Ozunu is the top student at Kusanagi School of Magical Architecture, a national polytechnic high school dedicated to raising professional magical architects of the future. Their job is to apply feng shui and other spiritual methods in architecture to exterminate fiends and demons in Tokyo, where the protective feng shui seal has been broken due to wars and urban development. Being raised by a spider fiend, Ozunu has always tried to purify or return monsters to where they came from. He clashes with his rival Tsugaru, the heir to a magical architecture corporation, who believes strength is the key to everything.
Feng Shui Academy is based on a series of light novels, and was serialized in a seinen magazine, facts that are glaringly obvious while reading. The stories and characters are typical for a supernatural adventure story, but the whole book seems to be missing that special “something” that makes it memorable.
At first glance, Feng Shui Academy has an interesting premise. Students training to be starcrafters, learn to use feng shui to fight and exorcist spirits. And the chapters where we see these skills in use are the most interesting. In the second chapter, Ozunu goes with Sakuya, a miko at the temple he lives at, to help with an exorcism. Watching Ozunu figure out and explain where the rift is and later repair it drew me in, as did the monster he had to fight before the repair. A few more chapters like this would have been better to establish the world and let us get to know the characters more. Instead, we are given only a two chapters to introduce all the main characters, and establish that Ozunu and Tsugaru are rivals. That’s not enough time to really get to know the characters, or care about what happens to them.
It’s Ozunu and Tsugaru’s rivalry that sets up for the rest of the volume. As punishment for fighting at school, they must work together to cleanse a house that is haunted. The spirit of a cat has become a monster and is trying to keep everyone out of the house so it can’t be demolished. It isn’t an easy exorcism, and of course, Ozunu and Tsugaru clash over how it should be done but some twists at the end put Ozunu is an emotional funk. We are supposed to sympathize with Ozunu, as it’s established early on that he doesn’t want to kill monsters, there just isn’t any feeling of connect with him, or with Tsugaru, who, for all his standoff-ish ways, actually helps Ozunu feel better.
I think these problems with the manga stem from the fact it based on a novel. All we’re getting in the manga are the story, and none of the feelings from the characters that novels provide in narration. Manga, to compensate for that, need more chapters showing us the characters in action, or some kind of exposition. This adaptation did a smattering of that, just not enough for someone completely unfamiliar with the series.
That’s not to say this is a bad title. As I said, the concept is interesting, and the story is scripted well. No where is there a feeling of something being missing as there is of a feeling that there should be more. Dr Master did a good job with footnotes, explaining many of the buddhist and feng shui terms that are used in the volume, especially in combat. Reading them does pull you out of the action some, but is necessary to understand Ozunu and Tsugaru’s different tactics. I definitely give them props for bringing out a title that is so steeped in Asian culture.
The art is nicely drawn. The characters are easy to identify and works well for the material. The title’s seinen origins are fairly obvious in the character Kyara, Ozunu’s cat-girl familiar. She is well endowed, and is dressed rather skimpily. But it’s not so blatant that it’s offensive.
Feng Shui Academy is a title that’s good but could have been better. If it had been a few chapters longer, a little more time getting to know the characters, and it would have been great. It’s still worth checking out, especially if you’re interesting in Asian ideas of spirituality and architecture.