OMGOMG! We have a Guest Review! Not just any Guest Review, a Guest Review by the incomparable Bruce P.! And not only a review by Bruce, but his 10th review here on Okazu! Settle in, folks, this is going to be a heckuva ride, but you’re in capable hands. Take it away, Bruce!
Heavily discounted, pulled from a dark shelf in the way, way back at Mandarake, Kinoko Ningen no Kekkon (きのこ人間の結婚) by Murayama Kei had the aura of nasty all over it. From the half-dressed bubble-headed girls clinging to each other on the cover to the title itself—Marriage of the Mushroom People—it promised awful. Really awful. A Yuritetsu for the mycological set. Naturally I snapped it up.
Well, it isn’t awful. I don’t intend to sound disappointed, but in fact, it is actually a ripping good story, in a quirky sort of way, if you can get over the fungus-infected spiders. Definitely in the sub-genre of hobby enthusiast’s manga, written to appeal to anyone who has specific interest in both (a) mushrooms, molds, and allied fungi, and (b) Yuri, and who doesn’t want to have to read two books to get them. But Yuritetsu it assuredly is not.
Ariara and Eriera are getting married. Yes, they are mushrooms, which accounts for their being dressed in filmy mushroom stem annuli. It’s not service, it’s…botanical precision. Their marriage is a very special event in Damp Town. Not because they are both women, there’s nothing unusual about that in a world where the entire population happens to be female, but because it’s a great opportunity for everyone to get happily plastered. And that they do, as A and E head off to their new home and life together. A is a shepherd and E had been a scribe but is now learning the shepherding business, so that they can always be together, out in the fungus fields happily shepherding away. They’re so darn cute as they guide their flock of one-celled amoebas into the abattoir and lustily hack them up into sandwiches.
But their bliss is short-lived, even in mushroom years. Eriera gets sick—it’s root rot—and it’s very bad, and though she lives through it, the operation leaves her disfigured and unable to bear children. Or to father them either, which is the efficient way these things can work in this world. Ariara angrily rejects the clucking advice of sententious townfolk who suggest she should divorce damaged goods. They’re married, they’re in love, they will stay together and that’s that.
Or is it?
One of those little ‘Honey, maybe I should have told you this before the wedding…’ items that Eriera just never got around to mentioning, was that as a child she had attracted the affectionate interest of a very important person indeed, a member of the royal family—the young Princess #3. The all-powerful Fungal Queen and her three princesses are dangerous, arrogant, and psychotic, enthusiasts of strict legal interpretation when it suits them, and of arbitrary capital punishment when it doesn’t. Exactly the type you want to hear is carrying a torch for your wife. Princess #3 arranges to have E kidnapped and brought to her, because she’s a princess and can do what she wants, and have fun doing it. Her minions oblige, leaving A behind in a bloody heap.
That’s their mistake. Because Ariara gets up, wipes the blood from her eyes, and sets out to bring Eriera back. And throughout the entire rest of the book there is nothing that can stop her. Slime-mold guards riding tarantulas she brushes aside. Sheer cliffs she scales with one arm behind her back. Rings of magic fire she leaps through, mighty sword Nothung in hand…well, you get the idea. She actually is impressive. Very impressive. And she wins. She brings Eriera home.
There was never a doubt. Not for someone so focused that she can abruptly coldcock the muscular young woman who has helped them to escape the princess’s castle tower, on the basis that three’s a crowd.
There is a curious epilogue in which Ritsu from K-On! rides in on a tarantula, which seems a rather natural fit, at that, and winds up with a cute girlfriend. It’s not Mio, but that may be for the best. They look very happy together.
The art is pleasant enough, though hardly stellar. It’s somewhat sketchy, and occasionally a little obscure. There is a scene in which Ariara takes a rifle-wielding guard hostage. She does so by threatening her with what might be a banana. If so, it’s an effective banana.
Yuri is the natural backdrop in the world depicted, and the framework for the main couple’s story, but it is not the point of the story. Only one character actively engages in a little Yuri frolicking: the insouciant Princess #2, who doesn’t appear much, but when she does is considerably more interested in fiddling with her cute handmaiden than in overseeing the provincial merchants’ production inventory valuation lists (imagine).
Art: 6. Somewhat rough and ready, but fair enough to support the story. Not hesitant to depict all ages—young, old, and very old—quite naturally. The muscular characters (the scribes, who are stone masons as well) are very muscular indeed. And the different fungal species are well drawn. If you want to consider that a plus.
Story: 8. A fun little yarn. The plot does occasionally slow down at some long-winded legalistic discussions about things like boundary marker disputes and fishing rights.
Characters: 8. Good; bad; ugly; Ritsu. An interesting mix. The royal family are wonderfully psychotic. Ariara is a standout hero.
Yuri: 9. It’s everywhere, as framework, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Service: 5. The filmy fronds (on young, old, and really old alike). Nothing more.
Overall: 7. Or 8. I’m going to give it 8, possibly because I was expecting such a tiny number here.
…and so Ariara has scaled the royal castle tower and is frantically kicking butt to rescue Eriera, when E helpfully states that violence is never a solution. And then she says it again. At which point A replies, in effect, Oh for Chrissake…it can’t be helped.
They’re married all right.
Erica here: Holy….what the heck did I just read? (◎_◎)
Well, if, after this review you are motivated to check this out, the first chapter is online on Poco2.
Happy 10th review and thanks, as always!