Shounen – Romance, fantasy, adventure
12 Volumes (original), 6 Volumes (shinsouban)
Square Enix (Monthly Gangan Wing)
Lycanthrope Chiruha leaves her solitary life on the mountain to live in the village with humans. Amnesiac warrior Kisara works to extinguish demons. Once childhood friends, they cross paths again, but will the lycanthrope’s power test their bond? And there may be others interested in a lycanthrope…
Like her later series Inu x Boku SS, what starts off as a fluffy shoujo-like series descends into a more serious plot. Despite its change of focus, Dear is quite enjoyable. By the end, not everyone gets what they want, but they all find some peace.
Dear is actually a spinoff/sequel of Fujiwara’s Watashi no Ookami-san. and Watashi no Ookami-san. The Other Side of Lycanthrope. The first three volumes focus on Chiruha and Kisara. These volumes have more of a shoujo feel to them. Then the next volume (re)introduces the cast from the Ookami-san series. Then the full party assembles, and all the characters live their lives together before Dear becomes more like a serious shounen romance.
Some people are going to like the extended prologue, and others will wish Dear was strictly about Kisara and Chiruha. I can relate to both groups. While I read Dear without reading its two volume prequel, it would probably be better to read Ookami-san. first. Not only would it add to world-building, the stories might allow readers to bond with those later characters and not feel like they usurped Chiruha and Kisara’s story. While the mood whiplash is nowhere near Inu x Boku SS, Fujiwara definitely drew some inspiration from this series. If the reader is unprepared, the switch in focus can seem jarring.
Werewolves are becoming quite popular in pop culture. In this series, Fujiwara not only downplays the werewolf aspect by calling Chiruha’s species by the less common term “lycanthrope” but also installs some rather unique rules for the creatures. Do not expect Chiruha to morph a la “The Hulk” style into a hairy beast. Other supernatural creatures in the story are divided into two classes: monster-looking demons and human-looking demons. Despite demons being present — and having their own continent — the demons and humans are not at war. Each group pretty much leads their own lives despite their prejudices. In many ways, this series’ setup is the reverse of many similar manga. The lack of a worldwide conflict helps the focus remain on the cast. Dear is not about the journey; it’s about the characters.
Without going into too much detail, the others are already connected to each other, but Chiruha and Kisara eventually join their circle. The group is initially bounded by the mysteries surrounding lycanthropes, but it is their bond with each other that moves the story forward. Kisara is the most serious character, and the others are either intentional or unintentional comedians. Their personalities contrast against the serious issues they all want to conquer and help lighten the overall tone of Dear. One character takes on the role of annoying his partner, but then he gets bossed around. There’s a pair of classic tsundere-types. Another is a klutz. Eventually, the story takes a more serious turn, and the characters’ quirks are downplayed as they examine their relationships. You can’t help but liking everybody. They all have their own pasts, but they are trying to live in the present.
Fujiwara hasn’t mastered her art style at the beginning of this series. Her way of drawing eyes is quite different by the end. Her initial style is mostly dark but then become more full of light. This is most noticeable in Kisara. At the beginning, his eyes are flat, large, and look soulless (and this is not just because of his personality). He undergoes quite the change and eventually starts to resemble Soushi from Inu x Boku SS. His body looks as if he’s aged a few years and is far less feminine-looking. Chiruha is initially full of SD faces as she squees over every new life experience. Whitespace is prevalent — at times, a little too prevalent. A lot of panels feature nothing but a character and their dialogue.
Chance of License:
Yen Press would be the most likely to license this series. Dear was serialized in the discontinued magazine Monthly Gangan Wing from Square Enix, and Yen Press often publishes Gangan titles. Yen Press is also currently releasing Fujiwara’s Inu x Boku SS. The two have many shared thematic (not to mention artistic) elements. The series was reissued in a shinsouban of 6 volumes, making it a short series. The higher page count (for instance, volume 1 is 320 pages) would likely push it toward omnibus pricing. Yen Press has released series like Until Death Do Us Part in their own 2-in-1 volumes, so it isn’t unheard of for them to do thick volumes. The shinsouban covers even look similar to Inu x Boku SS, thus encouraging fans to add this series to their collection. The 2-in-1 volumes of the shinsouban release would also help keep the story moving. Perhaps this could be picked up when Inu x Boku SS has finished its English publication? The only major downside is the two Watashi no Ookami-san. series’ plots play a large role in this series, so I don’t know if Yen Press would want to (or feel like they have to) bring those over in order to fully enjoy Dear.
Unofficial scanlations have released the entire series.
I know a lot of people are split between Dear and Inu x Boku SS for being her best title, but no matter which team you are on, fans will want to pick up both titles. Encourage Yen Press to pick up the late author’s first big hit.