365 Days of Manga, Day 20: Shiki Tsukai

 

ShikiTsukai1_450.jpgSHIKI TSUKAI (Shiki Tsukai, “User/Wielder of the Four Seasons”) (????) • To-Ru Zekuu (story), Yuna Takanagi (art) • Del Rey (2007-ongoing) • Kodansha (Monthly Shônen Sirius, 2005-ongoing) • Shônen Fantasy Battle • 8+ volumes (ongoing) • 13+ (violence, partial nudity, mild sexual situations)
On the eve of his 14th birthday, shy, sensitive Akira discovers that he is a shiki tsukai, “keeper of the seasons,” who can wield powers based on the seasons (for instance, using the power of spring to summon a wall of peach trees). Koyomi, a mysterious transfer student who embodies exposition in female form, shows up to protect him and explain his destiny, and soon Akira is at the center of a whole group of shiki tsukai, including his homeroom teacher, his dad and his best friend, who must fight against evil eco-terrorist shiki tsukai who want to reduce the human population to restore the balancce of nature. A shonen battle manga, Shiki Tsukai draws its inspiration from the pre-1873 Japanese lunisolar calendar, which is complicated and unfamiliar to Westerners. (“Do you understand the basics of the Season Incantation? In the first phrase, you say the Traditional Japanese Name of the Month and the corresponding 24 Sekki name. In the second phrase you say the meaning of that particular Sekki…in the third phrase you say the section name of the 72 Kou…”) There might be some interesting imagery among all this technobabble, but Takanagi and Zekuu seem to be better at rattling off information from Japanese Wikipedia than fleshing it out; the concept is reduced to poorly drawn fight scenes where characters fire ice and heat blasts at each other, and swap powers using shikifu cards, clearly intended as a merchandising tie-in. A checklist of plot elements are borrowed from CLAMP’s far superior X/1999, but unoriginality is the least of this manga’s problems; Takanagi’s wretched artwork makes the action impossible to follow, and big breasts aren’t enough to cover up the awful figure drawing (see for instance the cover of volume 4). The clichéd characters, including the whiny unwilling hero who looks like a twelve-year-old girl (“I…hate hurting things…and breaking things…I wish we could all get along…If I can avoid a battle…I think that’s best…”), raise the abysmal story almost to the level of self-parody.
1/2 (half a star)
Today’s winner is Richard H. of North Carolina. Winners, don’t forget to send in photos of yourselves with your manga so you can get more manga! THIS MANGA IS BURNING A HOLE IN MY HOUSE! I need to make room for more of it!
In other news, my awesome collaborator Victor Hao, the artist of King of RPGs, was just interviewed on Anime News Network. It’s a good interview with lots of artwork, both of King of RPGs and Victor’s other work. Please check it out!

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