Yozakura Quartet 2 (Del Rey)

yq-header.jpgA sort of Japanese Charlie’s Angels (plus one) strives to keep the piece and sustain the delicate balance of powers in a town where humans and demons co-exist. 

 

 

224 pgs. B&W; $10.95 paperback

(W / A: Suzuhito Yasuda)

 

The concept behind the manga Yozakura Quartet has a lot of promise: it centers on the experiences of four teenagers (three with special powers) in Sakurashin, a town where humans and youkai (demons) co-exist. Hime is mayor of Sakurashin, having succeeded her grandmother, and has superhuman strength which she trains constantly to improve. Ao is a satori, meaning she can read people’s minds; she also has cute little cat ears which she usually tries to conceal. Kotoha can conjure up objects from words (belief in this power, called kotodama, is basic to Shinto), which produces interesting moral dilemmas when she’s asked to do things like make pornographic magazines real. These three female characters are complemented by regular guy Akina, director of the Hiizumi Life Counseling Office.

The cover to Yozakura Quartet 2 by Suzuhito Yasuda. Click for a larger image.These Japanese Charlie’s Angels plus one strive to keep the peace and sustain the delicate balance of powers in their town. Smart, civic-minded young women with super-powers, plus a steady guy who doesn’t try to hog the spotlight: that’s exactly the kind of story I wish would be featured more often in manga.

But the execution of this promising premise is disappointing: the storyline is hard to follow and frequently seems to be going nowhere in particular. The background missing from volume 1 is presented here, including the basic premise of separate yet co-existing demon and human worlds is explained, along with "tuning" and the Seven Pillars surrounding Sakurashin. But at the same time a number of new characters are introduced whose necessity is not entirely clear, and new story lines are introduced with the expectation that they will be picked up in volume 3, if the reader has the patience to stick with the series.

The strong point of this volume is the art, which comes as no surprise given that Yasuda began his professional career as an illustrator while Yozakura Quartet is his first effort as a writer. All the characters are clearly drawn and well-characterized, and Yasuda uses a variety of frame sizes and mixes realistic and expressive backgrounds with great skill. The cover is a color portrait of Ao playing an electric keyboard, picking up on the "quartet" theme although music does not figure in the story itself.

Yozakura Quartet 2 is rated OT for ages 16+. There’s a certain amount of fanservice (the usual short skirts and skin-tight blouses) and violence, but no more than you would expect in any shonen manga. Extras include a guide to Japanese honorifics (overly elementary for any but a newbie), fan-magazine-style profiles of the characters (hobbies, favorite food, little-known facts, etc.), six pages of cultural notes, and a bonus manga in which Yasuda details his working process. | Sarah Boslaugh

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