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MANGA REVIEW: Jiu Jiu volume 2 by Touya Tobina

jiujiu2

Story & Art: Touya Tobina
Publisher: Hakusensha/Viz
Rated: T+ for older teen
Volumes: 2/5

Dear readers,

A few weeks ago, I read the first volume of Jiu Jiu, a shoujo manga series about Takamichi, the heir of a demon hunting family, and her two shapeshifting bodyguard-familiars, Night and Snow. Although the pacing was uneven, I liked Takamichi’s internal conflict and continue on to the second volume to see if the writing improved. Turns out: not so much.

Random is the adjective I’d used to describe volume 2. After the events of volume 1, Takamichi has thawed and started to form emotional attachments again. Night and Snow are thrilled at this development because they adore their mistress. Unfortunately, this leads to some complications.

First, Takamichi encounters a vampire prince who must drink the blood of a virgin in order to obtain his full power and heritage. Night and Snow are predictably horrified by this development but because the vampire initially takes the form of a little boy, Takamichi buys his fabricated story and wants to help him find his way home. But when he’s not in human form, the vampire takes the form of a pig. Yes. You read that correctly.

I like crack as much as the next person. I did use to read the Black Dagger Brotherhood once upon a time before I broke that habit, but some things just don’t work for me. Apparently, flying vampire pigs are one of them. Other readers may feel differently. Even as I write this, I’m fully aware other people eat this up in manga.

Secondly, Takamichi, her bodyguards, and her friends take a trip to the beach. But while there, they stay at a supposedly haunted house. Except the supernatural creature in residence is not a ghost. It’s a selkie. A lesbian selkie who forms an immediate attachment to Takamichi.

By this point, I was struggling to figure out what was going on and what kind of manga this was meant to be. Was it meant to be an episodic supernatural slice of life, in which Takamichi encounters various supernatural creatures and helps them? Is this further set-up, in which Takamichi gathers more supernatural beasties around her, before we go on to the bigger plot? I had no clue.

And while I loved the Takamichi of volume 1, I found myself less enamored with her in volume 2. I suppose I found her rapid turnaround in which anything cute and helpless merits her help, no matter that the circumstances may say otherwise. I can’t say I found it believable that someone who hunted monsters would buy a vampire’s story that he was lost and needed to find his way home. Surely she’s dealt with child monsters before? On the other hand, I found her brusque handling of the selkie to be more in-character.

I definitely see the vampire as trouble. He wants Takamichi and messes with Night and Snow to get her. I can’t say I’m keen on this sort of thing. It only reinforces the impression that Night and Snow are mentally children, no matter their physical appearance. I could be misreading the foreshadowing, but there are definite hints that Night and Snow’s feelings for Takamichi go beyond the familial and platonic, or will in the future. If anything, the developments in this volume made me more uncomfortable about any future romantic prospects for Takamichi.

At this point, I have no idea what this manga is aiming to be. There wasn’t enough meaty supernatural conflict to sustain an interesting external plot. The romantic aspects, such as they were, are clumsy at best and uncomfortable at worst. The comedic bits don’t work for me, but humor is tough to pull off since it’s so individual. I’m not sure I want to continue this series but other readers might feel differently. There’s potential buried under all the randomness. C-

My regards,
Jia

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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]!

6 Comments

  1. Angela
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 10:20:07

    Great review Jia!
    I’ve been wanting to try manga for a while now – anyone have some suggestions of the best that I should start with?

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  2. Estara
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 11:39:05

    I really can’t help but think that cover is not the best way to advertise a SHOUJO heroine either. I think I’ll stay with Natsume’s Book of Friends for youkai meeting shoujo manga.

    @Angela: What sort of story would interest you in a graphic format? Have you read comics before and what did you like? By now there is so much manga released in English that having an idea of what you like would really help narrow the recommendations down ^^

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  3. Angela
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 12:00:49

    I’ve read many comics and graphic novels and I enjoy a wide variety. A couple of favorites were Witchblade and Spawn, for what it’s worth. It’s kind of like asking what I enjoy in books – nearly everything! :) I guess in general I lean towards fantasy (incl. urban) and paranormal for pretty much all my reading. As long as it has a good storyline and is told well in the visual format I’ll probably love it. I’ve just been kind of overwhelmed and keep putting off trying something.

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  4. Jia
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 12:41:07

    @Estara: I have no idea why Takamichi is even portrayed that way. She doesn’t dress that way at all in the manga. They do break the fourth wall at some point and make a reference to the misleading cover but even so. Not quite sure what the intent was there.

    @Angela: Hmm. Since you mentioned Witchblade and Spawn, my gut tells me to recommend Claymore and Blue Exorcist to you.

    Claymore is set in a faux-medieval setting and is about half-demon female warriors (called Claymores for the weapons they bear) who hunt down monsters called yoma. The catch, however, is that the Claymores are the result of experiments in which the flesh of yoma were implanted into young human girls, transforming them into living weapons. This allows them to fight the yoma effectively. Unfortunately, the longer they live (and they can live a very long time), the more likely they’ll one day slip and turn into a monster themselves, thus needing to be hunted down by their former comrades. The first couple volumes can be a little hard to get into for some people but volume 3 will pretty much confirm whether this title is for you.

    Blue Exorcist is about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Satan and, after the priest who raised him is killed, decides to become an exorcist in order to destroy his father.

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  5. Estara
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 16:09:06

    @Angela: I second Blue Exorcist – even though it’s a shonen manga, because like Kekkaishi (which is finished but does have 33 volumes) both are drawn by women, which means apart from the great supernatural action that the girls are not just window-dressing.

    A friend of mine is a huge Claymore fan but I haven’t read it, it seemed to grim-dark for my taste.

    Natsume’s Book of Friends is a very slice-of-life with Japanese supernatural creatures story. The volumes are also episodic a lot, so you can read as much or little as you want. A boy who has the ability to see and interact with youkai starts dealing with this proactively after finding out where the ability came from in the first place – in the course of that he finally finds humans he can trust not to ridicule him either.
    The conflict parts come from both his worlds colliding and the fact that he is now old enough to see that shades of grey exist everywhere and he wants to stand up for both human and yokai friends.

    For something completely different with a romance paranormal vibe there’s Rasetsu about a girl who knows that a demon is coming for her at a certain date in the future and tries to find ways to stop this threat and also help other fellow sufferers from demon curses.

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  6. Angela
    Oct 03, 2012 @ 07:25:07

    Thank you both for the recommendations!!

    ReplyReply

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