Tag Archives: spooky shop

Bound Beauty

Bound Beauty Volume 1 by Mick Takeuchi

Chiyako can see the legendary mystical red threads that connect lovers. She has turned her power into a thriving matchmaking business at school, telling her classmates their love fortunes in return for cash. She’s determined to save up as much money as she can because she wants to become an adult and move out on her own. She fights with her father so she’s is eager to become independent. A tattooed boy at school with a hair-trigger temper named Tachibana confronts Chiyako about her business, ordering her to stop. Tachibana is rumored to be part of a Yakuza family because he has tattoos and earrings.

Chiyako has a huge crush on her calligraphy teacher Nagumo, who reminds her of a boy who saved her life when she was a little girl. Nagumo is the strong, silent, kimono-wearing type. A classmate draws the Kinnikuman symbol on Chiyako’s forehead as she daydreams of her teacher, so she sets off in search of a bathroom only to find a house connected to the classroom. She hears Nagumo and Tachibana talking about getting rid of a matchmaker. Nagumo looks harsh and angry, not like his usual self at all. A bespectacled boy named Aya sneaks up behind Chiyako and promptly starts strangling her for eavesdropping! She manages to escape, falls down a flight of stairs, gets wrapped up in mystical thread, and is transformed into a child.

It turns out that Nagumo, Tachibana, and Aya are Tyers, a select group of people that can influence the different types of mystical thread that control the strings of fate. Chiyako has the same ability to influence fate. She turned into a child because the string of fate connecting her to her wish to become adult was severed. Chiyako ends up joining up with the three guys in an attempt to learn how to control her powers, moving into their house in a reverse harem scenario typical of many shoujo manga. There’s also a fairly predictable “spooky shop” plot device, where various clients come to them for help. When Chiyako exercises her powers over the threads of fate she ends up transforming back into her true teenage form, so there’s a magical girl element present in the manga too. Chiyako tends to throw herself into any endeavor with enthusiasm so she tries to help people with her new powers without thinking of any potential consequences.

There were a few too many plot elements crammed into not enough space in Bound Beauty. Exposition about the thread magic system, the hints that Nagumo and the other boys may be taking orders from a sinister organization, the clients’ problems, Taichibana’s family issues, and Chiyako’s six year old fury all contributed into the manga feeling a tad overstuffed. There were some funny moments as Chiyako constantly manages to escape from Tachibana by pointing behind his back and commenting about naked women in order to distract him. I was also intrigued by the hints of darkness in Nagumo’s personality. I think I’ll give volume two of this series a try because even though so many of the plot elements are familiar Chiyako is an engaging heroine.

A Wise Man Sleeps

A Wise Man Sleeps Volume 1 by Mick Takeuchi (amazon)

Takeuchi’s other series Her Majesty’s Dog is one of my regular reads, so I was curious about this earlier work. A Wise Man Sleeps is a little more lighthearted than Her Majesty’s Dog, and has much of the charm that I’ve come to expect from this author. Miharu is in a bit of a pickle; her mother has died and her father has vanished, leaving behind nothing but a pile of yakuza debts. When the local mob boss comes to collect, he promises that he’ll always “take care” of Miharu. In the meantime, she’s accosted by a creepy looking guy on the street who remarks that she’s been having bad luck. Rintaro is dressed entirely in black, wears one glove, and wants the ring Miharu’s mother left her because the jewel in the ring is a powerful alchemical agent called a Wise Man’s stone.
When the yakuza find out about the stone they want it too, but Miharu impetuously swallows the ring before Rintaro or the mob boss can get it. Rintaro is horrified, because the ring’s powers are unknown. Rintaro reveals that he also posesses a Wise Man’s stone. When he activates it, he turns into an outgoing blond man with a penchant for calling girls endearments like “my little kitten.” Blond Rintaro easily defeats the yakuza with his alchemical powers.
Rintaro’s timid Eyeore-like personality makes an amusing contrast with the outgoing ladies’ man that is his alter ego. Miharu is boisterous, outgoing, and totally willing to try to manipulate men with crocodile tears in order to get out of the predicaments she finds herself in. She also possesses a unique fashion sense, as this is the first manga where I’ve seen someone wearing arm warmers and a slightly off-kilter cowgirl outfit. Miharu ends up metabolizing the Wise Man stone, becoming an alchemical agent herself. She and Rintaro team up to track down mysterious jewelry pieces.
This manga ends up becoming a variant on the spooky shop genre, as Miharu and Rintaro encounter a variety of people with cursed jewels. Where A Wise Man Sleeps differs a little bit from other manga of this genre is that with each short story, we learn a little more about the characters’ background and the relationship between them progresses. Takeuchi’s art easily details Miharu’s dynamic action scenes, Rintaro’s dual personalities, and his favorite doll (!) Beatrice. While I think that Her Majesty’s Dog is a stronger series overall than A Wise Man Sleeps, this was still a well-done shojo manga which is worth checking out if you don’t have spooky shop genre burnout.