Yurara 5

April 11, 2011

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2008 – 5 volumes

Having read almost all of Rasetsu at this point, I knew how this series ends, so there was little in the way of surprises in this volume. And unfortunately, other than Mei, none of the characters really grew on me. I liked it okay in parts, but… it’s just not as good as Rasetsu. Comparing them is unfair to Yurara, because Yurara came first and all good things start somewhere, but… it’s hard to recommend this when the other is out there, doing a better job.

One of my biggest problems with the ending was that it seemed like a revelation to all the characters that Yurara was not cheating on Mei with Yako, but rather that the spirit-Yurara had the crush on Yako. I thought this had been established last volume, but Yurara was very relieved when it hit her, that she didn’t like both boys at once. And then there was a big crisis, and Mei was all depressed and needed saving… blah blah blah.

The crisis actually made me lose a lot of respect for Yurara. It was meant to teach her that she needed her own powers (so that spirit-Yurara didn’t have to take over her body and fall all over Yako anymore), but to underscore this, she panicked and cried a lot, and did a damsel in distress thing that made me really angry. But again, I probably would have liked it a lot better if I didn’t know Rasetsu was out there, fending off a demon lover under her own steam and being awesome about it.

As down as I am about this series… yeah, I probably would have liked it a lot if I hadn’t read Rasetsu first. But again… Rasetsu is all kinds of awesome, and has better characters, haunting stories, and overall plot. The art is better, it’s probably written for a slightly older audience, too… I like Chika Shiomi a lot, and this is an okay, middle-of-the-road series, just not compared to her others. I’m picking up Night of the Beasts next.

Yurara 4

March 13, 2011

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2008 – 5 volumes

It’s so rare that I ever see a manga that was given a second printing, but this volume of Yurara says that it went back to the presses about a year after it came out. That’s good news, since I always worry that most manga series don’t sell very well and that Naruto et al makes up for it.

This volume was a little less interesting than the last, since it was mostly just spirit-Yurara and Yako fighting with each other and trying to get their feelings sorted out. Also, a new character named Takatoki is introduced. He’s an exorcist like Yurara, and a childhood friend who used to protect her from spirit attacks. He loves pseudo-hitting on human Yurara, pushing Mei’s buttons, and releasing ghosts that everyone has to chase and re-capture. He’s also completely clueless when it comes to Yurara’s spirit transformation. Unfortunately, I don’t like him, and I don’t really want another major player to enter the story this late in the game. But that’s just me. He does provide levity, which is in short supply now that Yako and Mei are no longer at each other’s throats.

The main conflict, though, is how lonely spirit-Yurara is, and how upset human-Yurara is that she can’t be faithful to Mei with the strong feelings that spirit-Yurara has for Yako. Not so much that she feels any sort of romance towards Yako herself, but more that her body is cheating on Mei while inhabited by spirit-Yurara, and Mei is worried that spirit-Yurara will take over completely and run away with Yako.

Unfortunately, I read Rasetsu, so I know where this is going. Still, I’m looking forward to the conclusion, because I can’t wait to see how things go down between the three/four main characters.

Yurara 3

March 4, 2011

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2007 – 5 volumes

Okay, Yurara. You heard my complaints, and then you saw me cast you aside in favor of Rasetsu. And here I come back, and you’ve changed. Your characters got better. Unfortunately, Yako got most of the character development, and he gets even more in Rasetsu, so I have a hard time being unbiased. But Mei and Yurara get some too, and there are some major character-related plot points in this volume rather than basic ghostbusting. In fact, ghostbusting takes a backseat to hanging out with ghosts, like Yurara’s grandpa, who shows up to offer exposition and periodically turn into a young man whose looks rival Mei and Yako’s. Also, I think it was last volume, but I think the characters were wearing Aerosmith shirts around. That’s an automatic win for me.

Yurara’s grandpa shows up to explain a little more about Yurara’s guardian spirit, and also offer support until the day that Yurara can use her own power and no longer needs her guardian spirit. That’s fine, because this grandfather character is pretty nosy, apathetic, and hilarious. Not needing her guardian spirit transitions nicely into what Yurara realizes: that spirit-Yurara likes Yako, and flesh-Yurara likes Mei, and that both boys have a crush on her. Then we come to a conundrum you don’t often see in shoujo manga: do they like her for herself, or because they admire her appearance and powers as guardian spirit? She gets openly very upset about this, but not as much as Yako does. Yako calls hoards of ghosts with his depression.

