A new school year always brings new faces, both in the student body and in the teaching staff. Izumi Maki and Yuko Nagumo are former students of Asashio High, hired to teach P.E. and Japanese, respectively. They’re going to find that teaching isn’t always an easy job, especially when you have to deal with a love-struck foreign language teacher and a psychotic school nurse.
Banno’s four panel comic about the life of four female coworkers should be wacky and silly, but really only manages to be more of the same. Comparisons with Kiyohiko Azuma’s school girl comic strip Azumanga Daioh are unavoidable, but it is S.S. Astro that suffers in these comparisons. Some of the jokes seem to fall short because of cultural differences between Japanese readers and U.S. readers, despite the fact that Yen Press includes translation notes in the back. Others seem to suffer from the format, with the limitation of four panels making it difficult for the jokes to fully develop.
The four panel framework also hampers the art. The panels are crammed with detail, which would be alright if Banno’s art were strong enough to fully differentiate between the characters. Unfortunately they are all drawn very similarly and it is difficult to keep straight who is who. Things are further hindered by frequent introduction of side characters. Since these characters often look a lot like the main characters, I would get to the end of a strip and realize that they read the entire thing wrong because I was assuming a character was someone else completely.
I was interested to read another four panel strip series and I do like that this one had lots of silly jokes about the characters being closet yaoi or yuri perverts, but overall I was disappointed in this first volume. It was a slow read that I had to make myself finish, which is not what I would consider humor. I’m glad that Yen Press is looking for good four panel series, but I think that this one could have been passed on.
S.S. Astro: Asashio Sogo Teachers Room, vol. 1
Yen Press, 2008