Saturday, August 8, 2009

Yurara, vol. 1

Since its sequel, Rasetsu, has just started to be released in the U.S., I decided to give Yurara a try.

The story: Yurara is a high school girl who sees spirits and, sometimes, she can even sense their feelings. When the new school year starts, she's stuck sitting in between two boys, Mei and Yako, who are constantly fighting, but they have spiritual powers, too. One day, Yurara undergoes an extraordinary transformation when a guardian spirit takes her over and banishes a spirit. With the three's powers put together, they work to help those spirits stuck on Earth to find peace. But, with the two most handsome boys in school witnessing Yurara's transformation into a beautiful woman day after day, will other personal problems develop?

Reaction: I really liked Yurara's character--she's is somewhat shy and keeps to herself since people think she's odd. She stares off into space from time to time—watching spirits, no doubt—and suddenly bursts into tears because of her keen sense of spiritual empathy. But, when she transforms, she becomes someone else entirely—an assertive and gorgeous young woman who is somewhat violent, but is always looking to help spirits find peace. It's an interesting dichotomy, as are her two partners, Mei and Yako. Mei is a goofy, horny, somewhat stupid teenage boy, while Yako is studious and serious. The differences are often played to comedic effect, which is a nice balance to the serious deaths they're always encountering.

Deep thoughts: I find it interesting that Yako, who uses water to create spiritual barriers, is also afraid of water. While Yako knows that there's logically no reason to fear large bodies of water, his fear still persists. When Mei tries to drop him into the local river, Yako's spiritual powers cause the water itself to repel itself from him. When he and Yurara find some evil spirits residing in the river, Yurara learns of his fear, but deals with it in a much more compassionate manner than Mei did. Interestingly, hydrophobia, or the fear of water, is also one of the major symptoms of progressed rabies infection.

Artwork: The artwork here is pretty standard for a shojo story, but there's quite a bit more violence and scary moments due to the supernatural theme. My biggest gripe—use of screentone—is held steadfast here, but it's used logically during moments involving spirits. There are some great moments involving humorous visual metaphors, both times in scenes featuring Mei. In one, Yurara's transformed self pushes horndog Mei away with a machine gun while both are dressed in military fatigues. It's an interesting way of showing rejection, but, again, lightened the tone.

The verdict: If only... I liked this story well enough, but it didn't do too much for me one way or another. The humor was expected and I found the developing love triangle clich├ęd. While it isn't by any means unlikeable, I just didn't find it particularly likeable, either. Yurara is available in the U.S. from Viz.

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