Inu x Boku SS, Vol. 4

By Cocoa Fujiwara. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Gangan Joker. Released in North America by Yen Press.

This is one of those volumes where I recommend that if you enjoy the series and haven’t read it, you avoid reading my review so that you aren’t totally spoiled. Just an FYI. In fact, let’s put an image here to block it off.


Admittedly, much like Higurashi, I suspect that the spoiler of “everyone dies” is something that most fans of the series knew before they picked this up. There is an anime, and it’s the type of series that appeals more to hardcore fans than casual ones, I think. This is not to say this isn’t a good volume – it is pretty good, and I think has done a nice job of telegraphing things. But we now know that this was meant to be a prologue to the main story, which presumably takes place in the future when everyone is reincarnated again. And as such, I think the odd pacing of the first few volumes make sense – the author wanted to have enough volumes so that this had an emotional impact, but didn’t really have enough for everyone to do so stretched a lot out.

It’s not helped that I feel the cast is a bit too big for a series that depends so much on emotional two-hander relationships. Sure, we get lots of time devoted to our leads, but I still can never quite remember the names when they’re all said in a group, particularly as they’re all fancy 4-5 syllable rich and hard to remember names. And we get more people introduced here, as we see the old woman who seems to be in charge of the yokai group, her young assistant, and the evil kid who seems to be behind the attacks that kill everyone off.

This leads to the other issue I had with this volume – the author is much better at either dumb comedy or romantic drama than they are at actual action scenes. The final battle is somewhat confusing and brings in too many elements, and is not helped by it fading out once Soushi dies. This does lead to what I think are the strengths of both this volume and the series – the comedy and the romance. Both are not for everyone – they depend very much on being familiar with and not minding the standard Japanese romance tropes, where the girl is flustered and the boy is smooth and skilled. Better written is the relationship between Watanuki and Carta, where he pleads with her not to give up after she’s found she can’t change out of her skeletal form, and that he loves her no matter what she looks like. It’s my favorite part of the book.

In the end, I expect that how I feel about the first four volumes will be affected by what comes next, i.e. how much do the actions of the past weight on the seemingly reincarnated heroes? Certainly the last few pages play up the fact that reincarnated Ririchiyo is exactly the same as the one we’re familiar with, to the point of using the exact same starting gags. As for Soushi, he now wears glasses, but will he still have the uber-devoted attitude? What changes and what stays the same will make or break a series like this. And while I think it’s flawed, I’m interested enough in Vol. 5 to check it out.

Inu x Boku SS, Vol. 1

By Cocoa Fujiwara. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Gangan Joker. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I hear there are spoilers for later volumes. Please don’t discuss them in comments.

A lot of times when there is a series that piles up a lot of cliches – be they plot, character, action sequences, or all three – you have to pick your tolerance level. I’m I’m going to be reading this, what’s the big draw that pulls me in and allows me to tolerate some otherwise generic stuff, even if it is well-written? In general, for me if a heroine is grumpy and sarcastic, I’m willing to forgive it a lot. And dropping such a heroine into a world of butler bodyguards is the basic premise of Inu x Boku SS, which also manages to be a yokai manga to boot.


I have to say it – I kept thinking that the heroine was Rika from Higurashi. It doesn’t help that this began in Gangan Joker around the same time the final Higurashi arc was going. Rika was never quite as cutting and vicious as this, though. Ririchiyo simply can’t stop herself from saying what she thinks, and what she thinks is usually acidic and nasty. This has led her to have few friends. (Perhaps she should join a club… wait, wrong manga.) She moves to a high-rise complex, but finds that it comes with a loyal servant and bodyguard who will do anything for her. He’s nice and sweet to her, slowly coaxing her out of her shell of disinterest and loneliness, but he also has a dark secret which is hinted at towards the end of Volume 1.

See what I mean? The description of that bodyguard could fit any one of 2,000 shoujo manga. (This is shonen, but Square Enix has never quite been as caring about genre as the other companies, and I’d argue the pretty butler is as much a draw for female readers as Ririchiyo’s show of thigh is for the males.) We also get a goofy older brother guy, a perverse lesbian (well, faux-lesbian – because she’s perverse, nothing really ever happens. But one assumes…), and a quiet, shy girl. Also, one of the bodyguards is Walker from Durarara!! with bunny ears. (DRRR is also a Square Enix title… sometimes it’s really easy to notice the incestuous nature of the business as you read things.)

That said, this is quite competently drawn and written. You care about Ririchiyo, and want to both have her improve her social skills while not losing the biting retorts that make her interesting. The manga doesn’t take itself too seriously (at one point two of the male bodyguards flirt, and the yuri girl goes “eeew, disgusting”, a lovely hypocritical moment called out immediately), though there is also a hint that there is much darker stuff still to come. It’s just… there’s a lot of stuff here you’ve seen before in many other titles. If you enjoyed those types of works, Inu x Boku SS is definitely the manga for you. If not, I think it depends on how much you like Ririchiyo. I quite liked her, so will see what another volume brings.