When I started reading this manga I expected the usual fanfare of the slice-of-life genre. I did not expect the first chapter to be about the three main girls in this series comparing their vaginas to make sure they look ‘normal’. It wasn’t explicit, but… yeah. That’s how Kei Murayama’s Centaur no Nayami (Centaur’s Worries) starts. Now I’m just staring at my word processor wondering how to follow up that statement. I mean honestly, who’s going to be paying attention after an opening like that? I feel that’s how Murayama felt too: how do you follow up?
After that first chapter, the storyline falls into the normal tropes of its genre. Yet, after the bizarre events of the first chapter, the tone just feels wrong. I have nothing against ecchi comics, but it just blindsides you—none of the sites that host this comic have it as a tag, even. However, I’m digressing. Let’s get to the meat of this manga.
Centaur no Nayami focuses on three classmates and friends: Kyouko (a satyr), Nozomi (an imp), and Hime (a centaur) and their progression through high school and growing up. Immediately, my thoughts go comparing this to other manga, such as Azumanga or Lucky Star, as there is no legitimate plot, a ton of side-characters, and each character takes on a well-defined trope. Nozomi is the tomboy loudmouth of the group, Kyouko is the straight man, and Hime is the airheaded beauty. If you’re well versed in this genre (and even if you’re not), you probably already know at least half of the storylines that will happen.
In addition, the art is cute, but nothing really to write home about. It has a simplicity to it that is clearly reminiscent of its doujin roots and a fanservice element to it that I wish it didn’t have. So if it’s neither the story nor the art that grabs me, why am I still reading it? Because of the lore!
Yes, the lore in this series is surprisingly great. I love how everything about these so-considered mythical creatures is so normalized, so common place, that they just discuss it as if they were discussing the prevalence of trees in a forest. For example, in one of the chapters Hime talks about getting her hair cut. This not only leads into a small section about how satyrs and other horned creatures have special brushes to take care of their locks, but also into a discussion of angels. Apparently in this verse, an angel’s halo is formed from their own hair and thusly can be cut off just as easily as any other piece of hair (but if it does get cut off, it could be considered a hate crime unless the proper paperwork is filled out). It’s obvious to me that Murayama has put great effort into not only the biology and physiology of each species in this series, but also the sociology of a world where angels and imps can live together and not be placed on a higher pedestal than the other.
So, if you can get past some gratuitous boob-age and fanservice-y uselessness, I would recommend this series as a fresh look into a lore that has maybe become a little stale in other canons.