I give this short manga about cute girls befriending giant monsters...a 71/100.
Some anime/manga creators think slapping cute girls in their works will automatically make it popular. That's not entirely true. Cute girls alone can't carry an entire story, and any writer that tried it wound up meeting the business end of failure. That's why the moe genre tends to be universally hated in various places. But in recent years, some works have actually made efforts to put out moe anime/manga that actually do have genuinely good stories and characters. Girls Last Tour made a premise of two blobby girls exploring the end of the world
and contemplating the nature of life and their own existence work really well. Non Non Biyori told a series of slice-of-life vignettes about a group of friends living in the countryside, and it got wildly popular to the point where it has a third season confirmed. Laid-Back Camp had a very intense focus on camping and teaching the audience the wonders of the great outdoors, and A Place Further Than The Universe cared much more about characterization and really exploring what an actual trip to Antarctica would actually be like, both of which received high praise. So, yeah, moe alone isn't going to make a story work. As such, others have tried to follow in their footsteps, one of them being a manga I discovered recently, Monster Tamer Girls.
Monster Tamer Girls first got serialized in the magazine Manga Time Kirara, which generally focuses on moe manga and was the origin point for a lot of works such as K-On!, Kiniro Mosaic, Is The Order a Rabbit, Sansha Sanyou, and many others. The story takes place in a modern world where humans have learned to coexist alongside large monsters, which can apparently be tamed when a young girl sings to one. A young girl, Ion Hidaka, was chosen by her school to help take care of a large, Godzilla-like monster alongside her friend Sora, even though she's scared of monsters. But she is genuinely curious about Tamers, as when she was younger, an older girl saved her from a rampaging monster by singing to it. While not the ideal situation, Ion does the best she can in her new situation, and hopes to maybe find the girl who helped her out...who may be closer than she thinks.
As much as I want to like this manga more than I do, there's a lot holding it back, one of which is its worldbuilding. It's established that monsters originally threatened humanity, but SOMEHOW, voices of young girls are able to subdue them and make them tame by way of singing, so young girls are trained to tame monsters. This raises so many questions that really don't get answered: How the hell would this even work? Do monsters just respond better to women in general? Do young girls have a special set of vocal chords that have properties that can resonate with the monster? (Say what you will about Symphogear, which I hate as a show, but it at least went to the trouble to establish an actual explanation for why singing helps to fight against and defeat the monsters of the week!) Why do only young middle school girls have to be tamers? The latter especially doesn't have much of an answer, though I can only presume this is so the mangaka can have some kind of excuse to shove cute girls into the plot, completely unaware of all the plot holes and questions they raised with the premise alone. I mean, don't get me wrong, the premise is interesting to me, seeing as I'm a fan of shows such as Pokemon, Digimon, and any kind of show that features kids befriending monsters, and some parts of the show's setting are very intriguing and well set up. But often times it feels like the author just shoved cute girls into this setting instead of trying to work towards making it work and flesh out other parts of the story and setting.
For the art, it's about as typical moe as one can get. The girls all look cute and adorable, even the adults, though the men look relatively realistic. But for the girls, it kind of suffers from everybody looking the same, to the point where if you swapped their hair and eye colors around, you wouldn't be able to tell the characters apart, which is something that, unfortunately, many moe manga are notorious for. Furthermore, the manga uses a lot of very thin lines and gray color schemes, without a whole lot of prominent whites or blacks, which makes everything feel rather muted, reinforcing just how indistinguishable the girls are if you switched their hair and eyes around. Even the background art is very simple, with thin pencil lines and gray shadows. There's not much about the art that really pops, other than the monster designs, which are much more detailed and distinct, but not overpoweringly so.
Adding onto the characters, the girls do have one or two basic traits, so they're not exactly the most well-rounded or fleshed out. Ion's the shy, scared girl who learns to like monsters and has a special gift because the protag absolutely HAS to have one, Sora is a tomboyish girl who loves to eat, Kotomi is the snarker who likes getting on her friend's nerves, so on and so forth. They're not bad or anything, but they don't really stand out, so they're rather bland. I liked them all okay, but personally, I feel the Committee Chair girl, Tsukiko, is the most interesting and the best character. She starts off as a serious, stoic girl who oversees Sora and Ion's activities and isn't kind of indifferent to monsters, but actually really, really likes monsters to the point where she wishes she could be a Tamer and goes googly squeally over them. Plus, she and her friend Kotomi bounce off each other pretty well and have good chemistry.
The manga is only two volumes long, so it's a fairly short read. I kind of wish there were more volumes, because not only are there still a lot of unanswered questions about the story and the world these girls live in, I actually do want to read more of this story and learn more. But we only get a small portion of what feels like a much bigger story, and there was one subplot that seemed like needless filler to me. A few chapters involve Ion meeting this little girl named Nonoka, who it turns out is an astral projection only she can see. The real Nonoka is in a coma because of some really rare disease with no name, and there's no explanation for why she's a spirit and why only Ion can see her. Later, she wakes up from her coma and nothing about her storyline is ever given any resolution or explanation whatsoever. What was even the point of this, and what purpose did it serve? To me, this subplot added nothing to the story, and the author could have used these chapters to further flesh out the already present cast of characters and the world they live in.
I feel kind of bad for dunking on this manga, because for what it has to offer, I actually did like it. It's nothing special or noteworthy, but it's a cute little time killer for if you want to read something short, sweet, and harmless.