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My Clueless First Friend Manga Review

My Clueless First Friend Manga Review

-Written by: Will | March 2023

Did you ever feel like you were alone at school? I know I did. Before I lived my rosy high school life, middle school and elementary were a – let's say a not-great experience. I didn't have many friends, and most classmates picked on me or didn't want to stand up for me. This manga is written for those kids and adults who have lived through that. It gives its main character a person we all needed at that time. It says so right in the title: My Clueless First Friend.

Nishimura is a gloomy and shy fifth-grader. She has no friends, and all her classmates call her the "Grim Reaper," because they're jerks. This spring looks to be another semester of loneliness and staying on the down low. That is until Takada shows up to class. Takada is an outgoing kid who is fascinated by Nishimura. Everyone thinks she's the Grim Reaper? That's so cool! Who wouldn't want such awesome powers? Wait, if I come into contact with Nishimura I can get some of her power? Let's hold hands when we walk home from school! Takada is as clueless as the title promises, but he is a true friend. But could it ever become something more?

You might read that synopsis and say, "Isn't this fluff," to which I say, "What do we talk about when we talk about fluff?" For me, fluff is light-hearted, low-stakes comedies that make you feel good. That's not to say they aren't worthwhile. I love Bananya and Pui Pui Molcar, and that is the pinnacle of fluff. But those are 3-minute episodes. For long form stories, I'm looking for something more. My Clueless First Friend has all the hallmarks of a fluffy manga, but Nishimura gives everything an emotional weight I don't normally see in fluff.

For example, we all know the trope of a guy saying something romantic by accident, and the girl turning beet red in embarrassment. In most fluffy manga, that moment doesn't carry over from one chapter to the next. But every time Nishimura blushes, it's followed up by a change in herself. Her source of embarrassment comes from her lifelong history of being bullied. By having someone believe in her, she starts to gain self-confidence. That's where Takada comes in. Sure he's an idiot, but he's also a catalyst for Nishimura to see herself for who she really is. It's what makes them a cute friendship-that-is-totally-more-if-Takada-had-only-reached-puberty friendship.

The main duo really stood out to me, both from a personality and design standpoint. I absolutely love Nishimura's look. She reminds me of the characters of Shigeru Mizuki, especially Kitaro. It's a distinct look that appropriately clashes with the more cute designs of the other characters. Of course, there's also Takada. His heart is as big as his brain is smooth, and I love him for it. He's a fun character that shows what can happen when you stop caring about what other people think. We all need a Takada in our life, and this manga shows us that we should be a Takada as well.

The only complaint I have is that I wanted longer chapters. The chapter length varies, from 6 pages to the usual 20 pages. The longer chapters allow the manga to go from being cute to heartfelt, and they're my favorites. I don't know if this is a choice by the author or editors, but more longer chapters, please!

My Clueless First Friend knows how to tell a story that is both fluffy and meaningful. It's got all the trappings of a light-hearted romance but grounded in real-world problems. Focusing on bullying, it makes Nishimura a relatable protagonist. When Takada enters her life, we see how his thick-headedness changes her life for the better. It's just a heart-warming journey about growing up, and I'm ready for the next volume.

My Clueless First Friend Manga Volume 1

My Clueless First Friend manga volume 1 features story and art by Taku Kawamura.

One lonely, gloomy fifth-grade girl is the target of her classmates' relentless bullying and teasing–that is, until a new kid arrives on the scene. Friendly Takada is as clueless as he is well-meaning, but somehow he possesses the magic ability to start drawing "Grim Reaper" Nishimura out of her shell. As the elementary schoolers experience all the fun of a childhood summer together–from going to the pool to picking sunflowers to watching fireworks–an unusual friendship blossoms!

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