Sep 19, 2019
tl;dr: A series with the same world being looked at from the perspective of several very different characters with strong mysteries and good romance.
This was a series with a very interesting set of characters and what essentially felt like three different overlapping worlds that the three pairs of main characters, (Shinobu/Yukari, Uchimaku/Enbi, and Mai/Sunekkosuri) lived in.
Shinobu for the most part, at least at first, seems to be a pretty standard high school student. A highly competent one sure, but still pretty average. His stories start with things around that level, and have an especial focus on him and his relationships with various Youkai, particularly the Zashiki-Warashi Yukari.
Things escalate quite a bit, ultimately making him the central protagonist of the entire series, and it turns out he’s more competent than he seems at first, but in the end it very much is the story of a high school student, and good one at that. He has a really good personality, one that has enough of the standard shounen protagonist commitment to justice, but also enough quirks and issues to make him amusing. His relationship with Yukari is especially amazing in how it gets built up slowly, both in current stories, flashbacks, etc. with lots of cute moments due to the fact that it has Shinobu at various ages but Yukari doesn’t age, and ultimately this relationship comes to a beautiful conclusion that I was overall very satisfied with.
Uchimaku’s stories were heavily centered around the police, and hence had the elements of crime dramas in them. His personality is very different from Shinobu, in that he also has a very strong commitment to justice, but one that’s more realistic and based on faith in institutions than the more simplistic and hotblooded justice that Shinobu possesses. He’s also more straight laced and has fewer quirks than Shinobu. However, that makes his interactions with Enbi, who is absolute ridiculous more amusing and allows both of them to stand out. The relationship between the two ultimately didn’t progress much and wasn’t really much of a focus in the end, but where things end up in the end for Uchimaku and Enbi is pretty much perfect and a very satisfying ending for them in an amusing way.
Mai was strange in that she felt the least developed in a sense, in part due to how in her portions the side characters related to her ended up getting focused on quite a bit and ended up the most developed of the side characters. Opposite to Shinobu who seemed to appear a lot more competent as the series went on, it felt like Mai started out feeling like some immortal entity that no one could match but ended feeling much more approachable.
These three protagonists were at very different levels and had very different personalities so they each looked at the same fictional world quite differently. The core essence of this series is mysteries related to Youkai, where they need to determine what Youkai is the issue, determine how to prevent it from causing said issue, and then implement a scheme to break down the package. However, due to the difference in protagonists this would happen in very different ways. Each volume was often focused on a single set of Youkai across the three characters, either with each facing them together as one long problem or it being a set of shorter stories with them each facing the same or similar Youkai separately. But each faced it from a very different angle, which felt like it added a lot of depth and breadth to the fictional world the author created, and ultimately resulted in the world building and related mysteries being incredibly solid.
The overarching story felt kind of weak at times though, especially towards the end, wherein the author even admitted in an afterward that they were somewhat coming up with things on the fly so it shouldn’t be too unexpected for it to feel like things were contradictory or being retconned, but there were some pacing issues too in that considering the first major villain took so long to build up to, the next one arriving immediately after from a completely new direction felt too abrupt. Still, the ending itself was handled amazingly well in how it pulled together things from all over the series with its various stories that often felt unrelated to each other to combine them in one very satisfying, albeit messy, conclusion.
I also want to note that the writing style was really good. Not just in terms of the fan translation being solid, but it felt like the core writing that the translation was based on was shining through very well such as in terms of how the author was choosing what to describe in a scene, the moment to moment pacing in terms of having random events that didn't add much to the story but were amusing and helped with atmosphere, the various symbolism, etc. The description of the Youkai and their involvement also felt very researched and gave them a lot of depth. Lastly, I would also like to note that the art is amazing, and the focus on small things that seemingly don’t matter but showed off the characters really well was appreciated.
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