Manga Village

Kekkaishi Volume 17

June 9, 2009

Series Description: By night, junior high student Yoshimori Sumimura is a “kekkaishi”–a demon-hunter who specializes in creating magical barriers around his prey. By day, Yoshimori’s got some other demons to battle: an addiction to sweets and a seriously crotchety grandfather! Yoshimori’s pretty 16-year-old neighbor and childhood friend, Tokine Yukimura, is also a kekkaishi, but their families are feuding over who is the true practitioner of the art.

Volume Description: Yoshimori and his elder brother Masamori are trapped inside a magical realm… The site’s guardian wants to steal Yoshimori’s body, and a renegade council member pits brother against brother! Which of the two will escape? And what will become of the other…?

By Yellow Tanabe
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $9.99

Short and sweet this week, this being the last (for now) of my “drop in the middle of a series to see what I find” reviews. And a little wrap-up on this experiment–but more on that later. For now, let’s talk about Kekkaishi, a series I’ve been wanting to check out for a while now, based on the recommendation of Shaenon Garrity, an awesome person whom we should all obey, should she ever take over the world. It was another mention in a series of blogs she did called “Overlooked Manga Festival.”

The premise sounds like lots of battle/quest manga: Each volume involves a series of baddies, one more powerful than the last. The kind of thing mastered by Naruto and first perfected by Dragonball Z. But that’s not what I found in this volume of Kekkaishi, nor, as I understand it, is this the way the series works at all.

The difference is hard to put my finger on: there was one baddy through the entire volume, Yoshimori and his brother Masamori face off against him, and there’s magical battles and other kinds of twists throughout the book. All standard fare for battle/quest manga. However, rather than the pulse-pounding, speed-lined, seizure-inducing action, this proceeded at a more loping and subtle pace. Time was taken to delve into character, both the main guys and the incidental secondary types. In addition, the complications of plot and character went for a more nuanced and developed approach, rather than a two-dimensional, black and white take. All this is brought together in a way that doesn’t need to amp up the threat or the emotions to demonstrate that big things are at stake. There was a paired-down simplicity to the story, a kind of “no fuss, no muss” approach that was refreshing, especially after my last read.

In some ways, I didn’t even need the previous 16 volumes to follow what was going on. There was some summary, but overall, the book jumped into the action that was focused and clear, characters that were immediately identifiable, and a world that was knowable without seeming clichéd.

Kekkaishi is definitely a series worth taking a larger look at, and, given the chance, I’ll certainly check out more volumes. I’m not jumping online to see how I can get all sixteen previous volumes, but the nice thing about this series is, I don’t feel I have to.

I started this series of reviews because I’ve become concerned about how, as a reviewer, I’ve been approaching what to review. If, like me, the economy has hit you and your community in both big and small ways, then you may have rethought some assumptions about the various things you’ve taken for granted in the past. Like pastimes such as manga reading–I know I have.

You can’t really afford to jump on the next series, week after week. You can’t afford to run out and buy every new manga in a series. And maybe you select your manga not from the shelves of the bookstore, but from the shelves of your library, or your friend’s room. So, what does that mean for how I should review manga?

Thus this series. And maybe, from here, something more.

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About the author

Justin Colussy-Estes

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