Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Minato Sahashi is a rounin (student who failed his college exams) working in his second full year without a school. As if that isn't bad enough, one day he has a chance encounter with Musubi, a buxom beauty who falls from the sky into his lap. Musubi says that she's a “sekirei,” and that as part of the “sekirei project”, she must fight others like her in order to bring her “ashikabi,” the human who can give her wings, to heaven. Only one sekirei can survive, and Minato isn't allowed to tell anyone about the sekirei project, so what is he supposed to do when he ends up as the ashikabi of multiple powerful young women?
Sakurako Gokurakuin's Sekirei manga was previously published digitally before getting its print release this year, two years after the series finished its 2004-2015 run. Both of those facts may be part of the reason why it is getting an omnibus release, but whatever the reason, it's hard to argue with getting two books simultaneously, especially when the story is one that doles out its information carefully. While on the surface Sekirei looks like just another series built on the fascinating fact that women have breasts and wear underwear, there's actually an interesting underlying mythology that is slowly being revealed as the story goes on. Even if you've just come for the boobs, there's more to the series than that.
Of course, the female bodies are a major fixation. The series' main heroine, Musubi, has a talent for getting her clothes shredded in virtually any encounter, and she has no concept of modesty, although she is trying to learn. There are plenty of bath scenes complete with nipples (there's a funny story about the creator and her editor arguing about those mid-way through the book), and Musubi's default position appears to be standing with her hands on her breasts. Skirts are also apparently made of paper, because they flip up with the slightest breeze or movement, and if there's no excuse for that, the “camera” is firmly glued to the floor to give us panty shots anyway. All of this at times smacks of trying just a little too hard, and that could be because Sakurako Gokurakuin is better known Sakura Ashika, a BL creator. Whether it's because she's just really excited to draw a lot of females or because she thinks this is what male-oriented manga needs to look like, she's definitely having a blast going overboard with the fanservice in both of the volumes collected here.
That, however, feels like the icing on the cake, so to speak. The underlying story, although still struggling to develop, is fairly interesting on its own. Although parts of it are still very vague, a potentially evil megacorporation known as MBI is sponsoring something known as the “Sekirei Project,” during which 108 Sekirei – people with extra-human powers – are released in the capital. Each Sekirei needs to find their “ashikabi,” a human to whom they are drawn and who will, with a kiss, be able to give them wings, which appears to either unlock or solidify their powers. The ashikabi also become the Sekirei's reason for fighting, as the end goal is to be the sole surviving Sekirei and to take their ashikabe to heaven, hopefully not in the “they all die” sense. This premise alone raises a lot of questions, predominant among them being what happens when one ashikabi has multiple Sekirei? That one can is established early on, and Minato's harem is already building by the end of this omnibus, so that feels like a very important question. Given that Minato and Musubi are clearly falling for each other, there doesn't seem to be any romantic competition as yet (despite the entrance of Matsu at the end), and the story goes out of its way to show us that Minato's relationship with Ku-chan is firmly parental. If it came down to it, would Minato be able to choose between his Sekirei? Would he be able to encourage Musubi to harm Sekirei he's come to know who aren't his own? It's possible that the story will ignore these questions going forward, but between the way Ku-chan is introduced and the character of Kagari, I don't think that it will.
Also in question is the origin of the entire project, and what it has to do with MBI. We have one flashback indicating a deliberate science fiction origin for the Sekirei, and it appears that they have their own set of gods to whom they pray, so there's an interesting mix of religion and research in their potential origins. That makes us wonder whether or not the Project is something that they are compelled to do or instigated by MBI and its shady CEO, which frankly feels more likely, especially given the attitudes of Kagari and Tsukiumi.
If you don't mind copious amounts of fanservice in your sci fi battle story or some sci fi battle story in your fanservice, this is both a fun and an interesting book. Musubi's innocence is less grating than many similar characters, and the book is generally respectful of both Misato and his relationship with the potential loli character. (It's worth mentioning that only two of the older women treat her as such; she's firmly in child territory for Minato and Musubi.) Gokurakuin has a tenuous grasp of female anatomy, and the panels do not always read smoothly in order, but overall this is better than you might expect from looking at the cover.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C+
+ Nice relationships building between characters, Misato isn't too miserable of a milquetoast protagonist, interesting sci fi elements
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