For this week’s Manga Monday, I decided to go with a blast from my past: Alichino by Kouyu Shurei. I first read Alichino way back in my freshman year of high school, which was frighteningly almost ten years ago, so let’s not focus on that. When I sat down to re-read it for the sake of this post, all I could remember was that the art was some of the most gorgeous I’d ever seen in a manga. Well, you know when people say “You’re lucky you’re cute…”? Turns out the art is pretty much all this series has going for it. I’m not sure why I’ve been holding onto it for all these years.
In this series, an Alichino is a preternaturally beautiful wish-granting spirit which feeds on the souls of the people for whom it grants said wishes. Our main character Tsugiri happens to have a rare sort of very pure and beautiful (and therefore tasty) soul that draws many Alichino to him, which has been a source of trouble for him his entire life. Then… some mean Alichino lady that’s working for some mean Alichino dude attacks him and he has to go on a quest with his friends, some of whom are confusingly also Alichino, to track her down and stop her. Tsugiri’s friends also have history with the mean lady, so they are happy to help. I dunno, it gets confusing.
Three volumes of Alichino were released in America in 2005, after which the series promptly went on hiatus due to the manga-ka’s having broken her wrist. From what I can tell, it never did start back up again in Japan, and it was being published by the now-defunct Tokyopop in the US. I don’t feel too bad about it, all told; I’m not sure if the translation I read was just terrible, or if the story was legitimately that bad, but I just didn’t care about what I was reading. I had trouble matching names with faces, I had difficulty following the storyline, and besides the concept of the Alichino itself, I found the worldbuilding less than compelling. When I finished the seventeen existing chapters, I was less disappointed by the cliffhanger than I was relieved to be finished.
I want to say that this series is bad from a feminist perspective as well, but… none of the characters are particularly memorable, irrespective of their gender. Manga as a medium has a bad reputation as far as female representation is concerned, but Alichino doesn’t really do anything to push the boundaries or set them back. Its women are pretty bland; they’re not stunning examples of the diversity of femaleness, but they’re also not terrible stereotypes or super-sexualized. They’re sort of just… meh. Could be better, could be much worse.
All that said, the art is still beautiful—I did remember that correctly. It remains one of the loveliest styles of manga drawing that I’ve seen—all big, detailed eyes, flowing hair and garments, and doll-like features—but I’d much rather buy an artbook by this artist than try to make sense of the story that accompanies the pictures, and I’d recommend you avoid it as well.