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.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Volume 1

By Hiroshi Shiibashi. Released in Japan as “Nurarihyon No Mago” by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

It often strikes me as I follow the many Shonen Jump series that I follow how many of them get off to a slow start. One Piece, Bleach, Kenshin… none of them had first volumes that were totally amazing and made me demand more. As a result, I am always tempted to be patient with a series that has potential, even when the first volume proves to be a mixed bag. Which Nura’s first volume certainly is.

Having had a mild success with Natsume’s Book of Friends, Viz is now headed back to the yokai well for a shonen series, licensing this tale about a boy who’s descended from yokai and the battles he faces among the various clans. (One day someone will simply go right to the source and license Gegege no Kitaro, but sadly that day is not today). Unlike Natsume’s passive titular heroine, Rikuo is outwardly very outgoing and likeable, the perfect ‘normal’ shonen sidekick type. Of course, he’s not a sidekick. So we find that, right from Chapter 1, he has an ass-kicking other form that he takes on… somewhat unwillingly at times.

The concept of the reluctant hero is not a new one to manga, or indeed literature and mythology. But it seems to grate a bit more than I like here, mostly as the world that Rikuo wants to live in is so dull, and the one that’s calling out to him is comparatively interesting. Even the two female leads in the series have the same dichotomy – Kana, the normal girl he’s friends with, is a fairly nice, steady, boring friend, while Yuki-Onna, aka Tsurara, has magic powers and seems altogether more interesting. (Cute scarf, too.)

Since obviously a story is supposed to be interesting, we know that at some point Rikuo will decide to stop trying to be normal and embrace his quarter-yokai nature. That doesn’t happen here, though, so we’re left with a lot of scenes of supernatural things going on and Rikuo tottering along worrying about them getting out of hand. The best parts of the manga, naturally, are the two times we see him ‘transform’ into his alternate yokai self, which is quite badass and commands respect. (It’s also quite bishie, and it amuses me how the normal, glasses-wearing geek transforms into a long-haired prettyboy. Remember folks, Shonen Jump is still *technically* for boys!)

So things are episodic right now, though that may change soon with one of the villains kidnapping Kana and another girl in order to force Rikuo into action. While I don’t wish either girl ill, I do hope they succeed. Seeing a yokai leader trying to control the machinations of a scattered clan with badassery and intelligence strikes me as a far more interesting manga than a young boy fighting to try to be normal and disavowing his supernatural roots (as he goes home to them every day.) That said, the first volume wasn’t bad by any means, and I’ll see if Volume 2 can drag me further into the story.