Shoujo – Romance, supernatural, action, comedy, gender bender, mystery
4 Volumes (complete)
Yukari is only in high school, but he is renowned for his novels about the red light district of old Tokyo. Yukari doesn’t do research for his books; he writes about his past life. After meeting a new classmate, Yukari’s consciousness slips back in time to his past self: a high-level courtesan.
Yukarism is a short but engaging reincarnation story, but the romance is not its strong point.
World-building is an essential part of a story. In a reincarnation story, an author needs to tell both the story of the characters’ past lives as well as their current situation. Since Yukarism is relatively short at four volumes, Shiomi centers the story on three characters and their previous incarnations. While other characters are revealed to have past lives, the bonds between Yukari, Mahoro, and Satomi are the focus of Yukarism. Limiting the main characters prevents the story from being distracted to much.
While I keep referring to Yukarism as a reincarnation manga, it’s also a time travel one. Yukari does not only remember his time as Yumurasaki but actually slips into her body at times. So while there’s a bit of humor a la NG Life about a girl reincarnating as a boy, Shiomi takes it a bit further and adds comedy about a high school boy occasionally living the life of a female courtesan. In addition, Mahoro and Satomi begin to have bouts of amnesia in the story, and their unknown source of dislike for each other also adds to the humor.
However, Yukarism plays out more like a mystery rather than a comedy. The early chapters are a bit slow, but once we get into Mahoro’s and Satomi’s past selves, the mystery and action step up. Yukari’s memory of his time as Yumurasaki is incomplete, and much of the manga is about him piecing together his past. Meanwhile, Mahoro and Satomi start becoming possessed by their past selves, and they each bear a grudge against the other. Their various interactions are just plain more interesting than Yukari (as Yumurasaki) trying to absorb information about Edo or convincing Takamura that Yumurasaki has stepped out for a moment. The final volume is a climatic battle of weapon and words, and it’s these Yurara/Rasetsu-like scenes that I enjoy the best out of the manga. Unfortunately, the final romances in both time periods comes across as a bit shallow. It’s a shame, and while I really liked Takamura’s devotion, I just did not feel like Yukari’s feelings were strong.
As for the characters, ironically, the person(s) I least understood was Yukari/Yumurasaki. Yukari in particular is quite easygoing and friendly, but at the same time he is kind of…random. Yukari doesn’t seem to actively seek out any friends, but he has no problem welcoming Mahoro to his house and addressing her by her first name. He goes to see her family and then quickly leaves. I really can’t think of a good word to describe him. He’s not flakey, not standoffish, not gentle…he’s a bit of a contradiction. Since his past self is female, the manga doesn’t really get much of a fresh perspective for having a male lead. Along those lines, Yumurasaki’s final confession is also a bit strange. Some will view her as strong while others will think she’s foolish. I guess it’s all about how she wanted to live her life rather than what people think she should do. I think their personalities affect the romance more than the author’s storytelling abilities. The other main characters’ motivations are much clearer. Mahoro and Takamura just want their love interests to look their way. Meanwhile, Satomi and Kazuma just want the best for their charge. And, as I mentioned, neither Takamura and Kazuma or Mahoro and Satomi get along.
One of the first things I noticed was the art seemed a little flatter than her other series. In an author’s note, Shiomi mentions she was advised just to fill in the characters’ hair with one color. I think this is what I was noticing. Yukari, Mahoro, Yumurasaki, and Takamura all share the same jet black hair, and with three of the four having long hair, the hair really darkens the pages. There’s no shading or highlights, and while I understand why Shiomi did this (more realistic and to save time), her art wasn’t popping out to me as much as her earlier works. However, she really did put a lot of effort into the Edo scenes, especially since she is not a history buff. The courtesans’ outfits have a lot of detail with the hairpieces and embroidery. Shiomi also uses a lot of chibi characters, and she often has one character’s past/future self overlapping. The latter is a popular artistic technique, but considering it is easy for readers to know who is being possessed, I felt it was overused. The illusions in the final volume were much more well done. Anyways, Shiomi is quite experienced at this point in her career, so the art is clean and consistent. Her characters’ faces tend to be quite angular and pointed, but they don’t look as if they are clones from other series. Readers familar with Shiomi’s works know what to expect, and newbies will not have much to complain about.
Some honorifics are used. Generally, honorifics for scenes in the present day are dropped while they are kept for the Edo scenes. Personally, I don’t like this mixed handling of honorifics. Mahoro already seems to be a bit forward, jumping from “Kobayakawa-sensei” to “Yukari-kun”, but she seems quite brazen when here she goes from “Kobayakawa Sensei” to “Yukari”. Translation notes are included at the end of each volume. Words and phrases like “soto hachi monji” are kept. Again, these are explained in the end-of-volume notes. The notes are also pretty much spoiler-free, so younger or newbie readers may want to read them before the story in order to understand what an oiran is and such.
It may not be Shiomi’s best work, but Yukarism is a good short series that’s worth a read. If you prefer shorter manga series, than Yukarism may be worth the purchase for you. If you prefer reincarnation stories with more of an impact like Please Save My Earth or NG Life, then you’re probably better off borrowing it.
Many of Shiomi’s series have been released in English. Viz Media published Yurara and Rasetsu. CMX published Shiomi’s Canon while Go Comi released Night of the Beasts. Aurora Publishing licensed Queen of Ragtonia before going out of business.