Inu x Boku SS
Dog x Me Secret Service
Shounen – Supernatural, romance, drama, comedy
6 Volumes (in progress) out of 11 (complete)
In an effort to change herself, Ririchiyo moves into Ayakashi Mansion to be alone. She is surprised to find a bodyguard, Soushi, obsessed with protecting and serving her. While Ririchiyo had no intention of getting close to anybody, all the residents of Ayakashi Mansion must rely on each other to protect their shared secret.
Note: this review has been updated and can be found here.
When books, movies, games, and other media have emotional highs and lows, they are often called a roller coaster, but this series feels more like bumper cars. Back, forward, spin around, crash. Surprising twists on what seems like a silly, fun romcom makes Fujiwara’s English debut engaging.
Inu x Boku SS is akin to watching a random episode from a TV series. Most series have a gradual build, but when episodes are viewed in random order, a slapstick episode may immediately precede a serious one from later in the series. This series at times feels like each chapter is its own genre. The first few like a shoujo fantasy romantic comedy, then a supernatural romance, then shounen, and even a bonus seinen chapter? Even 4-koma-like chapters can occur in the middle of the volume. While the series starts out as seemingly shoujo, its shounen aspects eventually emerge in a quite shocking manner.
But even when dealing with emotional whiplash, Inu x Boku SS needs to be read carefully, as there are are hints that are easy to miss. I found myself having to reread sections in order to fully appreciate the foreshadowing. Even then, it has been a long time since I’ve said, “Well, I didn’t see that coming!” so much. I mean this in a good way. I actually thought the story would be a rather typical bodyguard-client manga with a supernatural twist, but it goes much deeper than that. On the downside, the timeline can also be confusing, as months — even years — can occur between chapters. Certain story details are withheld for a sense of mystery, I guess, but several of my questions about the world of Inu x Boku SS are addressed several chapters later than they should be, like how the secret service members get their jobs. The supernatural aspects are a key part of the story and are not just a device to make it stand out from other servant-master romances.
I really like Ririchiyo as a heroine. Ojou-sama types are usually relegated to rival characters, so it’s nice to see one in the spotlight. Even better, Ririchiyo is an ojou-sama type who doesn’t want to be an ojou-sama type. She has a vice, but she acknowledges it and actively works on controlling it. She’s not too successful at first, but nobody changes easily in real life. It is quite comical when her tsuntsun side hardly matches up to her actions. “Oh, you’re forcing me to eat with you? Guess it was lucky I had these dishes.” Her personality is a key point in the story and not just a method of attracting male reader attention. She’s not a tsundere (well, tsunshun) just because it’s popular for female leads to be one.
Her secret service agent, Soushi, is basically a girl’s idea of the perfect boyfriend. He is overly doting but is so mostly for laughs. The other tenants are mostly quirky, as typical of an manga set in an apartment building. I was a little disappointed that all the tenants and bodyguards are 15 or 21-22 (and one 17 year old). It felt too much like a school dorm for rich kids run by three best friends, but this isn’t an issue later in the series. The building’s workers are introduced once and then randomly jump into a scene chapters later. One character is promoted from minor character, but I wish the story would have given them more of a regular presence.
The art doesn’t involve a lot of shading or screentones. At times, pages are literally black and white. Backgrounds are often empty, so it makes the pages seem even more black and white and sometimes boring. Character design-wise, Fujiwara’s style looks closer to shoujo than shounen. Lots of beautiful characters and closeups. Her art is very crisp, but panels and layouts are rather repetitive in the early volumes. In short, it’s pretty but sometimes lacks power due to the overuse of whitespace.
From what I’ve read on the Internet, a lot of people (including myself) questioned at least some of the translation choices, so this section will be longer than usual. First, honorifics are used, but ironically, sensei is not used, and I actually missed a twist initially because of its removal. It’s an English word, listed in the dictionary. Even nicknames like “Chiyo-tan” are kept!
But let’s go to the two big ones. First, Roromiya’s first name is, in katakana, “Karuta” but named “Carta” here. This seems really odd considering the heavy Japanese influences on the story. However, “karuta” is the Japanese pronunciation/spelling of “carta”, a word for traditional Japanese playing cards. In the ANN talkback, someone points out that the word can harken back to bone tiles. Granted, not the easiest connection to make, but it may explain the translator’s choice. Next, Nobara’s “maniac” is adapted as “smexy”. “Smexy” is slang for “smart + sexy”. Knee highs and absolute territory is smart? Sexy, ok, but smart? While “maniac” is in English, it just doesn’t make sense grammatically nor is it an adopted / common phrase. This is a rare case where I think it could have been reverse-translated to “moe”. Other options I would have suggested include mania, fanatic(al), or hot/burning.
Moving on, “oni” is translate as “ogre”, but most other ayakashi names are kept in (romanized) Japanese. A lot of the text is punched up, especially Watanuki’s dialogue. I usually like it when the same person does the translation and adaptation, but in this case, with so many Japanese terms, it would have been better to have a second opinion.
One page of translator’s notes are included per volume.
Although it seems to switch tones every chapter, I am really intrigued by where the story is heading. The story throws enough curves to engage the reader despite the odd pacing. I really feel I could reread this several times and catch something new each time. Buy it.
Note that while the kanji in the title is read “youko” (fox spirit), it is given the reading “inu” (dog). Hence why it is often called Youko x Boku SS.
On some of the volumes, bonus strips are included on the front and back inside covers. I forgot to read some of them at first, since I usually quit at the translator’s notes.
The anime has been released in the US by Sentai Filmworks.