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Game of Familia Vol. #01 Manga Review

7 min read

Family must always be protected … no matter the cost.

Creative Staff:
Story: Mikoto Yamaguchi
Art By: D.P.
Translation: Giuseppe di Martino
Lettering: Arbash Mughal

What They Say:
Protect the family, save the world!

High schooler Sasae Hatsushima has been summoned to a world of dark fantasy to defeat an undead army. That shouldn’t be that hard when he has the help of his hyper-competent stepmom and her two younger sisters, a high school karate champion, and a girl genius! But to gain powers needed for their quest, a great and painful price must be paid … And who better to pay than Sasae, who seems utterly ordinary compared to his brilliant stepfamily?

Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Until he turned sixteen, Sasae had lived alone with his dad Taiki, until suddenly he remarried and the teenager found himself with a new family, and while it wasn’t bad that these relations were all girls, the worst part was they are all better when compared to Hatsushima, making a bland person like him feel painfully ordinary. But sadly, his father passed away a few months into the marriage due to illness, and then suddenly one day this unbalanced group finds themselves swept away by a portal to another world just as they were finishing breakfast, leaving this lone boy unable to do anything in way of giving directions to his dominant family. His stepmother and eldest sister Kanae is an amazing housewife and the indomitable leader of the Hatsushima group, second daughter Manako may look like a delinquent, but has a strong sense of justice and won the national karate tournament five years in a row, and while Hinana may be the youngest, she is a true genius who has skipped several grades and is set to attend an university overseas, but as these exceptional people begin to wander off into the forest, Sasae knows he can do nothing to make these headstrong girls listen, watching helplessly as they venture forward without heeding to his words of concern.

As the unbalanced quartet passes through densely packed woods and finally emerge into a odd clearing surrounded by strange undergrowth, they are surprised to witness a strange girl with animal ears barely able to stand without the aid of a gnarled staff supporting her weight, and while the family is surprised to see someone who looks like a human and speaking Japanese, it is this exhausted summoner who is proud of her accomplishment when she sees the three girls who are practically glowing with talent, modestly proclaiming they will make a powerful familia to go
against those things. However, as Mana rushes over to the now collapsed wizard who warns them they need run since they are outside the barrier, an ominous crunch of the earth behind them announces they are not alone, with a sickening abomination quickly emerging from the ground, and while this weary sorceress insists she is strong enough to take care of this beast, her valiant attempt is quickly halted as twin claws skewer from both sides, forcing the champion to boldly jump forward with a flurry of kicks in defence, as the rest of the family attend to the injured woman. As she struggles to breathe, the suffering girl confesses she needed to sacrifice much in order to gain the power needed to bring them here, realizing she does not have much time left, pleading to leave her behind as Manako continues to fight even as her clothes are torn during battle, with the enemy forces continuing to increase. However, as this monstrous horde builds and the blonde fighter finds herself quickly outnumbered, it does not take long before Manako is overcome under a mass of claws and salacious tongues wishing to taste tender flesh, but before she can be violated by these foul creatures, the dying summoner rips off her outfit and boldly offers herself to these deviant beasts, but as the family watches in horror as teeth tear into a wounded body, it is only Sasae’s forceful words and actions which stop his sister from rushing to the rescue, knowing they cannot save her and their only choice is to run if they want to survive.

In Summary:
While perceptive readers might immediately assume this title is another isekai story of a group being thrown into the unknown, Yamaguchi-sensei’s story boldly differs by centering upon the understandably reserved Sasae, who might normally fade into the background, and allows his shy personality to wonderfully persevere in the midst of detestable circumstances, even in the midst of his overwhelming family, shrewdly balancing competing dynamics to create a tale that is both emotionally depressing and mildly amusing due to clever manipulation of the circumstances and allowing this modest hero to become a force not to be underestimated. The opening act constantly reiterates how this unassuming teenager continuously berates himself, looking down on his admitted craftiness in comparison to his new family, with each one better prepared for what awaits them due to inherent talents, and while Sasae may be the voice of reason for the group, he has nothing to contribute to the expectant strongest familia the inhabitants need to defeat their enemies – the deadmales. We cannot but chuckle at this name, with readers suspecting this may be why there are no men within the fortress, even after the tease we will learn soon enough why there is an absence of the opposite sex, the defenders always addressing Kanae and bluntly hinting at the aforementioned reveal as if not trusting any male. However, what is the unsettling element of Yamaguchi-sensei’s tale is the predictable toll these heroes must pay, the narrative emphasizing they must sacrifice the most important part of their body for power, with the premise being the more treasured, the greater strength, with of course readers assuming the worst and finding out that guess is correct. While one may understand the need for this equivalent exchange, we can also understand why this caring mother would not want to subject her sisters or son to this irreversible mutilation of their bodies, especially given the notion they may never be able to return home, being forced to fight for people who only want to see the next day, no matter the which must be paid.

Yet despite a touching development for this melodrama, it is the overt erotic displays scattered across a majority of the pages which give this title a Mature rating and not particularly graphic violence, from women having their clothes torn off and violently raped, stepson Sasae comforting distraught mother Kanae in bed as if he were his dead father, plus too many naked girls to mention, some of these events teeter on being softcore hentai complete with tongues and tentacles, thereby spoiling any moving narrative moments due to excessive distractions from the use of unnecessary sex, effectively nullifying any emotional attachment which might have been garnered through the struggles of these vulnerable individuals. While D.P.’s artwork may be appealing due to an effective use of greyscale illustrations, appealing facial expressions, and gripping action scenes, it is a reliance on the naked feminine form which most will remember about this title, with a few exciting panels enticing the audience to become enamored by the story, only to then fall back upon equal parts brutality and monsters wanting to satisfy their wanton lust and perhaps hunger, causing the audience wonder if this is supposed to be a horrifying isekai story tinged with a heavy mix of bestiality.

Game of Familia may attempt to create an admirable underdog story upon the shoulders of a self-deprecating teenager, and while it does succeed in stirring an emotional foundation of not being able to return home and fighting only after a great sacrifice is made, it is the unnecessary reliance upon of nudity which clouds any attachment readers may have toward the heroes, our focus diverted numerous times in wondering where to look among field of tanned curves. Sasae is an admirable protagonist who wants to protect those he cares about, and while he may be jaded by being the only normal one, readers cannot deny his noble nature to guard his overly gentle family, making his acceptance to fight a fitting one since he thinks he has nothing to contribute, and yet at the same time, we have to wonder if his offerings have changed his quiet personality into something questionable, making the price he paid too much for the good of a troubled world.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-

Age Rating: Mature
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: September 05, 2023
MSRP: $13.00