volumes 1-6, by Kinoshita Sakura and Higashiyama Kazuko
Kantarou, a hyperactive and opportunistic folklorist, has the gift of seeing and befriending youkai. He's always dreamed of finding and breaking the seal that imprisons the most powerful youkai of all - the Demon-Eating Tengu. In chapter one, he does! He then enslaves him. The first few volumes consist of a series of one-off stories in which Kantarou tries to use the tengu, the taciturn bishounen Haruka, and a tsundere fox demon Youko, to make money. Simultaneously, Kantarou and Haruka smoulder with UST at each other, and hide dark secrets about their pasts. (Youko cooks.)
This series has a number of issues, the main one obviously being that Haruka and Youko are Kantarou's slaves. It's suggested in volume six that Kantarou chose to do this to Haruka to protect him from something, but this doesn't really explain the Youko situation? The whole thing's really about humiliation kink, and there's a predictable rhythm of Haruka being haughty and dismissive, and Haruka getting beaten down or mocked. Kantarou, who incidentally looks like he's about ten, also gets beat up on some - ropes and chains sometimes make appearances when he gets too cocky.
The problem is that whenever the story approaches the edge of Higashiyama/Kinoshita's id, they always pull back hard, not trusting their own momentum. As a result, the pacing and characterization are awkward and erratic, and the story seems to lack confidence in itself. I don't trust it to bring itself to a satisfying ending. It's frequently very funny, and the art is quirky and adorable, but comedic moments often come at odd times, as if the mangakas are anxious to prove that they're not really
taking this stuff seriously.
Some of their creative energy seems to be going into making porn doujinshi for their own series
, with which practice I have no quarrel, but... you know, guys? If you feel it's emotionally necessary for Kantarou and Haruka to be having sex - and it is clear that you do
- maybe you could put some evidence of that in the actual manga? Replace some of the sight gags about afros with makeouts. It might make the characterization make more sense.
(Though Higashiyama's credited as the writer, I lay responsibility on Kinoshita due to the thematic similarities to her solo series Mythical Detective Loki.
In MDL, the Norse god Loki, trapped in the body of a cute five-year-old boy, takes a fair amount of abuse, sometimes resulting in images alarmingly reminiscent of shotacon porn. Loki is also talks like Kantarou, and has a similar tendency to torture tall, dark-haired bishounen. Possibly also notable: Loki's primary and cruelest tormentor is named Higashiyama Kazumi.)
I actually first read this two years ago. I was re-reading it because I picked up volume 2 of the ADV translation used very cheaply the other day, and decided to compare it to the Tokyopop one. The Tokyopop adaptation is far
superior - which is unsurprising given that it is by Lianne Sentar. She's very reliable at turning out smooth adaptations that are internally consistent within themselves, though whether or not they're usually consistent with the original depends on who did the rough translation for her.
But her comedic timing's always great. She also did
Fruits Basket, which I hold would not have anywhere near as many adult Anglophone fans if she hadn't been the adapter.
(I'm wrong - the first 14 volumes were Kelly Sue DeConnick and Jake Forbes, as umadoshi
points out, and Sentar took over at 15. Sentar also does Saiyuki,
which I assume is where I formed such a positive impression of her.)
One interesting thing - two characters have different genders in each version, a powerful but emotionally incontinent tengu named Sugino and his/her wife/husband, a little blobby monster named Muu. I guess the mangaka avoided gendered pronouns in their cases? ADV made Sugino female and Muu male, while Tokyopop did the opposite, which I unfortunately think makes the most sense. Sugino cannot possibly be a powerful, attractive, and bossy woman,
because Sugino has been around for five volumes without either dying or killing a baby. This is a Kinoshita Sakura manga! Not allowed.
Unrelated: On the metro I saw a guy with olives in his nalgene.