ゆららの月 (Yurara no Tsuki)
Shoujo – Romance, supernatural, drama, comedy
5 Volumes (complete)
Yurara’s schoolmates think she’s weird. In actuality, she can sense spirits, and Yurara is often affected by their emotions. When a spirit haunts her desk, she wonders what to do. It suddenly retreats, but why? Just then, two classmates suddenly enter the room: the flirtatious Mei and the sarcastic Yako.
I think I thought Yurara was okay when I first read it, but after the sequel, I just don’t think it’s very good.
In one of the final author’s comments, Shiomi mentions this was her first school love comedy, and when she suggests doing another, he immediately counters with doing a manga about adults and their careers. The final panel in the 4-koma ends with the author staring off into space, noting she knew something was missing. This should tell you something about Yurara.
So what is missing? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can say the characters’ feelings rang hollow for me. Despite being a romance, I felt the love between the couples were shallow and hardly indicative of the concept of “true love” that shoujo manga tend to focus on. One of the two main couples of the series hardly interacts, and the other comes off as a rebound romance. Quite honestly, I think the story would have panned out the same if the couples were swapped, and I wouldn’t have cared if the end pairs were switched. If a romance is leaving readers feeling like they don’t care who ends up with who, then the story has failed.
Putting the love story to the side, I am always up for a good supernatural problem solvers story. In Yurara, there isn’t much searching. Most of the ghosts Yurara and her friends face are spirits just hanging around town. Nobody is a professional exorcist; they get rid of the evil spirits to prevent them from causing problems because it’s the right thing to do. (Although the three main characters all intentionally sit out a round at least once.) Like most supernatural stories, the ghosts are a mixture of corrupted spirits, misunderstood ones, and harmless, humorous ones. Appeasing the spirits is actually my favorite part of the story. The reason why the first ghost haunts Yurara’s desk or why a shapeless blob keeps repeating, “Right. Left.” are touching. Unfortunately, as the series goes on, the “save the spirits” aspect is pushed aside to deal with Yurara’s love life. The “battles” get shorter, and less time is spent on the spirits’ backstories.
Another issue I had was the lack of background on Mei and Yako’s history as well as how powers work in this universe. The series makes it seem ESP is pretty rare, so how did the two guys find someone else who not only can see spirits but exorcise them as well? And despite the Mei, Yako, and Yurara attending the same school for a whole year prior to the start of the series, they didn’t see each other? I mean, I might normally buy it, but with all the spirits running around the school, it seems to me they should have crossed paths sometime in their first year of high school.
Yurara herself comes off as slightly weak. I’ve already covered how she and the others fell in love too quickly, but I wanted to see her grow even stronger. She has her moments, but then she wimps out shortly thereafter. Her other form is stronger and a more complicated character. Mei is one of those flirts with a tragic past. Yako is the most interesting of the three. Although he may seem standoffish, he has a dark sense of humor, and he is the one most likely to get violent anime/manga-style. Really, although neither are abusive toward her, one guy sexually harasses Yurara while the other mentally harasses her. And again, neither’s feelings of love are exceptionally strong.
The art in Yurara feels like a bit like a transitional piece. Although the series was started in 2003, it does have remnants of the 90s shoujo style, most notably the noses and SD characters. The author’s art does get stronger in her later series like Rasetsu and Yukarism, and although it is better than in series like Canon, she just hasn’t reached her full potential. I do like how Shiomi shows a lot of mid-transformation shots. Yurara “powering up” is not just done in a flash of light like many fantasy stories. The two Yuraras have different hairstyles and hair colors, and we get to see many instances of Yurara’s hair growing and changing color. Character and spirit designs are well-done, and lots of different panel styles are implemented. There are some beautiful pieces of artwork here, and her later work is even better.
No honorifics are used except for one instance. This kind of downplays Mei’s flirtatious ways, as he immediately calls the heroine “Yurara-chan” in the original Japanese. Members of the cast tend to call the other Yurara “(o)nee-san”, and the adaptation uses the literal translation of “sister”. It doesn’t really work in this case. “Sister Yurara” sounds like the name of a nun (“Big sis Yurara” sounds better in my opinion). “Where’s my sister?” is awkward when speaking in a romantic sense, even though this is commonly used in manga. The other Yurara also uses more curse words and insulting language to help differentiate her speech patterns from the regular Yurara. Strangely, volumes three and four end with “Yurara no Tsuki” and the chapter number; the other volumes just end with the chapter number. The translation team has done many other works, but the person doing the adaptation wasn’t familiar to me.
Although I seemed pretty hard on Yurara, it’s not that bad. It’s just outclassed by Rasetsu. Based on comments from around the Internet, I’m not the only one who feels this way. So if you can only afford one, buy the sequel. It’s longer and thus more expensive, but it’s just plain better. Rasetsu fans might want to check out this series to experience the past of one of that series’ main characters, but Rasetsu does fine as a stand-alone piece.
The series has a sequel called Rasetsu which features a new heroine and a character from Yurara. It was also published by Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint, and they are also currently publishing Yukarism. Former company CMX published Shiomi’s Canon while another defunct publisher, Go Comi, released Night of the Beasts. Aurora Publishing only released one volume (out of four) of Queen of Ragtonia.
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