Archives for January 2017

Demon Prince of Momochi House Vols. 5 and 6

As I was trying to get caught up on this series one of the things that struck me about Demon Prince of Momochi House is that Aya Shouoto has developed a unique sensibility for the series. It manages to blend warm heartfelt moments about a found family (even if that family is a house of beautiful spirits) with moments of unsettling menace and a general lingering sense of unease due to the fact that as the human in Momochi house, a wrong decision by Himari might have profound consequences. The tension between these two themes is part of what makes reading this series so rewarding.

Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 5 by Aya Shouoto

One of the things I appreciate about manga series with an expanded cast of characters is the chance to delve into the motivations and feelings of characters who aren’t as central to the main story. This volume opens with a story centering on Yukari. The house is sweltering, but he seems to be unaffected. Yukari reveals that he used to be human, but this revelation isn’t followed up on very much as the gang decide to travel somewhere to escape the horrible weather. They visit a spring from Yukari’s past where the dragon god Ryujin used to be a guardian. There’s something wrong with the water though, and Yukari wonders if if it might be an indication of trouble for Ryujin. Himari is quick to jump in and offer to help. They call the god Ryujin and he takes Himari away. Aoi in his spiritual form as the Nue goes after her immediately. In the end, Yukari and Ryujin renew their connection and the found family in Momochi House feels as though it has expanded once again.

One thing I was intrigued by was the continuing presence of Aoi’s old childhood friend Hayato. His memories of the supernatural and Aoi were erased, but he continues to be a bit of a melancholy presence at school, and he does represent a possible friend for Yukari who isn’t tied to the supernatural world. He and Yukari get thrown together at school, but she ends up openly talking about her feelings with Aoi, and he denies thinking of her romantically.

Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 6 by Aya Shouoto

The next volume finds Yukari and Aoi dealing with the aftermath of her confession. She wakes up in the morning to a teenage girl’s worst nightmare as everyone at Momochi house knows that her feelings have been rejected. They start throwing a party to commemorate her rejection. Even school isn’t a refuge, as Hayato guesses what’s wrong and starts patting Yukari on the head in commiseration. There’s some distraction in the form of a new teacher, who looks suspiciously like Aoi, and who happens to have a mysterious mirror that sends Yukari into a dream of a mirror dimension comprised of her own thought projections and feelings.

Back at Momochi house, Aoi is distracted and Ayakashi are starting to pop up from all over. A giant malicious cat spirit who seems to be a bit emotionally fixated on Aoi moves in temporarily and sets up a number of tests designed to torment Yukari, except she sails through them with her usual good cheer and indefatigable work ethic.

While at times this manga seems like a series of short episodes, at the end of each volume the relationships between the characters have shifted, sometimes in a dramatic fashion and sometimes in more subtle ways. The mysterious ties of Aoi to Momochi house continue to make the reader feel uneasy for the young couple and intrigued to see their next adventures.

Sakura Hime Volumes 1-4

Sakura Hime Volumes 1-4 by Arina Tanemura

One of my reading goals over winter vacation was to make some headway into some of the series that I’ve been hoarding but not finishing. The main ones I’ve had around the house are 07-Ghost, Magi, and Sakura Hime. Since Sakura Hime is the shortest, I decided to start with that. Also, for someone that genuinely loves Arina Tanemura manga as much as I do, it is just plain weird that I haven’t finished the series before now. I didn’t reach my goal of reading the entire series during winter vacation but I hope to whittle away at it over the next couple months.

Sakura is a 14 year old princess from the moon who is engaged to Prince Oura, the son of the emperor. She is extrmely unhappy about her upcoming marriage. Hanging out in a tree in protest, she falls into the arms of Aoba, a handsome and obnoxious emissary who has come to escort her to her new husband. They immediately start bickering in that “I hate you because I’m secretly attracted to you!” way that so often happens in shoujo romance. And in a not very great surprise, Aoba is actually Oura.

Sakura and Aoba are fighting from the start, as he thinks that she has the potential to turn into an evil demon due to her moon heritage, while Sakura is determined to protect humans. Demons called youko attack Sakura if she looks directly at the moon, and she is able to manifest magical girl powers when she calls on the somewhat cranky sword Chizakura. One interesting aspect of this manga is that each character has a unique soul symbol that defines their lives. Sakura’s is “Destroy” which highlights the tension between her otherworldly nature and her desire to protect humanity. It also feeds into Aoba’s worries that Sakura is dangerous.

A large supporting cast is introduced at a quick pace in the first few volumes, including the tiny mononoke Asagiri, who is a companion to Sakura. Sakura is also joined by a spunky ninja protector named Kohaku, who has a companion frog named Hayate who is actually a handsome ninja boy with an unfortunate curse. The Priestess Byakura serves in the role of mystical advisor. Lord Fujimurasaki shows up to hint at love triangle possibilities, and just be generally fabulous with a tendency to compose random poems as commentary on whatever is happening around him.

One thing I was surprised about as the story unfolded is that the relationship between Aoba and Sakura ends up evolving greatly in the first few volumes, as based on patterns in other Tanemura series, I expected the “I hate you, no I love you” dynamic to continue for at least 6-7 volumes. Sakura grows in capabilities and confidence as she continues to reclaim her heritage as a princess from the moon. It wouldn’t be a Tanemura series if the heroine wasn’t spending a great deal of time stressing out over a man so since the situation with Aoba is quickly resolved, Sakura’s long-lost brother Enju appears and takes her away.

Tanemura does a good job juggling the character relationships with such a large cast, and in the first few volumes she has moments of levity balanced with some serious mystical creepiness. The moon is a creepy, creepy place. Sakura’s good human companions are balanced out by Enju’s followers, and I’m looking forward to the coming conflict in the rest of the series. I had to laugh when I was reading one of the authors’ notes, as Tanemura commented that she was using less screentone, and I have to say I can’t see it. The combination of historical setting, magical girl hijinks, and moon people ensures that all the flowing ribbons and fluttering flower petals that Tanemura fans would expect are present in this series. After reading the first few volumes, I’m enjoying it very much.