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MANGA REVIEW:  Jiu Jiu volume 1 by Touya Tobina

MANGA REVIEW: Jiu Jiu volume 1 by Touya Tobina

Story & Art: Touya Tobina
Publisher: Hakusensha/Viz
Rated: T+ for older teen
Volumes: 1/5

Dear readers,

It’s been a while since I picked up a new shoujo title so after looking around a bit, I decided to give this a try. I admit I don’t often read shoujo manga much these days but it’s good to revisit the genre every now and again.

Takamichi Hachiouji comes from a family of demon hunters. As a child, she was considered unnecessary. Her older twin brother was to inherit everything so the rest of the family paid little attention to her and told her she didn’t need to bother with learning anything. Then one day her beloved brother died while protecting her, and now the unwanted child has become the heir.

jiujiu01Her brother’s death left a mark. Takamichi doesn’t want to get close to anyone so she’ll never have to experience the pain of loss ever again. As an important member of the family, she’s assigned bodyguards but due to her difficult personality, she burns through them like butter. After losing yet another set of bodyguards, she’s finally given twin jiu jiu — half-human, half-demon creatures that take the shape of wolves — to raise.

Three years later, the pups have grown up and can take human form. In fact, their human forms look roughly the same age as Takamichi herself. (Dog years, after all.) The twin brothers, Night (Yuugure) and Snow (Setsu) want nothing more than to accompany their mistress everywhere and protect her from all threats. Takamichi just wants to be left alone. And so begins the story of an aloof girl from an established family of demon hunters and the two shapeshifting brothers who refuse to leave her side.

I wasn’t initially sure what to make of this manga. It starts off very manic, throwing Takamichi’s backstory and the jiu jiu brothers’ antics at us all at once. I thought the pace didn’t really settle until halfway through the volume. I suppose that’s not surprising. I find that a lot of manga has frenzied pacing at the beginning.

But I was lured in by Takamichi. I’m a big fan of prickly heroines at this stage in my reading life, and here we have one. She’d rather be alone. She overhears other family members criticizing her and she lets it roll off her. She’s armored her heart so she can’t be hurt again.

And that’s where I was charmed. Even though Takamichi cannot be bothered by other people, raising Night and Snow has unwittingly introduced a weakness to her emotional armor. I thought the relationship between the three of them was lovely. Takamichi raised them out of obligation — if she didn’t agree to take them in, what would happen to them? Nothing good, that’s for sure. But unlike the bodyguards who’ve left her time and again, the brothers saw through the cold exterior she presented them. Instead of being pushed away, her attitude made them more determined to earn her praise.

The brothers are your typical shoujo manga archetypes. As brothers, they’re opposites. Snow is easygoing and laid-back. Bespectacled Night is serious and respectful. As the two major guys in Takamichi’s life, they’re contrasts. The one thing I liked was that the manga does touch on the brothers’ relationship with each other, in addition to their relationship with their mistress. They both want to please Takamichi but there’s also a certain amount of competition between them. It’s nothing overt but it does come out at times.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see romance develop in the future. It is a shoujo manga, after all. I’m a little iffy at seeing any romance between Takamichi and either of the brothers. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened given genre conventions and tropes and all, but the thought makes me a little uneasy. She did raise them and even though they look like teenage boys in their human form, they’re still only three. My brain shies away at the thought.

The art took a little while to get used to but I found myself liking it by the end. I’m particularly fond of the flashbacks depicting Night and Snow as puppies. Night’s puppy form was adorable since his wolf shape has two light spots near his eyes – hinting at the need for glasses in his human form.

While I’m not sold on the idea of romance developing in the future — and who knows, maybe it won’t — I did find myself intrigued by Takamichi and her burgeoning self-awareness and self-acceptance. I also liked that even when the brothers were in human form, they acted like wolves — and immature ones at that. None of the cliched alpha male stuff here. They want to play frisbee and go for walks. It’s cute. I’m interested in finding out more and on board for the next volume. B

My regards,
Jia

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MANGA REVIEW:  Urameshiya volume 1 by Makiko

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

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