Sixteen-year-old Takamichi Hachioji is no ordinary teenage girl. Takamichi is a descendent of “Dark Hunters,” humans who hunt down demons that prey on the innocent. The Hachioji clan is an old family, steeped in tradition. One of those traditions are the jiu jiu, half-human, half-animal demon hunting partners. When she was thirteen, Takamichi’s father (and the clan’s current leader), gave her two newborn wolves to care for. Over the following three years, the wolves, named Snow and Night, grew fiercely loyal to their mistress who had taken them in and raised them. They also now have the power to transform into human form, taking on the appearance of teenage boys (of Takamichi’s age). Though they may look like teens, mentally they are still quite young. They frequently spend the night in Takamichi’s bed, completely nude, but perfectly innocent. Takamichi, who has lived a lonely life consumed by guilt over the death of her twin brother, doesn’t know how to deal with the unflinching devotion of Snow and Night, and frequently pushes them away, and even goes hunting without them. In order to spend more time with their mistress, Night and Snow, against her orders, enroll in her class at school. Somehow, they are always able to find her, driven by their desire to always be near her and protect her. Unfortunately, Takamichi doesn’t believe herself worthy of such devotion, and only wants to protect them from the darkness that envelops her. She doesn’t want to dirty their hands (or paws), share her sins with them, or destroy the innocence in them that she genuinely loves. Yet time and time again, Snow and Night track her down, interfere with her hunts, and insist on fighting at her side. They want to share her pain, her sins, to protect her and stay by her side to alleviate her loneliness. It takes some time, but eventually Takamichi realizes they only desire to protect her, like she wants to protect them. It’s still hard for Takamichi to accept them, however, as she has never tried to accept them as individuals before, or even tried to learn anything about them. A peek at Night’s journal opens up a whole new window into their simple thoughts and desires. Desires that go out of control during the full moon, which riles up feelings of jealousy inside of Snow, and causes him to lash out at Night. Takamichi must step in, quite literally, injuring herself in the process. Of course, the penalty for injuring one’s master is death, but Takamichi won’t let her jiu jiu be taken from her so easily.
Well, all right, it’s cute. And I want to like it. Unfortunately, it’s a mess. The panel layout and flow of dialog make this volume a difficult read. The art itself is fine (except the cover, which I know is supposed to be stylized, but man, that anatomy). Snow and Night are adorable, and Takamichi has some really fantastic expressions. But the general flow of everything is messy and hard to follow. Otherwise, while it would never make my favorites list (or any list, to be honest), it’s not a bad read. It did take me a while to figure out why Takamichi, who belongs to a family whose job is to kill demons that hurt innocent people, was so consumed with guilt, and felt her hands were stained with blood. Not many demon hunters are upset that they’re killing demons. Takamichi’s feelings come from a few things, first and foremost her brother’s death. Her brother was her entire world, and he died protecting her. This caused Takamichi to distance herself from everyone around her, not wanting to feel the pain of losing someone close to her ever again. Understandable, but it needs more development. It’s rather rushed through in this first volume, and feels “solved” all too quickly. Hopefully Tobina will find a balance between resolution and turmoil that will keep things interesting without having it become a repetitive cliché within the story. Then there’s Snow and Night. At first it’s a little disconcerting to see two fully grown teenage boys running around and sleeping in the same bed with Takamichi while completely nude. Mentally, they’re not very old. Except sometimes they are, like when the full moon incites some rather grown up desires in Snow with regards to his mistress. Again, it’s a balance that Tobina will need to keep, to prevent it from becoming creepy, or overused as a way to write off romantic angst. At least they’re really freakin’ cute, though there personalities could stand to be stronger as individuals. Night starts off feeling stoic, intelligent, and more mature than Snow. And that comes through a few scattered times, but it could be a stronger delineation. Jui Jiu has a long way to go to become a really interesting, stellar title, but there’s certainly plenty of potential.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.