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December 28, 2009

Bento Bako Weekly: Utahime The Songstress

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Written by: Kristin
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utahimeTitle: Utahime The Songstress
Author: Aki
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing, on their main line.
Volumes: Just this one, at $12.95; unfortunately it’s only a one-shot.
Vintage: 2006 in Japan, early 2009 from DMP.

This book is gorgeous.  I don’t know any other way to put it.  The art is suitably perfect for the story being told.  And it’s a really lovely story to boot.  The book’s only real fault is that it’s simply too short, particularly the bonus story, “Darika,” at the end.  There’s more story to tell, and it’s rather disappointing that that’s all there is.

In Utahime, there is an ancient kingdom that for centuries has been governed by a particular, unchanging tradition.  Every ruler of the kingdom has been a male, and every ruler always gives birth to a male heir; the line of rulers has passed on this way, unchanging.  Throughout the kingdom, aiding the ruler, is a network of utahime, or songstresses.  Every night, in their village, the songstresses sing a song of protection for the land.  All of the songstresses are female, and they give birth to daughters, who carry on this duty.  Males are born, on rare occasions, but the abilities of a songstress have always been hereditary through the females.  Until now.  For the first time, a male songstress has been born.  This shakes the very foundations that the kingdom has been built on, so his presence is a secret.  Born with a twin sister, Kain performs her duties as the true songstress, and only his keeper, the village chief Thomas, knows the truth.

Thomas talks about Kain in Utahime.

Thomas talks about Kain in Utahime. As usual, click to enlarge, and read from right to left.

This is a beautiful and sad story of a pair of siblings trapped by tradition and law.  The bulk of the story takes place in the past, while Kain’s mother is the songstress and his sister, Maria, is next in line.  Thomas, a few years older than they, but still a child, stumbles upon them in the forest, and becomes their friend.  Maria takes to him quickly, but Kain distrusts him and every villager, convinced they all want to use his mother and sister, and that they are little more than parasites.  They live happily, until they start to learn the truth behind the lives of songstresses, and the truth about themselves.

The bonus story, “Darika,” tells a story about a young man named Roy, who attends a prestigious government school.  He is given a special assignment to monitor beings known as “Darika,” artificially created humans that are an attempt to recreate the “child of god.”  The original “child of god” brought enlightenment to the people of the land, but died.  Humans attempted to recreate this being, but all that was born was a demon.  They have now developed a being called Darika, which they recreate over and over, and eliminate when it fails to generate their desired outcome.  It is Roy’s job to watch each new Darika, monitor his progress, and kill the failures.  But as Roy gets to know the newest Darika, he begins to question his orders.

Expect to see more of DMP‘s unique titles popping up in my reviews.  I think you’ll find some very interesting things to read.  Hope everyone had a great Christmas!




  1. The plot sounds very similar to Dune where Paul Atredies is the first ever male Bene Gesserit who later becomes the Kwisatz-Haderach.

    …I realize I probably was just speaking Greek to most people.

    : )

  2. Looks more Germanic in origin to me. 🙂
    But yeah, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  3. billy

    Dune = waste of time. lol

  4. InfiniteSpeech

    Andy I was thinking the EXACT same thing as I read it. I take it you’re a Dune fan?

    Billy…why do we keep you around again? How dare you mock Dune lol

  5. It’s ok Speech- Dune is too dense of a read for Billy to take in. That’s why he sticks to just these here funny books!

    (and yes, I’m a HUGE Dune fan!!)

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