish my enjoyment of this series outright. Comic Girls earns a weak recommendation in that it’s got its moments and remains enjoyable for those enjoy series published to Manga Time Kirara, but general viewers would do better to pass over Comic Girls. As far as a continuation goes, it’s tricky to see what new territory could be explored; the manga is still ongoing, and I could see myself watching this series if a second season explored Koyume, Ruki, Tsubasa and Suzu’s interactions in greater depth to bring out sides of their character hitherto unseen.

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