"The Girl Next Door" – Just A Girl (manga) – 7/10 Black Cats


Friendship isn’t a big thing – it’s a million little things. ~Author Unknown

Genre: Romance/Drama/Shoujo

Review Status: Complete (2 Volumes/2 Volumes)

Licensed:
Formerly licensed by CMX, it’s no longer licensed in the US.

Art: Very 90’s, but the character designs are nice, and the art is pretty typical for a shoujo of that period.

Summary: On her own for the very first time, Erica finds herself dealing with the pressures of independence. Luckily, some old friends–and some exciting new ones–are there to help her make her way in this exciting new world. Will it be enough for her to grow and be a successful woman, or will she remain…just a girl? (back cover of first volume)

Review: From the mangaka of Popcorn Romance (Tomoko Taniguchi), a title that I’m not very fond of at all, this ended up being a nice little story about friendship and figuring out yourself a little.

Erica, a new high school student, ends up being the target of a few nasty pranks on her first day of school. Rena, the school outcast, befriends her, knowing how difficult it is to be singled out for bullying. They become close, and end up with wonderful new friends, sharing stuffed animals, and figuring out their feelings for guys.

One of the really nice things about this manga is how all the different relationships are handled. Erica and her childhood friend don’t end up together, which is pretty realistic. The manga also didn’t focus only on Erica–Rena had her own immature moments. Sometimes when you only have one friend in the world, it’s tough to let your hold on them loosen a bit and let them have other friends. Rena handles this beautifully.

This is definitely a shoujo, though, in every sense of the word. The general immaturity an unbelievable amount of naiveté shown by the protagonist (seriously–she’s a highschooler, and didn’t expect to be teased about her stuffed animals?) definitely mark this for elementary school girls.

I do have a problem with the translation. This is obviously meant for a young age set. Therefore, I really question the translator’s wisdom of throwing in what we in the Western world consider swears (omg! occurs 5 times in the story, as well as the h-word in one of the side stories). That raises the age rating to a group that for the most part would have very little interest in reading this manga.

Overall, this was a decent story. Enjoyable, but nothing special.

Recommended: 10+. It really should be 8+, but the translators had to put in that language. There’s a scene where Erica takes a bath with the other girls in the school- Barbie-doll nudity, but also not sexual in the least. It’s a cultural thing. Two of the boys dress in drag to get into the girl’s dorm to visit. In one of the unrelated side stories in the back, a dad screams about how guys only have ‘one thing one their mind at that age’, and admits he did too. What that thing is, is never stated out loud.

Other titles you might enjoy:

+ Anima (manga)
Kimi ni Todoke (anime and manga)
Karakuri Odette (manga)
NG Life (manga)

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