YOZAKURA QUARTET (Yozakura Jûsô, “Yozakura Quartet”) (???????????????) • Suzuhito Yasuda • Del Rey (2008-ongoing) • Kodansha (Shônen Sirius, 2006-ongoing) • 6+ volumes (ongoing) • Shonen Occult Fantasy Superhero Drama • 16+ (violence, infrequent sexual situations)
In Sakurashin, a quiet town dominated by seven strange, colossal tree trunks, three superpowered girls and a guy–led by the bossy, super-strong teenage mayor–keep the peace. They work out of a dingy little office in the park, arguing over whether they can write off their food expenses, and playing with kindergarten kids. As the mysteries of Sakurashin are revealed, it turns out that the town is on the border between the world of humans and demons (a term used more in the Shinto sense of fallen spirits and elementals, rather than the Christian sense of malevolent devils), and demons are drawn there for “tuning,” which takes them back to the demon world, a process sort of like death. A mood of surrealism and mystery, mixed with the feeling of hometown warmth and everyday life so beloved of Japanese comics, gives Yozakura Quartet an interesting flavor. The forgettable action scenes and absent creature designs make it little of a fighting manga or monster manga, but as the heroes protect the town and their friends, their personal stories unfold and are revealed one after the other. This includes the stories of many vaguely moe girls, such as the cat-eared little telepath and the big-breasted lesbian–in his notes, Yasuda compares it to Charlie’s Angels. Another comparison might be a mellower, more pandering version of FLCL. But fortunately, the series is skillfully written enough that it really seems like it’s a story about characters, not merely a clothespin on which to hang character designs. The English rewrite, by superhero writers Nunzio De Filippis and Christina Weir, is solid but occasionally struggles with the Shinto-esque Japanese occult terminology.
Today’s winner is Nathaniel H. of Washington. Congratulations, Nathaniel, my new fellow Washingtonian! I hope you’re enjoying the state as much as I am!