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MANGA REVIEW: Urameshiya volume 1 by Makiko

It's the return of the manga review! I know it's been a while. While we can't promise that these will become a regular feature at Dear Author, I will try to review a couple titles occasionally.

urameshiya

Story & Art: Makiko
Publisher: JManga
Rating: M for Mature
Length: 1/1+ volumes (14 volumes currently available in Japan)

Dear readers,

Dear Author was recently given the opportunity to look at JManga.com, a digital manga site that provides a subscription service for access to online English-language adaptations of many titles from several different publishers. The selection of titles is very diverse, maybe a bit quirky, but as someone who's read manga for long time, it's nice to see lesser known, obscure titles be the focus.

The first title I picked to review was Urameshiya, a historical manga about a woman with supernatural abilities. As an introduction to JManga's catalog, it was a good choice for me.

Urameshiya Oyou has a bad reputation around town. It's not through any fault of her own. You see, she has the ability to interact with the supernatural world. She can see ghosts. She can exorcise them. She can summon and trap them. People from all over consult her if they have a ghost problem.

As a result, however, they also find her creepy. They consider her bad luck. No one wants to spend more time around her than necessary and as the manga opens, we see Oyou get kicked out of a tavern and asked never to return because she was scaring away the other customers. Not because of anything she did, but because they simply had no desire to be around her. (Unless, of course, they need her help; then they flock to her.)

Oyou's bad luck continues after she leaves the tavern. She runs into a young man, who tries to steal her (sadly empty) wallet. But Oyou catches him in the act and prevents the theft. To make up for it, she tells the thief, Saji, to buy her sake and she'll consider his aborted crime forgiven. Attracted to the beautiful Oyou, Saji agrees.

But on the way to his home, they cross a bridge. It's a snowy evening, which makes it strange that a young woman waits there alone. Before they cross, Oyou warns Saji not to look into the other woman's eyes and to ignore her, no matter what she says or does. As expected, he finds this strange but manages to follow Oyou's instructions despite the girl attempting to get his attention. As they leave, however, a friend of Saji crosses the bridge behind them and converses with the girl.

The next morning, Saji awakes to find Oyou gone and a commotion outside his home. The friend he last saw the night before, alive and well, has been found frozen to death. Suspecting that Oyou knows the truth, he seeks her out once more and from there, the meat of our story begins.

I found myself unexpectedly intrigued by this series. Based on the description, I assumed it would be one of those episodic “person with supernatural powers runs into mysterious cases and various people with ghost problems” titles. And while it is that, it certainly did not start off the way I expected what with Oyou having a one-night stand with Saji. This genre doesn't usually have a romantic subplot so this was a pleasant surprise. In addition, none of the cases proceed quite the way you expect. Oyou sympathizes more with ghosts — no matter how vengeful — than humans, you see. In this way, it's similar to the original Petshop of Horrors manga.

There are three chapters collected in this first volume, each detailing a different case. The first, in which Oyou and Saji meet, is a variation of the yuki-onna tale. The second is about a well-to-do woman with a slight sexual problem: she has a vagina dentata. The final story is about fox spirits.

The stories on their own are nice enough, but what made them for me was the relationship between Oyou and Saji. Their relationship literally began as a one-night stand but somewhere along the way, Saji fell head over heels in love with her. Plots threads throughout the second and third chapters play on this fact, as outside parties try to split the two apart and prey on Saji's insecurities.

Yes, it's the man who's insecure in this relationship. Oyou is a very hard woman to read and she doesn't share her emotions easily. It's obvious she does share Saji's feelings but after a lifetime of people rejecting her for what she is or leaving her after growing tired of her “creepy” ways, Oyou doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve. She cares for Saji, but I think there's a part of her that doesn't trust he'll stay with her forever so she's never 100% truthful about her feelings. I thought this dynamic was appropriate for these two characters, given their respective backgrounds.

