August 1, 2010
Yuki Shimizu – 801 Media – 2009 – 9+ volumes
So… August 1st. 8/01. The publisher of the same name. You see where I’m going with this. If I hadn’t found out about this late last night, then worked all day today, I would have done a huge BL feature. But since time is short, here is a volume I suddenly decided I had to have.
Somewhere (maybe more than once), I had heard this compared to Fruits Basket, and that was almost literally everything I knew about it. The Fruits Basket vibes are quite strong, especially early on, when our protagonist Raizou shows up at the Mitou house to be a cook and housekeeper after losing his only family, his grandmother. The Mitou house is a bustling place full of males with secrets. Raizou’s naivety is also a dead match for Tohru’s, as is his desire to solve people’s problems and do right by all. There’s even some of Shigure’s sarcasm in head-of-household Waki’s personality. If you can imagine Yuki and Kyo making out instead if fighting in that first volume (which I’m sure some people inclined to pick up this book have), you have a pretty good idea what’s going on in the first chapter of this book.
The two series diverge pretty quickly, though. The secret magic at play here isn’t that the characters turn into animals, but rather that the characters work in pairs of “kami” and “kotodama.” The kotodama casts spells and curses, and the kami absorbs damage from spell backlash and anything else that may hurt them. This is done through… “mucus membranes.” Also, Mitou family rules state that the kami/kotodama pairs have to be the same gender. Just because.
I liked this a lot, since it had a whole lot more plot and character development than I was expecting. The romance elements are toned down, and while some of the flirting and sex stuff among the side characters is pretty ostentatious, it’s more for comedic effect than titillation. There are some romantic scenes, and it’s clear that things between Raizou and his roommate Kon will heat up soon, but most of this volume laid the groundwork for the kami/kotodama rules and got the reader used to the many characters running around (ten characters are introduced in this volume, eight of whom live in the house, and one who is spoken of frequently but never shown). There’s a few too many characters for my liking at the beginning, and it took me nearly the whole volume to get things sorted out, but I like how things are working so far, and I really appreciate that this is a plot-heavy BL series with some bonus romance and danger thrown in for good measure.
And while there really aren’t that many jokes or gags, there was an Asari pun that made me laugh far harder than I would have liked.
I like the art, too. The supernatural themes give it a disconnect from the outside world, and while the characters clearly have other things going for them, the story never leaves the inside of the Mitou household. There are lots of artistic details and flourishes that make things seem both folklore-ish and modern, and while there wasn’t a whole lot of variation in the male character designs, there were enough differences that it didn’t take me long to figure out who was who.
Lots of exposition, and very heavy on plot, this joins the ranks of BL series like Yellow and Otodama that tell a story with plenty of romance on the side. I love this type of series, and I hope future volumes develop the Mitou family business a little more rather than falling back on the drama of the enigma of Kon’s existence, or Raizou’s need to prove his love over and over again. There are lots and lots of interesting places for this to go, and I’m excited to read more.
On a side note, am I the only one continuously bummed out by 801 Media’s web page? The rest of the DMP network has the best and easiest-to-use sites among almost all the manga publishers, and it’s an absolute dream to find any book, how many books they’ve published by a specific author, and their release schedule. 801’s page hasn’t been updated in a long, long time. I hope a facelift is in order soon, because it’ll be easier for me to find gems like this in their catalog. I have read very little from their catalog.