Yurara Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 8.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1-4215-1350-1
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Yurara

Yurara Vol. #01

By Ben Leary     January 25, 2008
Release Date: June 30, 2007


Yurara Vol.#01
© Viz Media


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Chika Shiomi
Translated by:JN Productions and Heidi Vivolo
Adapted by:JN Productions and Heidi Vivolo

What They Say
Yurara is a high school student who has been able to see ghosts since she was a child. One day, a ghost tries to attack her at school! Two handsome classmates, Mei and Yakou, step in to help - and it turns out that they have special powers to protect people from ghosts! The next time that Yurara is attached by a ghost, she transforms into a beautiful lady with long black hair, and is able to dispel the spirit of the ghost herself!

The Review
The school comedy and the supernatural drama form a decent, but not problem-free, alliance in a professional Shojo Beat package.

Packaging:
If you've read any Shojo Beat titles before you know what to expect here. The front cover is a collection of the three leads in a glossy style I don't really care for. I think their hair is meant to look shiny, but actually it just makes them look like they're prematurely greying. The reverse cover has just a portrait of Yurara in her spirit guardian form (where's her normal form?) complete with write-up, Shojo Beat logo at the top, and the Viz logo, age rating, and bar code along the bottom. The paper is the usual quality, but the printing is oddly off. The most noticeable offenders are the black patches, which often have white flecks coming through from being printed inadequately. (There are a few instances that seem to be a deliberate effect in the original art, but it comes up too often in normal scenes for me to think it was intended most of the time.) But the lettering and character art come off fine, so there aren't a lot of obvious distractions.

There are no end-of-the-book extras, but there is one insert four-panel strip in each chapter, so I'll deal with them here for the sake of convenience. These are all quite funny scenes drawn from the author's real life events, and are one of the real highlights of the book. They're so good I wish the artist would do a whole collection so that I could read a bunch of them all together.

Artwork:
The art here is nice, slick, work that has the polished look of an experienced professional. Character designs are attractive and varied so that you never have difficulty telling the characters apart. The "special effects" scenes with the ghosts have the right kind of oomph. The artist also has a really fantastic talent for comedy. There's one technique in particular I found myself loving: at certain key moments of humour, the characters' appearances and even clothes will change to a cartoonish exaggeration of what's going on, and then switch back in the next panel to show the real world consequences. For example, in one scene Yurara becomes angry at one of the boys. Both characters are suddenly wearing army uniforms and Yurara is blazing away at him with a machine gun as he retreats in disorder. It's a hilarious twist on the usual comic exaggeration, and easily my favourite feature in this category.

Text/SFX:
As per usual for a Viz title, the sound effects have been retouched and translated into English. Text is clear and free from the print problems that affect some of the art, and distraction-free as well. The translation reads perfectly.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The back cover of Yurara bills it as a "supernatural romantic thriller". But it really owes more to the traditional ghost story than it does to the sort of thing suggested by the term "supernatural thriller". The emphasis is on understanding the ghosts' problems in order to lay them to rest rather than the display of supernatural powers - though, of course, those do exist. There's also very little romantic content in the first volume, but the ingredients of a love triangle are introduced right away and I shall be very surprised if this is not developed in the next installments.

The first volume begins and ends on strong notes. Our heroine is just starting high school, and has the power to see the spirits of the dead and sometimes sense their emotions. It turns out that the classroom she's assigned to has two good-looking boys who can also see ghosts, only they can fight the spirits as well as see them. One of them can be a real goofball, so between him and Yurara's nervousness the comic relief gets taken care of. So what we end up with is a cross between a series of ghost stories and a school comedy. And so far they haven't quite blended.

There's nothing wrong with comic relief in general, and there's no reason you can't have serious and comic elements in the same story - a lot of good books have succeed at that. But sometimes a story can leave you wondering whether it's supposed to be a comedy with serious subject matter as a foil for the laughs, or a serious dramatic story with comic relief. That's how Yurara strikes me. I find myself laughing at the very well done comedy scenes more than I'm moved by the troubles of the ghosts. And I get the impression it was supposed to be the other way around.

There's something else that worries me, though it hasn't been a problem yet, and that's the school setting. Firstly, the school setting hasn't really added anything to the material beyond bringing the three main characters together. Apart from that the stories might take place anywhere, really. And you have to wonder how many ghosts the school can actually support at one time. The final story (the best of the lot) takes us off the school grounds and is all the better for it. Hopefully this will lead to more "outside" stories from here on out, which is something the series could use.

On the other hand, the material is far from bad. I've been dwelling on the negative aspects up to now because those are the ones that are harder to explain. When the series works, it works in a solid, straightforward way. As I said before, comedy was the real strong suit in my book, so much so that sometimes I almost wish the artist had drawn two separate series, one serious supernatural drama, one oddball slice-of-life comedy. All the same the final chapter is very good and comes the closest to achieving a real balance between the elements, so there's no reason this can't get better over the course of the next couple of volumes. It also succeeds at evoking some genuine human sympathy. And that's something you don't see every day.

Comments
So to sum it all up, Yurara is a manga that's a bit better than average, but hints at being able to become much better later on. Obviously fans of supernatural stories and high school hijinks will be more likely to give this a look, but this shows just enough promise to be worth taking a chance on.

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