Brief Reviews On Sundry Manga: The Sequel

Yes, once again I have several volumes that I can’t seem to find several paragraphs worth of things to say, so will pile them all together in order to winnow down my review pile.

Kamisama Kiss 3: Yes, it’s still suffering from not being Karakuri Odette. Which is a shame, as it’s quite a likeable manga. We get a lot of plot points about how romances between humans and yokai go in this world, and how much “forbidden” tends to be actual lip service. Nanami is kidnapped by a snake yokai (who then turns into a bishie – this is shoujo, after all). I quite liked the fact that Nanami’s quiet “Tomoe, enough.” was sufficient to get him to listen to her and stop his rampage, which shows the bond of trust that’s developed between them since the first two volumes. The last chapter is more serious, featuring Nanami going back in time to see a Tomoe who’s seemingly far crueller and more dangerous than the one she knows. In the end, it’s a little more mainstream and typical than her previous series, but that’s also helped it run longer in Hana to Yume as well.

Toriko 5: This volume continues the search for the Regal Mammoth, and as such is basically just a bunch of fights. It was hard for me to see one group coming at the mammoth from one path and the other choosing a different one without thinking of The Five Doctors, honestly. And like The Five Doctors, each path proves to be fraught with peril. Toriko actually has to let his savage self take over in order to drive away some predators (and trust me, it’s a nightmarish sight), which Sunny and Komatsu travel through a deadly marsh. We are once again reminded of the ethics that govern Toriko’s universe, as Sunny and Komatsu are horrified than Gourmet Corps is casually slaughtering the animals without using them for food – WASTE is the big sin here. The Regal Mammoth does indeed prove to be huge – so huge that our reunited gang must journey INSIDE the animal to get at its prized meat within. As always, this is big dumb goofy Shonen Jump fun.

Blue Exorcist 2: Things settle down in this second volume, as Rin and Shiemi continue their school life at True Cross Academy. We meet a few new cast members, who are very much shonen ‘types’ – there’s the frustrated hothead who derides the hero for being lazy and stupid, but turns out to be far too similar to him for everyone’s tastes. And there’s the bitchy girl who ‘allows’ Shiemi to be friends with her in return for waiting on her hand and foot (and who seems to be the kid who was bullied when she was young, now trying to live life on the other side). Naturally, by the end both are reluctant allies to our heroes – Ryuji after he sees Rin’s bravery in the face of danger (albeit somewhat stupid bravery), and Izumo after getting told off by her ‘normal’ friend and being rescued by Shiemi’s basic goodness and niceness. It’s decent stuff, and I kept turning the page, but it hasn’t really risen above cookie-cutter shonen level yet.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan 3: This had several interesting plotlines going through it. We wrap up last volume’s big fight, and get a highly interesting revelation: Rikuo’s been playing everyone (and the reader) all this time, and is far more in control of his life than previously suspected. Of course, this also leads to organizational problems, as Rikuo also tends to be merciful, and when you want to be the leader of a bunch of cut-throat yokai, mercy is something that needs to be explained. There then follows a short plotline with Kana being stalked by a yokai that has been killing children on their 13th birthday. Naturally she’s rescued by Nura… unfortunately, this leads to her falling for the Nura side of Rikuo’s personality, and asking if Rikuo can hook her up. Ah, secret identities… (There’s also a great mirror of Kana spying on Rikuo and Tsurara at the start, with Tsurara doing the same at the end when Kana is being ‘overly friendly’… romance is likely not important in this series, but it’s sometimes cute to see. Finally, a new gang of yokai comes in to ‘take over’, and start by going after Rikuo’s grandfather. Which is unfortunate, as he’s hanging out with Yura, who most likely would try to kill him if she knew who he was. Nura is trying to do the yokai tales as a mafia/yakuza-type story, and so far it’s working pretty well.

Kamisama Kiss Volume 2

By Julietta Suzuki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

I must admit that I feel this series suffers by being read after we’ve already been exposed to Karakuri Odette. I know this isn’t the case, but it almost feels like Suzuki has been asked to dial it back a bit, to make something that’s more the norm. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t find these characters as interesting. Nevertheless, I enjoy it a lot as I read it, so it’s not exactly bad. I just have trouble recalling it afterward.

