Friday, February 5, 2021

REVIEW: Shugo Chara! (manga, vol. 1) by Peach-Pit, translated by June Kato

Shugo Chara! is a magical girl series. It was originally licensed by Del Rey but is now published by Kodansha USA. My copy of this first volume is used, the Del Rey release.


Amu transfers to a new school only to find that she has the exact same problems there as she did at her old one: everyone mistakes her for being a "cool girl" and finds her to be too unapproachable to talk to. She doesn't talk much, and when she does, she has a tendency to act cold, but in reality she's just shy and really wishes that she could be cute, open, and friendly. Her wish grants her three "character eggs." When the first one hatches, she discovers that they contains tiny people who have the power to change her character (to someone who speaks her mind, is more athletic, more artistic, etc.).

Her new eggs capture the interest of several people: the Guardians of Seiyo Elementary and a mysterious boy named Ikuto. The Guardians and Ikuto are all looking for something called the "Embryo," which is capable of granting a person's wish. Tadase Hotori, the "King's chair" for the Guardians, has a wish he'd like to see granted, and Amu decides she wants to help him because she has a crush on him (although it's unrequited - he says he's in love with someone else). However, Ikuto also has a wish he wants to see granted.

Once upon a time, I tried to get into the anime adaptation of this and just couldn't. The story and characters were aimed a bit too young for my tastes, and the whole thing was overly cute in a way that didn't work for me. There wasn't enough to hold my interest for more than a few episodes.

The manga isn't working any better for me so far. Again, it's aimed too young for my tastes, and the premise is a lot. Magical eggs, the Embryo, magical transformations, the cute boy Amu knows she has a crush on vs. the cute boy who intrigues her, plus the whole "X eggs" thing introduced at the end of the volume. So much stuff crammed into this series.

Honestly, the whole "character egg" concept kind of put me off. The idea, I guess, is that kids' "characters" aren't yet clear and well-defined, so the eggs give them the potential to be completely other people who are either the person they want to be or an aspect of the person they really are inside. It reminded me a little of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books and their daemons, except that the character eggs seemed much more limited. Most people only have one egg (if they ever get to see their egg at all), and from the look of things, it could only contain one type of other personality, one that wasn't very well integrated with that person's regular personality at all. 

So far, the series has revealed all of Amu's "guardian characters" and shown what Nadeshiko and Tadase's do. Ikuto's "guardian character" has also done a little, but it's tough to say what it does for him beyond give him cat ears (WTF, did Ikuto secretly wish he were more like a cat?).

For all that Amu has a huge crush on Tadase (apparently just because he's good-looking - she doesn't actually know him well enough to have any other reasons), his "character change" didn't make him seem all that appealing. I sort of liked Ikuto more - his attempt to apologize using snacks was cute - but I wasn't really a fan of his blatant flirting (licking one of her character eggs, ew).

Although I'm vaguely interested in finding out what Ikuto and Tadase's wishes are, I doubt I'll be continuing this.


Author freetalks (which were pretty interesting - Peach-Pit is composed of two people, one of whom writes the stories and both of whom draw, focusing on their assigned characters); character profiles for Amu, Tadase, Nadeshiko, Kukai, Yaya, and Ikuto; and 3 pages of translation notes. One part of Peach-Pit's Q&As was odd and had me wondering if perhaps one of them was nonbinary:

Q: Is PEACH-PIT-sensei a man or a woman?
A: Uh...I...guess you can call us women. Yeah, biologically speaking, we're...probably women. Both of us.

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