The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
Monster Tamer Girls
What's It About?The kaiju of monster film fame roam the Earth. Humanity has learned to adapt by quarantining the monsters big and small into designated areas with the help of teen girls. The only song that can soothe these savage beasts is the voices of trained monster tamers.
Ion is attending Tatara Girls' Academy, a high school specifically designed to train girls in the songs and techniques to become Tamers. It's there that she meets the stoic lizard monster "Blue" and a whole host of other kaiju, but Ion isn't quite confident in her abilities.
These are monsters after all, and some of them are intimidating, to say the least. She'll have to rely on her peers in the Tamers Club, like the no-nonsense class rep Tsukiko and the laid-back Sora, if she's going to find her bearings with so many moody kaiju afoot. Monster Tamer Girls is an original manga by Mujirushi Shimazaki and is licensed by Yen Press. The first volume is available for US$13.00.
Is It Worth Reading?Amy McNulty
Monster Tamer Girls takes the “cute girls doing cute things” genre to a new level. Never is there a sense of darkness and danger replacing the relaxing vibe in this manga, despite the clever premise that the world is overrun with giant monsters and only young girls with a special talent for singing can safely interact with them. The monsters are giant and somehow still adorable, despite the fact that they're not overly kawaii. A lot of their cuteness is projected in the ways they act, particularly Blue and his fondness for Ion. At this school, making sure the giant monster is washed and given fresh water is as everyday a task as cleaning a classroom. Ion is the perfect main character for this situation. There's something a little special about her voice, but there's also a flaw she must overcome: being nervous around the giant creatures. She makes great strides in this volume toward building her confidence around different types of monsters, and there's still room for her to grow.
The secondary characters all have distinct personalities and add a lot to the proceedings. Tsukiko, uptight chair of the Monster Tamers Committee, is a particular comedic standout with her disciplinarian façade, her bizarre monster naming sense, and her bluster masking her faltering self-confidence. Student teacher Saegusa also is a highlight, bonding quickly with Ion despite a rocky start to their relationship and proving that a character can be idolized and still have flaws. All in all, it's a well-rounded cast full of young women who all bring something different to the proceedings.
Shimazaki's art is a wonderful mixture of moe girls and women with almost realistic depictions of giant beasts. The creatures are just cartoonish enough to fit in with the sweet vibe of the story, but it's still a dynamic visual clash on the page that never gets old. Backgrounds are sometimes limited, with screentones taking over panels for long periods, but it's well balanced for the most part and never distracting.
Monster Tamer Girls volume 1 is a feel-good manga about monstrous creatures and the girls who set out to soothe them. While the premise promises perhaps more action than is delivered, it's a lovely twist on the “cute girls doing cute things” genre. Because no character is fetishized and enough happens within this first volume to keep the reader riveted, Monster Tamer Girls has wide appeal and promises to get more compelling from here on out.
This is a manga ripe for an anime adaptation if I ever one. The setting is an all-girls school where students study singing in order to soothe the savage beasts now roaming the world. One girl is the cautious, but harmonically gifted Ion, and she quickly wins over “Blue,” the Godzilla-like monster that lives in the woods behind the school. This is mostly a day-to-day activities story of girls and women and their relationships with different monsters big and small.
I don't want to outright classify it as “cute girls doing cute things;” it's not quite that saccharine and the monster variety keeps things from delving into too cutesy territory. That said, I still had some quibbles with the presentation regardless of how warmhearted it was at its core. The main problem being that the character designs themselves are pretty underwhelming and I found it pretty easy to confuse the middle school professor character with the later introduces Tamer prodigy. One is taller, but there isn't much else to tell them apart. By the end I'd also nearly forgotten about Ion's classmate and fellow Tamer Club member from the front cover as well. It's the gruff Tsukiko that really carries the emotional weight of the volume and grows beyond the “all business” sensibilities she exhibits early on.
The human characters can be hit or miss but I found the monster designs to be a major highlight. Mujirushi Shimazaki takes cues from live-action kaiju films but also adds twists about their behavior and life cycle. Blue is very obviously inspired by the King of Monsters himself, while the Pterodactyl-style lizard and globby octopus seem to be original creations. Shimazaki's designs find a balance between monstrous and endearing so the creatures always have some sense of danger too them but aren't outright grotesque.
The subject itself would seem right at home with a low-key slice of life anime series following on the heels of Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Misotan. If Shimazaki can keep finding interesting situations to put the Tamer girls in and design new, unique monsters to encounter, this could be relaxing read. Those looking for monster battles, elaborate world building to explain the monsters' existence, or an overarching emotional plot are looking up the wrong tree. There doesn't seem to be any of that here, just cute girls singing to beasts and riding around on their noses.
What a charming take on a classic genre! The story of a world where kaiju have appeared and decided to coexist with humans (more or less) and have been discovered to like the sounds of specific female voices singing does a good job balancing the “cute” with having an actual plot. Although the key appeal is still the general sweetness of the girls in question, the mixing of that with giant monsters who have more in common with Godzilla than anything more cuddly gives the story both a reason to have an all-female cast and an interesting angle of the genre.
The story follows Ion, a middle school student who has enrolled at a special school with a training program for would be Tamers. Ion's voice is part of her appeal to the monsters, but as the story goes on, it becomes apparent that she sees them not as “monsters” but more as “animals” in that they share traits with dogs, cats, and other domesticated species. This gives her an inherent kindness that some of the other Tamers either lack or can't fully realize, and even though Ion's a little bit afraid of the monsters, she still is able to call upon her sweetness to more fully reach out to them beyond song alone. That isn't to say that she's offering cuddles to all of the kaiju, but rather she's using the tone of her song to let them know that she's not just trying to tame them for her own ends; she cares about them as well.
This contrasts well with some of the other Tamers she interacts with, from Sora, who doesn't have the vocal talent but likes the monsters anyway, to Tsukiko, who…tries. Tsukiko is the most direct contrast to Ion, because she's got her own oddball way of going about things that she seems to think will help – like giving the monsters awful names or making up lame lyrics to songs that aren't meant to have any – but unlike Ion's unconscious grace in handling the kaiju, Tsukiko's clearly trying too hard to connect with them. She's a character we see a lot in that respect, but she's not quite as played up for the comedic value that the trying-too-hard character often is. That's part of the strength of the book as a whole – nothing is done to the point where it gets annoying, and if it isn't particularly well developed in terms of world building or dynamic art, that's a trade off that's largely worth making.
discuss this in the forum (28 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history