Yuki Midorikawa

Huh.  I bought this for the art.  Yes, I admit it.  And yes, sometimes I have only myself to blame.

I enjoy both very delicate line work and brushstrokes made with an actual brush (rather than tone or some fakery).  This manga dangled both in front of me on its cover and I was instantly stricken with the need to take it home and read it.  So I did.

This is the story of Takashi Natsume, a high school boy who sees spirits (yokai).  He’s an orphan and is staying with a new set of relatives, who are kind to him.  While running away from a new yokai, he runs across a boundary line and frees a spirit in the form of a lucky cat charm (the china kind you get to keep in your kitchen, often with pink glaze on white, and yes, I have one as a gift from a kind friend).  Anyway.

It turns out all the local yokai are after him because he resembles his grandmother, who he never really knew.  She kept a book in which she recorded the names of yokai she had beaten in contests of power.  This way she had power over them, but it turns out she just wanted to stop being lonely, since she couldn’t make human friends.  All very sad.

The young Natsume decides to free the yokai, much to the horror of his china cat companion (who, like all small cute magical creatures everywhere can turn into a great big super powerful, sleek and masterful beast wot is to be feared).

The beginning is clunky and odd, but I can forgive that.  The china cat likes to get drunk (a nice change from those boring, well-behaved familiars) and plans to eat Natsume (also a nice change).  But it’s all really rather stock.  As one would expect, Natsume frees a few spirits without problems, and then finds a yokai who need to be freed, but who can’t be, for various reasons.  Then he helps another yokai.  I won’t go into deep detail in case anyone actually wants to read it, but both short stories are rather wistful and sad.  That’s sort of the flavor of this manga: wistful and a bit sad.

Also, unfortunately, boring.

The art that sucked me in is the brushwork and the delicate lines, but this shows up rarely.

There are a sections that are lovely, sad, and airy, but too often the manga is crowded and weird.  It’s such a strange little blend of drunken cat spirits and lonely high school boys and cyclops monsters waving flags and banging drums.

I wanted the story to either go with the magical girl (except boy) trope it seemed to be subverting, or stick with the sad and wistful tales of loneliness and kindness.  The mix is just plain odd.  I may check out future volumes, but chances are good I’ll just forget this title exists.  Her Majesty’s Dog has superior delicate line work, plus it has an excellent story and interesting yokai, so perhaps I will reread that instead.

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