Jiu Jiu, Vol. 1

By Touya Tobina. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazines Hana to Yume and The Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

Those who follow my reviews know that I tend to be very fond of shoujo manga published by Hakusensha, despite the fact that most of my favorites were put out by companies which them folded. Astute readers may also recall my #1 complaint with said Hakusensha manga, which is that the artists need more editing than they are really given, and that much of their work, especially in early volumes, tends to be messy, unfocused, and uneven. Unfortunately, Jiu Jiu is a classic example of this sort of manga.

The author, Touya Tobina, has been seen here briefly before – her story Clean Freak: Fully Equipped had one of its two volumes put out by Tokyopop before they shuttered down. That story was more grounded in the real world. Jiu Jiu is a full blown fantasy, featuring a girl who aspires to be a demon hunter and her two wolf pets/bodyguards/whatevers, who can assume human form when they want to. It ran for two volumes in Hana to Yume, then for reasons unknown moved to the quarterly publication The Hana To Yume, where it recently ended last month with Volume 5. The premise involves a young woman who’s trying to block herself off from emotions in order to deal with her tragic past, and the two wolf boys, who want to be helpful and discover these new feelings of love within them, but are foiled by their playful natures.

I think I make that sound better than it actually it, unfortunately. Takamichi ends up being more of an emotional wreck than a stoic hunter. While this makes sense given she’s a teen who’s undergone a traumatic experience (which we still don’t get all the details about in this volume), it is a bit of a disappointment seeing her fall into the traits that I’ve associated with the basic ‘tsundere’ type. As for the two wolves/wolf boys, this falls more into the sort of shoujo romance tropes that were cliched 15 years ago. She constantly wakes up with them naked in her bed, they continue to act like wolves (well, OK, dogs really) even when in human form, etc.

The biggest problem, I think, is that this ends up being far more comedic than I’d assumed given its premise, and the comedy just isn’t all that funny. When it turns to serious matters, its quality improves significantly. Snow and Night, the two wolf boys, have a tough job, given their mistress is trying to shut out anyone close to her but they need to protect her (and make her understand why they want to). My favorite scene in the volume is where the three have to track down a werewolf (an evil one, let’s make that clear) who has been killing people during full moons. After reaffirming their devotion to their mistress, who seems to want them to remain innocent puppies, we cut back to the now defeated and transformed werewolf, who is a salaryman type. He begs for mercy, but Takamichi coldly informs him that her family are killers, and orders the man executed. It’s chilling stuff.

Unfortunately, there was more ‘wacky high school comedy with hot guys behaving like dogs’ and less ‘family of demon slayers’ here. Now, given that I am a big proponent of ‘never judge a series by its Volume 1’, I am hoping that things improve down the road. For the moment, Jiu Jiu is an excellent example of average Hakusensha shoujo – good plot, interesting ideas, but desperately needs an editor to take a firm hand.

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