Before we begin, and before I forget, this month’s Manga Moveable Feast spotlights food manga Oishinbo. Through the 27th of May, Khursten of Otaku Champloo is hosting a delicious look at food in manga, so be sure to check it out!
The kami convention is over, but before she returns home, Nanami takes a special detour to visit Kayako so she can tell her about seeing Kirihito. She finds her friend much changed, stronger and more open with her feelings, and even gets some advice regarding her relationship with Tomoe. Nanami is barely back in school when she’s approached by a classmate and asked to attend a go-kon (a group date). Since Nanami likes Tomoe, she’s not keen on going, but stubbornly attends anyway. Worried about her odd behavior, Tomoe enlists Mizuki and Kurama to go with him and spy on her. Tomoe realizes that maybe Nanami just wants to hang out with other humans and be carefree for a little while, so he leaves her to have fun…until one of the boys at the go-kon tries to put the moves on her. A seemingly jealous Tomoe puts an immediate end to that, but before Nanami can ask him about his behavior, they’re interrupted by Mizuki and she loses her chance. Meanwhile, Kirihito is paid a visit by the yokai Yatori, who wishes to help him recover the body of Akura-oh. Kirihito decides to make use of Yatori, but the excitable yokai is not as clueless as he seems. As Nanami tries to get an answer out of Tomoe once again, they’re interrupted this time by a young tengu who has come down from the mountain searching for someone named Shinjuro, the heir to the clan who has been missing for seventeen years. Nanami is surprised to learn that the person little Botanmaru is looking for is actually Kurama. Botanmaru feels a strong bond with Kurama, because they were both small for tengu and were bullied often. Their clan is in trouble, as the leader, the Sojobo, has fallen ill, and the ruthless Jiro has taken on leadership of the clan. Botanmaru believes that Kurama can help them, and convinces the tengu to return home. And of course, wanting to help her friend, Nanami goes with them, as does Tomoe. When they arrive, they find that a thick miasma is covering the mountain now that Sojobo is weakened. It’s more than a fog, however; a barrier has been put up which creates illusions that stop Kurama in his tracks until he overcomes them, with a little help from an old friend. This old friend, Suiro, is the first to greet them when they arrive at the front gates, and welcomes everyone inside. Nanami manages to get lost while on a trip to the bathroom, and meets several young tengu guarding a large, rotting cherry blossom tree. Unfortunately, females are not allowed on the mountain, and Nanami is discovered by none other than Jiro himself. She manages to get away, but realizes that such a vicious man won’t be able to return the mountain to its former glory. She brought the momotan she received at the kami convention with her, which has powerful healing powers that they hope will cure whatever is ailing Sojobo. Sojobo, however, is being held in the training hall, heavily guarded by Jiro’s men, so getting the medicine to him will be no easy task.
About a fourth of this volume is Nanami/Tomoe relationship progression, another fourth is Kirihito stuff, and the rest and bulk of the manga is about Kurama. It’s nice to see the tengu finally get the spotlight. He hasn’t been much more than a side character so far, appearing here and there, mostly for comedic purposes, or to rain on Tomoe’s parade. The stuff between Tomoe and Nanami is nice, but it hasn’t really progressed from the previous volume, and doesn’t really go anywhere in this one. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially as it’s a small part of this volume. And to be honest, the shift of focus is welcome. Whatever their relationship is, it’s at a standstill for now. So in the meantime, we get this awesome story about Kurama and the tengu. As a child, Kurama was deemed a weakling and a failure as a tengu because he was growing abnormally slowly and taking far longer than other tengu to learn to fly on his own. He was bullied by the other tengu, and punished by his older brother Jiro, a violent and ambitious man. Eventually, Jiro grew fed up with Kurama and put him a life threatening situation from which he was rescued by Suiro. Suiro was injured in the attempt, and when Kurama’s injuries were healed, he left the mountain, consumed by guilt and shame. He never intended to return, but when he saw Botanmaru, a tengu so much like himself, and noticed that Jiro was continuing his abusive treatment on young tengu like Botanmaru, he decided to return and do what he could. Unfortunately, it seems the only way to stop Jiro is for Kurama to succeed his father and become the next Sojobo. This is the last thing Kurama wants, however, but the pressure to take on that mantle begins immediately once other tengu learn he has returned to the mountain. Kurama has a good heart, and he knows that allowing Jiro to rule will be bad for the clan, but he clearly doesn’t want to become the leader himself. Suiro knows this, too, and as always, wants to protect Kurama so he can be happy. Having learned more about him, Nanami wants the same, and she’s willing to help Kurama no matter what his decision is. It’s a very serious situation, but there’s enough comedy to keep it from becoming depressing or too dark. There’s also a story thread tying Jiro to Kirihito somehow, though what the tengu wants with Akura-oh is a mystery. Power seems obvious, but hopefully Jiro is a little deeper than that. Next volume…Kurama, Nanami, and Tomoe race to bring medicine to the heavily guarded Sojobo.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.