Gender bending, reverse harems, and a school dedicated to a fight club are all beacons in Kenka Bancho Otome: Love’s Battle Royale. Hinako Nakayama is a fifteen-year old orphan who doesn’t think she has any family—that is, until she has a run in with a boy who looks just like her and Hinako accidentally “breaks” his arm. As fate would have it, these two are twin siblings. Not only that, her twin brother Hikaru is part of a yakuza gang and is destined to be the next leader. However, he must first rise to the top of his school and Hinako must trade places with him due to his “injury.”
To make amends, she agrees to take his place, if it means she can help out her newfound family. However once she gets to the school, she realizes that Hikaru didn’t exactly explain that she has to fight her way to the top of the class! Hinako has taken down quite a few bullies in her time, but never an entire school before. In this first volume, Hinako must enter Shishiku Academy, an all-boys high school, and fight to be the boss of the first years. It’s an alarming task, given that she also has to keep her true identity as a girl a secret from the entire class.
Enter Totomaru Minowa and Takayuki Konparu: two delinquents that Hinako befriends in her first days at Shishiku, especially during a time when she needs friends. She can’t climb to the top alone, after all. In the meantime, Hinako is struggling with identifying a mysterious upperclassman who keeps coming to her aid when she’s in sticky situations, and another who might just know that “Hikaru” is really Hinako in disguise.
Just as she’s finally starting to get into the rhythm of things, she pays a visit to her orphanage and runs into the upperclassman there. It turns out that Rintaro Kira also used to live at the orphanage, and happens to be the friend that taught her to defend herself before he was adopted by a family. To make matters worse, he wants her to stop fighting—because he is her next opponent. Torn between her sense of duty and friendship to Kira, Hinako must make some hard choices. At the end of this volume, readers will get a taste for the new enemies that Hinako might face in next book.
This volume was honestly hilarious. You have a optimistic young heroine who tends to look at the bright side of things, her scheming twin who seems to have a knack for female cross-dressing, and a ragtag team of boys who range from suspicious to oblivious. Factor in Hinako’s brute fighting prowess, and you’ve got yourself an excellent beginning to a reverse-harem comedy.
The yakuza connection makes the plot even better, because now you’ve got the mystery as to why Hinako was sent to an orphanage as a child (which isn’t answered in this volume, but it seems likely they’ll address it later on), and why Hikaru doesn’t seem to want to fight his own way to the top (aside from being lazy and taking advantage of his adorable sister).
Although gender-bent stories aren’t new in any way, this is a very refreshing approach. While there is a worry that Hinako will be found out as a girl, that’s not really the main storyline. It’s more about cultivating friendships… and beating the crud out of other students to get to the top of the school.
The artwork is lovely and the manga is set up in such a way that the artwork and dialogue aren’t overwhelming as the reader goes through the story. This manga is based on an otome game that was created by Spike Chunsoft. I haven’t looked into similarities or how closely it follows the game. Otome games are geared toward women and girls, usually featuring a plot that is set on establishing a romance with one of a number of male characters.
The book is rated for teens, and I would say that it definitely fits the rating. There isn’t explicit nudity, and there isn’t any foul language that I could read in the manga. More importantly, this volume is translated very well. There are no pitfalls that the reader might experience while reading, from a language standpoint. This manga would fit in well with an already established manga collection, or a collection that needs an expanded shojo romance section. This is a new series and only the first volume has currently been published. This is quite the enjoyable manga, and will make a great addition to anyone’s collection.
Kenka Bancho Otome: Love’s Battle Royale, vol. 1
by Chie Shimada
Viz Media, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)