Amefurashi: The Rain Goddess (Del Rey)

amefurashi-header.gifThis new manga from the creator of Venus Versus Virus starts out cleanly enough, but those looking at subtext will get more than a few pings from their Squick Radar.

 

 

 

 

240 pgs., b/w; $10.99

(W / A: Atsushi Suzumi)

 

Amefurashi: The Rain Goddess starts cute, as they like to say. Gimmy is a teenage boy living in a desert town with his younger twin siblings, Mil and Mel, and his guardian, who spends most of his time in the pub and leaves those pesky kids to Gimmy. The villagers spend their days nicely irrigated thanks to a huge tree right outside of town that has a rare flower that has never bloomed but that shelters a rain goddess, who delivers rain in exchange for offerings from the town. Lately, they’ve been making her a lot of dolls and they think that’s kind of weird but they also have a thing for being alive, so the dolls are made. One day, a bubble floats down from the tree one day holding yet another request for a doll and the town wiseman, apparently irritated with carving little dollies for a weirdo goddess, decides that this time, Gimmy will make the doll. Gimmy, of course, is totally eeked out since he has one day to do it and it has to be absolutely perfect or the goddess will withhold the rain and they’ll all have to lick cactus leaves or whatever people do out in the desert. No one wants to eat cactus so he sits down to carve the doll through the night for delivery in the morning. All night, this kid is working on this thing, and he gets a face attached to a crazy bag body. Way to go, Gimmy, hope you guys have some thick gloves, I hear cactus spines hurt like the dickens.

While Gimmy is wringing his hands, his twin siblings, a boy and a girl so sweet it’s coma-inducing, decide to come to the rescue. They take their toy box to the front door of the temple and crate themselves up. "Look," the wiseman says after he opens, clearly before coffee and finding his glasses for the day because there are two live children in the box, "Gimmy has made not one but two dolls! And they’re rad!" Okay, maybe I added that last part but he’s thrilled, so up to the altar they go. In the meantime, Gimmy realizes that he’s running late and only wants to explain this once so he heads over to the actual altar to deliver his ugly doll and explain to the Amefurashi why it sucks and discovers the empty crate. Much to his credit, he immediately recognizes his siblings’ toy box and up the tree he goes to retrieve them.

Click for a larger image.Once he gets up the tree he discovers a whip-wielding teenage girl who looks disconcertingly like a gym teacher and acts like a jerk and, what’s that? I believe it’s the sound of our story taking off! She identifies him as a pest and whips him unconscious but then, apparently, feels bad and takes him back to her place to recover and leaves to finish her patrol. He eventually wakes up just as the goddess/gym teacher gets back and tries to leave with his siblings, only to discover he’s in the cloud layer at the top of the tree. Finding that Plan A (brute force) isn’t going to work out, he resorts to Plan B (asking nicely) but Sora, the goddess, refuses. He persists and she explains that while he was napping, she’s already made the rain happen and that a deal’s a deal. Over his sputtering, she starts to bring the rain back up out of the ground to prove her point. So he decides to get sneaky and tell her that he’ll make better dolls, fabulous dolls, a million dolls, all better than these real children, just for her if she’ll only give back these two merely-okay dolls!

She, of course, doesn’t believe him and insists on going down to the village with him to make sure he can actually produce said dolls, which is smart because remember how we got into this mess? For some reason, they leave the twins behind and unsupervised. I don’t even think Gimmy makes a peep when she whips him (quite literally, she uses her whip for transport when she’s not smackin’ down teenage boys and bugs) down to the village. Magical whips aren’t really normal modes of transport so she’s noticed by some sneaky people lurking outside the village who decide that maybe they can come up with something to do with such a power. Gimmy doesn’t notice the baddies because he’s busy trying to herd the goddess to his house and she’s busy shouting about chickens and poking at things in the market and accidentally stealing for him to really glance around. They get to his house, she gets bored and off she goes, back to the market to get in trouble, probably. Goddesses these days, man, I just don’t know what’s gotten into them.

