Sometimes you just need a manga with some bite and no mushy romance will really scratch the itch for adventure. Enough school girls suddenly realizing that they are madly and passionately in love with the back of the person in front of them’s head, or their sempai in debate club. (Do Japanese schools have debate clubs? I have no idea, honestly.) What you need is a grand rope-swinging girl pal/buddy movie, with zombies and pirates and other stuff.
Hourai Girls (蓬莱ガールズ) is just the manga for you.
Set in a fantasy land that is vaguely 17th century Chinese, with heavy overlays of sorcery, Rinka is a princess and rich girl in name only. Her father, an abusive wizard/warlord, keeps her locked in the house with only her childhood friend YanYan to look after her. YanYan, who is a zombie, called a “soma, has all the best qualities of a rag doll, in that easily detached limbs are also easily re-attacked. As a soma YanYan fits right in with the rest of the household staff, who also appear to be stitched up zombies.
Rinka makes a few attempts at escaping, only to be recaught, and beaten into oblivion by her father, who then rends YanYan into pieces so we can hate him more, then he goes off and chortles over his creepy soma armies. It’s obvious to all of us that he will be the ultimate boss. But in the meantime, Rinka and YanYan have to get out first. And they do.
They decide to head to “Hourai” a probably fictitious land in a children’s book. Rinka learns about money and shopping and YanYan stops her from being arrested about a million times. Because of YanYan’s visible stitches, she is immediately tagged as a soma. The villagers have no good feelings for soma, but when the headman offers to pay them to stop a truly horrific creature who is slaughtering villagers, Rinka and YanYan take the job. They kill the multi-armed, regenerating creature and are paid in money…and a tragic backstory. The creature was the headman’s wife who killed herself after their child was kidnapped and whom he brought back to life, but not humanity, with sorcery. Boo-hoo. Rinka gets a glimpse of the harsh life outside her father’s house, but is not fazed. Off they go…they charter a boat!
The boat captain is a decent guy. He’ll take them as far as he can and he teaches Rinka to water ski. When soma mermen attack the ship, YanYan and Rinka are not surprised to find that Rinka’s father is behind it. They tell him to get lost and head west. Dropped off in the harbor, YanYan is immediately captured for being a soma, by a self-selected police force. Apparently this town has a recent run-in with soma that destroyed both town and citizens. The townspeople also have cute, fluffy dog tails.
The head of the secret police squad thinks Rinka and YanYan are so damn cool and the fact that they are going to Hourai is cool and everything is so coooool!, that he lets them go and off they head to find their Shangri-La. To Be Continued.
YanYan and Rinka are close, but there is no Yuri, or even a hint of such.. This is shinyuu manga, BFFs, best buds, gal pals. There’s no lovey-dovey, but it was still fun.
I found this book in a Book-Off in Tokyo and picked up on a lark. It was a fun…if occasionally creepy…read. But the fact that it was very high pirate fantasy adventure meant no nightmares, even with all those body parts strewn around. I wasn’t going to bother with the next volume, but it looks like Volume 2 is the end of the series, so maybe I will, after all. You never know when I’ll get that urge to read about besties killing monsters and having adventures together again.
Art – How does one rate zombies and multi-limbed human eating monsters? 7
Story – 8
Character – 7
Yuri – 0
Service – 1
Overall – 8 Itch scratched