[Editor’s note: Casually slipping in one of Drew’s back up reviews, because it was my birthday and I wanted to be lazy. Because I am old. Now get off my lawn.]
Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe, which ran in Japan from 2003-2011 in the monthly Shonen Sunday, has had a steady following over the past few years in the States, and with good reason. The story follows teenager Yoshimori Sumimura who by night is a “kekkaishi,” or demon hunter, who specializes in magical barriers to use on a variety of evil spirits and yokai. Yoshimori’s best friend Tokine Yukimara is also a kekkaishi, which leads to friendly rivalry between the two families as they take on creatures of the night.
Volume 32 starts off with a snap-bang, as the Ogi Family’s mystical site is under attack by some sort of mysterious force, which at first appears as two kids, but then seems to be much more as these shadow snakes quickly take out their dozens of members and guards! Shichiro, heir to the family, seems at odds to fend off such an attack. No matter what they do, they seem to be losing their men! Mr. Tokimori shows up with our main hero Yoshimori, and the seemingly ageless kid Chushinmaru, as they try to bind the spirits and defend what is left of the Ogi Family and their people. The mysterious villains escape, kidnapping the Ogi’s men. Shichiro tries to pick up the pieces, as Tokimori, Yoshimori, and Chushinmaru take their leave. All of this turns out to be just a distraction to pull off the seemingly impossible, and a few hours later the enemy makes a move against the Shadow Organization! The group, once again led by the two kids and a baddie who can make these odd shadow energy tops, attacks the Shadow Organztion’s headquarters and begins abducting their men one by one as well, since their guard is down! Guard Sumimura is joined by council trio Juho, Gaiji, and Kazuchika to go on both the offense and defense against these attackers, but things end in failure, as almost everyone is hypnotized under a trance and kidnapped, with Sumimiura blacking out and not taken since he is within in a protective barrier. The next day Yoshimori confirms the second attack with Mr. Tokimori, as well as what Chushinmaru’s true past is. Tokimori tells him the heart breaking tale of how more than 40 years ago, he was a guard driving off demons and fell in love secretly with the princess of the household. The Princess became pregnant with their child, but being the child was fused with all the kekkaishi energy of Tokimori, not only accidentally killed his mother during birth, but slowly the entire household, forcing Tokimori, who can contain such energy, to take him under his wing and live a life away from folks in seclusion. The book ends on the cliffhanger of Yoshimori confirming they have to prepare for whatever final attack this evil force, who is kidnapping everyone, is building up.
Volume 32 moves pretty fast, a good chunk of it being action, action, and more action. Considering it ran monthly in Shonen Sunday, this pacing doesn’t surprise me, and it gives the readers a good volume to zip through and just enjoy. All the energy summonings are different and are pretty cool to see, Tanabe doing a great job with these powers, especially the shadow council trio members. Gaiji can summon this cool looking army of skeletons, and Kazuchika can take objects and bring them to life, like turning a house into a giant kaiju-like house. Her story is easy to follow and the whole package is entertaining, so I can see why this is still going here while other series have been cancelled for US release midway through. Throughout these pages there is a feeling that something even bigger is going to happen outside of all these cool battles, which isn’t surprising, as the series ends at 35 collected volumes, so the pressure she is building up sure better pay off. Tanabe’s art outside of battle scenes is still pretty great to look at, too, and you can tell her style is highly influenced still by her time as assistant Makoto Raiku, creator of Konjiki no Gashbell! and currently Animal Land. Her character designs look like they could be in any of his comics.
Overall, Kekkaishi volume 32 was a pretty fun ride. With so many battles, it’s lighter on plot and more accessible for readers unfamiliar to the series to just jump in. Volume 32 is available in print now from Viz.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.