With the premiere of JManga a while back, their flagship title to attract fans was Masakawa Ishiguro's Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteru. The anime version of SoreMachi proved to be a popular title amongst fans, and was licensed by Sentai Filmworks in 2011, released under the name And Yet The Town Moves.
In our A Look @ column, we take a quick peek into single volumes of titles to see how they stack up, and if they're worth a good read. It's a mini-review, but accepting the fact that this is an ongoing series.
So, let's delve into JManga's flagship title, and see what all the hubbub is about.
In SoreMachi, our protagonist is the high schooler Arashiyama Hotori -- a mystery-loving space cadet who just started working at her grandma's cafe with maids. The difference between this and a regular maid cafe is Gran's attitude: "I heard maid cafes were popular," and thus everyone is dressed in maid outfits. The decor, servers' attitudes, and just about everything else does not match up with what you'd expect a maid cafe to be.
Rather than be the focal point of the story, the maid cafe is simply a linchpin to tie together all the stories that go on within the town. The genre clearly falls into the slice-of-life genre, with a mix of lighthearted romance. Part of the story follows Hotori through school, where she has a crush on her math teacher who hates her, for being so bad at the class. One of her classmates then crushes on her, and one of the other maids is crushing on that boy. So you can see how things stack up.
The best way to relate the title is to consider it a large part like Yotsuba&!, with a bit of School Rumble mixed in. The School Rumble aspect is most noticeable in the high school characters' relationships, and the story's occasional foray into absurdity. The Yotsuba&! aspect comes from the contained situations. There isn't a bevy of characters, and even the background interactions are often with the same people. That's not a bad thing, as you quickly become familiar with everyone.
I don't know where to attribute this, but my biggest detraction comes from the manga's writing. The humor is definitely there in the title, but some jokes are obtuse -- they don't quite come across. Is this an issue with whomever is doing the translation and editing? Possibly. Their focus could be more aimed at an accurate translation and not focused on getting the comedic timing down (which is a difficult thing), but it was noticeable at points. Then again, the fault could lie with how the jokes come across in the original Japanese -- some are too obscure for the Western fan to pick up on.
The art is something that's incredibly strong. Ishiguro's art is clean and competent. You won't see the insane level of detail that's in a Naoki Urasawa title, but the art in SoreMachi really excels in the characters. There's something warm and inviting about the faces that he draws -- I can't help but like everyone. The one thing I wish I could see would be some two-page spreads that establish the town in better detail. I think that if Ishiguro put his effort into that, it'd be really beautiful.
SoreMachi is a title that's easy to like. For slice of life fans, it's something that's great to consume on a boring day. The $5 price tag on most of JManga's title makes it easier to take the plunge on, too. Upon finishing the first volume, there was no burning desire to continue reading into the next volume, but there was a tinge of sadness that my reading experience was over. The title is very appropriate for the manga itself: the world will keep on turning, but you can always stop what you're doing and pop your head into the cafe by the sea to check up on the characters. It's a little vacation away from the rest of your life.