Author: Daimuro Kishi
Manga-ka: Tamao Ichinose
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: March 2007
Synopsis: “High school student Miu Asahina stumbles upon a shop where time is loaned to anyone who needs it. But the price is a memory one risks losing forever. Miu gets hired by the manager to help other people manage their time… too bad she can’t handle her own!”
With a bit of accidental dumb-luck, Miu Asahina finds herself a guest in a magical shop run by a man who exchanges time for people’s memories. Intrigued by her mistaken entry into the store, the shop-owner hires her on as an assistant of sorts, there to help be a bridge between his entrepreneurial prowess and his customer’s emotional needs.
With a customer-driven set-up similar to stories like Pet Shop of Horrors and Nightmare Inspector, Time Guardian is a considerably more light-hearted take on the concept that sees a number of troubled individuals seeking out time-related magic to solve their woes. The premise is straightforward and the following stories are episodic in nature guaranteeing that if the writer wanted to, they could easily stretch the series on for a while.
To keep things varied, no one problem or one solution in Time Guardian is the exact same. One story stars a pop-idol who yearns for the time to visit her Father, but can never escape her busy schedule. Tokiya Kusaka, the shop’s owner, offers her the option to create a time-double, manifesting two versions of herself that can live the same day at the same time. Following that, a classmate of Miu makes a deal that allows him to freeze time for short periods and Miu is determined to figure out if he’s using that ability for good or selfish means.
A complaint I do have about the story itself though is the lack of conviction for consequences. In more than one instance there’s a great sense of leniency given to the characters in regards to the memories they’ve exchanged for borrowed time. Whether a soft spot for their plight or an oversight on the story’s part, these sugarcoated sacrifices took a lot away from the initial impact of the trades.
Still, I did like the individual stories and the recurring characters of Miu Asahina and Tokiya Kusaka were both interesting. While Miu is pretty self-explained here in the first volume, there’s obviously much to learn about Tokiya Kusaka and the business he runs collecting and selling people’s memories. The stories themselves have some relatable heart and I could easily feel for those involved. There’s also Ginzo, a talking frog and shop-help to Tokiya Kusaka, who brings some added humour to the story with his energetic banter and vibrant scepticism.
I also thought the artwork in Time Guardian was fantastic. The diversity of the character designs in this first volume, along with the stability of the style and its quality, left me stunned to read in the after word that this is Tamao Ichinose’s first series. I’ve read the work of numerous seasoned manga veterans that didn’t have the visual strength of this one. A lot of good graphical choices were made panel to panel that made the whole thing very easy to follow and did a great job expressing both mood and locale. The cover is also very colourful and eye-catching, a strong ally for the first volume of any series and the entire reason I picked up this book in the first place.
All together, I’m really glad I decided to pick this title up. I enjoyed the concept, the characters and the artwork and found that combined they made a really quaint and entertaining ensemble. I’m a little disappointed that it’s only two volumes long but that of course won’t stop me from looking forward to the second book. Time Guardian proved a good read and I hope the next one is just as fun.