Kekkaishi Volume 1 by Yellow Tanabe (amazon)

Kekkaishi is a promising action title that looks like a good pick for anyone wanting an entertaining shonen story. The first chapter introduces the hero of the story Yoshimori. He’s young and weak and struggles with his training to become the successor to his family’s long-standing demon hunting tradition. His secret friend is the older girl next door Tokine, who belongs to a rival demon hunting clan. Both Yoshimori and Tokine are aided in their demon hunts by demon dog sidekicks, who provide comic relief and guidance. Yoshimori isn’t very savvy about hunting demons. Tokine saves him and is injured in the process.

The story picks up again when Yoshimori is 14 and Tokine is 16. She criticizes his lack of refinement when demon hunting, counseling him to save his power. He doesn’t want to see anyone get hurt in front of him anymore and is determined to become a better fighter. Their school is conveniently located above a reservoir of power and at night they pursue the hunt.

There’s an attention to detail and sense of humor displayed throughout the manga. Flashback scenes giving background information about Yoshimori’s family are drawn to suggest the look of traditional Japanese paintings. Yoshimori uses his powers to wrap himself in a protective cube when he’s sleeping, providing a handy barrier against his grandfather’s tendencies to burst in his room demanding to know why he’s not training harder. Yoshimori has tiny blobby creatures called shikigami that handle the clean-up duties after a fight.

It turns out that Yoshimori’s main ambitions are protecting Tomine and making cakes in the shape of castles. He’s so sleep deprived at school that he can’t focus on anything. He meets the ghost of a dead pastry chef who is unable to rest because his last word was “Cabbages” instead of “Strawberries.” Whenever Yoshimori tries to indulge in some cake baking, his grandfather always appears to yell at him and smash his latest cake.

The relationship between Yoshimori and Tomine was amusing, perhaps because of the power imbalance due to the difference in their ages and experience. Tomine tells Yoshimori not to walk with her to school because she doesn’t want to be seen with a junior high student, but they often team up to fight demons at night. He wants to protect her, but she is constantly telling him about his lack of technique as a demon fighter. Kekkaishi was an unexpected blend of action and humor with a little bit of baking on the side. I’ll definitely be checking out the other volumes in this series.