What They Say
Kimihiro Watanuki takes a welcome break from his grueling service to the time-space witch, Yûko Ishihara, only to find himself mixed up in the strangest parade of the Japanese magical world. But a slipup reveals that Kimihiro is a powerless human! How can he survive the festival without being eaten by its dangerous participants?
Then Kimihiro meets a woman who grieves for her lost son. Since Kimihiro is an orphan, the two form an immediate bond. But what will Kimihiro do when he realizes that his wonderful new friendship may very well kill him?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Watanuki just can’t seem to steer clear of spirit animals, of course working for Yuko doesn’t exactly help. A spirit animal visits Yuko for some drinks and gives Watanuki a strange gourd that looks like a lantern known as a hozuki, which will allow him to travel to another world full of demons and even more strange spirit animals. Yuko sends Domeki to act as Watanuki’s bodyguard on the journey to the other world where they encounter demons that threaten to eat him before the fox spirit from an earlier story steps into save them. Upon their return to their normal world, we learn that all of Watanuki’s trials and tribulations under Yuko’s employ has been to prepare him for something big in his future.
Later, Watanuki befriends a beautiful woman dressed in a formal kimono. It turns out they both have a lot in common and Watanuki begins to spend his afternoons visiting with the woman in a nearby park. Their time together begins to affect Watanuki in a good way as he enjoys their relationship and how meeting each other seems to fill something that has been missing in the lives of both of them. But unfortunately Watanuki falls ill and he has to make a difficult choice between his health and continuing to visit the lonely woman.
There are also two smaller stories that build upon the occult nature of this series. But we still don’t know where these stories are leading yet. There is an underlying theme that crops up now and then relating to something Watanuki must accomplish or maybe stop. So what is Watanuki’s ultimate job for Yuko going to be? Will Domeki be needed for it or will Watanuki grow enough as a person to handle it on his own? All questions which may see more light of day in the next volume.
Clamps artwork in this volume is amazingly beautiful. The lines are strong and clean, and there are also numerous full page and two page panels that are just gorgeous. The artwork flows really well from panel to panel giving a nice pace to the story and a fair depiction of movement and action. The artist also does an excellent job of illustrating characters’ emotions with the expressions on their faces, especially the more subtle nuances. This gives the reader a good understanding of the situation and how each character reacts to one another, which adds to how well the story reads. In addition, the full-page art at the beginning of each chapter is very attractive.
Watanuki and Domeki are still far from conceding their friendship, but they take another step closer during the lonely woman story. I thought this story was very touching as we learn more about Watanuki’s childhood and what it was like to grow up without parents. The bond that he and the lonely woman form over a short time together was both enjoyable and sad, especially since they could relate to losing loved ones. But their bond is also what eventually reinforces the connection between Watanuki and Domeki as Watanuki begins to realize how much he really does depend on Domeki’s friendship.
This continues to be one of my favorite series. Not only because of the darkly mysterious stories but also the steady character development and how even though the stories are mostly episodic, events do build on each other over time. For example, the reappearance of minor characters and their actions depend on how the main characters may have interacted with them in earlier stories.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: Teen 16+
Released By: Del Rey Manga
Release Date: October 25th, 2005