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August 25, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Nabari no Ou 1 & Sumomomo, Momomo 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Today is another double short review day, this time with some Yen Press titles.  Last time I doubled up on Yen Press books, we looked at the demon Black Butler, and the ghosts of Time and Again.  Today, ninjas are the theme.  Or, at least, martial artists, with the first volumes of shinobi action/drama title Nabari no Ou and the romantic comedy Sumomomo, Momomo.

Title: Nabari no Ou
Author: Yuhki Kamatani
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $10.99
Vintage: 2004 by Square Enix in Japan, 2009 by Yen Press
Genre: Ninja, action, comedy, drama

What happens when the most powerful shinobi in the world is the most apathetic indifferent kid on the planet?  Total chaos, apparently.  Fourteen-year-old Miharu Rokujou lives a carefree life of total apathy.  He also holds within him the Secret Art, Shinra Banshou.  Whoever controls Shinra Banshou is the Nabari no Ou, or the king of the hidden world of shinobi.  English teacher Tobari Kumohira wants Miharu to join the school’s nindou club with fellow student Koichi Aizawa, and learn martial arts and ninjutsu.  Of course, as shinobi themselves, their goal is to teach Miharu what he needs to protect himself, and keep an eye on him as well.  Completely disinterested, it takes an attack from the Grey Wolves of Iga (one of the ninja clans after Shinra Banshou) to convince Miharu that anything about the world of shinobi is true.  Shinra Banshou, which is extremely powerful, very dangerous, and difficult to control, can grant any desire of its wielder, so it is greatly desired by the other ninja clans.  Tobari and Koichi, of then Banten shinobi, vow to protect Miharu, but they can’t do it alone.  They are soon joined by the young samurai Raimei Shimizu of the Fuuma, who leads them to Fuuma Village to ask for aid of Kotarou Fuuma.  But when they arrive, they find a nasty surprise waiting for them – a young wielder of the Kira forbidden art, which uses the user’s own life force to destroy an opponent from the inside.

Nabari no Ou is far better than I was expecting.  It’s well drawn, and Miharu is absolutely just the cutest thing.  His indifferent personality combined with a devilish ability to act innocent and cute and wrap anyone around his finger, create an interesting character that otherwise might not make sense (ie: a lead with total disinterest in everything around him).  The fiery Raimei is a good contrast to the composed Koichi, and the lecherous Kotarou is a nice balance to the often quite serious Tobari.  The characters (specifically Tobari and Raimei in volume 1) each seem to have their own motivations for involving themselves with Miharu, and also some mysterious pasts that they work hard to keep from revealing to the others.  A huge battle is about to erupt in the hidden world of the shinobi, that is sure to cross over into the normal world, and Miharu is at the center of it all.  A preview at the end of the volume suggests that Miharu may be developing an interest in the dangerous Kira user Yoite.  There was an anime made of the series in 2008, which has since been licensed and released by FUNimation.

Title: Sumomomo, Momomo (Ah, that’s a mouthful!)
Author: Shinobu Ohtaka
Volume: Volume 1 (of 13), $10.99
Vintage: 2005 by Square Enix in Japan, 2009 by Yen Press
Genre: Action, romantic comedy

High school girl Momoko Kuzuryuu is the only child of the head of the Kuzuryuu martial artists clan.  Because she is a girl, her father fears she will never be strong enough to lead the clan on her own.  Therefore, she has been engaged from an early age to Koushi Inuzuka, son of the head of the Inuzuka clan, so that the two of them with all their power can create the world’s strongest children.  Unfortunately, while Momoko fully embraces her destiny, Koushi feels the way of martial arts is outdated in this modern age, and has given up his training in favor of studying to become a prosecutor.  But as assassins from other clans start appearing to kill Koushi, to prevent the marriage and the resulting peace it will create between the twelve martial arts clans, he begins to realize that he can’t escape this violent world.  Koushi, however, is weak and unable to fight, but fortunately he knows how to manipulate Momoko into fighting his battles for him, and she is all too willing to kick some serious ass.

Oh, Sumomomo, Momomo, let’s count all the things that are wrong here.  Well, let’s start with what’s right.  It’s amusing, fast paced, and the art, though messy at times, fits well with the comedic style.  Now for what’s wrong.  Seventeen-year-old Momoko is drawn much younger, and is exactly the sort of drawn character that gets people in trouble (imagine a nearly naked 12-year-old doing her best to seduce you).  Her panties flash regularly, she is constantly trying to have sex with Koushi, and her boobs are nearly popping out on occasion.  Now let’s pretend we’re all feminists for a moment.  Momoko can’t inherit the full powers of her clan because she is a girl, she lives to give birth to Koushi’s child, and you can bet that despite her sometimes childish and tomboyish appearance, she’s drawn sexy when it counts.  It’s all sorts of ridiculous, though it’s clearly meant to be, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Still, some of the gender role stuff isn’t easy to ignore.  At least Koushi starts to grow a spine during the volume, which is promising for his path in the story.

Friday we’ll look at the upcoming volume 32 of Bleach.




  1. Twitter Trackbacks…

  2. […] Home (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Ken Haley on vol. 1 of Knights (Sequential Ink) Kristin on vol. 1 of Nabari no Ou and vol. 1 of Sumomomo, Momomo (Comic Attack) Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 2 of Panic x Panic (I Reads You) Caddy C. on vol. 21 of […]

  3. Jade

    Ha, I kept reading Sumomomo, Momomo thinking, ‘Teehee, this is so goofy, I love it!’ Midway into the second volume it hit me, ‘Wait. This is just plain bad! What was i thinking?’ I think the mangaka would like to do a story like this straight, but didn’t think their art was competent enough to do more than a gag book, so it ends up as both a weak tribute to misogynistic fight manga and a weak satire of misogynistic fight manga.

    Nabari no Ou sounds kind of neat, but I really can’t stand apathetic leads, I’m sick of them. Main Character, I didn’t buy your book to hear you whine and complain and try your hardest to make the book not interesting for me to read. I bought your book specifically to see you get into these situations you keep throwing stupid hissies about being situated in! Seriously Kris, it’s like buying a litter box and finding out a special bonus feature makes the box complain about your cat in an apathetic voice and scoop the cat poop onto your floor!

  4. Kristin

    Heh, yeah, I really was not much impressed with Sumomomo, Momomo.

    But as for Nabari…it’s more complex than that. His apathy is a sort of defense mechanism. You learn later on that he does it to protect people. Miharu’s major problem is that within him is the power to grant any desire…but he doesn’t have any. He’s totally content in his life. Until he meets Yoite. It’s Yoite’s plight that gets Miharu to finally take action.
    He doesn’t sit around and whine about things, either. This is a typical scene:
    Tobari-sensei: You have to join the Nindou club to learn how to protect yourself! There are people after you!
    Miharu: (makes a super cute, innocent face) But sensei, aren’t YOU after me?
    (Tobari-sensei looks on, dumbstruck, as Miharu makes his escape with a devilish grin)
    He’s also not totally helpless.
    There’s a scene in the manga where he comes to the Nindou club and tells Tobari and Koichi that he’s been practicing the mist breath technique, and with a totally lit up face of innocent excitement, tells them he wants to show them. So out comes the mist, and it’s impressive, but when it clears, Miharu has escaped again.
    Later on he even joins the battle and helps Koichi and Raimei.
    He’s totally adorable, and it’s usually pretty funny. But the series is also pretty serious. The best part is Miharu and Yoite’s relationship, and watching both of them change…but that won’t come until later.

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