Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kyutaro Horitaka is a “sweeper,” a sort of supernatural janitor who helps to cleanse the minds of people overwhelmed by negative emotions. He's in charge of the area around and including his high school, and he clearly has some mixed feelings about the dangers of his work, which double when he runs across Fumi Nishioka. Fumi is a transfer student with no discernible past or family and an uncanny ability to both see and face the bugs that appear when a mind is unclean. Against Kyutaro's better judgment, Fumi becomes his assistant, though the mysteries surrounding her remain unsolved.
Kyousuke Motomi, author of Beast Master and Dengeki Daisy, is back with a new, much more supernatural series, continuing Viz's new(ish) trend of publishing a mangaka's latest work right after they finish with the previous title. It's a treat for fans of Motomi's work, and while QQ Sweeper's first volume doesn't do a whole lot to distinguish itself or give us any major surprises, it is still a very enjoyable read filled with the humor and small romantic elements that Motomi does so well.
This new series distinguishes itself from her previous work by being supernatural. Hero Kyutaro (called Q, which he hates) is a “sweeper,” meaning that he vanquishes unsavory dark spirits called by someone's unquiet psyche along with regular old cleaning. This is a case where cleanliness really is next to godliness, with an untidy soul inviting bugs the same way a filthy kitchen does. The major difference is that these bugs are physical manifestations of evil, and unless properly cleaned up, they can continue to infest the spirit of the troubled person. It's an interesting combination of elements both mundane and not that works, as well as serving as an excuse to have a protagonist with a compulsion to keep things tidy.
The story is somewhat rockily divided at this point between Kyutaro and the heroine, Fumi Nishioka. Fumi is a recent transfer student to Kyutaro's school, and he discovers her asleep in a room in the unused (and requisite in this kind of story) old school building. Fumi wandered in the night before school started and found herself strangely drawn the to room's sense of warmth and comfort, describing it as smelling old but welcoming, like the grandparent of rooms. She spends the night there not only because she likes the place, but also because she is homeless, having been orphaned young and recently abandoned by her guardians, who paid her school tuition and left her with some bedding. While this has been done before in shoujo manga – Julietta Suzuki's Nanami of Kamisama Kiss comes to mind – there's much more of a sense that Fumi is truly alone in the world, utterly abandoned. Nanami and Toru Honda of Fruits Basket (another homeless heroine) have friends they could ask for help, but Fumi appears to lack even them. This makes her more vulnerable than others in similar situations, and this is tempered by the fact that, unusually, she has the ability to see a door in the room she found, as well as the bugs Kyutaro fights. He thinks there's something a little off about her, and while Fumi takes herself as she is, with no hints that she knows anything beyond what she's told us and the other characters, there's a niggling feeling that perhaps Kyutaro is right.
I say that the narrative has an uneven divide between hero and heroine because it feels as if Motomi can't quite decide who is the point of view character. While there is no problem in manga with having more than one, the shifts here feel abrupt, and while we do come out of this volume understanding both Kyutaro and Fumi, there's just something off about the way the story is written. On the other hand, the romance subplot is fairly well set up, showing Kyutaro's reluctant admiration for Fumi as well as hers for him. Given her circumstances, it is unsurprising that Fumi has a stated goal of marrying a wealthy “prince charming,” and Kyutaro does fit the financial part of her requirements. But personality wise he's more Prince Surly, which of course makes for a more interesting romance – we wouldn't want it to be too easy. The Cinderella parallels that Motomi is setting up are interesting, largely because they rely on the often overlooked fact that Cinderella herself has to work hard to get herself to the ball and the prince – the fariy godmother only exists in the French version of the tale, and there's usually some additional step she has to take to secure her gown and slippers from the magical guardian figure beyond serving as a slave to her stepfamily.
Motomi's art is more refined than in Dengeki Daisy while still retaining her sharp look, and Kyutaro looks a bit like Akira from that series. Fumi is a less wacky heroine than Teru, so there's not as much opportunity for funny poses and faces, but Motomi proves herself up to the task of drawing scary creatures (or at least icky ones) and a surprisingly good owl. The supernatural elements are presented fairly subtly, with little to no remarks made when Kyutaro reaches into a painting to pull out a lamp, and this helps solidify the story, sparing it from over-explanation. As a bonus for Dengeki Daisy fans, there is a guest appearance of Teru and a hint that the two stories may be somehow connected, although I hope that isn't overused.
QQ Sweeper isn't off to an amazing start, but it is a solid one that looks like it will build to Motomi's usual heights. There's an intriguing mystery to the protagonists and an interesting choice of how to take care of pesky evil spirits, so this looks like a series to keep an eye on. I suspect it might be going places.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Interesting supernatural world and exorcism method, both leads have an air of mystery that is intriguing. Nice use of Cinderella tale, lots of variety in character designs for classmates.
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