Well, this was...interesting. Just looking at the cover of Thigh High Reiwa Hanamaru Academy Manga Volume 1, I expected a ridiculous comedy about muscular men who wear skirts. “Why do they wear skirts?” you may ask. I couldn’t tell you! It’s never explained, though I have some theories. Thigh High gave me more to think about than I expected or wanted. I thought this manga was going to be mindless entertainment, but behind all the comedy, there is a lot to ponder about gender norms and the meaningless habits of high school students.
Our story takes place at Hanamaru Academy, a private all-boys high school. However, the boys at this school just happen to wear skirts with their school uniforms and bras under their shirts for no explained reason. It is never revealed if this is part of the actual school dress code, if the boys have chosen to adopt this style, or if the gender norms are simply just reversed in this manga’s world. I think it may be the latter. The boys in this manga behave in ways that many would consider typical of high school girls. They comment on each other’s looks and fashion using terms like “cute,” take selfies, and even go to the restroom together. Kotobuki, the author and illustrator of Thigh High clearly did this on purpose. Reading this first volume through, I was very confused by what was going on with these boys. However, if these characters had been girls instead, I would have never given their actions or conversations a second thought. It gave me a lot to think about how our modern society has established what it means to be male or female. By taking a satirical look at masculine men in feminine attire, maybe we should be laughing at the ridiculousness of our own shallow, established gender norms rather than a manga that turns these expectations of gender on its head.
Thigh High also takes a look at the relatable high school experiences that we all go through. The main protagonist, Kiritani Yuuma, is the class rep who only wants to be popular. Even as head of the class, Kiritani gets frustrated that people seem to listen to his friend, Harumi, even though he tried to tell him the same thing just moments before without being heard. He gets jealous seeing best friends talking to each other and cliques hanging out while he feels completely alone. He also feels ashamed of his body as the other guys talk about the size of their chests and the color of their bras in the locker room.
Thigh High does not have much of a plot. Rather, each chapter is its own episode of a day in the life at Hanamaru Academy. I thought it was clever that each chapter began with a hashtag and ended with a featured student’s ID badge, but the lack of a narrative thread left much to be desired. Although I applaud Kotobuki for challenging gender norms, I did not find the stories and situations as funny as I hoped they would be. Kotobuki relied too much on the art and using sight gags of men in women’s clothing for humor that the story itself offered nothing comedic to me. Take out the pronouns and the pictures and all you’re left with is the lifestyles of stereotypical high school girls, but they’re boys because the art shows you they are. In conclusion, Thigh High was funny in concept but took itself way too seriously for me to laugh out loud.
The students at Hanamaru Academy are putting the boot (and booty!) to gender norm uniforms. Instead of wearing drab blazers, these beauty-builders are obsessed with the length of their skirts and the size of their chests as they try to navigate high school. This high-energy comedy takes being cute and being cut to a whole new level!Add to CartLearn More