January 03, 2013
I must confess that I've been exceedingly busy and haven't read much manga at all for the last 18 or so months...with one exception. While my to-read pile has gotten quite large, I've stuck with reading Yotsuba&! all that time.
Yotsuba; the titular character of this charming book, is a precocious child who has been adopted by her father from some far away place in the developing world. To her naive eyes everything in Japan from sunflowers to doorbells is fascinating and a potential springboard to adventure...or mischief.There is no real plot, though there is a bit of continuity. The series consists of sketch comedy and is greatly assisted by Azuma Kiyohiko's outstanding comedic timing in the comic medium as well as his amazing ability to see the world with a child-like sense of wonder. This, the expressive art, memorable secondary characters and refreshing innocence make this outstanding series a rare gem. I highly recommend it to anyone.
However, EVERYONE likes Yotsuba&! (except bad people). I don't think I have ever seen a bad review. Furthermore, since I haven't been reading other manga for over a year I can't give the comparative review Pete asked for or the book deserves.
Finally, it is obvious from his request that Pete's request for a review was not at all what he really wanted, but a fallback position.
It seems that Pete is, in reality, uninterested in such refreshing innocence and actually wanted something entirely "other" but felt it was a bridge too far. Well we here at Brickmuppet Blog aim to please, so gird you loins as we cross that bridge...The Bridge Over the River Kowai.
Good people should not look below the fold, for that way lies depravity.
First, some background on said depravity, because..."Seriously...WTF!?":
About a decade ago a series of 11 single page hentai comic strips emerged from Japan titled Living With... ( link NSFW, as are all subsequent links...as is the rest of this post). The third and last last word of the title was always some mythological monster and involved the day to day challenges (sometimes bio-mechanical, sometimes not) of the hero trying to live a happy married life with his loving hell-spawn of a wife who might be a Centaur, Snakegirl or Strangely-Cute-Yet-Still-Terrifying-Spider-Girl-Monster. The strips were generally cute, occasionally vulgar, frequently pornographic and often just plain wrong but they were remarkably umm..."sweet". In the last strip it was revealed that the hero was not a polygamist, philanderer or a divorce junky, but actually a set of septuplets who all found themselves in unconventional relationships.
The strip, by a mysterious weirdo who went by the handle of オカヤド (Okayado) was something of a hit and It is my understanding from discussions with the sort of people I do not associate with that this strip seems to have helped inspire a whole genre of depravity. This has included video games , and reworked versions of the D&D Monster Manual with the primary motivation of the now curvacious monsters being "find a human male to commit snu-snu with". Because the world is on a death-spiral this has become a niche fetish large enough to allow オカヤド (Okayado) (who now goes by the handle of 乾 武丸 (Inui Takemaru link TOTALLY NSFW) was able to come out of his cave and successfully pitch this idea to Comic Ryu where his newest work is being serialized under the title Monster Musume no Iru Ichijo or Daily Daily Life With Monster Girls.
The one who is really cute from the mini-skirt up is Mia, the poor gentleman in the background being constricted to death is Kurusu Kimihito, who has, due to a clerical error been assigned a home-stay tenant as part of a diplomatic effort by the foreign ministry. You see, several monstrous races live in Asia and have been in hiding for centuries. The Japanese government has recently acknowledged these beings existence and, with some trepidation and considerable caution, is experimenting with integrating them into Japanese society, with the eventual goal of having large numbers move to Japan (perhaps to populate demographically dying towns?) .
There are considerable numbers of rules and our male lead must heavily modify his bathroom and water closet to accommodate his new tenant...at his own expense. There are benefits though, including the fact that he and Mia have hit it off REALLY well and are quite in love.
This presents its own problems as one condition of the treaty is that they must NOT gain intimate physical knowledge of each other or he'll go to jail, she'll be deported and a war might break out. So they surreptitiously kiss a lot.
The story follows them through the challenges of dealing with bigotry, the prying eyes of the government and the physical challenges of a 30 foot long reticulated monster woman negotiating Tokyo. It does not shy away from asking the hard questions...
...but answers (thankfully) are not quite as forthcoming. Anyway, the two bumble through life and, as they say, hijinks ensue.
Of course whenever there is a happy couple some poaching Harpy is going to try to inject herself into the proceedings and make off with the guy. Sure enough...
It turns out that Papi there is such a precocious child that her host family has become fed up with her. The law states that she has to be accompanied by a human and she NEEDS to fly for her health so she grabs our hero in a blinkered effort to keep things legal...she's not good at Japanese and not the sharpest knife in the drawer but she understands that she's on thin ice...
Hijinks ensue again, as do lowjinks involving a squalid popsicle mishap but our hero ends up with the ditzy bird brain assigned to him as his charge by his corrupt caseworker who is desperate to cover up any failings in the program.
