By Miki Yoshikawa
Last week’s episodic detour was a lot of fun, but Yamada-kun is already diving headfirst into the next arc. Like last week, the series devotes time to a character who’s been out of focus lately. This time, it’s Odagiri, who’s barely been seen since the conclusion of the Student Council Election arc. To be fair, her character arc had all but been resolved at the end of that arc. She confessed her feelings to Yamada, and he rejected her. Of course, she did insist she’d still go after him despite the rejection, but that was more of a comedic stinger to her arc than anything that really needed to be followed up on. The series risks re-treading the same ground if she ends up trying to woo Yamada again.
While Odagiri is likely to remember her feelings for Yamada by the time this arc is over, it’s curbed as the focus in the short term by having her think it was Yamada who used to be into her. This is both an amusing joke in of itself, but also a clever way to diffuse any potential awkwardness of their character interactions. It’s a new dynamic for the characters while allowing them to quickly focus on their mission without unnecessary misunderstandings or hijinks getting in the way. By removing Odagiri’s obsession with Yamada as a focus, it also allows other aspects of her character to shine through. Mainly, that she’s a considerate and determined person, one who will not give up on a friend in need. Her dedication to helping Alex communicate with other people and make friends is a sweet character moment, and is welcome after her absence from the story for so long. Between this and Miyabi’s focus last week, it’s nice to see that even if a given character doesn’t show up for a while, Yamada-kun never forgets they are human beings with strengths, flaws, and everything in between.
As far as our new prospective witch goes, Alex’s solitude borders on re-treading what we already went through with Hikaru. There is one stark difference, however, and that is how he seems perfectly content with his situation. Sure, he could be masking his loneliness under an aloof facade, but by all accounts he seems perfectly happy. Heck, he technically does have a friend since apparently Odagiri seems to talk with him a lot. Which might be why he asks Yamada about what his relationship with Odagiri is. He could be interested in her, which in turn would be an interesting direction to take Odagiri. Even if she gets her memories back, she might finally be able to put Yamada behind her and move on, which is way healthier than pursuing someone who’s proven time and time again that he only has eyes for one girl.
Probably the most amusing aspect of the chapter have to be the jokes made at the expense of Alex’s foreignness, rather a Japanese perception of foreigners. It’s always amusing to see characters in manga believe that people in foreign countries kiss each other on the mouths as greetings all the time. The fact that Yamada claims that he’s “seen it in movies” as “proof of their friendship” is such a ridiculous observation, and it’s hard not to laugh. The reaction Yamada gives after Odagiri points out that it’s still uncommon for two guys to do is equally priceless. The punchline here is almost certainly different between Japanese and western audiences. It’s likely many Japanese teenagers believe that Americans kiss each other a bunch, just like Yamada, meaning the joke was likely intended to be more about how disappointed he is that Alex refused, instead of being amused by the idea in of itself like an English reader would. Which makes it one of the few times where the cultural gap between Japan and the west actually makes the joke funnier for an English reader, albeit in an unintentional way.
In general, there are a lot of jokes that are either lost or repurposed in translation, since the Kodansha translation staff has to adapt jokes about an English speaking character in a comic from Japan. It’s clear there were many pieces of dialogue that were in English in the original Japanese chapter. Since the translators can’t keep the characters’ text in Japanese, the translation attempts conveying this by using quotation marks to show when the characters refer to things in a different language, leaving the concept of “botchi” untranslated just to get across the point of Odagiri and Alex’s conversation. As always when this sort of thing happens in English translations of manga, the results are mixed, and the humor comes more from Alex’s portrayal as a stereotypical American saying things a normal American teenager would never naturally say. Like with the kissing, rather than laughing at the character and the awkwardness of interacting with a foreigner as was probably originally intended, the joke becomes more about the portrayal and the Japanese perception of Americans for the English reader.
This was a lightly amusing chapter, mostly for the cultural misunderstandings making for some fun unintentional humor. It’s purpose was ostensibly to reintroduce Odagiri into the story and develop the plot with Takuma’s witches further, and on that front, it’s effective, though not much more. The small character moments given to Odagiri were much appreciated, however, and hopefully this arc will finally bring closure to her feelings for Yamada, and see her enter a new phase in her character arc.