It took a couple volumes, but I’m beginning to see how this was the basis for Rasetsu.

Yurara 2

February 8, 2011

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2007 – 5 volumes

I’m still a little unimpressed with this series, especially compared to the followup series Rasetsu.  But much like Rasetsu, the second volume endeared me to it a little more.  I’m not as attached to the characters this time around – I don’t think Yurara is as interesting as Rasetsu, nor is Mei as cool as Kuryu – but the second volume did flesh them out a little more, and it was easier for me to get into.

The first chapter is still a little blah, with a rather average story about a ghost that possesses a girl that’s bullying Yurara.  But after that, the chapters focus on Mei, and things get a little more interesting.  We learn that Mei has a problem in a chapter about a ghost that harasses Yurara, grabbing her and forcing her guardian spirit change and otherwise being a creep.  Next, we visit Mei’s house to find that his mother… well.  Is different.  And he lives in a family full of flirtatious men.  As sad as the situation was, it still made me smile.  And what we learn in these two chapters carries over into a story about a ghost that Mei knows from the past taking possession of his body.

The stories are getting more serious (Mei getting possessed and having his life threatened is probably about as serious as it’s going to get here), and are doing so by developing the characters.  I like that a lot, although somehow, aside from a deepening crush, Yurara seems to be immune to said character development.  I think, even with the stories getting more interesting, that that’s the root of my problem.  While she’s not actively terrible or hard to sympathize with, it’s hard to figure out why the boys make such a fuss.  It’s probably because of her spiritual power (they all three have this in common), and Yurara is kind-hearted, if nothing else, balancing out the strange ruthlessness of Mei.  But she’s just a little vanilla.  Especially when compared to the spirited Rasetsu.

I feel bad, comparing this constantly to a work that is a later spin-off.  Of course the second will be better than the first.  But it’s my frame of reference, and with my indifference towards the main character and some of the stories, I have nothing else to dwell on.  But as I said, the stories are beginning to get more serious and character-centric, and the second volume was better than the first.  I’m hoping the third will be better still, and maybe the fifth will have caught it up with the greatness of Rasetsu.

Have I mentioned I can’t wait to read the last two volumes of Rasetsu?  Because I really can’t.  These five volumes probably won’t even hold me over until the second-to-last comes out next month.

Yurara 1

January 22, 2011

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2007 – 5 volumes

Here’s another older shoujo series, but this is a short one, and I’m dipping into this because I can’t get enough Rasetsu, a sort of spin-off of this series that has some characters in common.

I think I was imagining more of a proto-Rasetsu, but this is… different. It’s set in a high school, and the sweet and shy Yurara along with two boys named Yako (who later appears in Rasetsu) and Mei act as the school’s ghostbusters. Yurara has a spirit that takes over her body and exorcises the spirits when Yurara is in trouble, Yako has a supernatural barrier he can make from water, and Mei has a spirit fire he can use to harm spirits. There are some wacky romantic hijinx thrown in for good measure.

I was disappointed, but I realize it’s not terribly fair to this series to judge it based on Rasetsu. Rasetsu came after, has older characters, and isn’t set in high school, so it’s slightly more sophisticated story-wise. The ghostbusting is the same, but the situations in Yurara are tame compared to the dangerous house-sized ghosts out to claim as many souls as possible in Rasetsu. And Yurara lacks the charming Kuryu, though smooth-talking Mei would give him a run for his money. And Mei seems to have a dark past, much like Kuryu, but so far, I am… thinking that Mei’s past isn’t nearly as dark as Kuryu’s.

I also, unfortunately, know which of the two male leads is chosen at the end. The choice in this series… doesn’t bode well for Kuryu in Rasetsu, and I am rooting for him there. But that is a minor point.

Other than that… so far, Yurara seems like a pretty regular, shy, timid girl that’s easily embarrassed by the constant bickering between Mei and Yako. I do like both of the boys, though. Yako, of course, I already know (although it could be argued he gained many of his more mature personality traits in this series and is thus different here), and Mei seems like a fun stand-in for Kuryu. He’s fairly easy to like. I also like that Yurara gains both a physical and personality transformation when her guardian spirit takes over. Seeing her stand up to the boys, especially Mei, is satisfying after seeing her take so much.

It’s cute, and I’m still going to give it a chance based on the strength of Rasetsu. Rasetsu took a few volumes to grow on me, so maybe the rather mundane beginnings in this volume will build up into a wonderful conclusion four volumes from now.