Kekkaishi Vol. #04 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1-4215-0067-1
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Kekkaishi Vol. #04

By Jarred Pine     March 10, 2006
Release Date: February 21, 2006

Kekkaishi Vol.#04
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yellow Tanabe
Translated by:Yuko Sawada
Adapted by:

What They Say
Sibling rivalry surpasses the bounds of life and death itself when Yoshimori discovers secrets of a ghostly patissier's past life. The fraternal theme continues when Yoshimori's older brother Masamori returns to Karasumori. Everyone seems to respect and admire Masamori, but Yoshimori feels alienated and left out in the cold. All this and more ayakashi to catch and cakes to bake, what's a young kekkaishi to do?

The Review
One of my favorite manga titles coming out in English right now, Kekkaishi offers both touching, genuine relationships with a good bit of mystery behind the scenes.

The covers for Kekkaishi continue to be some of my favorites from VIZ and the entire English market. The colors are sharp and bright, and I like how Viz kept the Japanese logo down the middle, with the English title along the bottom. The print reproduction is adequate, with a few instances of moiré tones but the lines look very sharp. Unfortunately no color plates are included with the color pages. Extras include a 3-page “Mini Gaiden” which is a supplement story, as well as 6 pages of free talk from Tanabe covering Masamori, baking, and the kekkai-jutsu--always entertaining extras.

Artwork continues to just be consistently clean. Character designs are very soft and rounded, almost a retro type of appeal, with a solid use of facial expressions and body language that allows the characters to speak without words. Tanabe’s composition and panel layouts really serve the story well in this volume with all the mysterious elements happening. Everything is just really easy on the eyes and kept really clean.

SFX are translated with overlays, most of which look very nice. I am not familiar with the original text, but the translation reads very well and there is some effort made to keep the characters’ personalities intact, as well as the heightened mystery in the latter half of the volume. The terminology specific to the kekkai-jutsu remains intact with no localizations.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Sibling bonds can not only be ones that are strong with love, but also tenuous with rivalry and jealousy. Yellow Tanabe explores both sides here with an opening story that will touch your heart, and a more intriguing story that adds some more interesting elements to the world of the kekkaishi and Karasumori.

The first three chapters of this 4th volume is a nice little self-contained story featuring Yoshimura and our favorite deceased patissier, Masahiko, who has been hanging around the land of the living for far too long. His soul is uneasy, and even with counseling help from Mother-san, Director of the Smiling Psychic Counseling Center, Masahiko is not ready to move on. When spirits don’t move on to the next world, they usually end up causing problems. With Yoshimura’s and Mother-san’s help, Masahiko will finally be able to ease his soul that is filled with regret and guilt towards his younger brother, who is still a member of the living. It is a nice, easy story that ends up being quite touching, highlighting the casual pace as well as exploring other aspects of a kekkaishi’s daily life outside of spirit hunting.

Masahiko’s story serves as a nice little prelude for the rest of the book, as we explore the other side of sibling bonds--the rivalry! The Sumimura family gets a surprise visit from 21-year old Masamori, the oldest of the three Sumimura boys. Right off the bat, the introduction of Masamori is surrounded with a lot of mystery. It seems as though he has ties and affiliations with the Shadow Organization, a militant organization of jutsusha users that Grandpa Sumimura earlier referred to as “misfits”. There are already a lot of secrets surrounding the Shadow Organization from previous volumes, so to see Masamori makes his entrance this way adds a nice level of suspense to the story. We never clearly understand what his plans are, but I’m pretty sure Masamori will have a great impact on the story in the future.

While Masamori is visiting his family, his true goals seem to lie within the mysteries of Karasumori and checking the progress of his younger brother, Yoshimori. What is not clear is whether or not Masamori is there to make sure his brother is improving his kekkai-jutsu skills, or if he is there for observational purposes and collecting info for some other, unknown cause. You see, Masamori does not have the Hoin mark on his hand like Yoshimori, meaning his is not the rightful heir to the Sumimura clan. Now, do you remember in volume 2 that bit about how the Shadow Organization was formed and who was in it? Some very intriguing developments indeed.

Does Masamori hold his younger, rightful heir brother in contempt? Yoshimori on the other hand does not respect the tradition of the Hoin marking and honestly wishes to himself that his brother could have gotten it. Even though Masamori appears to be the better kekkai-jutsu user, looking quite impressive in action, he admits to Grandpa that Yoshimori is the more talented kekkaishi. This tension between the brothers seems to keep them apart, and Tanabe does it without words but instead uses a lot of body language and facial expressions that really keeps the readers on their toes about their relationship and what will come out of it in future volumes.

While reading the first three installments of Kekkaishi, I think I was trying to force the story to move at a pace I wanted, rather than letting the story come to me. So with a changed outlook, I went into this fourth volume ready to relax and enjoy the life and times of a kekkaishi. The first 3-part, self-contained story was definitely much more enjoyable in this mindset, as it providing a nice, simple yet touching story about brotherly bonds.

When the next story kicked in, I was then taken by surprise by the elements of the Shadow Organization and developments surrounding Yoshimori’s older brother, Masamori, coming into play and immediately getting me excited. Sibling rivalry is a common theme in shounen manga, but Yellow Tanabe keeps the idea fresh here by not letting the story become standard fare, keeping the focus on the Sumimura family and this holy site, Karasumori. While there are lots of mysterious developments in the background, the story is about two brothers and their feelings of jealously, admiration, and bitter rivalry towards each other.

Tanabe also does a great job with clean artwork and nice compositions that add to the whole mysterious atmosphere, letting the characters show more on their face than what is said with words. At the end of the volume there is a lot of intrigue and possibilities for where the story will go, and I’m very much looking forward to it. This is definitely my favorite volume in the series so far.


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