He and Mia sort of adopt "adopt" the waif and we have the making of a sweet if occasionally bizarre and off-color family sitcom until...
...yes this is Japan and the only way the author could get the green light was to make it a damned harem show.
Enter Centoria, She's come from Europe. Since centaurs are still in hiding there, she has come to investigate the possibility of Japan allowing her people to come out into the open as well. Centoria is not part of the formal inter-species-integration program and so doesn't need an escort but she is warned to stay out of trouble. This is complicated by the fact that she is a glorious loon with a paladin complex. When she bumps into Kurusu and they witness a crime, Centoria is not going to let this stand, so she enlists Kurusu to help her apprehend the knave.
Together, THEY FIGHT CRIME!
Unfortunately Centaurs have very strict traditions about marriage and if you ride on a centaurs back and grab their boobs...you're betrothed. About half of the issue involved comedic presentations of, well, just that.
Oh woe is our hero...Oh woe is his squamous, reticulated girlfriend. Oh woe is the centaur whose sense of honor and propriety will be shattered if he does not accept her. Oh woe is their caseworker who must cover up this diplomatic faux pas by assigning horse woman to live with them. This does NOT go over well, with the resident Lamia.
...and so hell comes to our protagonists now very crowded house.
Well this is just bonecrushingly stupid, but it's kind of funny. 6 issues in it's witty, and actually refreshing at times. Sadly there are 9 issues thus far and the last three really begin to lay on the harem-comedy tropes thick. Especially irksome: one of the plot elements that added comedic tension earlier is removed.
There is actually a lot of potential here but the harem dynamic is a definite turn off for me. The fact that the author is conducting polls to find out which monster girl he should ad next hints at some pretty formulaic stories coming up...and yet....
Between the crime fighting, rescues, and day to day silliness, this is a surprisingly entertaining strip with a fairly consistent internal logic. The characters are not entirely uninteresting (the centaur in particular is entertainingly wacky) and there are some deeper issues touched on such as bigotry and in it's almost offensively absurd way, the challenges of interracial marriage.
The last three issues were not nearly as good as the first six due to the aforementioned harem cliches but they still occasionally made me laugh, and the first 6 were so off center and entertaining that I may look at a few more just to see if it picks up again.
Wacky adventures, doing good deeds, and fighting crime in the company of affectionate and basically decent monstrosities is far from the most squalid thing out there.
Do note though that while this is not actually an H-manga it is adult fare by most U.S. standards as there is a fair amount of toplessness.
Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Fri Jan 4 00:28:14 2013 (RqRa5)
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Fri Jan 4 00:31:17 2013 (pWQz4)
Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Fri Jan 4 01:26:03 2013 (RqRa5)
Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Fri Jan 4 01:53:04 2013 (vp6an)
Still a familiar formula, and all the current stories would transfer over with little change, but I think it would hold up a lot longer. The problem with making it a harem is that he can't tell in-depth stories about just one girl; for instance, I can't see him successfully doing something like the two Dullahan strips from the original.
Posted by: J Greely at Fri Jan 4 11:59:43 2013 (2XtN5)
The charm of the strips and the early issues here was that they characters were IN LOVE and were working to make their relationships work despite hurdles like different backgrounds and really sharp claws. The current harem dynamic ruins that because there really ought not to be any hesitation in his choice...he might be constricted but he ought not to be conflicted, otherwise he's a heel.
Now, he has inadvertently, legally, betrothed himself to the Centaur, and she will be ruined and there will be political ramifications if he doesn't choose not to divorce her..that adds dramatic (albeit silly) tension especially since she's a likeable loon. But beyond that the show will quickly loose the intimacy that initially made it charming.
Counter-intuitively, this current set-up could be salvaged if they'd add more...guys. Just have him do some more carpentry and turn happy hellspawn house into a Maison. Then have the strip focus on the misadventures of Monstergrrls of the month and boyfriend. This would allow a closer focus on the creaturettes, a wider variety of "audience identification characters" and it gets back to the idea of two people trying to make things work despite considerable engineering challenges.
Pitch it as Boys Be...but with twenty/thirty somethings and tentacles.
Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Fri Jan 4 18:14:09 2013 (vp6an)
Posted by: JT at Fri Jan 4 21:54:09 2013 (DY79H)
And to amp the raciness, we got to see what happens when Slime gets dehydrated. Suffice to say, she'll go after moisture...anywhere she can find it. It was a very hot day for the girls.
Posted by: ubu at Mon Jan 7 09:35:14 2013 (SlLGE)
Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Mon Jan 7 15:57:19 2013 (vp6an)
Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Mon Jan 7 19:12:40 2013 (RqRa5)
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