Kekkaishi Volumes 2-5

I read the first volume of this series over a year ago, but it has taken some time for me to get around to reading a few of the subsequent volumes in the series. I recently sat down with the next four volumes of this entertaining shonen story about a boy and the girl next door who happen to be demon fighters.

Kekkaishi Volume 2 by Yellow Tanabe

While the first volume mostly focused on setting up the background and situation of the hero Yoshimori, the second volume gives the reader a peak into the motivations of his older next-door neighbor Tokine. Her father continued the family tradition of protecting the sacred site in their neighborhood, even though he didn’t have enough power to truely be suited to the task. When a demon-tamer from the mysterious and aptly named Shadow Organization arrives Tokine is forced to confront her past and Yoshimori is even more determined to act to make sure that she doesn’t come to harm. The final story in the volume provides a unique perspective on demon hunting, as Yoshimori’s classmate Yurina reveals that she has the ability to see spirit, and she suspects that there may be another reason for his constant sleeping in class.

Kekkaishi Volume 3 by Yellow Tanabe

Yoshimori continues to train. His cranky Grandpa assigns even more difficult tasks to Yoshimori while keeping secret the depth of his grandson’s untapped power. One the ways Yoshimori and Tokine complement each other is that she has a greater degree of accuracy and control when trying to fight demons, while Yoshimori just tends to blast away with his strength. They both vow to get stronger. Yoshimori wants to improve his technique so he can match Tokine, and she resolves to refine her abilities even further. One of the things I like about the series is the variety of demon character designs. Yoshimori battles a fox with ice powers and then is forced to battle a demon dog with three hangers-on. The power of the Karasumori site that Yoshimori protects often gives the demons the power to transform, growing larger and scarier. The dog was an old companion of Yoshimori’s spirit dog Madarao. Yoshomori releases the binding that keeps Madarao from exercising his full power and comes to a new understanding with his family’s guardian spirit.

Kekkaishi Volume 4 by Yellow Tanabe

One of the things I like about this series is the shifts in tone from chapter to chapter. Just when things might be getting too serious with all the demon fighting, Tanabe brings up Yoshimori’s addiction to making castle cakes. The first part of this volume deals with the spirit of a departed pastry chef and Yoshimori’s efforts to help him find peace. The rest of the volume focuses on the introduction of a new character, Yoshimori’s older brother Masamori. Masamori wasn’t chosen to inherit the guardian role that Yoshimori occupies. Instead Masamori has gone to work for the Shadow Organization and refined his talents, turning him into a formidable potential foe. Is it just sibling rivalry that causes him to test Yoshimori, or does he have darker motivations? Yoshimori is annoyed even more when it appears that Tokine may have a crush on Masamori. I like the way the spirit animal companions reflect the personalities of their owners. Yoshimori and Tokine both have sidekicks that appear to be dogs, but Masamori is accompanied by a dark fish and he’s surrounded by images of dark water with hidden depths.

Kekkaishi Volume 5 by Yellow Tanabe

The fifth volume has my favorite spirit so far. Lord Uru is a squat creature with a wide-brimmed hat who appears at Yoshimori’s school. Uru is ravenous, causing people to exclaim when they find that all their food has mysteriously disappeared. It turns out that Lord Uru was once a forest deity with a connection to Yoshimori’s family. After cleaning out the school Lord Uru visits Yoshimori’s house and sits down to dinner with the family. Yoshimori offers to make any treat the god would like and Uru picks donuts.

Uru has appeared because his bed is broken, and Yoshimori has to travel to a parallel world in order to fix it. Lord Uru’s former realm might be the energy source of the Karasumori site that Yoshimori and Tokine have to protect. While Tanabe’s art has always been clearly designed and pleasant to look at, he takes things to another level with the portrayal of Lord Uru’s refuge, which can only be reached by jumping into a black hole in the middle of a lake. Yoshimori’s Grandpa warns him that he must maintain his focus because he may forget who he is while visiting the other realm, so Yoshimori scrawls the most important things to him all over his hands and arms.

Clarity of storytelling isn’t something I take for granted when reading manga. Tanabe manages to juggle so many elements in Kekkaishi like monster of the week battles, the possibility of a romance between Yoshimori and Tokine, the duo’s struggles to refine their power, and the mysteries behind the Karasumori site and the Shadow Organization. So many ongoing plots certainly keep me intrigued as a reader, and when Tanabe needs to take a break to focus on cake baking or roach hunting she’s able to accommodate humorous episodes without them feeling intrusive or like they are taking away from the main narrative. Tanabe slowly reveals the history of Yoshimori and Tokine’s linked families, and the reader can appreciate Yoshimori as he slowly grows in understanding of his role in the world.

The first and eighth chapters of Kekkaishi are available on Shonen Sunday. Kekkaishi is well worth checking out if you like intelligent shonen adventures.