Usually, my cruel taskmaster Franklin will hand me something expecting me to write a review of it. I, in turn, will examine the material and after much arguing and griping (a benefit of which comes from being paid in stuff instead of money (Editor’s Note: I consider the relationship to be based on a bartering system)) I will eventually decide to indeed write a review of said material. This time, however, Franklin decided to take something newly acquired by myself and told me to write a review on it. I was not too pleased about having to write a review about something I wanted to enjoy at my own leisure, rather than critically. But, oh well, I shall stop stalling and tell you that today I bring you a review of the 2008 manga Inukami!
Inukami! was originally a series of light novels by Mamizu Arisawa whose other titles include his debut novel Infinity Zero, Lucky Chance!, and a novel related to the World God Only Knows. The manga adaptation was illustrated by Mari Matzusawa, illustrator for Sanbun no Ichi and Hinadori Girl. There is also an anime adaptation that you may be able to find online, as it was never brought overseas.
Keita Kawahira is the grandson of the current head of a family with supernatural powers. The Kawahira specialize in making contracts with Inukami (lit. Dog Gods, but spirit would work better for say, a western audience). Somewhere around the time a Kawahira turns twelve they are brought to the mountain where these Inukami reside. There they have to attract the attention of an inukami and form a contract, resulting in the human getting a powerful familiar and servant in the inukami, and the inukami getting further power and the ability to leave their home as they please because of the master (would you call it this?). Unfortunately for Keita, he failed to find an inukami to form a contract with, and therefore spent the next five years as a reject and completely ordinary high school student.
Keita, now seventeen, has been summoned to his grandmother’s house and informed that there is an inukami willing to make a contract with him. He immediately rushes off to a cabin in the mountains. At said cabins, Keita finds the stunning beauty Yoko. Keita is ecstatic to meet a cute girl who he thinks will take care of him day and night (if you catch my drift…) until Keita learns that what he got instead was a very pretty free-loader. Yoko turns out to be a cheerful, playful, and more often than not, childish person, but belies a sharp character she does not often show.
The plot of Inukami! is not very easy to discern; partly because of mixing slice-of-life elements with a conflict that is not entirely obvious. This is due to the manga ending before the light novels. In the end the true meat and potatoes of Inukami! is not its plot, but the antics its characters get into. This is especially amplified once Keita’s cousin, Kaoru Kawahira, and his ten inukami begin to show up. I found it interesting that Keita and Kaoru had very few encounters and Yoko never dealt with Kaoru directly.
Much of the humor in the series comes from its protagonists, Keita, he is a rather rare creature amongst protagonists of romantic comedies in that he is an absolute pervert who is very willing to flirt with any girl he encounters, except the one who would actually marry him (Editor’s Note: Yes internet, he is not familiar with Urusei Yatsura at all), he also happens to be even more physically resilient than Keitaro Urashima from Love Hina (if the name means anything to you, you know that is quite the feat).
Yoko, on the other hand, is solely focused on Keita, and is constantly badgering him for new clothes and chocolate cake; will cling to him until he marries her, and will jump to conclusions about as fast as the speed of sound, said conclusions leading to Keita being set ablaze or teleported out of his clothes and into a public place, all of this is in the name of comedy, of course. Throughout the series, she is also shown as being quite unusual for an inukami, for one, she is afraid of dogs, loves playing tricks, her skill shukuchi is able to teleport people and things at will that seems to be exclusive to her, these are all very subtle clues that she is in fact, not an inukami, but you would need to have a relatively good knowledge of Japanese folklore to figure what she is before the reveal. The two of them make good partners, but the moments they are actually shown in a romantic mood are very sparse.
Pros: A work that is funny and heartwarming that stays that way for its entire run. Mari Matzusawa’s artwork is very attractive.
Cons: To say that Inukami! is a lighthearted work would be to say that people die when killed; even the most dramatic moments are often laced with either humor or innuendo, sometimes both. The mood never changes much; even at its darkest it is still very optimistic. It is not going to win a Pulitzer any time soon for its narrative, and those looking for an intricate storyline had better look elsewhere.
The release that I covered was a set of Omnibus that Seven Seas Entertainment put out that included all six volumes. Inukami! is an entertaining manga that is worth picking up; but just don’t come in expecting much plot wise. Other than that, I see no reason why anyone would have a hard time enjoying this manga from beginning to end. It is perfect for those who wish to crack a smile.