365 Days of Manga, Day 1: Muhyo & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

 

Welcome to 365 Days of Manga, the online continuation of Manga: The Complete Guide! I’m Jason Thompson, your host for this adventure into the depths of manga. Each day, I’ll be reviewing a new manga series AND giving away manga from my collection to a random site visitor.
How do you get free manga? It’s simple.
(1) Sign up on the form on the left-hand column, underneath the dark blue bar
(2) Choose what type of manga you want: shonen manga (“boys’ manga”, a la Shonen Jump); shojo & josei manga (manga for girls and women); seinen manga (“men’s manga,” a la Gantz, Lone Wolf and Cub, and Gacha Gacha); or yaoi manga (man-on-man romance manga for women). You must be 18 or older to receive seinen manga or yaoi manga.
(3) Each day, one person will be selected from that day’s random submissions to receive 5 free manga! The entry form resets each day, so if you sign up every day, you have a higher chance of winning.
(4) There’s a way to get even more manga, but I’ll explain that in the next blog.
And now, for the first manga review. I love horror manga, I love battle manga, and I love manga with weird and stylized artwork, so MUHYO & ROJI seemed like a natural favorite for me. But does it sustain the excitement all the way to the end, or like many manga, does it suffer from a late-season slump?
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MUHYO & ROJI’S BUREAU OF SUPERNATURAL INVESTIGATION (BSI) (Muhyo to Roji no Mahôritsu Sôdan Jimusho, “Muhyo and Roji’s Magical Law Consultation Agency”) (?????????????????) • Yoshiyuki Nishi • VIZ (2007-ongoing) • Sheisha (Weekly Shônen Jump, 2004-2008) • 18 volumes • Shônen Occult Horror Battle • 16+ (mild language, graphic violence, infrequent sexual situations)
Pint-sized Muhyo and his earnest assistant Jiro (aka “Roji”) are specialists in “supernatural law,” exorcists who punish evil spirits with the power contained in their paralegal spellbooks. (Unlike in Zatch Bell, a more parent-friendly version of the magic-books theme, this manga’s magic system is clearly based on necromancy and demonology, with both heroes and villains making pacts with infernal entities and condemning ghosts to colorful punishments like “Beelzebub’s Jewelbox,” “The Demon Eye Prison” and “Hades’ Banquet,” although the VIZ script tries awkwardly to avoid using the word “hell.”) In the early volumes the pair operates out of a shabby office, and the manga has a “haunt of the week” flavor, which it pulls off very well due to Nishi’s creepy, suspenseful storytelling and spooky children’s-book artwork. (As for Muhyo, his oval head and arrogant attitude suggest Stewie from Family Guy, although beneath his cold exterior, his deep dedication to Roji is the bromantic core of the series.) As the camera pulls back to show more of Muhyo & Roji’s world, the series morphs from horror into fantasy, focusing on the students at the Hogwarts-esque Magic Law Association, and their battle against rogue practitioners of Magic Law, led by the Muhyo’s evil ex-classmate. Gradually the series turns into a conventional summoner-vs-summoner battle manga, and the increasing scale and number of ghoulish creatures (all with bug eyes and zipper-like mouthes) strains Nishi’s ability to keep from repeating himself. The art also loses a bit of its original clarity in the demands of the action scenes. However, the mixture of horror, comedy and wizardry remains quirky and sometimes creepy despite the conventionally melodramatic turns of the story.
*** (three stars)
Come back tomorrow for more reviews, the answer to the question “how to get more than 5 manga,” and the announcement of the first winner!