Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Oct 26th 2013
GN 4 & 5
Among the hunters there are those who are pro-jiu jiu and anti-jiu jiu. In an attempt to create peace between the two, everyone agrees to swap jiu jiu, which will hopefully prove that the creatures are neither vicious nor brutal. The forced separation has Takamichi, Snow, and Night thinking about how they all feel, but can a romance ever bloom between a human and a half-breed (or two)? And to what depths will the anti-jiu jiu faction go to eliminate the cooperative partnerships?
How much do you love your dog? Enough to want to have a romantic relationship with him? How about a physical one? This is the question that floats sporadically throughout the final two volumes of Touya Tobina's consistently confusing, sporadically semi-enjoyable urban fantasy series Jiu Jiu, and to be perfectly frank, while it does sort of get answered, mostly it just serves as the most easily understood part of a series that has very few merits.
Volume four opens with Takamichi trying to work with White and Ripple, the creature companions of her two would-be suitors. It turns out that this exchange has been effected in order to prove the jiu jius' worth to those of the hunters who think that the system should be eradicated, but there's less focus on that and more on Takamichi trying to figure out her emotions. But first she needs to learn what “love” is. And what a “couple” is. But not sex or making love – she knows both of those terms. To say that this makes little sense is stating the obvious, and this contrived attempt at making Takamichi adorably naïve serves only strain the credulity of the readers. The fact that her jiu jiu appear to know what both words mean adds to the confusion, although possibly this is meant to show that they have a puppy-like innocence.
Apart from this theme, the plot for these final two volumes is very garbled. There seems to be some question of Takamichi's brother Takayuki's death, but what is real and what is illusion is never plainly stated. Had this issue remained within the confines of one particular climactic battle, that would have been acceptable, but towards the end of volume five it once again becomes an issue. The question of whether or not a major player in Takamichi's life and the world of the manga is living or deceased is one that needs to be definitively answered, and Tobina not only fails to do this, but she also sows increasing amounts of confusion while not doing so.
Despite all of this, there are some interesting moments buried within these two books. As mentioned, the puppy-like devotion that Snow and Night have for Takamichi, as well as the way their human and canine feelings conflict with each other and the different rate at which they mature, are bittersweet in a good way, making us wondering if Tobina might not have done better to write a drama rather than a supposed comedy. The canine body language is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever had a big dog, and white's sickle-weasel/fox hybrid is very cute. There's a real sweetness to the very end of volume five that Tobina expresses surprisingly well, even if she does leave a few major questions unanswered when the final page is read.
Regretfully Tobina's art is not up to the job of assisting the story. Human bodies, particularly female, are malformed, with Takamichi's breasts at the end of volume four and the start of volume five being major offenders. A pregnant female at the end of volume five is another issue, as she looks simply distended rather than gestational. Dogs fare better, but this is more a body language thing than a question of anatomy. Males also look better than females simply because there are no curves – Tobina says in one of her freetalks that she has trouble with Takamichi's contours. The other art issue is that pages are crowded and panels are sometimes at odd angles and placements so that there is very little flow to the pages. Tone and black space, however, are not overdone, helping to alleviate some of the other reading issues. Likewise as the series comes to its conclusion, Tobina's use of hairstyles improves, and Takamichi becomes much softer in appearance than she has been for most of the series.
On the whole, Jiu Jiu is a disappointing series. It had a decent amount of potential in its story about supernatural creatures teaming up with monster hunters to patrol Japan, but in the end the hunting storyline gets lost in lame jokes, romance plots, and the very confusing bit about Takayuki. Tobina's art barely improves as things go on, and while she does deserve credit for a very cute school uniform reminiscent of the one the girls of YuruYuri wear, for the most part her anatomy is terrible and her pages poorly set up. Had it focused more on the hunting or the romance, or had it clarified some of its mysteries to the point where understanding them was easy, this could have been, if not good, than at least fun. As it ends up, however, Jiu Jiu is a morass of confusion and unresolved plots, poorly laid out and drawn. It has its good moments, but ultimately it promises an interesting story which it fails to deliver.
Overall : D
Story : D
Art : D-
+ Some bittersweet moments are touching, improved hairstyles later on, good animal body language.
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