Manga Review: I Am Here! Volume One

I Am Here! Volume One is an omnibus that includes the first two volumes and part of the third volume of the series. This manga is rated “T” for ages 13 and up.

I Am Here! Volume One
Written by: Ema Toyama
Publisher: Kodansha
English Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: December 18, 2012

Hikage Sumino is the main character of I Am Here! She’s an eighth grader with no self-esteem, and is basically invisible to her classmates. She writes a blog, and has two visitors who go by the names “Black Rabbit” and “Mega Pig.”

One day, Hinata Muto and Teru Mikami, two of the most popular boys in school, talk to her while she’s taking care of a sunflower that she planted. After sharing the news on her blog, her two readers leave comments to encourage her to try to be more outgoing.

During the volume, Hinata reveals to Hikage that he likes her, and starts hanging around her. The other girls at school notice her because of this, and they start giving her a hard time and bullying her because they’re jealous. They threaten her to stay away from Hinata, and she tries to. However, Hinata ends up forcing the issue. They are seen by the female classmate who’s been bullying Hikage the most, and this classmate tries to make Hikage apologize to the class. But she finds strength from comments left by her two blog readers and stands up to the girl that’s bullying her. Most of the other girls back down, but the main bully doesn’t. When the bully goes to slap Hikage’s face, Hinata jumps in and takes the blow instead. Teru also enters the classroom and comes to Hikage’s defense.

When Hikage talks to Hinata about her two blog readers that comment on her blogs, he reacts when he hears one of the names. When Hikage says she wants to make something to send to them, Hinata tries to discourage her. Around the same time, one of her readers posts that they’re not going to be commenting on her blog anymore…

After reading the first volume of I Am Here!, I have to say that it felt like a rather typical shojo manga that relies on story ideas and tropes that have shown up a lot in these type of stories over the years. I have to call it a “typical” shojo story, and that there’s really not much there to make it stand out from similar shojo stories that I’ve read. The tropes I’m thinking of include the shy and awkward girl getting to know at least one popular boy, and getting the attention of a jealous classmate after becoming closer to the popular boy and being bullied by the jealous girl and her other classmates. Unfortunately, the blog angle just isn’t enough to make this story stand out.

I also have the say that the art also has an average look to it, and that there’s really nothing there to make this series stand out from similar shojo series, either.

As I read this volume, I was able to guess rather quickly who “Black Rabbit” and “Mega Pig” are. I had the identity of one of them confirmed by the end of Volume One, and it matched my guess. I suspect one of the other volumes will reveal the identity of the other, and I suspect my guess is right on that was well.

Overall, it’s not that I Am Here! is a bad series, but I just find it to be rather generic and a bit predictable. I will continue to read the series, though, because maybe, just maybe, Toyama will do something in one of the remaining volumes that will surprise me and help this story feel less derivative and predictable than it currently is.

I Am Here! would probably be best enjoyed by readers who don’t mind reading a manga series featuring a rather typical story for the shojo genre.

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