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Review: Kobato (Vol. 03)

Reviewer: Lissa Pattillo
Kobato (Vol. 03)

Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: September 2010

Synopsis: “Kobato’s mission to fill up her magic bottle might just be on the backburner. It seems that the members of Yomogi Kindergarten’s staff are no strangers to wounds of the heart, but despite Kobato’s efforts, she’s no closer to healing either Sayaka-sensei or the ever-solemn Fujimoto-kun! Moreover, the center is still on the verge of being shut down by unscrupulous gangster types! Leaving Kobato to her own devices, Ioryogi-san meets with some odd characters from his past and uses his otherworldly connections to investigate Yomogi.”

Kobato’s quest continues! She’s still out to fill a jar with the healed hearts of those she’s helped, yet I can’t help but notice her accomplishment level still sits so slow, it leaves one to wonder how long this series could go. Currently her big project remains the daycare at which she’s been given work, an establishment with a loving clientele but a looming shadow above. Unfortunately while the potential for progression and drama is there, the will to carry it seems more lacking. Choppy chapters and a serious case of far-too-much-plush-dog left me a bit cold.

The intrigue continues when it comes to the kind, down on her luck daycare owner and the thugs out to force her to close her business in order to pay off their debt and avoid being driven out. We find out that the man behind all this menacing phone calls and threats is none other than Sayaka’s ex-husband. It does actually make him a whole new level of jerk, especially with that CLAMP archetype smooth, cocky smile he always wears. He does look a little young for her though but maybe that’s just the art style. Or maybe she was just a sucker for a pretty face, who can say.

While all this is going on, it’s sort of unnerving seeing all these adorable little kids playing so happily in a building that clearly needs some work and is at constant threat of having a bunch of grown come in there and beat them up. Yes, I think these thugs would beat up kids – they pushed around Kobato after all.

Speaking of the title character, Kobato continues to exude traits beyond being just bubbly cute. She easily comes across as actually mentally handicapped as opposed to simply being another air-headed lead that’s begging to be plopped into a dating sim. It seems pretty obvious that’s how the characters within the story see her as well, which sort of makes it easier to suspend belief as to everyone trusting this random, identity-less girl. Throughout the book she continues to ponder ways she can help which usually results in her crying, fretting or just stubbornly adhering to promises that aren’t really helping anyone. She saves one of the thug guys though… that could be useful later, right? Don’t get me wrong, I still think she’s incredibly cute – likeably cute even, but her relevancy in her own story is already wearing thin and I find myself much more interested in seeing the stern-eyed Fujimoto handle the situation.

Unfortunately the cute art and good intentions fall to the wayside as the bulk of the book follows Kobato’s temperamental sidekick and guardian, Ioryogi-san. He spends most of the volume away from Kobato as he speaks with other animal-formed acquaintances. One is the return of his rival-type from previous volumes who continues to spawn hints in conversation as to Ioryogi-san’s true form and Kobato’s relevance. The other is a bear-like creature who is the spiritual world equivalent to an informant and Ioryogi-san calls in a favour to get information on the guys hassling the daycare Kobato’s so fond of. While it’s nice to see have some time away from Kobato and the daycare troubles, volume three takes it way too far and I found myself flying quickly through this portions in a combination of boredom and disinterest – which is really unfortunate because of the sheer amount of pages these portions take up.

This in-balance transcends into the artwork as well. The sharp difference in detail between the scenes with humans and those with the animal-folk is distractedly obvious. Even when Ioryogi-san takes the teddy-bear gloves off and lets lose a burst of impressive magically-powered flames, it still feels too different from the rest of the content. It’s another part of the series that betrays just as how built-for-serialization it is, more so than even your usual manga (most of which is serialized prior to being released in collected form). Were these chapters read separately, the harsh disconnect between subject and art that comes from reading them all immediately one another the other wouldn’t seem nearly as jarring. Seeing Ioryogi-san speak for such longer lengths of time with his special font also takes away much of its charm as it usually achieves being bounced back and forth between Kobato. This is no fault of Yen Press, just another unfortunate result of too much Ioryogi time.

After enjoying the first two volumes of Kobato so much, I feel reluctant to speak negatively of the third but honesty rules – this book’s a flop. It’s not terrible, it’s got bits of pieces of what I enjoyed about the first two, but it’s just too disjointed. It doesn’t flow and it reads far too fast (I clocked in around eight minutes start to finish). But did I have fun? Yeah, I did, so I’ll definitely still keep up with the series. But do I think maybe Kobato would continue to benefit from two volumes at once? Yeah, I think it would. It just needs more time to build up a momentum and these tiny volumes I don’t think are going to do it unless they really start to tighten up plot-wise. Well, at least we got a Cardcaptor Sakura Toya cameo – that’s almost good enough for me.

Review written October 14, 2010 by Lissa Pattillo
Book bought from vendor at New York Anime Fest

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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