My Clueless First Friend Vol. 1

Square Enix. (My Clueless First Friend: Bk. 1). Mar. 2023. 288p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781646092048.
Gr 6 Up–Nishimura has the misfortune of being referred to as “the grim reaper” by everyone in her class due to her intense stare and gloomy vibe. But when new kid Takada catches wind of this, he not only abstains from picking on Nishimura, but instead thinks the aura she possesses is super cool! Rather than making her feel bad, Takada wants to get closer to Nishimura in order to soak up some of her “gothic” qualities and become better acquainted as friends. By and large, this slice of life story is very sweet. Takada is a gentle (albeit a little “out to lunch”) character, who seems to genuinely care for the oft-heckled Nishimura, and wants her to feel better about herself. While one can rightfully debate as to whether or not Takada playing into the “grim reaper” persona that’s been (let’s face it) forcibly assigned to Nishimura is the best way to put an end to the obvious bullying that’s going on, it’s clear he means well. In the book’s defense, Nishimura does eventually feel gratitude for Takada’s silly interjections. Art is lighthearted and playful, fitting the overall tone of the narrative. The book’s chapter lengths vary. Some are a handful of pages where the gag is quick; others are a more standard length for manga, where more sincere character development is able to take place.
VERDICT While it’s sometimes frustrating to see Nishimura’s tormentors not truly put in their place, My Clueless First Friend does feature some very cute, likable characters that are earnestly trying to do their best to spread more kindness around.

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