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August 26, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: The Betrayal Knows My Name volume 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: The Betrayal Knows My Name (Uragiri Wa Boku no Namae Wo Shitteiru)
Author: Hotaru Odagiri
Publisher: Yen Press
Volume: Volume 1 (contains volumes 1 and 2, ongoing), $18.99
Vintage: 2006 and 2007 by Kadokawa Shoten, June 2011 by Yen Press
Genre: Fantasy, adventure

Over a thousand years go, the Giou Clan began a war with the Duras (demons) that started with an event called the “Sunset of the Underworld.”
Every few hundred years, the battle starts up again, and the players are all reborn into the world to fulfill their roles. In an orphanage, a high school boy named Yuki lives unsuspectingly, unaware of his part in the upcoming battle. He knows only that he has a strange and unexplainable power; when he touches someone, their strong emotions flow into him, and sometimes he can even see visions of their past. One day, as he is chasing after a friend from school, he becomes rooted to the ground in the middle of the street, and just before an oncoming car hits him, he is pushed out of the way by a mysterious man with an otherworldly beauty. Back at the orphanage, a man claiming to be Yuki’s brother appears. This man, Takashiro Giou, attempts to convince Yuki to come to Tokyo with him and start a new life. However, Yuki, who wants only to be needed and feels that he is needed by those who live in the orphanage, doesn’t want to go with him. Even when Takashiro arrives with the man who had saved him before, Zess (later known at Luka), and the siblings Tooko and Tsukumo (whom he had also bumped into before), and informs him that they all belong to the Giou Clan and have supernatural abilities, Yuki still desires to stay with those he feels need him. It’s not really up to Yuki, however, as soon he is attacked by a Duras on Walpurgis Night, a night when the demons’ power is augmented by the red moon. Realizing that staying behind will mean causing trouble for everyone around him, Yuki agrees to go to Tokyo and live with the Giou Clan. He soon learns that the clan is continually reincarnated to fight in a battle against the Duras, but that Luka only joined their group recently. In fact, Luka himself is a powerful Duras, but a pact with Yuki’s former form has led him to join forces with the Giou Clan, though only to protect Yuki. Yuki also discovers that he is a rather important asset to the Giou Clan. His main ability is healing; he essentially absorbs the wounds of others (or the pain of them, at least) into his own body, and he is also able to restore power to the Zweilt (the warriors of the clan) when they exhaust themselves in battle. When he arrives at Twilight Hall (a sort of dormitory where everyone lives) he is welcomed warmly by most of the group – siblings Tooko and Tsukumo treat him like a best friend they haven’t seen in some time; Tachibana, the dorm’s steward, practically tackles Yuki to the ground in his excitement; Aya, the manor’s caretaker, welcomes him warmly, though she’s quite shy; their personal doctor, Isuzu, is friendly, but quite bizarrely obsessed with his research; and the chef, Katsumi, is just thrilled to have someone around who actually bothers to eat he food he prepares. However, the hot-headed Hotsuma seems to hate him for unknown reasons, and Hotsuma’s close friend Shuusei so far is mostly ambivalent. It’s a relatively peaceful beginning, but outside of Twilight Hall, strange attacks have been occurring that the local police force is unable to investigate, so Takashiro is called up to bring in a more specialized team. Many of the bizarrely killed victims are high school males, and at the same time, a rash of young girls have been suddenly falling into comas. It’s definitely something for the Giou Clan to handle, but it won’t be easy with no clear leads. Meanwhile, Yuki is just trying to put the pieces of his memory together, particularly those involving Luka, with whom he feels a strong connection.

Ah, I love reincarnation stories. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that (multiple times) before. So I had to check this one out, of course. It’s pretty enjoyable. Its biggest flaw is that the balance between the serious aspects and the humor is not where it needs to be. I’m not really familiar with Odagiri, so I don’t know how much manga she has created before this series. Enough that her art is fairly polished. Some poking around on the internet shows she’s been working since at least 1996, and she’s been published previously in the US by Digital Manga Publishing. Just looking at her cover work shows a solid progression of her art skills, and while it’s not horribly unique, it is easy on the eyes. So the imbalance could be simply her style, or it could mean that she hasn’t written such a serious story before and is having trouble finding a good balance (she wouldn’t be the first). Overall, though, it’s a good read; it’s the kind of story I enjoy, as well. It sort of reminds me of Angel Sanctuary (Kaori Yuki), though the early descriptions I read (when the anime was coming out) reminded me unfortunately of Nighthead Genesis, which very nearly turned me off from it automatically. Fortunately it’s nowhere close to that piece of garbage, though it does have its flaws. Mainly the main character, Yuki, who, I am sad to say, falls into a common hole that is typical of this sort of character and story. He’s gentle, vanilla, innocent, naive, clueless, wants to love everybody, etc. It doesn’t exactly make for an interesting protagonist. Hopefully that will change, especially when we find out more about his past, and his role in the present time. Fortunately, the other characters make up for Yuki’s rather dull aura. Luka is a total mystery right now. It seems easy to assume that he fell in love with the previous version of Yuki (a female), and switched sides in the battle in order to protect her…but I wonder if there’s more to it than that. He’s also still tied down to someone from his past, so I’m anxious to see how that’s going to play out. The myriad of side characters are also quite interesting. The siblings Tooko and Tsukumo don’t have much going for them right now, but Shuusei and Hotsuma seem to have quite a bit going on behind the scenes. There are a few things teased at in this volume regarding the two friends, and their relationships with past versions of Yuki, but they’re just a tiny nick on the surface. Takashiro may have the most going on. He claims to be Yuki’s brother, but there’s really no evidence aside from his claim. He’s also the only member of the Giou Clan who remembers everything from all of their past lives. The burden of those memories is heavy, and I wonder if they’ve corrupted him in some way, though there isn’t really any evidence of that yet (it’s just me trying to rewrite the story my way); it would make sense, and so far we don’t know the depths of his motivations. The end of this volume reveals that the war is isn’t quite as simple as it appears; it’s not just the Giou versus some demons, but rather it’s who they are fighting that is controlling the Duras. At any rate, it hasn’t totally sucked me in yet, but it has promise, and it pulls on some of my personal interests, so I’m glad for the chance to read it.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_kris

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