Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits
Aoi Tsubaki grew up with her grandfather after having been abandoned by her mother because of her ability to see the supernatural. Now Aoi's in college and her grandfather has recently died, leaving Aoi not only to cope on her own, but apparently engaged to an ayakashi? On her way to class, Aoi meets an oni claiming hunger and gives him her lunch; on her way home from school he whisks her away to the spirit world as his bride. Apparently Grandpa promised Aoi to him many years ago and the oni is ready to call in the debt. Doesn't Aoi get any say in her future?
Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits' first volume and its 2018 anime are both adaptations of author Midori Yūma's original light novel, and as such, this book brings something a little different to the table than the anime. That said, even if you never watch the series, fans of romance, strong heroines, and the world of Japanese folklore should enjoy this offering, because it handles all three with a deft hand.
The plot follows college sophomore Aoi Tsubaki as she navigates her life after the death of her grandfather, who raised her. Shiro Tsubaki found Aoi at an orphanage after her mother abandoned her, afraid of Aoi's ability to see and communicate with ayakashi. He taught Aoi about the spirit world and how to cook, two things for which he may have had an ulterior motive, as Aoi finds out one day. As Aoi is walking to class (after feeding some adorable temari kappa, turtle ayakashi with shells like decorated balls), a young male ayakashi stops her, loudly proclaiming his hunger. Aoi tries to ignore him but ends up leaving him her lunch; when she goes home she finds that he has left her bento box with a scarf and a hair pin – and that the scarf, when unfolded, is actually a means of transporting her to Kakuriyo, the spirit world. Once there, Aoi learns that her grandfather offered the Master of Tenjin-ya, an ayakashi hotel, the hand in marriage of whichever of his granddaughters had the most spiritual power…and Aoi is that granddaughter. The young man she fed? He's an oni, and the Odanna (Master) of the inn, and Aoi's intended groom.
If this were another story, Aoi would accept her fate, maybe cry a little, and then set about the dual tasks of falling for her husband-to-be and making herself quirkily indispensable around the inn. What she actually does is react like a woman raised in a largely post-arranged marriage world: refuse to go along with it. Not only is she upset that she's been spirited away to Kakuriyo, she's mostly angry that she has zero say in what's going on. Odanna is nice enough, but she's a modern woman who isn't just going to roll over and go along with his plans.
That he's flummoxed by her reaction either says something about the fact that he's much older than he looks or how infrequently people say no to him. When Aoi initially refuses his hand in marriage, he treats it as if a kitten swatted at him with barely-formed claws – he humors her with clear certainty that she'll come around as soon as she sees the beautiful accommodations and excellent services offered to his wife. When she doesn't, he doesn't seem able to quite process it, especially since Aoi announces that she'd rather work off Grandpa's debt with her own hard efforts rather than be a prize. Although we don't see much of the oni once Aoi has staunchly refused him, that also speaks to the fact that he's not entirely sure what he's supposed to do now; instead his Young Master (next in command) Ginji, a nine-tailed fox, does the work of making Aoi feel comfortable and safe. Ostensibly this should be Odanna's job as her fiancé, especially if he's serious about marrying her. That he can't figure that out or bring himself to do it implies that he may have more emotional eggs in this basket than even he realizes.
We can also gather this from the fact that he obviously knows not only who Aoi is, but her name and her routine as well. That means that he's been watching her in anticipation of eventually marrying her, and while there's a definite creepy component there (especially if he's been watching since she was brought home by her grandfather), it also implies that he's more pleased with the arrangement than not. In fact, he seems to be aware that Aoi was taught to feed ayakashi and has been feeding the temari kappa – his “hunger” was staged as an easy way to get her attention but also shows that he knows her at least a little. His inability to take Aoi's personality into account perhaps says more about the traditional, old-fashioned nature of Kakuriyo as opposed to the human world, where Aoi is used to having and making her own choices.
Aoi is not going to be easily cowed, either by the ayakashi she now finds herself living with, her supposed fiancé, nor the difficulties of paying back her grandfather's debts. She's her own person, which makes her future interactions with the much more old-fashioned ayakashi (and one oni in particular) ripe for some interesting issues. Waco Ioca's adaptation reads smoothly and has enough small twists on the anime version that it doesn't feel like a retread, and while we can hope that the original novels do eventually get an English release, this also doesn't feel like it skimps on character or plot details, as sometimes happens. Whether you saw the anime or not, Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits is a good, solid story off to a promising start. If you're looking for a heroine who won't just roll over and a beautiful, magical world, this is a great place to find it.
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Aoi's a good heroine, interesting artwork for the ayakashi and Kakuriyo itself
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