My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Even before the story begins there is a very nice introductory note explaining the lunisolar calendar vs. the Gregorian calendar most American readers are familiar with and goes on to explain the meaning of the Japanese months since they are a key element to the action of this manga.
It opens in media res with an action scene that won’t make complete sense until we get much further in the book since it’s set one day after the main action. We then flash back to the day before to Akira’s fourteenth birthday. His mom is a tiny woman (I thought she was a sister at first) which becomes a running joke. She possesses an overwhelming personality. We meet his friends Fumiya and Satsuki, who wants to be on a first name basis with Ah-chan (a nickname Akira believes he has outgrown). Akira’s teacher is interesting though with her large boobs, mini-skirt and her long hair in an up-do that looks like cat ears, she’s drawn a tad too stereotypically for my tastes. This teacher, Rei, assigns Akira some birthday chores. While moping over this in class, Akira gets a glimpse of a pretty, long-haired girl in a cherry tree.
His friends give him a hand after class with the chores only to see Akira attacked by a ‘bubble’ of intense summer heat, technically another dimension, created by his attacker. The pretty stranger from before comes to his rescue; she is Koyomi Sakuragi, the Shiki Tsukai of Spring. In Akira’s hand, she becomes a sword, winning him his first battle.
Koyomi takes him home and, in what will become another running joke, she gets caught in various states of undress and his parents and friends think Akira is becoming a sexual master at the tender age of fourteen (embarrassing the boy to no end). Having moved into Akira’s household – Koyomi being the daughter of the owner of the company Akira’s dad works for – Koyomi explains who the Shiki Tsukai are and how they can control the seasons corresponding to their birth months. However, they require shiki-fu, ‘power cards’, to help them access their abilities (technical note, these cards come with full page explanations with tons of birth information on whatever month and day they happen to be discussing at the time).
As it turns out, Akira is special. He doesn’t have to use a card to access his power. In fact, he might be able to use all the Seasons abilities which is why everyone is after him. Koyomi has been designated as his protector. Along the way Akira finds a Kijyuu, an elemental beast created by human malice which he pities. Akira has a soft heart and this is going to cause him no end of trouble because he doesn’t want to fight the Kijyuu or other Shikis.
To Akira’s surprise, his teacher, Rei, is also a Shiki and it might be that his parents are also involved. Certainly Rei and his mom are old rivals, especially for his father’s affections. Volume one ends in a cliffhanger, after an intense battle scene. Rei annoyed me a bit because of how she's drawn (enormous boobs, skin tight mini-skirt dress while teaching)
I was surprised by how much I liked this since I was dubious when I picked it up. At my age, relating to a fourteen year old boy is a stretch and the story does have some stereotypic plot points, like these cards (though the creators claim they did this manga quite some time ago and the cards were ‘ahead of their time.’). The art is good, though the back cover art is annoying. Well, it’s not so much art as it is that for some reason in the blurb they randomly underlined letters and, for reasons unknown, it really bugged me. The storyline, even with some of the clichés, is still interesting enough to keep me reading and wanting to see what happens next. I like poor hapless Akira. He’s endearing.
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