Yozakura Quartet 3 (Del Rey)

yozakura3-header.jpgStorytelling falls off the rails in the latest adventure of these manga-fied Charlie’s Angels.



240 pgs. Bamp;W; $10.99

(W / A: Suzuhito Yasuda)

Sometimes it’s good to begin a story by plunging right into the action, and sometimes that’s just a ploy to compel your readers to accept implausibilities or overlook omissions in your fictional world. I’m afraid the latter applies to the third volume of Yozakura Quartet, which begins in the aftermath of a drinking party and suddenly segues to a big chunk of exposition about the Seven Pillars which are the most remarkable feature of Sakurashin Town, where the series takes place.

Here’s a brief recap of the setup: Hime Yarizakura is the teenage mayor of Sakurashin town.  Along with her friends Ao Nanami (who can read minds), Kotoha Isone (who can make things appear just by speaking their names) and Akina Hizumi (who can "tune" demons and send them back to the underworld) she works hard to do her best for the citizens of Sakurashin, not always an easy matter since humans and demons coexist in the town and strange things are always happening. 

The cover to Yozakura Quartet 3. Click for a larger image.Weirdness begins with the appearance of a big blobby thing which crashes through the walls of their house: Hime tries to repel it with her Dragon Spear but when the blob retreats, two mysterious men appear and create an invisible barrier which suppresses demonic energy. The Quartet must trace this barrier to its origin, which turns out to be the Tokyo Tower, a television and radio transmission tower famous as the tallest man-made structure in Japan.  

Thanks to the barrier, it is revealed that Hime is a demon but that most of her powers are blocked by a scar on her neck, which she usually conceals by a scarf. This comes as a surprise to her friends because their memories of her youkai past were sealed, i.e. locked into some part of the brain so deep even Dr. Freud couldn’t bring it back. I keep hoping Yasuda’s writing will get better, because the premise of this series has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, storytelling doesn’t seem to be his strong point.

The art’s still great, however. Each of the numerous characters is clearly differentiated, no small task since most of them are teenagers, and I’ll always give double points to a series which includes a demon nun who wields two samurai swords. Hizumi has a sharp, clean style with lots of variety in his page layouts, and several dramatic double-page spreads place the reader square in the midst of the action.  

Extras include the Del Rey guide to honorifics, a bonus manga explaining how a collection such as this one is created, and six pages of translation notes. There are no references to music other than the babelicious cover illustration, but many to contemporary Japanese comedians which will please anyone interested in that aspect of Japanese culture. Yozakura Quartet is rated OT (Older Teen) for ages 16+. Further information is available from the Del Rey web site at http://www.randomhouse.com/delrey/manga/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780345506795. | Sarah Boslaugh


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