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Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches - Vol. 1
Author: Ross Liversidge

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches - Vol. 1

Miki Yoshikawa

School outcast and bad-boy Ryu Yamada is a solitary type. He's bored by his classes, hates to study and doesn't have any friends. After a particularly harsh chewing out from his teacher, he stomps up the stairs behind star pupil Urara Shiraishi. Aggressively overtaking her, he trips, falls and... wakes up in her body.

So, not a normal day then.

Body-swap comedies are really nothing new, and I have to admit my eyes rolled a little when I read the synopsis. Was there really anything new to mine in this particular trope? Surely the gender-gags and adolescent curiosity are pretty tired by now. But, as is often the case with such things, it's the quality of the writing that saves this title.

Ryu himself is a truly embittered loner, but boredom seems to be his main issue. Despite being top of the class, Shiraishi has her own problems too - bullying and loneliness are big burdens for her, and she comes across as ultimately sympathetic. As both characters quickly get a handle on their unusual ability, the book concentrates on putting their power to use rather than coming up with endless gender-swap gags, and this is to the credit of author Miki Yoshikawa. 

Supporting characters are quickly introduced to add some variety to the mix, and by-and-large these work well. For some, like student council member Nene Oadagiri, it's too early to understand the character motivations (she's a bit of a bitch for unknown reasons) but this will hopefully bear fruit further down the line.

Artwork is of a high standard - there's great use of background and toner that gives real weight to the characters in the foreground. There's nothing particularly new in terms of character design, but everything is rendered perfectly with some killer expressions and some particularly fun body language when the couple switch around - watching Shiraishi walk around bow-legged when inhabited by Yamada is always a joy, and the change in facial expression and mannerisms is wonderfully marked.

Overall this first volume contains a breezy sense of fun, never getting bogged down in the gimmick and choosing instead to just move along at a brisk pace. While I wouldn't call it a landmark book yet, it's certainly one worth an oggle if you have the time, and only future volumes will confirm whether or not this is a classic.

A series with a genuine sense of fun and imagination, this is a great read and one to watch.
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