Urameshiya, Vol. 1

By Makiko. Released in Japan by Futabasha, serialized in the magazine Women’s Comic Jour. Released in the United States by Futabasha on the JManga website.

Well, JManga is finally open, and there was no way that I wasn’t going to get a title or two to test out, even if the prices are currently ludicrous, and the flash reader content means you are essentially paying for the right to read rather than buying an actual manga. That said, my goal was to find titles that I would never otherwise see here. The two companies who debuted with the most unseen manga were Futabasha and Kadokawa Shoten. Sadly, Kadokawa was all hype but no delivery as of yet, with no previews or chapters. Futabasha (who are clearly one of the big powers behind this site) had real content, and not just stuff already out in the US. So I picked two titles, one seinen and one josei, and began to read.

I will note that this manga is listed under the ‘seinen’ tag on JManga, but I’m pretty sure this is incorrect: it runs in Futabasha’s ‘Women’s Comic Jour’, a mystery-themed magazine whose covers and content definitely look like josei. The author, Makiko, has been drawing it since 1998, and it’s still running, with 14 volumes.

The story takes place sometime in the Edo period of Japan. We meet a young woman, Oyou, who’s trying to drink sake in a local bar. Unfortunately, she’s got a reputation as creepy and terrifying, and the bar owners beg her to leave as she’s driving away their business. (They also beg her not to curse them.) On her way out, she runs into a young man – literally. She knows a pickpocket when she sees one, though, and grabs him before he can get away. Though Saji, the thief, finds her weird, he’s also attracted to her, and offers to take her back to his place for some sake – and maybe get lucky, he thinks.

However, this isn’t just a romance. It’s a supernatural mystery title, and the mood overall is that of unease. Young men have been found frozen to death in greater numbers than usual this winter, and there’s a very good reason for this. And when Saji’s old childhood friend winds up the latest victim, he’s determined to get to the bottom of things. Luckily for him, Oyou is the titular Urameshiya, a woman who can see and, to some extent, control ghosts, spirits and monsters. And while this has made her a hated loner and outcast in the village, it also makes her a powerful spiritual detective.

There’s only 3 chapters available in this volume, but don’t worry, they add up to a full 200 pages – each story is lengthy and goes into detail. I wouldn’t call the stories horror, necessarily. This is a supernatural mystery with tinges of romance. I was actually rather surprised at the latter, as I was expecting this to be more along the lines of a ghost of the week type of story, with Oyou and Saji mostly being sounding boards to figure out the mystery. But the mysteries aren’t very mysterious. What works best throughout the volume is the prickly relationship that develops between Oyou and Saji, two lonely people used to being shunned by society who can’t quite have a normal romance. Oyou in particular is quick to act uncaring and cool around Saji, despite her obvious growing feelings. The two become lovers almost immediately – another sure sign this is josei – but Saji is going to have to get used to his lover being from the ‘show, don’t tell’ school of affection.

The first story deals with a vengeful ‘snow woman’ type, but the second one gets a lot more explicit, and reminds me to warn folks that this is not a title for anyone under 18. It deals with a girl who has a ‘vagina dentata’, so to speak – or “a nice set of chompers”, as Oyou points out in one of the few actual funny bits in a mostly serious book. Oyou’s solution to the problem is also fairly explicit, but works quite well. Unfortunately, solving the girl’s own personality is a much harder task, and not one Oyou particularly wants to try. The third story introduces a new male into the mix, a bratty fox spirit who goes to great lengths to make Oyou his – even if it means killing Saji off. This is the longest story of the book, and probably also the best – there’s no mystery here, so the romance is allowed to develop more, and the ending is fantastic. Best of all, no cliffhanger ending here, which is good, as only Volume 1 is available at this time.

The art is fairly typical ‘pointy chin’ style, being neither exceptional nor distracting. Oyou is conveyed very well, giving the impression of a woman wise beyond her years, one who’s been hurt a few too many times. As for the translation, I’ve heard that others have found titles that are more unsuccessful in that regard, but this one was just fine – no obvious awkward spots, and despite being in the Edo period it did not attempt to use anything other than modern speech. It’s very serviceable.

Overall, this wasn’t completely amazing, but was pretty much exactly what I wanted from JManga anyway. A title I’d never even heard of before, in a genre that hasn’t generally knocked it out of the park over here (mystery romance for young women). And the result was quite satisfying, and left me wanting to get the next volume to see if Saji can get Oyou to open up to him any more – and also to see what sorts of yokai might show up next. Anyone wanting to get a good look at what Futabasha is offering for US readers would be advised to check this out, even if JManga is still clearly a work in progress.

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  1. “A title I’d never even heard of before, in a genre that hasn’t generally knocked it out of the park over here…”

    This is exactly what I’m looking for from JManga, too. :)

    And I’m very happy to hear the translation is a good one. The samples in the JWeekly publication looked fine to me, too.

  2. I was tempted to buy this…I’m trying to hold out a bit! Although I might buy the first chapter.

  3. From your description this sounds like the kind of flawed-but-interesting title that I was hoping would be brought over by a digital manga project of this scale. However, as I don’t own an iPad or a digital reading device I find it just too painful and eye-straining to read manga for an extended amount of time on my tiny laptop screen. I can’t even read the free sample chapters without giving up in a squinty, frustrated huff. I’m kind of hoping that decently successful jmanga titles could end up getting a physical release.


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