Momogumi Senki Plus Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Erin Jones
Review Date: Friday, October 23, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, August 04, 2009

For all the zeal and energy it has, this volume fails at anything regarding the actual characters.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Eri Sakondo
Translation: Aimi Tokutake
Adaptation: Rachel Brown

What They Say
After transferring to a new school, Yuki, a disaster-attracting young student, is told that he is actually the reincarnation of Momotaro from Japanese folklore. What's worse, he was cursed by demons in his previous life! And if he doesn't break the curse, he will die on the day he turns 18. But when he goes out to kill these demons, he discovers that he doesn't have to kill them to break his curse. He only needs to provide them with a little demon therapy!

The Review!
Technical:
Continuing with the TokyoPop packaging trend as of late, this volume is brought down by decidedly poor paper quality that lets you see through a page to the other side.  Thankfully, the cover design itself is quite nice.  The front features an attractive (albeit somewhat misleading) picture of Yuuki with his arm around Yukishiro, holding his sword.  The colors are eye-catching as well, without being too loud, and the back cover, which has yet another shot of the same two characters, also looks decent.  Nothing is really amiss with the translation, except that the majority of the sound effects remain untranslated.  In one particular frame a piece of handwritten speech is also left untranslated, which is pretty unforgivable.  Japanese honorifics, however, are retained in their original form.

The art for this series is, in a word, pretty.  The characters are all attractive, with large eyes and cute school uniforms, and, for the three guardians, interesting “awakening” masks.  Lines are sharp and not too thick, and the artist has a fairly good sense of how to construct panel layouts to pace the moments correctly.  Although the author notes she’s never had a major female character in any of her past series, many of the most striking panels feature Yukishiro, whose wings and long hair are dramatically illustrated whenever the chance is given.  Fight scenes, although sometimes confusing, are well-illustrated when compared to the average shoujo manga (which, granted, isn’t saying much).  However, the one thing that constantly distracted me were the SDs, which are the least attractive ones I can remember seeing in a manga.  Sure, they’re not supposed to be pretty, but these are ugly enough to actually be distracting.

Content:
Disaster has always followed Yuuki no matter where he’s gone.  Falling down stairs, moving to the wrong town, being mistaken for a pervert during his overly-long morning train ride--he’s pretty much done it all, and lost all his friends as a result of the damage that the inevitably receives.  So the only thing unusual about a baseball flying through the school window at our hero is that a girl jumps out and saves him, before she and two other male classmates introduce themselves as Yuuki’s guardians. He is none other, they say, than the reincarnation of the hero Momotaro, and they are the reincarnation of the three members of the zodiac who are sworn to protect him.  They can even explain his “disaster attraction syndrome”--Momotaro was cursed by demons, and as his reincarnation, Yuuki is stuck with the fallout.  What’s worse, if he doesn’t defeat all the demons that cursed Momotaro before he turns eighteen, he’ll die.

There’s no denying that this story has been told (in some form or another) before; reincarnated people pop up regularly in manga, as do people who must do X before a certain date or face death.  However, few of them can hope to have the zest that the first volume of Momogumi Plus Senki does.  Classic Japanese myths are hacked and slashed to bits and provided in “ruthlessly abbreviated” form to the readers, and then given ridiculous twists.  Demons seem to be capable of reincarnated only as attractive high school boys, and the reincarnation of the old couple who adopted Momotaro… Well, it’s not hard to see coming, but it’s still good for some laughs.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm can’t make up for everything.  With the speed at which this series rushes ahead, there’s no room left over for character development.  Yukishiro really, really likes Yuuki and has a tendency to nosebleed when she thinks of him, Yuuki just wants friends, and Masahiko acts like a stereotypical Golden Retriever.  With such shallow characters, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the befriending of the demons, which should have at least some emotional impact, is just boring.  Normally I would applaud an author for putting off the obvious romance; for all of what the book cover and at least one chapter cover suggest, Yuuki and Yukishiro go absolutely nowhere.  In this case, though, it would have provided a chance for an emotion to be displayed that didn’t come off as manufactured.  If the author wants me to care about whether Yuuki has friends or the Green Demon’s feelings are hurt because people are making fun of his underwear, she’s going to have to try a lot harder.

In Summary:
There’s no denying that Momogumi Plus Senki has some promise.  None of the characters are loathsome, though all are undeveloped, the plot provides the opportunities for some laughs, and the creator has no problem with jumping maybe a little too quickly into the action.  However, while the she has a decent grasp on the wacky high-school-comedy-meets-Japanese-demon-hunting story that she wants to tell, she doesn’t do much of anything with the characters or their relationships.  When you consider that the whole story is about character relationships, that’s a pretty big shortcoming.  Again, there’s some promise that things will deepen, as the volume closes with foreshadowing for a deeper plot, and we’re unlikely to go much further in this series before the obvious romantic pairing gets more focus, but there’s no telling whether the series will deliver on it or not.



Mania Grade: C+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: C
Text/Translation Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 10.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-1427815620
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Momogumi Plus Senki