Nurse Hitomi's Monster Infirmary: chapters 1-21
Also known as: Hitomi-sensei no Hokenshitsu: chapters 1-21
Medium: comic
Year: 2013-2015
Writer/artist: Shake O
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Keywords: manga, zombies, fantasy
Format: 21 chapters, 525 pages
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/manga.php?id=16738
Website category: Manga
Review date: 19 July 2015
Hitomi-sensei no Hokenshitsu
It's another monster girl manga (still ongoing). Hitomi is the nurse at a junior high school whose students and staff tend to be deformed, mutated or from a horror movie. It's cute and likeable, if pervy, but I'm still waiting to see if it's got any kind of plan for going anywhere.
I suspect the answer might simply be that it's not. This is what it is. All it wants to be is slice-of-monster-life, with no attempt at pushing forward a plot. If so, that's fine. However the effect is still to have a static central character and lots of "student of the week" episodes that are fun, but don't go anywhere. Of course it's still early days. Maybe something will happen soon? It hasn't yet, though.
So far, there are two kinds of stories:
(a) Student of the Week. So far, we've had a girl with a snake-like tongue (Shitara), a zombie girl who keeps losing body parts (Fujimi), an ever-growing girl who's almost two stories tall (Ooki) and her shrinking friend (Osanai), an invisible exhibitionist ghost girl (Tomei), a sexist boy who grows an unwanted pair of boobs (Hanyuu), a bird girl (Tobita), a girl who'll eat absolutely anything, e.g. rocks, classmates (Tabe) and a boy who can regenerate lost body parts like a lizard (Futabayashi), a two-dimensional girl who can break the fourth wall (Usui), a girl who can transform any part of her body into any animal she's touched (Majiri), a mouse (Nezu), Little Miss Satan (Kiryuuin) and the Human Tiger (Toura).
That's a lot. However their individual stories tend to be pretty good. They're preachy, especially early on, with Hitomi's lectures about self-respect, etc. However they do that Buffy thing of bringing together horror and high school tropes to explore teenage themes and emotional problems. The best so far, for me, have been Hanyuu and Tobita.
CHAPTER 7 - at first, Hanyuu's story looks as if it'll be just a creep getting his comeuppance with the obvious moral lesson, but in fact it's stranger than you'll be expecting. It goes dark in the form of near-rape by other boys like himself who see nothing wrong in sexual harassment. It then gets still more twisted and pushes Hanyuu into a freakish psychological place that hasn't stopped him from being a creep underneath, but is also using himself as an emblem of fluid gender identity and counter-intuitive body pride.
"Even if they call me a pervert, I can puff out my chest and walk proud. I want to become a man... who's not ashamed of his chest." And then later... "Even if people make fun of me for dressing like this, nobody will make fun of my boobs!"
What I admire about this is that it's making Hanyuu look like a freak (which he is), yet the logic underpinning his decision is brilliant. We're all stuck with our bodies, more or less, but we make our own life choices and I think Hanyuu's done something profound and clever. He was in danger of being defined by his boobs. Look at him and his friends. They're pathetic. They're the worst kind of immature schoolboy. Those damn boobs would have been the first thing anyone ever thought of in connection with him... but that's not true now. He's defining himself instead of letting himself be defined.
CHAPTER 8 - this is a simpler story, but still strong. It's akin to a romance, but a platonic one because it's between a teacher and his student. Tobita is a girl with angel wings, representing her hostility towards rules and authority. She's a bird and she believes in freedom. She's savage about it. She's a delinquent. Meanwhile her big, bumbling, simple-minded teacher is Mr Moji, who looks like a Wookiee. (It's even possible that that's deliberate from the manga-ka, since there's a Picard-sensei in chapter 11 who looks like Patrick Stewart and a gun-toting zombie-shooting mega-grandad in chapters 16-17 who's the spitting image of George Romero.)
Anyway, the story of Tobita and Moji is great, if you can stand a message that could perhaps be called moralistic and authoritarian. They're strong characters and I'd love to see more of them.
I also liked Fujimi the Zombie Girl, who's memorable and the star of two stories, the second one a two-parter. Usui I couldn't stand, though. I'm not a fan of breaking the fourth wall at the best of times. More generally, though, these people will get a good introduction, but then melt into the morass of background characters. They'll get occasional dialogue in later episodes, but only enough to stop you from forgetting them. They're rarely being used in any meaningful way. Shake O created too many characters. Frankly, the manga needs a cull.
That's one kind of story. The other, rarer kind, (b), is stories that involve the title character.
I think we can safely say that Hitomi is the world's most adorable cyclops. She's single and has terrible luck/taste in men, but you'd still expect a queue outside her infirmary a mile long. If she were real, you'd be in that queue too. Single eye? Who cares about the single eye? Actually, no, on second thoughts it's a plus. You know how big eyes can look cute? Hitomi's takes up most of her face.
The people in her life are a mixture of annoying and fantastic. Her childhood anti-friend and vaguely teased love interest, Tatara, needs pushing off a cliff. (Sometimes he's more sympathetic, but eurgh. He also has four arms.) Then we have Hitomi's lascivious lesbian colleagues. Her fellow nurse, Itsuki the Plant Girl, is basically throwaway commentary on legs. She's pointless, but at least she's better than Lesbian Living Hair Teacher.
Hitomi's home life, though, gives the show its heart. She lives with her dad (a bear) and her little sister Mitsumi. Mum died suddenly. I have no idea how a bear could father a cyclops, but we just have to accept it. We get to know them as a family, both now and back when Hitomi's mum was still alive. Dad's unsentimental. Mitsumi worships Hitomi. We get chapters that are nothing but the characters bouncing off each other and being themselves, e.g. chapter 13. I really liked those.
Then there's the mystery of Mitsumi. This manga is full of groanworthy names. "Hitomi", if written differently, could mean "one eye". "Shita" means "tongue" (Shitara), "Fujimi" means "immortality", "Toumei" means "transparent", etc. Usually this is eye-rolling, but with Mitsumi it's clever.
"Mitsumi", you see, means "three eyes". We hear her name before we see her and then, when we get a glimpse, there's a word balloon over her face. She seems normal... but she can't be, surely? What about her name? Eventually we learn the truth and wow. She's mesmerising.
I like this manga, but to do so I'm accepting perviness and an almost total lack of overarching structure. I believe it's Shake O's first professionally published manga and I think I can see a learning curve. The first chapter is nothing special, for instance, and I have a problem with Hitomi's heavy-handed "This Is Your Life Lesson" lectures. However Hitomi is lovely, if perhaps a little goofy with her endless ability for getting flustered. There are also some very good individual stories in here. It has charm.
"It's okay, I'll lick your eyeball for you."