Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Inu × Boku SS
Maison de Ayakashi is an exclusive apartment building in Tokyo that caters only to those special enough to live there, even providing “secret service” bodyguards to its residents. Of course, by “special” we mean “carries yokai blood” - all of the residents belong to families with a little something supernatural back on the tree, and in them, the genes have made themselves known. Feared by humans and disliked by full-blooded yokai, the residents of Maison de Ayakashi are neither fish nor fowl. For some, this is fine, but for Ririchiyo Shirakiin, it just means that she's never felt comfortable anywhere. She's moved to Maison de Ayakashi to escape being around others and has declined the Secret Service – so why does she appear to have a very clingy agent following her around?
We have all, by this point, read stories about mysteriously exclusive houses in which only the wealthiest and most puzzlingly perfect of residents may live. We have also all read stories about people who are somehow supernatural, or at least part supernatural, and their amazing adventures. To this list we can add tsundere girls, generally small in stature, whose prickly exteriors conceal gooey-sweet centers. Yes, Cocoa Fujiwara's Inu x Boku S.S. hits on all of these and more, and by rights should therefore fall into the “been there, read that” category...only it doesn't. For while it does have many clichéd elements, Inu x Boku S.S. plays them in such a way as to make them seem, if not new again, then at least not stale, and is on the whole an enjoyable read, even if you are feeling weary of the tropes.
The story takes place at the glamorous apartment building Maison de Ayakashi, “ayakashi” being a word that can imply supernatural creatures. This complex only admits certain tenants; the general public assumes that they must be rich, and certainly the newest resident, Ririchiyo Shirakiin, does nothing to dissuade them. Ririchiyo is the child of a very high brow line, and her recognizable presence seems to be hindering her reason for moving: she wants to be alone. For this specifically she has declined the “secret service” offered by the Maison, insisting that she really does want to be completely by herself. Imagine her (disgusted) surprise when a young man introduces himself as her especial secret service agent. Soushi Miketsukami immediately proclaims his undying devotion to Ririchiyo, and seems to be operating under the belief that they have met before. Despite her best efforts, Ririchiyo finds herself unable to get rid of him, and the volume focuses on them trying to reach an (uneasy) agreement.
Again, this is clearly merely a slight twist on a story we are all familiar with, but one thing which really helps to make it interesting is Ririchiyo herself. Ririchiyo is fully aware that she falls under the “tsundere” heading, acknowledging that she has a very difficult time dealing with people and hides behind harsh words and glares. Her family dynamic may have contributed to this, a flashback insinuates, and we know that she has been using this defense mechanism for some time – one of the other residents of the Maison is her childhood friend Sorinozuka, who recalls the earnest letters she would write him as a child, apologizing for her behavior. Ririchiyo's self-awareness gives her a lot of potential as a character, as she is personally invested in her own character growth. She wants to develop, and that alone gives the plot some forward movement.
The other characters in the story do not yet show that same potential, although one, Carta, seems to have hidden depths. Soushi, too, is likely to reveal more about himself and his past as the series gets going; at this point we don't even know why or how he met Ririchiyo in the past, if indeed he did. The biggest offender at this point is the aggressive lesbian stereotype Nobara Yukinokouji, although part of her annoying factor may come from Yen Press' translation of her catchphrase as “smexy,” which is frankly just irritating to read. Everyone naturally has their secrets and hidden identities are revealed as the volume goes on, which in Sorinozuka's case is really very funny. On the whole, there is promise of things to come, which is really what this introductory volume needs.
Cocoa Fujiwara, whose English-language debut this is, has a very soft style for the most part, particularly as concerns faces. There is a bit of a bendy quality to the way she draws legs – and given Ririchiyo's apparent predilection for short shorts, we see a lot of them – but otherwise nothing looks too out of place. Backgrounds are on the minimalist side, and there's a lot of text in general, but the book has a good flow and reads easily.
Inu x Boku S.S.' first volume gets the series off to a good start. It makes a lot of stale tropes interesting and Ririchiyo makes for a sympathetic heroine who realizes her own faults, but just isn't sure how to fix them, and while Soushi can be a little much, he's still kind of endearing in a golden retriever way. As we learn more about the circumstances that bring people to Maison de Ayakashi, it seems likely that the story will only get more interesting, so if you liked the anime (which predates the manga's English-language release) or are just in the mood for something a little supernatural and a little romantic, this is worth checking out.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Good use of some genre standbys, Ririchiyo's self-awareness makes her interesting and sympathetic. The supernatural is drawn in an interesting way.
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