Urameshiya is set in historical Edo (aka Tokyo) during the Tokugawa era, which I enjoyed. I thought the artwork suited it well. There's a sort of old-fashioned retro feel to the style that fits a historical manga.

I liked this volume quite a bit. I wasn't sure what to expect since this is my first title from JManga but the quality is decent for a digital title. There's the occasional awkwardness in the placement of narrative text, most noticeable in the opening pages of the first chapter, but for the most part, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the manga. I look forward to the continuing adventures of Oyou and Saji. Readers, however, take note of the rating. It's rated mature for a reason — as you'd expect of a manga where one chapter is about a woman with a vagina dentata. B

My regards,
Jia

J MangaAmazonBNSonyKobo

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

9 Comments

  1. Estara
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 15:35:39

    I REALLY hope this is one of the volumes I’m allowed to buy as a German JManga customer. It is frustrating to only be allowed to buy some of the good stuff. At least they allow me to buy Est Em’s Kentaur manga ^^.

  2. Estara
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 15:36:33

    P.S. Any manga review, however irregular, is better than none XD

  3. LG
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 16:12:54

    Reviews of manga from JManga? We’ll see if my willpower can last. I have yet to get on board with any digital manga, but JManga has me especially hesitant. Their titles can’t be downloaded and can only be viewed in their viewer, right?

  4. Maili
    Jul 05, 2012 @ 18:53:23

    @LG: Yes. Off my head (sorry, it’ll be a bit messy):

    Retail sites that offer digital manga online only (as in, you can only read your purchased title online at the site):
    eManga
    JManga
    NetComics (specialises in South Korean comics)
    Google ebooks (I think!)
    Dark Horse Digital (specialises in American comics) – but it can be downloaded and read via a Dark Horse Bookshelf app on Android, iPhone, etc.. I never tried this so I have no idea if it’s an actual download, e.g. can it be read offline? Hence my decision to put DH on the online-only list.

    Retail sites that offer digital manga downloads:
    Sublime – both online and PDF* on desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc. Note: sells BL (yaoi) comics only.
    Amazon – Kindle and Kindle app on iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.
    iTunes/App Store – iPhone, iPad, Android, etc. Note: Apple doesn’t allow mature or adult comics.
    Barnes & Noble – Nook
    Kobo
    and similar.

    *Foxit is a great PDF reader for Windows. Small and fast. A Sublime manga as a PDF is surprisingly well designed. Even has a table of contents.

  5. Margot
    Jul 06, 2012 @ 04:27:21

    The review sounded intriguing (anything reminiscent of Petshop of Horrors is bound to be interesting,) but looking at the preview, I just couldn’t get past the art. Which is too bad, because there isn’t enough josei manga available in English.

  6. Jia
    Jul 06, 2012 @ 06:28:23

    @Estara: Yeah, unfortunately, geo-restrictions are in effect here too.

    @LG: I think Viz also has an app that lets you download manga. But it might possibly be only for your iThing.

    @Margot: The art is very old school in style, which surprises me because it’s actually not an old manga.

  7. Estara
    Jul 06, 2012 @ 06:44:16

    @LG: Very true, BUT they have some truly rare licenses because a lot of the smaller Japanese publishers also trust them to epublish their manga. That’s why I caved. And now there is an option for monthly subscription OR pay as you need.

  8. LG
    Jul 06, 2012 @ 07:11:37

    @Maili: Ooh, thanks for the list. I keep telling myself I should look into my options and decide which ones are most acceptable to me. This gives me something to work from, thank you.

    @Estara: Yes, I saw that pay as you go option, which looks nice. I was trying to figure out what the prices of some volumes would end up being if you converted the tokens to money and liked that a couple of the ones I looked at were as low as $3 or $4.

  9. Jules Jones
    Jul 08, 2012 @ 07:38:18

    Nice to see the manga reviews back. :-) This certainly sounds like one for the wishlist, although I’m going to have to work out the best way for me to read a digital manga. Must go and look at the freebies on Jmanga to see how compatible they are with my speech recognition software…

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