In what’s either thirty seconds or three hours, Gimmy notices she’s gone and decides to go after her. He, surprisingly quickly, finds her on the outskirts of the village, unconscious and immobilized by a rope. Her kidnappers are mocking her and I really don’t blame them. Seriously, they disabled a goddess with a little bit of rope? Lame goddess, then. In the ruckus that ensues, Sora wakes up, hears Gimmy bellowing about how these people are kidnappers and thieves and realizes that maybe sitting pretty against that rock isn’t the thing to do. She breaks out of her rope and ties the kidnappers together and promptly passes out. As she does, a gray rain begins to fall over the town.

Gimmy drags a sickly Sora to the Department of Back Story, I mean, the temple, where we’re told that the gray rain is a reflection of her bad health since she and the tree are one. The tree makes the rain, the goddess makes the tree what it is, sick goddess = icky tree = icky rain. Okay, got it. Just as the priest finishes catching us up, Sora wakes up and starts yelling about going back up her tree. And this is where it gets weird. They head up the tree and discover a giant bug nibbling delicately at the leaves, which is bad, but that they can get rid of it, which is good. Somehow, though, they decide that Gimmy the Freakshow is going to fight the thing off with the twins while Sora the Goddess takes a nap. Right. The twins manage to hold the bug off until Sora realizes that this plan is stupid and comes back out twinkling about how she’s going to punish the bug. Between that and the whip, my Squick Radar is pinging ever so gently. So the bug is gone and, for his part in helping her, Gimmy gets acknowledged as a human being and hangs out in a cloud for a while. Eventually, they look around and realize that the twins are missing.

And here, dear readers, is where my eyebrows shot so far up into my head I thought I would lose them forever. Seriously, they stayed there for, like, eighty-five pages. I mean, I’m kind of a private person when it comes to sex. I know that there are people out there having sex and that they have sexy bits to do this with and that some of these people are people that I know. I know that people I know probably know that I, too, have the same sexy bits and, therefore…awkward, right? But, yeah, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t really want to think about it, I don’t want you to think about me thinking about it and I certainly don’t want to stumble upon the sexy sex stuff in a comic book designed for teenage readers.

So imagine my surprise and dismay when another representative for the Department of Back Story, this one scantily clad and another Amefurashi franchise owner named Ciel, arrives to take Sora’s tree. I mean, that in itself isn’t bad, it’s when she explains that the giant hole Gimmy and Sora have followed the twins into leads to the secret cavity holding the core of Sora’s tree and, therefore, the secret core of Sora. Sora, meanwhile, is powerless here and, jeez, Ciel points out, her cavity’s hanging open, making her totally vulnerable. Back Story goes on to explain that as she matures and discovers herself, the inner cavity will get larger but she’ll be able to protect it. I’m sorry but, what? Excuse me? Jesus Christ, Japan, what? Look, I took freshman psych, too, and I know the sexy sex stuff when I see it. I was able to overlook the freaky guidance counselor-student romance, sort of, but this is really a bit much, with the flower and all. I let out a horrified giggle and go on, though. The things I do for you, dear readers.

Anyway, Back Story, I mean, Ciel then announces she’s stealing Sora’s core whether she likes it or not and that Sora can’t stop her and she’s right, they don’t stop her. She also manages to grab Sora but Gimmy rescues her by riding an air current out of the cavity. Sora creates a bubble around them and she and Gimmy float down to the village but, without the core, the tree falls apart behind them. The twins somehow arrive and mention that the tree would probably be okay if the core was back because they’re the only ones really displaying any sense here, all crating themselves up aside. Sora and Gimmy vow that they’re going to get the core back to avoid the aforementioned cactus eating. Great. Wonderful. Except that happens in about four pages after about thirty-five pages of weird, innuendo-laden tree talk. Eww. Seriously.

So, I’m going to say the artwork is cute and the story is good up until they start talking about Sora’s tree bits. This book would probably be appropriate for people who, for whatever reasons, won’t draw the obvious conclusions or people who like a little bit of creepy, clean-ish fun. I probably won’t pick up future volumes of this book because I was fairly appalled at the whole thing. I don’t know, though, maybe I just have a dirty mind. It kind of leapt off the page at me so maybe it’s intentional? On the other hand, maybe it’s purely innocent and I’m just a perv? We, dear readers, shall never know… | Erin Jameson

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