We get another new semi-regular introduced here with Kurama, an idol singer who transfers to Nanami’s school. She had been avoiding school up to this point (remember, high school isn’t quite as compulsory in Japan), but seeing the hotness of the new boy impels her to return. Of course, Tomoe insists she has duties to perform (even if no one’s coming to the shrine), and demands she wear a silly looking disguise so that she’s not attacked by yokai who want her power. Now, given the name ‘Kurama’, what are the odds that our idol turns out to actually be a yokai of some sort? That’s right, 1 to 1. In fact, one of the cleverer things about this volume is managing to combine Kurama as both the ‘evil yokai who wants to eat her heart, *and* the selfish bad boy who Nanami quickly starts arguing with once she sees his true self. Naturally, Tomoe comes to the rescue (the ostrich bit was cute, probably the funniest part of the volume), and just as naturally Kurama falls for Nanami for real.

A more serious story follows, featuring Narukami, a lightning goddess who’s also a selfish, spoiled princess. She goes through servants like candy, exhausting and destroying them with her unreasonable demands. The servant she really wants is Tomoe, but he’s far too sensible to get involved with the likes of her. So she decides to go after Nanami instead. She’s far more successful in this than Kurama was, and actually succeeds in taking Nanami’s power. She also shrinks Tomoe into a little boy using a divine squeaky mallet. Now Nanami can’t see spirits, Tomoe is depowered, and they’re both homeless again.

Things are not quite as simple as that, of course. Narukami finds that the shrine, without Tomoe to keep it in good shape, has fallen into a sad state of disrepair, making her even angrier. Worse, Nanami and Tomoe are forced to take shelter at Kurama’s fancy idol singer apartment, and Tomoe is sick because the little child’s body can’t hold his powers well… and also as he feels hel,pless. As does Nanami. Tomoe, being your basic guy, decides to go back to Narutaki, trying to be rude and cruel to Nanami in order to ‘protect’ her. This hasn’t worked in manga since Tezuka’s day, and it doesn’t work now. Luckily, she shows up at the shrine (where Tomoe has concealed himself), and a frustrated Narukami gives up, realizing that she doesn’t want Tomoe by coercion.

There’s nothing precisely wrong with this volume, except that the characters still feel a bit like they were taken from Shoujo Stereotypes 101. Suzuki is talented enough that she can mix things up enough to keep our interest, but I do hope that in future volumes things move up to the next level.

Kamisama Kiss Volume 1

By Julietta Suzuki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

I’ve been greatly pleased with the release of Suzuki-san’s prior series, Karakuri Odette, so this new one was a must buy. It’s doing pretty well in Japan, already being her longest series to date, as it passed Odette’s volume length earlier this year. As for the story itself, it seems to be a lot more traditional shoujo than Odette was, but that’s not to denigrate it – this is a lot of sweet fun, it’s just fairly fluffy.

Well, as fluffy as a series that’s about yokai can be. For those who were reading Natsume’s Book of Friends but wanted less melancholia and more romantic overtones, this may be the series for you. Nanami finds herself homeless after her deadbeat dad abandons her, and after saving a man from a dog, somehow ends up as the deity of a local temple. (If it seems I went by that too fast, I was merely imitating the author – the backstory is dealt with in 10 pages at most.) There we meet two cute will-o’-the-wisps who are delighted to see her, and a fox-spirit named Tomoe who is far less so. But he’s cute.

Nanami and Tomoe’s relationship is very much out of the old-school book of manga cliches, with both of them being the sort who will overhear each other at the worst possible time, be stubborn about any feelings they may have, and secretly worry. Of course, a lot of this may have been deliberate – Karakuri Odette was notable for having very little romantic interaction, so it’s possible that this is for all the readers who had demanded that Odette and Asou get together. Tomoe in particular seems to be very jealous and possessive of any other guy he sees as flirting with Nanami – even if they’re actually bullying her. Clearly softening his prickly character is one of the goals of this book.

There are some healthy doses of humor in the book – I particularly liked Tomoe’s stunned face when he’s forced to do as Nanami says – but this is more of a sweet and mellow work so far, despite the two leads doing their best to shout at each other. Judging by what Tomoe says, it would appear a great deal of the series might be helping out with romantic entanglements, and we see that towards the end of the first volume, as a yokai princess requests help in reuniting with a human boy she met years ago.

I will admit, this feels slighter than most series, but it is Volume 1, and I usually give these sorts of things a while to win me over. But if you like yokai, or typical Hana to Yume romances (stubborn positive girl x grumpy negative guy), you’ll like this.