I don’t think it’s fair to call Hajimete No Gal a romance manga, in the same way it isn’t fair to call it a “rom-com.” There’s an important distinction to be made; romance implies Shoujo, that is, manga marketed towards girls. Usually that means either mahou shoujo like Sailor Moon and Precure, or wistful romances like Fruits Basket or Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii. Certainly, this is not a Shoujo. The reason it fails to be a “rom-com” (and a second reason it isn’t a shoujo) is that the pair are together for a majority of the series. Like, this kind of together:
Hajimete No Gyaru begins with the main characters pairing up, and I think that’s why it caught my eye. I can remember being a young, lovestruck tween, rifling through shoujo and seinen romance anime searching, hoping for a series where the main pairing got together before the final episode!
Please note that this post is an update/rework of a previous review. If you’ve read that one, fear not, this one’s mostly new!
Hajimete no Gyaru
I originally found this manga by its anime. The art was nice, and the main female protagonist, Yukana had something about her… something so rare in female anime character expression; Yukana had confidence. This girl is overflowing with confidence, and confidence is key. The male character, Junichi is no pushover either. The author makes it quite clear, very early that he’s no stock seinen protagonist. He confesses in chapter one, and continues to impress throughout with his steadfast commitment and his inner teenage struggles.
A note on the anime: It is nowhere near as good as the manga. They mess with timing, and axe most of the protagonist’s development in order to force an implied “harem” that never happens. I would recommend skipping the anime, and heading over to the manga.
This is the core of the story, so we might as well start here. Junichi and Yame’s relationship is… fairly realistic. I want to say it’s the shounen flip of the idealized shoujo manga, and the lack of stupid or petty arguments might give that thought some weight. However, I feel like it’s a step up from that. The relationship they share is something you could imagine existing in real life.
When they get together, neither of them expected it, and they aren’t sure what to do. They start off by doing what is expected, standard societal norms, like karaoke, a movie, and this…
Then, later they do more interesting things, like a group trip, and most recently, a comicbook convention… comima I think.
The relationship is pretty stable. Junichi is initially bombarded with a couple of rival lovers, as if he suffers from harem-anime-syndrome. After a couple volumes, thankfully, these pretty much go away. Although, for the record, both are perfectly justified, and have a plot function. They show us the true character of Junichi; that he’s ultimately committed to his present relationship with Yukana, and that he will even stave off a nude childhood friend in that name. I guess we’ll go there next.
The use of Ecchi, aka Fanservice
The fanservice in this manga can, at times, be fairly overt. The scene with Nene… in fact, both her initial scene, and her swimming scene are pretty blatant. But, I think it is very rare that the ecchi gets out of hand, or even detracts from the story.
Let’s use the Nene scenes as examples. (She’s the one on the far left, above.) Nene is the childhood friend of the main character, Junichi. When she meets up with him after so many years, and finds out he’s dating, she becomes immediately jealous, and uses her physique to try and sway him from Yame. Multiple times. Each time fails. The swimsuit issue actually turns into a bonding experience for the two, and shows us what their true relationship is after the awkward reunion; that is, they are only friends.
There’s actually more though.
There’s actually a positive aspect to this, interestingly enough. Like Oretach Ni Tsubasa Wa Nai (an anime I think I’ll have to make a review of eventually), there ecchi is used to actually aid the plot, somehow!
Because the manga has the ecchi tag, the mangaka is allowed more liberties with the intimate scenes between the main pairing… and also with the main character’s fantasies.
I’m actually interested in what the writer will do with this… freedom.
There’s more. Since I’m here, I’ll expand on the point of the utility of the ecchi, if we can call it that. Fanservice is used very tactfully in this manga, especially compared to things like Dog Days’ season 2, or even Nozoki Ana, a manga I actually really like that seems to have a quota for sex scenes. Hajimete no Gal, after the first few chapters, uses their service license tactfully. It never gets in the way of the plot. If anything, it accents it.
There’s no way that Hajimete no Gyaru falls under the genre of realism, but it is realistic compared to other romance manga, with the exception of things like Saotome Senshu. The primary relationship is fairly rocky, but overall strong. The characters have realistic motivations, and realistic problems.
I’ll point out that none of their lover’s quarrels are stupid. Anyone who consumes romance will know what I’m talking about. Usually it’s either something small that gets blown out of proportion for no reason, usually due to a stupid misunderstanding. The other is when a character overreacts about something trivial or arbitrary. Both of these feel artificial, and neither of these are present (in this exaggerated form, at the very least) in Hajimete no Gal. Everything makes sense, or fits with the character, and it’s very refreshing.
The other thing is characterization. Both Yukana and Junichi are very well developed. They have believable character traits, and understandable teenage motivations. Junichi is low-key horny, and confused a lot, and Yukana holds a confident front, but within she’s just as confused as Jun. It works out great, and the characters reveal new facets of their personalities as new situations hit them.
The supporting cast is quite three-dimensional as well. Yame’s friend Ranko has her own protective motivations, and a consistent personality. Junichi’s friend Sakamoto is consistently abrasive, as you might expect a glasses-wearing nerd to be. He’s pushy, but helpful, and I was surprised that the “initial derp friend of the MC” remained relevant, and actually continued to contribute to the plot after the beginning of the story.
The rest of the cast is pretty good too. Nene remains present after her stunt, mentioned above. Yui seems to be a consistent rival/threat to Junichi and Yukana’s relationship, so her presence as one of their friends keeps up the story’s tension.
I almost forgot; this manga is laugh out loud hilarious—literally. I almost can’t read it at night.
Bad example, but I’d rather not sift through the manga to find something… I recommend you seek it out on your own 😉 .
I’ll keep this section short, because I feel like explaining jokes ruins them. I’ll put it this way: I don’t laugh out loud when I read anything. It’s very rare. There are five things I can remember offhand that have made me verbally laugh.
- Diskworld novels
- Slayers, and Slayers Next
- John Dies at the End
- Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai
- This manga.
I’ll let you be the judge.
Closing Remarks on the Main Characters
The plot of Hajimete no Gyaru is, admittedly, not what pulls this story along. I think that’s okay, since it lets the main cast shine, but so far nothing amazing or unique has happened—aside from between characters.
The lead’s relationship is what keeps things moving. Junichi does more than just pull his weight. He’s a true second half in this relationship, whether his girlfriend is there to babysit his emotions or not, which can be rare in anime. Yukana picks on him, flirts with him, and tests him. She asks Ranko for advice and considers Junichi fairly when he makes an advance. (Although most of the time she turns his advances down. She’s not sure what to do in a relationship either!) Neither of them has been in a relationship before, it’s new and exciting.
If you like more realistic characters, a developed side cast, a good relationship that actually bothers to happen (instead of stringing you along for 24 episodes), and you like to laugh, check out Hajimete no Gal.
To my surprise, Hajimete no Gal still holds up since the first time I reviewed it. It gets an 8 out of 10. I love it, and if it gets translated officially, I might buy it… when I’m not a student with no money anyway.
Mostly, I write stories, so if you’d like to check one out, click here. If you don’t want to have to chose one, I suggest this. Also, if you’re interested in a more in-depth, but less well-written post on the same topic, as well as ecchi and gyaru sub-culture, check out the previous Hajimete no Gal post.