My name is Chris Schaben, and I am a nerd. Well, that’s what I thought anyway. Dictionary.com defines the word “nerd” in two ways: 1. “A person considered to be socially awkward, boring, unstylish, etc.” and 2. “An intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.” Socially awkward and boring? Maybe sometimes, but I wouldn’t define myself that way. I’m definitely unstylish, though. I would consider myself intelligent since I got straight A’s throughout high school and college for the most part. I am also borderline obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and Pokémon. But the key difference that makes me more of a “geek” than a “nerd” is that I am outgoing and like to talk with people about my geeky obsessions. The common misconception that “nerd” and “geek” are synonyms is what led me to being interested in reading Do You Like the Nerdy Nurse? by Arata Kawabata. I thought the nurse in the story would be relatable to me in some regards if the author was using the terms interchangeably, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Arata Kawabata clearly knows the meaning of “nerd.” The nurse in the story, Nijiko Momoyama, is the very definition of a nerd. All nurses tend to be intelligent since their education has led them to respectable careers, but Momoyama-Sensei prefers to focus her intelligence more toward anime and mobile video games rather than her job. These things become a dangerous obsession that cause her to be socially awkward, and most of all, boring. To some readers, this might sound like quirky character traits. But to me, they were just...boring. In fact, I found that I could not relate to any of the characters in this manga, and that was one of the biggest issues I had with it.
The story focuses on a middle school student named Tamotsu Kurita, who discovers that his school nurse is obsessed with many nerdy things, most of all an idol mobile game franchise called Ishin Live. The game is about “young men who have inherited the memories of imperial loyalist samurai of the Bakumatsu Era [who] exchange their swords for microphones and shout out their feelings” Kurita and Momoyama-Sensei begin to bond over their nerdy interests, and Kurita develops a crush on the socially awkward, single-minded nurse. Fortunately, Kurita’s teenage love for the adult nurse goes unrequited. The two still form a relationship that I would consider inappropriate between a school faculty member and a student. Momoyama-Sensei’s obsession with Ishin Live also causes many social and financial problems as she plays the game too often and spends too much money on buying certain characters and collectibles from the game. All in all, the situations Momyama-Sensei gets herself into are concerning and cringeworthy.
Another problem I had with the manga isn’t the fault of the author, but rather a disconnect in cultures. There were many things in this manga that I’m sure the youth in Japan are aware of, but they definitely went over this American’s head. There were traditions and terms that I had to look up, and it was clear that nerd culture in Japan is quite different from nerd culture in the United States. Working in an anime-related business, I knew the references to things like Fate/Grand Order, but it seems like mobile games are not nearly as widespread and popular in the United States as they are depicted in Japan according to this manga. And even though we sell “prize figures” at Right Stuf, the whole concept of how to obtain them in Japan is completely foreign to me. Even though I have an interest in anime and manga, this book gave me a true sense of how little I know about Japanese culture. And although this story is about a young man’s crush on a beautiful nurse, it seems to be targeted toward a young female reader who is either Japanese or a Japanophile (of which I know a few). Either way, I was clearly not part of the targeted demographic.
I’m glad that Do You Like the Nerdy Nurse? was a complete story rather than just the first volume of an ongoing series, but it was tough for me to get through because of its length and my limited relatability to the characters and culture. Unfortunately, it is one of my least favorite manga I have ever read, but at least not the worst. I know of a few people that would find a lot of enjoyment from this manga, but I am not one of them.