Manga Review – Inu x Boku SS [Redux]

Inu x Boku SS Volume 1

Inu x Boku SS
妖狐×僕SS (いぬぼくシークレットサービス)
FUJIWARA Cocoa
Shounen – Comedy, drama, mystery, romance, supernatural
11 Volumes (complete)
Yen Press

Summary:

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.

Review:

Inu x Boku SS is an example of why I find it so hard to rate individual volumes. What you get in the first volume is very different from the last volume.

Inu x Boku SS starts off as a lighthearted but touching comedy. Ririchiyo is sharp and sarcastic, but she knows she can’t function in the world if she’s rude to everyone. In order to change herself, Ririchiyo moves into a special (read: exclusive) apartment building and gains an overly-devoted bodyguard. Soichiro dreams of being his master’s dog, but the pair’s relationship slowly changes as they learn to like themselves.

Yes, the plot of the manga makes it seem like a cute, funny romance. First, though, Inu x Boku SS introduces the supernatural elements. Then we take the fluffy romance and leave it far behind for action. And bring it back. Then abandon it again for drama. Let’s make it seinen. No, shounen. Shoujo!! While stories that have emotional highs and lows are called roller coasters, this series feels more like bumper cars. Back, forward, spin around, crash. Each chapter feels like it’s targeting a different demographic and genre. This isn’t just a case of mixing serious and funny chapters. Inu x Boku SS features a lot of drama that borders on tragedy, and yet chapters are surrounded with ridiculousness like beach scenes and a girl drooling over other girls.

On the bright side, I applaud Fujiwara for surprising me several times throughout the series. I thought the manga would be a rather typical bodyguard-client story with a fantasy twist, but the plot goes much deeper than that. However, that deepness stays and then gets delayed. Inu x Boku SS gives first-time readers emotional whiplash as it jumps between situations and moods. I actually think the series is better the second, even third time around. If you know what to expect, you can ride the mood changes much more smoothly. I was a little confused when I read the first half of the series, but I enjoyed it more on my reread when I knew what was coming. Fujiwara includes a lot of foreshadowing and hides a few plants along the way, so it’s nice to spot plot points that would come back later: “Aha, that’s why that was important!”

This was my first time reading the second half of the story, and I felt a lot of the same feelings I had initially. I really like the overall story, but chapters often don’t flow smoothly. The manga has three parts, and a good volume and a half between Part 2 and Part 3 is full of side-stories. The main manga is gearing up for a big confrontation, and while flashbacks and backgrounds on characters are nice, it’s just not what I was in the mood for at the time. I would have rather these chapters been included in a bonus volume or put at the end of different volumes to keep the main plot moving. I imagine I will have a better understanding of the plot the next time I read Inu x Boku SS as I will be able to sift through and spot the key points of each arc.

The manga’s timeline can also be confusing, as months — even years — can occur between chapters. Certain story details are withheld for a sense of mystery, but again, this is where rereading really helps. If you know what direction the story is going to take, you will know why Fujiwara didn’t reveal how secret service members get their jobs right away. On the bright side, I did find the ending did a nice job of wrapping things up. The final volume settles into a more serious tone while also explaining certain characters’ motivations. All the main characters find some sort of peace and acceptance. The final volume is quite long (about 275 pages) and makes you glad it took you on the journey.

I really like Ririchiyo as a heroine. She falls into a pretty unique class as far as protagonists go. While she seems like a haughty ojou-sama (a role usually reserved for rival characters or rival-turned-friends), she also doesn’t want to be one. She wants to stop her off-putting statements and not be defined by her lineage. Even better, she actually takes steps to change herself instead of just letting change come to her. Ririchiyo doesn’t suddenly become a sweet, honest girl, but nobody changes easily in real life. I find it quite comical how 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. Meanwhile, her secret service agent, Soushi, is basically a girl’s idea of the perfect boyfriend. He loves her dearly and is willing to do anything for Ririchiyo. Anything. His obsession with Ririchiyo is mostly for laughs at Ririchiyo’s expense. I actually like him more in later volumes when we see more of his true personality outside of the loyal dog. He becomes more sly even to Ririchyo, and Part 2 Soushi is just more interesting from a reader’s perspective.

The “dog (fox spirit) and me” pair of the manga’s title are undoubtedly the lead characters of the manga, but Inu x Boku SS is very much a group adventure as well. Like in most manga about residents of an apartment building, the other tenants are mostly quirky. Six residents (well, five and one part-timer) are main characters who have a huge presence throughout the manga. They each are given at least one major chapter, mostly a flashback to explain a bit about their background. The main characters are all either teenagers or young adults, so the manga felt like a school dorm for rich kids at times. Ririchiyo and a few others do go to school, but the school parts are pretty much just Ririchiyo bonding with the other tenants. Most of the hotel’s workers are also named and randomly appear once in a great while. One employee is promoted from minor character for quite a while before pretty much disappearing again.

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.

Translation:

From what I’ve read on the Internet, a lot of people (including myself) questioned at least some of the translation choices. First, honorifics are mostly used. “Sensei” and “obaa-chan” are not kept, but nicknames like “Chiyo-tan” are.

But let’s go to the two big ones. First, Roromiya’s given name is カルタ, Karuta. Her name is romanized as “Carta” here. While katakana is generally used for loanwords, this seems like a really odd choice 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 for the first volume, 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” “gashadokuro” is just usually just “skeleton”, but most other ayakashi names are kept in (romanized) Japanese. Soushi’s nickname is spelled both “Mike” and “Mikeh” because of the pronunciation. 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. In this case, with so many Japanese terms, it would have been better to have a second opinion. However, the last two volumes feature a change in translators, and I could immediately tell. Kagerou’s speech is the most notably different. Meat toilets? Swine herds? What happened to his living chamber pots and livestock? Even his speech sounds less haughty, and I miss his full-of-himself attitude.

One page of translator’s notes are included per volume.

Final Comments:

Surprising twists on what seems like a silly, fun romcom can captivate both shoujo and shounen fans. However, the mood swings can be hard to navigate, so you will probably want to reread Inu x Boku SS to fully appreciate it. Fortunately, the manga is charming enough to put on your shelves so you can re-experience the adventure again someday to catch all the little hints you missed previously.

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. So the title is supposed to represent something like “The Dog (Who’s Really a Fox Spirit) x Me”.

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.

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7 Comments

  1. bloodiris

    I was introduced to Inu X Boku SS through its short anime, and I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster in the manga. I do agree that sometimes too much is left unsaid, making it very confusing, but I feel the conclusion makes it worth the wait.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina

      The twists do hit like a mac truck if you’re not prepared. But a good mac truck. If there is such a thing. XD

      Reply
      1. bloodiris

        I believe there are. Pandora Hearts was another good mac truck. Lol XD

        Reply
  2. insightblue

    Just ordered the last couple volumes of this manga…can’t wait to finally finish it, then read it all together, since it has taken me years to finally collect all the volumes!

    Reply
    1. Krystallina

      Yay, hope you enjoy the (full) ride!

      Reply
  3. The Otaku Judge

    Changing tone can be risky. Readers who enjoy the romantic comedy may for example drop off when the story switches to action.

    I watched the anime adaptation many moons ago and thought it was average. The masochist/sadist guy did make me laugh though.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina

      Definitely is risky. I know I’ve hated it sometimes when an author suddenly takes the story down a different path.

      Reply

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