Friday, June 1, 2012

Manga Review - Tokimeki Mononoke Jogakkou

A slight shift in the usual material here to review some of the manga I've been reading. A nice little yuri manga with an unwieldy translated title is Heart-Pounding Excitement at Mononoke Girls' Academy (Tokimeki Mononoke Jogakkou), by Banana Nangoku. Yep, that's definitely a yuri title. The story is simple enough: a human girl slips into the youkai (fantasy creature) world and has to pretend to be a youkai schoolgirl, and there she falls for a nekomata (supernaturally powerful cat) girl.

Schoolgirl Arare jokes that she's a "rain-woman" because it often rains around where she lives, and one rainy day she decides to cut through the graveyard, only to get lost in the youkai dimension through a rain-generated portal. She's mistaken for a transfer student, and she pretends to be a rain-woman youkai to keep the youkai from raping and/or eating her. Her dormmates Kiri, a nekomata, and Pero, an akaname (long-tongued girl who licks up filth), find out she's human and agree to keep her secret. As the only male youkai are unattractive old men, lesbian affairs are common amongst the youkai girls, but Kiri warns her that if she were to kiss a youkai with her "bottom mouth", she would transform into that species of youkai.

After a series of misadventures, mostly involving her secret being threatened, Arare realizes she's attracted to Kiri. Kiri likes her back, but she doesn't want to become lovers because in the heat of the moment, Arare could become a nekomata and never be able to go home. Arare has an insightful discussion with Akina, an amanojaku (mind-reading deceitful demon) who used to be human and chose to transform for her lover. Akina warns her that there is always a risk of being found out and in the best-case-scenario raped and transformed into a youkai she didn't choose (and it can be inferred that it would be one of a malicious nature), so Akina suggests she choose to be with her lover and become a nekomata.

As Akina concludes the discussion looking at her hungrily, Arare decides there's a real danger and goes to Kiri to be transformed. Kiri is delighted, but she becomes offended upon learning that Arare only wants to be a nekomata for safety and not romance, and she refuses to transform her. About this time, a portal transports Arare home--with Pero accompanying her. Human world air is poisonous to young youkai, so Kiri has to rescue her with the help of Harami, a kudan (half-cow-woman whose lower half is a cow). Arare then gets to choose either staying in the human world or leaving with Kiri. Fortunately, she accidentally rips a hole in the fabric of reality (literally), ensuring a permanent portal. Arare then makes a symbolic marriage proposal where Kiri will come join her in the human world once she's old enough to breathe the air, and until then Arare will live in both worlds.

It's a cute manga that doesn't take itself too seriously. All of the characters are likable, which is something when you consider that half the cast is evil. What's most interesting is the assortment of youkai featured. It's clear that the author has a thing for mythology.

I like the romance. It's pretty sweet. Something of note is that in the middle of a setting where the threat of rape is constant, the manga manages to present a romance with both characters equally into each other without any rape or Kiri pressuring Arare into sex at all. As the author notes, Arare's surprised to find she likes girls, but she accepts it quickly and most of the conflict is then based on being different species.

I don't know how to judge the ecchi, as I don't feel attraction to vanilla sex. As a nightmare fetishist, I found the threats of rape a bit hot, especially when Akina is warning Arare about youkai wanting to rape/eat her and proceeds to demonstrate that fact. That part's amusing too because of a joke where Akina has trouble not stating the exact opposite of what she means. Arare, dear, when she's licking her lips and looking at you like a snack, it means wanting to rape/eat you is what she's telling the truth about.

I actually found the minor character Akina fairly fascinating. As a human lost in the youkai dimension, she managed to fall for an amanojaku, who would instinctively try to maliciously deceive her, and she chose to become a fellow amanojaku to be with her. As two amanojaku, they can't tell each other how they feel about each other and have to rely on body language during sex. Upon detecting Arare, she fights back her desire to rape/eat her and gives her advice. And why isn't the manga about Akina, again?

Another thing I liked was how the author managed to present Pero as cute despite being a creature most likely dreamed up for a gross-out. She licks the bath and other things clean of organic residue and is really useful. That kind of symbiotic relationship between a human and an odd alien character is enjoyable.

Even though it's a silly comedy, I wish it treated some dangers a bit more seriously. The youkai have only Arare's word that she's a rain-woman, and she still smells like a tasty human. In one chapter, the students demand that she make it rain, which she gets through with dumb luck making the rain unnecessary in their eyes. That kind of thing is a constant threat to exposure. When it rains naturally, she should take credit. The hole in the fabric of reality? It allows human-eating youkai to access the human world (in Arare's house with her mom!) and is steadily leaking deadly gas into the youkai world. Why isn't everyone freaking out about this?

And the time dilation stuff is a bit weird. Arare spends a long time (weeks?) in the youkai world and only a few minutes pass in the human world. And then the hole gets ripped, and it looks like things are now synced up. At least, Harami is able to glance back through the hole and see Arare and Kiri looking back at her. So, now that Arare's going to the youkai world for school, she's skipping human world school? If there is a time dilation still, then wouldn't a day she spends in the human world be like a decade in the youkai world? That's a long time for Kiri to go without seeing her lover. For that matter, Kiri indicates that the youkai are already hundreds of years old, so Arare would have to use the time dilation to age alongside Kiri. Depending on how much time she spends in the youkai world, she might grow old in the human world much sooner that people would expect.

I know, I know; don't overthink it. It just bugs me.

In general, though, it's a fun story worth a read. Not very much content for more than one, though.

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