Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Takamichi's family are “Hunters,” people who dedicate their lives to killing monsters and evil spirits. When her twin brother dies, Takamichi becomes the clan heir and her father gives her two human/spirit hybrid puppies, Snow and Night. Now shape-shifting teens (albeit three year olds in dog years), Snow and Night are fanatically devoted to their mistress. But Takamichi's past makes it hard for her to admit her attachment to anyone. Will these three be able to form any kind of relationship?
Vampires have been better represented in YA literature than werewolves or other shape-shifters, although that balance is, perhaps, changing. In manga, we have a plethora of vampire titles, from Karin to Dance in the Vampire Bund to Vampire Knight and everything in between, while the other supernatural creatures are relegated to supporting roles. Such is not the case with Jiu Jiu, the second English translated title from Touya Tobina. While Night and Snow aren't werewolves in the strict sense, they are wolves who can take human form and the full moon does appear to influence them. In any event, if you'd like your fangs to rend and tear rather than to suck blood, this may be the title for you.
Unfortunately Jiu Jiu suffers a bit from a hard-to-follow first few chapters. In part this can be attributed to the fact that it began its life as a one-shot, but it also seems to suffer from a muddled concept. In this first volume, Tobina appears uncertain as to whether she is writing a dark tale of a stoic, emotionally injured demon huntress or a love triangle. Certainly there is no reason why it cannot be both, but the juxtaposition of the more angsty first chapters with the more romance oriented later ones doesn't quite work. Throughout the book it is unclear whether Snow and Night have romantic feelings for Takamichi or simply the adulation of a dog for his owner. This in itself treads some tricky territory – if they are in love with her, then her treatment of them raises some questions. It also might make readers uncomfortable in the sense that they are wolves for a good portion of the time physically and for most of the time emotionally. Werewolf romances get around this by making it clear that in human form, weres are human. Like Ponta of Guru Guru Pon-chan, Snow and Night are still pretty doggy when they look like people and Tobina is no Satomi Ikezawa. Also adding a troubling aspect to the potential romance plot is that, unlike in Pon-Chan, Takamichi has raised them from puppyhood, whereas Mirai met Ponta as a fully grown dog/girl.
Visually, Jiu Jiu is interesting, albeit not particularly attractive. Tobina's character designs are just different enough that they stand out from the shoujo crowd, with an angular, almost feral edge to them. Takamichi's school uniform features a trapeze dress and leggings, a nice change from the blazer or sailor uniform prevalent in other works. But as you can see from the cover image, it is sometimes difficult to tell who is doing what, an issue that the overall dark scheme of the manga does nothing to help. Tobina's underlying lines are good, however, and her action scenes have some movement. Snow is one of the most visually remarkable features with his wide (even for manga) eyes and canine dentition, to say nothing of the huge peace sign earrings he wears in both forms. While neither he nor the rest of the art is especially polished, it does not actually detract from the story.
The core of the plot is Takamichi's unwillingness to allow Snow and Night into her life. Having first been told that she has no value as heir, then losing her brother and being given his status, Takamichi has an understandably dim view of interpersonal relationships, and Snow and Night are no exception. The two try desperately to get into her good graces, or at least under her skin, but Takamichi is unrelenting. This has the hopefully unintended side effect of making her a distinctly unlikeable character. While it is easy to comprehend why she is the way she is, having such a prickly heroine makes the story a little harder to get into than if she had just a hint of softness. And when we don't care about the heroine, that makes it hard to care about the story.
Luckily Snow and Night are, if not something of one-note characters, much easier to like. They have a doggy joy in life that is hard to ignore and a general charm that very nearly salvages the book. It cannot totally do the job, however, and Jiu Jiu's first volume clocks in at something very much like “underwhelming.” With its confused plot and tone, unlikeable heroine, and sometimes difficult to follow art, Tobina's book presents us with an intriguing concept poorly carried out. Hopefully volume two will even itself out, but as of now, this series is not living up to its potential.
Overall : C
Story : C
Art : C
+ Interesting concept, Snow and Night are fun characters.
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