Species Domain, Vol. 1

By Shunsuke Noro. Released in Japan by Akita Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Champion. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Krista Shipley, Adapted by Karie Shipley.

Monster Girl titles are here to stay, and have tended to come in two varieties. Thankfully, this is the second variety, and so fanservice and borderline content is not on the menu. Instead, this is something that should appeal to fans of series like My Monster Secret or Interviews with Monster Girls, as it has much the same flavor. It can be a bit odd and off kilter, though not so much that it reaches the out there weirdness of A Centaur’s Life. Its strongest qualities is its dialogue, of which there is a lot – this is a series with a group of classmates who talk and talk and talk, and it’s a relief we find the talk funny. And there are the usual manga cliches present within – the elf girl is a misunderstood tsundere, the angel girl is overenthusiastic and puppydog-ish, the dwarf girl is low key and stoic, etc. It’s solid and unassuming.

This is not a “I must hide my secret from the world” sort of book – there are several fantasy types at the school, and it’s accepted as simply being part of how the world works. That said, Kazamori, the elf girl on the cover, is battling the fact that everyone assumes she’s an elf who can use cool wind magic and has powers – except she’s been raised by humans, so has nothing of the sort. What’s worse, she feels the need to act haughty and proud as an elf should, even though the turmoil of emotions that stir within her is a more accurate read of her character. It also leads to most of the humor in the book, particularly when she collides with Ohki, a normal boy who denies that magic exists – everything can be explained with science. Which is fine, except all of the ‘science’ he demonstrates is ludicrously impossible to anyone but him.

This is the start, but refreshingly we also do focus on the other characters. It’s hard not to look at Unli the dwarf and not think of Terry Pratchett’s Cheery, as she’s essentially a cute small schoolgirl with a full beard and a penchant for meat. I was very amused at the relationship between her and her human classmate Tanaka, which everyone interprets as romantic and then when they find out it’s really not all hell breaks loose in terms of their suppositions. The title really seems to enjoy making fun of audience expectations – there’s an omake chapter that has Kazamori dream of what would happen if she was the cool girl with elf powers she wants to be, and Ohki was the fired up “I will prove it is science” shonen lead, and it’s hilariously boring.

Like many recent licenses these days, this will not win any awards for originality or surprises, but it’s fun and likeable, the sort of manga that you read with a smile on your face, even if it sometimes turns into a bit of a smirk. The translation and adaptation are excellent as well, which is key for a series that depends so much on its conversations. A good debut, recommended for fans of the ‘monster girl’ genre or comedic school manga in general.

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  1. Alhazred23 says

    It’s kind of funny that if you look at it sideways and squint a bit, the premise here seems a bit like a fun-house mirror reflection of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. The characters live in a world where fantastic creatures like elves and dwarves exist, but they clearly aren’t all that different from anyone else. However, there is one person who really can do amazing things- but he shrugs off his impossible feats off as mere “science.” Catalyzed by the standoffish female lead, who desperately wants to believe in the fantastic, the other students form a club around the miracle worker…

    Incidentally, long before Species Domain was picked up for serialization the author did a well-regarded multi-volume doujin of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (in which one of Haruhi’s whims turns Kyon into a girl, and the existential crises snowball from there.) That history might somewhat explain the talkyness of the characters in this series.

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