Monday, November 18, 2013

Manga Review: A Centaur's Life volume 1

Murayama Kei's A Centaur's Life is the newest thing with yuri content from Seven Seas. It is running in the seinen magazine Comic Ryu and has three tankoubon out in Japan.

This series is a slice-of-life about a shy, polite girl named Himeno and her best friends Nozomi and Kyoko. What makes this series different from your usual high school slice-of-life is that the characters live in a world in which everyone is some kind of fantasy creature.

Himeno is a centaur, Kyoko is pretty much a satyr ("goatfolk" here), Nozomi is a "draconid" (a human-dragon hybrid), and there are angelfolk (like the student council president Manami), catfolk, mermaids (which haven't appeared in this volume), and the completely non-humanoid-looking "Arctic people" ("snake people" being the offensive term for them), who have only appeared in media (a magazine and an old movie) so far.

This volume covers Himeno responding to a boy asking her out, a school play in which Himeno plays the princess to Nozomi's prince, a school marathon in which Kyoko has trouble keeping up, Himeno getting a temporary part-time job as a model because her mom's magazine editor friend needs a centaur, and a chapter focusing on Himeno's family, especially her mom. Then there's an afterword in which Himeno, Nozomi, and Kyoko chat with Murayama Kei (drawn as a goat) about this series' development, and a history of the fictional town the characters live in.

I want to kill the first chapter of this series with fire. It resolves a body issue of Himeno's in an über-servicey way. It made me half-joke to a friend that I wondered if this series' author knows what vaginas look like outside porn. The virginity fetishizing doesn't help.

Take away the first chapter, and it's a decent series- a typical slice-of-life, just with the world we know adapted to fantasy creatures inhabiting it. The worldbuilding is well thought out, and I had fun discussing it with the friend who read my copy of this volume. For example, centaurs used to be samurai in Japan, but were enslaved for riding elsewhere, so it's legally considered a hate crime to ride them everywhere including Japan. Cue discussion of whether this world has actual horses since they have cows, but maybe the animals whose fantasy-influenced characteristics the humanoid characters have don't exist here. And "How do the cold-blooded Antarcticans survive in Antarctica?" Mundane details (like clothes, shoes, and how certain house designs might be less convenient for centaurs; I'm curious about what mermaids do) are covered also, and there's an amusing Obama reference.

Apparently there's a lesbian couple in Himeno's class- I'm not sure if they appear in volume 2 or volume 3, though. In this volume, the yuri is Himeno kissing Nozomi because a classmate altered her script for the play. Nozomi is flustered, but seems like she kind of liked it. After Himeno saves Nozomi from a stage injury, Nozomi kisses Himeno on the cheek in a "My hero!" kind of way. I liked that the girls in their class were like "Kyaa!" over Himeno kissing Nozomi.

As expected, the translation is good and honorifics left intact. The first page is a glossy color page featuring Himeno,  Nozomi and Kyouko walking next to a café on one side and the full cover image (their walking to school with some classmates) on the other side. The back has a preview of another Seven Seas series, Monster Musume (Seven Seas has been especially interested in "monster girl" titles lately), which looks like every awful magical girlfriend series, just with a snake girl.

Story: F for chapter 1, C+ for the rest. More noteworthy for its setting than its story or characters, which are pleasant but not standout for me.
Art: B
Overall: C