Manga-ka: Yuki Shimizu
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: February 2009
Synopsis: “Left destitute and alone after the death of his beloved grandmother, Raizou Shichikawa accepts an offer to live at the palatial Mitou home in return for his services as housekeeper – but there’s something very strange about the Mitou family. Odd pairings exist within these walls, and the occupants’ behaviour seems beyond Raizou’s understanding. Raizou does take a liking to his ill-mannered roommate, Kon, however, and his interest leads him to discover the truth: the people he works for aren’t exactly human!”
As a fan of Yuki Shimizu’s Love Mode (recently released by BLU), I was excited to hear news that 801Media had licensed another of her series. Eager for more of the character-driven drama that I’d enjoyed in her work previously, Ze naturally become a book high on my list of to-reads. Not only does Ze showcase Yuki Shimizu taking another go at a story hefty with characters, but she also takes a slightly different turn with the addition of supernatural elements.
The majority of this first volume follows Raijou, a young man who has recently lost his last remaining family-member, his loving Grandmother. Now homeless and alone, he is taken in as a housekeeper for the Maitou home to be at the service of those who live there. Though honest, hard working and adaptable to change, Raijou isn’t prepared for what he learns which is that there’s much more to this interesting assortment of characters than some lacking physical boundaries between one another.
Unfortunately I found this first installment a little hard to take in the first go. Not only do you have a lot of different characters tossed in at once but there’s also little to no time to get to know any of them individually, making it difficult to tell them apart at first. Readers must also figure out the dynamics of their relation to one another and make sense of the basic plot premise.
Simply put, there are spell-casters called Kotodama, who in this family are able to spread curses to others, often for clients who request it. Partnered with each Kotodama is a Kami, a being that though having a human form, is actually a paper-doll with fast healing abilities who takes on the injuries of their Kotodama when they make contact through mucus membranes. With several mucus membranes on the human body, it should pose no surprise to readers how this physical interaction can be, and has been, easily played upon. The relationship between a Kotodama and their Kami are naturally very close, and on top that, by ruling, must be a same-sex couple to avoid ‘complications’. The series already has several pairs, including both males and females.
It wasn’t until a little past midway into the book that I understood the nature of the Kotodama and Kami, whose explanation seemed shaky at best in the beginning before being more clearly laid out in practice later on. A young man in the household, Kon, is a Kami without a Kotodama and because of this he is used to heal and serve many people in order to find use for himself. The new housekeeper, Raizou, feels sympathy for the Kami with so little self-worth and immediately takes to him. But, never one to throw new relationships together too quickly, Yuki Shimizu keeps Raizou and Kon platonic in this volume, with Raizou more than a little awkward at the mere thought of sharing a bed with his new roommate, making for some cute scenes.
801Media’s release work is generally up to par with their other releases, continuing a pleasant trend of no dust jackets that leaves the book neatly contained and easy to read. The cover is printed on shiny, stiff paper and the opening page is a nice full colour illustration. I did however find myself tripping over a few sections of the dialogue that seemed needlessly stiff and some out-of-bubble text placement felt awkwardly placed, such as disjointed distance-wise from connected speech or needlessly overtop artwork (though this could just as likely be a matter of the source material).
Overall I found volume one of Ze to have enough charm that I’m willing to give volume two an eager go, largely due to the earnest and endearing nature of Raizou. Sadly, however, the handling of such a briskly introduced, and large, cast of characters made this beginning a fairly bumpy reading experience with a lot readers are expected to grasp at once, and yet, my adoration of Love Mode leaves Yuki Shimizu with a head start in regards to my faith that this series can only get stronger. I hope that my faith is rewarded with future installments spreading out the cast and allowing for some more individual attention and development. At least the plot is fairly simple, once you grasp it, and it sets the stage for what could easily become a fun and entertaining supernatural boys’ love story.