by Rebecca Silverman,

Mononoke Sharing

GN 1

Mononoke Sharing GN 1
High school student Yata doesn't come from a particularly wealthy family, so she needs to be thrifty when it comes to finding housing. At first it looks as if she's hit the jackpot when she finds a rooming house with five other women college age and up…but then it turns out that they're all monsters! But Yata really needs this room, and they don't seem that different from other people. Surely this living situation is nothing that can't be overcome…right?

Although he has a fair amount of series to his name, most people probably know mangaka coolkyousinnjya as the creator of the original Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid manga. That series, about a normal woman who ends up living with couple of dragons in human form, shares a basic premise with this one: Mononoke Sharing revolves around an ordinary girl who shares a house with five yokai roommates.

The ladies quickly tell Yata that they prefer to be referred to as “Mononoke” rather than “monsters” or the perhaps more familiar “ayakashi” or “yokai,” although at least four of them are very familiar from other series using Japanese folklore as a base: Yuki is a snow woman, Mizuchi's a kappa, Yooko's a fox spirit, and Roku is a rokurokubi, a woman with an extendable snake-like neck. The fifth Mononoke, Momi, is listed as a “devil,” which may or may not be a translation of “oni” or something similar; it's interesting and a little bit odd that the species' names aren't consistently written in English or Japanese. Why call Yooko a “fox spirit” instead of a “kitsune” but keep Mizuchi a “kappa?” And does that mean that Momi is meant to represent a devil in the Western sense? While this is a little nit-picky, it does feel inconsistent and adds unnecessary linguistic confusion.

Fortunately the story itself uses the various Mononoke traits fairly well. The issues with a household bath become much more harrowing when one of your housemates is likely to shed in the tub and keeping the floor clean is an issue when someone leaves frozen footprints that melt behind her. Everyone is equally creeped out by Mizuchi's hunger for the mythical jewels in people's anuses, and frankly no one is quite sure what to do with Roku – her snaky neck kind of freaks everyone out. Again, the oddball here is Momi, who seems to be in a constant state of lactation. While there are many different types of oni in Japanese mythology, I cannot find one who is a perpetual source of breastmilk, so this may simply be a joke about the author's conception of supernatural women having huge breasts.

This is where the story loses some ground, because with one notable exception, “big boobs are funny” is an overdone gag, and with the wealth of human/Mononoke cohabitation experiences to draw from, it feels like a cheap one. Momi is the walking embodiment of it, as she appears only to exist to be the (biggest) boobs of the operation, and Yata's near-constant insecurity about her smaller breast size smacks of a preoccupation with bosoms that real women are much less likely to have than fictional ones, at least in my experience. That they aren't particularly well drawn, often looking stuck on the ladies' bodies rather than an organic part of them doesn't help; the art is definitely of a lower quality than the artist's work on Miss Kobayashi.

This particular issue aside, it is nice that one of the women is depicted as being very comfortable with her sexuality, although it makes the rest of the roommates decidedly uncomfortable. Yooko, the fox spirit, has a reputation for bringing lots of men home; in an opening chapter, Yata has to confront her about all of the used condoms the neighbors can see in the trash bags. (Yooko's response? “I'll just wash them out and reuse them, then!”) Yooko's perfectly happy to swan around the house naked and to chat about her active sex life, and only Yata, the youngest of the group, refers to her as a slut, which could speak more about Yata's high school perceptions than anything else.

Mononoke Sharing's first volume reads like a collection of loosely related short stories rather than a coherent whole, and it could easily be a stand-alone book. (There's implied to be a follow-up, but it doesn't feel certain.) Yata and Yuki are the main point of view characters, and there's a cute little one-sided crush on Yuki's part, but the characters and story remain open-ended. It's a fun book, good for when you just want something quick to read that won't require a lot of concentration. It isn't on the level of the author's other works, but for its problems, it's still a pretty good time.

Overall : C+
Story : B-
Art : C

+ Fun concept, Yata's a good point-of-view character, Yooko and Yuki's interactions are amusing
Some overdone gags, Momi doesn't make much sense in context, art isn't terrific, some odd translation choices

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Story & Art: Coolkyoushinja

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