Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
That Wolf-Boy is Mine!
When her mother is transferred to Fukuoka for a year, high school student Komugi Kusunoki seizes the chance to start over by moving to live with her father in Hokkaido. Ever since she stood up for a bullied girl, she's been ostracized by her classmates, so she wants a new uneventful school life, even if that means living with a man she's barely talked to since her parents' divorce. Instead of that calm life, however, Komugi is instantly noticed by one of the four hottest guys in class, Yu Ogami. He tells her she smells good, which seems creepy until she finds out that he's a shape-shifting wolf ayakashi! As the only one who knows his secret, how will Komugi cope?
Literature is rife with mildly embarrassing titles obscuring really enjoyable books – just look at the romance section of any bookstore. Yoko Nagiri's That Wolf-Boy is Mine joins their ranks with this first volume. Despite its title, Nagiri's first long work tells a sweet tale of outcasts joining together, with a little bit of family drama thrown in. It should be attractive for both fans of shoujo romance and ayakashi stories, and Nagiri's delicate linework makes it visually appealing as well.
The story's protagonist is Komugi Kusunoki, a high school student who recently moved to Hokkaido. Her parents divorced eight years ago, so she stayed with her mother while her father moved back to his hometown. Since then, Komugi's had very limited interactions with him, which she quietly admits to herself is her own fault. Now that her mother is being transferred for work, Komugi opts to go live with her dad rather than spend a year in Fukuoka or stay by herself in Tokyo. At first, this seems like an odd decision – if her mother thinks it's a waste for her to move to Fukuoka for only a year, why send her even farther away? But it soon becomes clear that Komugi isn't thinking of this as a one-year option – she's looking for a way out of her current high school, where she's been ostracized after standing up for a bullied girl.
The reason behind Komugi's social ostracism is an interesting one for shojo manga. The girl she stood up for had become too friendly with the “school prince,” the most popular boy that all the girls decided “belonged to everyone." Komugi, rightly thinking this clique thinking was stupid, said so. The resulting social isolation was so traumatic that she's determined not to allow herself to befriend any boys in her new school, much less the four most popular who happen to be in her class. Of course, her desk is right next to Yu Ogami, who is far friendlier than she's comfortable with, because she doesn't want to call attention to herself. Komugi does try to get Yu to leave her alone despite appreciating his friendly attitude, and this leads to a particularly strong moment toward the end of the volume, where a group of girls confronts her only to be told that the boys aren't objects whose fates they can decide, they're people who can make their own decisions. It's a moment that's missing from a lot of stories with this particular trope, which almost makes the book worth reading all on its own.
But what about that supernatural factor? As you might guess from the title, Yu Ogami is in fact a wolf ayakashi – a wolf with the power to turn human. In fact, all four of the popular boys are transforming ayakashi: along with Yu, there's a fox, a tanuki, and a neko-mata (two-tailed cat). Even before Komugi accidentally learns Yu's secret, she finds him sleeping with his ears and tail popped out, a reference to the tale of Soko Tanuki. Yu's identity as an ayakashi is only incidental to their developing relationship at this point, more a perk of the plot than the romance. He's very nice to her, which makes their rapport and the story feel more natural. The three parts of the tale blend well together – with the school culture, the supernatural, and the romantic meshing into a whole rather than standing on their own.
That Wolf-Boy is Mine's first volume is a highly enjoyable story. Nogiri's art is delicate and attractive, making each character distinct while having a slightly 1980s shoujo feel, and Komugi's reactions to being “stuck” with the four ayakashi boys is refreshingly down-to-earth, particularly where the prickly fox is concerned. The additional factors of her awkward new family life and attempts to navigate the social scene temper the romance and more cliché supernatural elements, and Kodansha's translation reads smoothly. While there aren't tons of translation notes, the ones that are included are detailed, making them feel especially useful. So if you're in the market for a new shoujo tale involving cute not-entirely-human boys and a very human heroine, look past the title and give this book a try. Even if boys with ears and tails aren't your thing, there's still a lot to enjoy.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Nice treatment of shoujo bullying tropes, story threads are smoothly woven together, art is attractive, heroine feels relatable
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