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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rasetsu Volume 1


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via Comics Village Reviews by Lori Henderson on 6/14/09

Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Supernatural/Romance
Price: $8.99

Yako Hoshino, a young man with spiritual powers of his own, comes to the agency seeking help with a possessed book.  He's seen a lot of strange phenomena in his day, but the last thing he expects to see is Rasetsu bearing a striking resemblance to his old love Yurara!

Another group of quirky characters come together for more ghost-busting action.  Shiomi's knack for combining comedy, romance and supernatural scares brings us another great title, with a few old faces thrown in with the new.

Rasetsu is about a girl by the same name, who is haunted by an evil spirit.  Three years ago, she was attacked and marked by him, with the promise that when she turned 20, he would be back.  Instead of giving in to the evil spirit, Rasetsu finds the strength to fight back and becomes an exorist, working for a company in Tokyo.  Enter Yako Hoshino, grown up now, and working in a library.  His blunt personality gets him on Rasetsu's bad side, but his power and her resemblance to Yurara's guardian spirit brings them to work together, though not necessarily getting along.

One of the things I love about Shiomi's manga is that her female protagonists are strong and independent.  They don't look for guys to help them or come to their rescue, but usually end up with someone who wants to help them, whether she welcomes the help or not.  Rasetsu is no different.  She has found the strength to face her fears and does it everyday as work.  Her interest in Yako is more about getting a break at work, than wanting to be around him.  I like this pragmatic approach to bringing them together than having Rasetsu get all swoonie around him.

Yako on the other hand is the one mesmerized by Rasetsu.  Her resemblence to Yurara's guardian spirit makes him vulnerable to her.  Even though he realizes it, he just can't seem to fight it.  The final chapter in this volume makes things worse for Yako as they return to his old High School, and Rasetsu wears the school uniform, making her transformation into Yurara almost complete.  The end of the chapter also brings up some questions about whether Yako is as alone as he's thought he was, and may lead to another unusual love triangle.

The other characters that work at the agency have their own quirky traits.  Kuryu uses Kotodama, using words to manifest his power, but he can only use it once a day.  He seems to have another power that he uses on some crows to save Rasetsu.  It isn't explained, but it does make him more interesting that just a tagalong.  Aoi works at the agency, doing paperwork and set up cases.  He seems to have a thing for the boss, Amakawa.  He is still a bit of a mystery, and dresses in traditional Japanese robes.  He power involves holding people to understand their problems, something that throws Yako when they first meet.

The charm of the chapters aren't in the ghosts they are sent to exocise, but in the character's interactions as they are doing it.  All of the cases seemed to feel second to Rasetsu and Yako getting a feel for each other and sorting out their feelings.  Both have secrets that they keep from the other that might help each other to understand their motivations.  This is a very character driven title.

Shiomi's art just keeps getting better.  Her characters have the very tall, thin look to them.  Especially Rasetsu, though at no point does she look too thin.  They are dressed professionally, usually in suits and never the same thing.  No school uniforms here.  Rasetsu's reaction to wearing one is quite amusing.  I love the variety, as it feels more real.

Rasetsu might seem like just another supernatural romance, but it's characters take it beyond that.  They are funny and quirky, and can still be serious when the time calls for it, without it seeming out of character.  If you haven't read any of Shiomi's titles before, now is a good time to start.


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