Reviews: Medaka Box

Difficult to Place (Possible Spoilers)

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this manga. Sometimes I thought it was one of the most brilliant comics I ever read, other times I seethed with rage at how bad it was.

This story is a Deconstruction of Shonen conventions, but it's an Indecisive Deconstruction. It will obviously parody some cliches - God Mode Sue, Plot Armor, Invincible Hero - but then later play them painfully straight (most notably, the second to last arc in regards to God Mode Sue). Besides, there are still plenty of elements of bad writing - Satellite Character, Failure Hero, Plot Hole, inconsistent characterization - without the slightest hint of irony or self-awareness. Even if it's all subtle parody, the author has failed at making it less obnoxious than what it's parodying. When that happens, you have failed as a parodist.

The characters were definitely a mixed bag. Some were completely insufferable (Medaka), pathetic (Zenkichi), or simply annoying (Kumagawa). There were interesting characters whose personalities took a complete 180 all of a sudden, and those who didn't change at all. There were times when character development would be organic, except that it turns out the character actually didn't change, as well as times when character development occurs completely off-screen for no good reason. Thankfully, there were some characters I liked, such as Naze, Hitomi, or Nienami. I wish they were used more often, but that may just be favoritism talking.

The thing I detested most about this manga is the ending. I still find it to be depressing, rushed, confusing, and leaves open too many questions for no purpose. It seems to be controversially among the fanbase, with most people on GameFAQs loving it, while it's near-universally reviled on Manga Fox.

This manga can get good with its Deconstructions, such as with Invincible Hero, even if it later used that trope anyway. It's funny at times, no complaints there. Characters will often perform feats of awesomeness, but they're negated by something terrible pages later. In short, when it's good it's really good, but when it's bad it's near-unreadable. So, I have no idea if I can confidently recommend it to anyone.

Final Review

After four years, Medaka Box has finally ended. Though I came into the series about two years into its run, it was quite the ride. It's a shame that this series didn't achieve popularity despite all of its promotions, but hopefully Nisio managed to fit most of the Medaka story into a fairly satisfactory manner. In all honesty this was my primary manga series for a time. I came in for a simple comedy and ended up with quite an adventurous series. As with many genre-shifts, I was apprehensive at the focus shift due to the uneven developments of the characters. But gradually I began to enjoy how the characters grew into their roles.

Medaka Box has its flaws as a series. Medaka isn't the most likable or relateable protagonist for many people, and so much of the manga seems to be building up to something, But there are quite a few poignant moments in the series which makes up for it. The author continually plays with our expectations on whether the roles the characters are in can truly be overcome Medaka shows that even the people at the top are human, and exactly what psyche would force her to help others. Zenkichi goes from the other end, showing how the average person can support others. While I do wish some other characters gained more spotlight, I enjoyed how Kujira among other supporting characters was developed. Her characterization manages to stay consistent as the eccentric researcher and as a foil to Medaka.

I do hope that someday Medaka and Zenkichi's stories can be expanded upon, but it seems that other than Kumagawa there hasn't been much material for spinoffs.
  • GAP
  • 4th Jul 13
  • 2

Its a fun series but still not for everyone

Medaka Box is the story about a first year student named Medaka Kurokami and Zenkichi Hitoyoshi and their misadventures in Hakoniwa Academy. It is also a no holds barred satire of Shonen Jump manga although it doesn't mock every trope, it still plays its tropes fairly straight and often to their ridiculous extremes. The story is fairly good but to really understand the satire, you need to look at it from a metafictional perspective. There is so much that can be taken from this manga that it would take up this whole review but they are there if you are willing to look.

Medaka Box deals with the themes of the hero never loses, the villain who destined to be defeated as well as the friend who can never catch up. While the Student Council arc up to the Minus arc address these tropes, it wasn't until the Not Equals arc where the series decides to take off the kids gloves and really start taking shonen apart at the seams. Medaka herself is a critique of shonen main characters both old and new and takes the concept of the main character taken to its logical extremes. Like most shonen main characters, Medaka is strong, charismatic, enjoys a good fight, can perfect anything just by looking it and she is just plain amazing but its those very same traits that alienate her from other people. She is perfect but is being a perfect a good thing? Is there even such a thing as perfect? And how everyone else react to such a being?

In contrast lies Misogi Kumagawa who is the most popular character in the manga, he is the ultimate underdog in that no matter how competent 'destined' to be defeated in the end. Kumagawa is the biggest loser to extent where even Charlie Brown is cooler than him. Kumagawa is also a critique on villains or antagonists where they are destined to lose no matter what cool powers they have. In middle lies Zenkichi Hitoyoshi, he is the sidekick who just cannot seem to catch to these crazy characters no how hard he tries.

As fun as the series is, it still has some flaws and those can prevent your enjoyment of the series. It has a tendency to repeat the same plots with the same conclusion but in different ways. The art is fairly mediocre, it doesn't stand on its own as a battle manga and if you are looking for something more typical, I suggest you look somewhere else. This series like most others by the author is a love or hate it series.

Medaka Box: Flawed and Fun

I came across Medaka Box only this year, but it quickly became one of the series I enjoyed the most. It starts out with the two protagonists, Medaka and Zenkichi, who serve as excellent foils for each other. Medaka, as student council president, does her utmost best in helping the students of Hakoniwa Academy. Zenkichi puts his effort in supporting that cause, as the person who understands Medaka.

I genuinely enjoyed the characters, from Akune to the eccentric artist to the overzealous enforcer Onigase. I won't lie; the suggestion box arc is still my favorite. However, that doesn't mean the genre shifts were unwelcome....

I'll be honest that I approached the changes with some skepticism. Instead of meaningful conversations, we get battles? But at the same time, I warmed up to these characters. Medaka is fleshed out as a more flawed central character, and we're left wondering whether she's really "perfect" within the story, or just excessively powerful and flawed. Each Class 13 member initially comes off arrogant, but we come to see that they're really just lonely people. On some level, you could feel what it was like to be forced by Medaka "to reform". What I enjoyed most about this arc was the development of the student council members. We really get to see how some these characters tick; Kikaijima, despite knowing Medaka the shortest, doesn't put her on a pedastal. Akune, the graceful bishonen judo master was originally a delinquent. Zenkichi doesn't get much info about his past, though I assume it's because his past is intertwined with Medaka's. Nevertheless, he gets to show how he's been able to stay by Medaka's side.

Minus Arc: Personally, I don't like Kumagawa. Yes, you can say that "you weren't supposed to like him" at that point, but he honestly just annoyed me (okay, references alright, breaking fourth wall, we get it). But, I'll give him some credit for his role as an antagonist. You could really sense the amount of dread he induced in many of the characters. It also added an element of status. This is "the guy who Medaka couldn't save". How do people deal with the minus if they don't want happiness?

I don't have any comments about the treasure hunt arc and the next ones. They seem to be setting up to something larger, so no comments yet.