JYU-OH-SEI Volume 1 by Natsumi Itsuki (amazon)
When a new title gets generally positive reviews on most of the manga blogs I follow, I try to make a mental note to check it out. Jyu-Oh-Sei is an entertaining and intricately plotted science fiction manga. Identical twins Thor and Rai have grown up as pampered elites due to their father’s high position in the government of the space colony Juno. Rai seems to have no trouble fitting in with colony society due to his mild and obliging personality. Thor is markedly more aggressive and dreams of becoming a pilot instead of a scientist or government bureaucrat. Thor is often placed in a protector role and is called on to impersonate his brother when Rai is afraid of turning down a girl who has asked him out. On the Juno colony the human lifespan is dramatically shortened, and people marry when they reach their early teen years. Thor and Rai aren’t quite ready to grow up, but events beyond their control cause a dramatic change in their lives.
The twins return home one day to find their mother and father murdered. They are knocked out by sleeping gas and placed in a pod. When they wake up a disembodied voice informs them that they are being dropped off on the beast planet Kimaera, a planet that has been missing from the solar system maps of the Juno colony. Kimaera is filled with vicious jungle vegetation, a year that contains 181 days of light and 181 days of night, and serves as a prison colony for people who are too horrible to be sent to the usual prison planet. When Thor and Rai land on the planet, they grab the packs of supplies that were placed in the pod and head out to discover their new world.
Amid the harsh landscape, a complicated tribal system has developed based on the racial background of the exiles sent to serve out their time on Kimaera. Humans are grouped together in rings that reflect the color of their skin; Ochre, Blanc, Sun, and Noire. Rai is unable to adjust to his new circumstances, and Thor soon becomes exhausted trying to protect him. An accident separates the brothers and Thor meets members of the Ochre ring. He later is told that Rai has died. Thor learns that the ruler of the planet, known as the Beast King, is the only person who can travel off-planet. Thor decides that he’ll dedicate himself to become the next Beast King in order to avenge the deaths of his family. He’s aided by a girl named Tiz who comes from the Sun Ring and the third in command from the Ochre tribe. Third appears to have his own mysterious plans for Thor’s future.
Along with the race-based tribal system, there’s a little bit of gender politics too. Women are only 20% of the population on the planet, so they end up being the sexual aggressors by deciding who they’ll pair with during the “mating month”. Tiz decides to make Thor her husband, but he isn’t being thrilled at being coldly selected in this manner. Tiz ends up in more of a girl Friday/sidkick role as Thor continues his adventures.
It is somewhat rare to find a manga where the author has spent as much time worldbuilding as Itsuki clearly has. The structures of human society, the cycle of the seasons on a hostile planet, and the political machinations of the elite colony are shown in great detail. While this sometimes ends up with a bit too much exposition for the reader, I thought Jyu-Oh-Sei was an interesting science fiction adventure. The art is attractive, with detailed designs for the murderous vegetation on the planet Kimaera. Tokyopop is releasing Jyu-Oh-Sei with more pages than the standard manga along with a higher price point. I thought $14.99 for 360 pages was an ok deal compared with $10 for the typical 200+ page manga volume, and it was nice to dive in and read a good chunk of this story.