Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Inu x Boku SS (manga, vol. 2) by Cocoa Fujiwara, translated by Melissa Tanaka

Inu x Boku SS is a fantasy romance series licensed by Yen Press.

Review:

Ririchiyo is surprised to realize that, despite her continued prickliness, she has become friends with Watanuki and Karuta. Closing the gap between herself and Soushi proves to be far more difficult, however. Whereas the other client-agent pairs tend to be more relaxed around each other, Soushi is always the perfect and servile bodyguard. Ririchiyo decides that having a cup of coffee with him, as friends rather than as client and bodyguard, might bring them closer, but her plans are ruined by the arrival of Kagerou, her fiance.

This is the volume in which the details of Soushi's past and his reasons for being so devoted to Ririchiyo are revealed. It happened a little sooner than I expected – the anime saved this revelation for the very end – but I still loved it. I loved this evidence that Soushi was at least as vulnerable and lonely as Ririchiyo, and seeing them grow closer via the letters they exchanged was sweet and kind of heartbreaking.

The bits with Watanuki and Karuta at the beginning were so-so – to be honest, the hints of romance between those two didn't really interest me. Watanuki kept saying that there was more to Karuta than there appeared to be, and that did seem to be true, but for the most part those hidden depths stayed hidden. She was primarily just a sleepy-looking girl who loved food, and I got the feeling that Watanuki was going to be left pining for her forever.

And then Kagerou. Oh, Kagerou. He'd have been creepy if he hadn't been so ludicrously over-the-top. To him, everything in the world, including inanimate objects, could be classified as either S (sadist) or M (masochist). He didn't even vaguely try to win Ririchiyo over. I'm still not sure if it was Ririchiyo's closeness with Soushi that bothered him, or if he was just bothered by Soushi, period. Soushi was smoother and more cultured than him, and at the same time completely lacking in shame. There was nothing that Kagerou could say or do to him that would hurt him in any way, except maybe exposing Soushi's lies to Ririchiyo. I hope that the series takes a closer look at Kagerou at some point – I was intrigued by the indications, near the end of this volume, that there was more to him than there appeared to be, and that he was more than just some weird guy who shouts “S” and “M” at everything.

I absolutely loved this volume. The revelations in the latter half of it were excellent, and I'm looking forward to seeing if anything else in this series ever manages to top it. I just wish the cover weren't so gross. See what I mean about Ririchiyo's hands looking like those of a toddler compared to Soushi's?

Extras:
  • 14 pages of side stories and joke comics - I could have done without Nobara's "smexy" lessons, but "Useless Skills" and "What's in the Box" were okay. I especially liked it when Soushi got mad at Kagerou for being more disgusting than usual towards Ririchiyo. Oh, and the "S&M" side story involving Kagerou and Sorinozuka was great. Sorinozuka makes a fabulous anti-Kagerou weapon without even trying.
  • One page of translation notes - Again, I always appreciate these, although only one of them came in handy for me this time around.
  • A two-page Inuboku postscript - Cocoa Fujiwara's recent death made this kind of painful to read.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Black Butler (manga) by Yana Toboso; Black Butler (anime TV series) - In this supernatural historical series, the main characters are an arrogant young boy looking for vengeance and his demon butler. Those who loved the "mistress and servant" aspect of Inu x Boku Secret Service might want to give this a shot. Just be aware that this series has similar objectionable content, plus occasional violence/bloodiness. I've written about both seasons of the anime and the first fourteen volumes of the manga.
  • Gosick (light novels) story by Kazuki Sakuraba, art by Hinata Takeda; Gosick (anime TV series) - This historical mystery series has supernatural elements and a bit of romance and stars a character named Victorique, who looks like a beautiful doll and has a brilliant mind. Those who liked Ririchiyo's blend of abrasiveness and vulnerability might also like Victorique. I've written about the anime and the first light novel.
  • Loveless (manga) by Yun Kouga; Loveless (anime TV series) - Another series featuring an uncomfortable age mismatch and starring very damaged characters. The focus on the mystery elements and the recognition, on Soubi's part, that Ritsuka was a minor and that certain behaviors would therefore not be appropriate (not that that always stopped him) made this series hit my "ick" buttons less forcefully than Inu x Boku SS. However, there is still a definite ick factor, so be aware of that.
  • Fruits Basket (manga) by Natsuki Takaya; Fruits Basket (anime TV series) - Those who liked the premise involving the supernatural "throwbacks" may want to give this series a try. Fruits Basket also features a family in which various supernatural beings are assumed to be reborn in certain people. Some of those people are coddled, while others are rejected. Tohru is a normal girl who ends up getting to know these people, secrets and all.
  • Daughter of the Blood (book) by Anne Bishop - The revelations about Soushi reminded me of Daemon Sadi, a character from Anne Bishop's Black Jewels books. Like Soushi, Daemon spent years wanting to meet and be by the side of the person he considered to be his emotional savior.

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