きぐるみ防衛隊 (Kigurumi Bouei-tai)
Shoujo – Comedy, fantasy, magical girl, romance
3 Volumes (hiatus)
Hakka is an ordinary girl, spending her days crushing on the student body president, Chigaya. But that peace is shattered when she finds a strange being in an animal suit in her house! Hakka learns she’s not the only one with a sudden mascot partner, and Chigaya informs the three that they are chosen warriors who must work together to fight aliens!
This is one of those series that, had everything worked out, would be one of my current favorites.
By now, most of you know of my love for Sailor Moon. I still have a fondness for the magical girl genre that it pioneered, although the genre has fallen out of favor in modern times. Kigurumi Guardians is one of those series that reaches out and tugs at that magical girl-loving nostalgia… and yet also flips the genre on its head.
First, however, I can eliminate a lot of you as potential Kigurumi Guardians readers. Right now, there is absolutely no reason to pick this series up. The manga went into hiatus two and a half years ago when the author gave birth. I believe the series had enough chapters to at least release a fourth volume, and when Kodansha Comics was soliciting orders for the fourth volume, I thought there would be something to fill in this gap. Unfortunately, orders for it were first delayed and now have been pulled completely. And now in the spring of this year, Hoshino had another son. So there’s no indication Hoshino is preparing to resume work any time soon, and at this rate, she’s probably not going to until at least her son starts kindergarten, something even the translators suggest as a possibility. And that was in regards to the older son!
In short, it could be at least five years before the manga resumes serialization. Even if the fourth volume goes to print in Japan before Hoshino starts making new chapters, it’s still probably going to be six months to a year after that before the English version gets released. Then we’re back to square one with a long stretch of no new content There’s just simply too many options nowadays to worry about something on hiatus; English fans have simulpubs or completed manga in Japan that is being released on a short, regular schedule in English. Yes, Kigurumi Guardians is targeted toward a younger demographic and, as such, doesn’t have an overly confusing plot, but how many of you are going to be attached to a three volume series in a couple of years, one that clearly has a cliffhanger? And who knows if Kodansha Comics USA will even bother with the fourth volume; they could always lose or let go of the license by then.
So, really, this review should end now, maybe with a promise to meet again in like five years and see if anything has changed and is actually worth, you know, analyzing. But hey, if you continue reading, one Internet cookie for you. 🍪 Store bought too, since I hate cooking.
Anyway, Hakka comes home one day and finds some weird penguin-bull hybrid in her house. She assumes it’s a guy in a costume, and she’s both right and wrong on that point. But Ginger, as he introduces himself, only speaks with cue cards, and he is rather rude to Hakka at their first meeting. Her mom, meanwhile, thinks Ginger is adorable and is proud of Hakka being chosen for some special school project.
Well, Hakka goes to school the next day and finds fellow Chigaya-crazy beauty Nobara and underclassman Satsuki have arrived with their own oversized partner: raccoon or bear-like Basilico and eagle-like Fennel. As Commander Chigaya reveals their mission, Hakka dashes to protect him from an attack. She’s knocked out, and in her haze, she sees some older guy about to kiss her. Long story short, the kigurumi need a kiss from their partners to become magical men who can defeat the attackers who are after hearts.
I really like how Kigurumi Guardians both embraces and plays around with the usual magical girl elements. Like in most magical girl series, there’s much ado about the darkness of the heart, the special-ness of the heroine, etc. But it’s the mascots who do most of the fighting, not Hakka, Nobara, or Satsuki — not to mention Satsuki is a guy. Lots of authors either try too hard to make their story different or just decide to copy the usual tropes. This manga does a good job of not falling into either category, and it appears to be throwing in a few surprises of its own.
What may not be as welcome is the burgeoning relationship between Hakka and Ginger and, to a lesser extent, between the other pairs as well. Nobara is a tsundere, and Satsuki has been a loner, so suddenly having a man living in their homes affects their lives as much as Ginger does to Hakka’s. While those two may or may not form a romantic relationship with Basilico and Fennel, the kids are only in middle school while the guys are 23-27. Mascot Ginger also tends to hit Hakka — comedically of course, but it’s still unnerving that the man inside does so even during their first encounter. Even without the bonks on the head, the manga still shows images of men and children kissing, albeit brief, and Ginger’s holding up signs saying that Hakka has no — and I quote — “sex appeal”. So, yeah, while there are plenty of age gap manga, this is pretty significant in terms of actual years, maturity, and life experience.
Right now, the manga is mostly in the early stages where the Guardians and the kigurumi bond with their partners and each other as they search out for potential targets. After all, there’s the relationships between Hakka, Nobara, and Satsuki (who didn’t know each other before this except by name) as well as their bonds with their partners — and it could even dive further into the relationships between the kigurumi. There are also other secret and (at least to readers) not-so-secret connections between characters that the manga hints at. While Kigurumi Guardians places clues throughout the story, if you are a fan of magical girl manga or really fantasy-action in general, you can imagine all the truths that still need to be revealed. Who exactly are Ginger, Basilico, and Fennel? Why are the beings from another world attacking the school? Why Chigaya leading the group? Plus, the third volume ends with a huge surprise regarding one of the characters, who are all endearing in their own ways. I particularly like Nobara’s tsundere personality combined with her homelife.
While there are a lot of mysteries to resolve, Kigurumi Guardians has quite a bit of humor. Hakka protesting she’s not a kid is one recurring gag, but it’s not a very effective one. The various signs the kigurumi used to talk, on the other hand, are full of humorous gems. But what takes the manga to another level is the fact it’s also a bit of a parody of genre. Instead of a magic wand or some amazing sword, Hakka’s magical weapon… is a broom. (Bring on all the jokes about “cleaning up” crime.) Kigurumi Guardians may be is serialized in a magazine for younger girls, but for older readers, the story is a fun treat no matter if you prefer the traditional or untraditional side of this magical girl story. The plot may stumble a bit at times (most notably in the date chapter), but the twists in the main storyline help keep the manga on the right track.
Hoshino got her start in boys’ love manga. This might explain why Satsuki doesn’t dwell on the fact he has to kiss a man, but, more importantly, some of Hoshino’s designs. Eyes are kind of glazed, angular faces, and eyebrows are long and sharp. Of course, there’s some absurdity with the mascot forms, but some plot-related hints are placed in the visuals, which I won’t go into. The transformations make me picture the sequences in similar anime; I can almost hear the music and see the sparkles. There’s also an air of sexiness in these scenes, and this risque air also extends to the enemies. (Hakka calls the first who attacks she meets a “skanky lady” because of her clothing.) Satsuki’s hair does change a bit from the beginning chapters, becoming more two-toned as the manga goes on. It’s more stylized than many traditional Nakayoshi manga, but it does remind me a bit of Shugo Chara! and, thanks to the heart gems, Sugar Sugar Rune. I have no issues with Hoshino’s art.
Honorifics are used. When the license for this series was first revealed, it was going to be published under the title Kigurumi Defense Squad, which would be the direct translation of 防衛隊. The Japanese volumes gave it the English title of Kigurumi Guardians, so somewhere along the way Kodansha Comics USA either were forced or decided to keep this name. Maybe they didn’t want it to sound too much like or be associated with Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon?
Plenty of translation notes are included in each volume, explaining cultural notes, name meanings, and adapted jokes. The transformation doing/undoing is called “repart”, but the translators don’t know where the name came from either. (They guess it’s from French or Italian, but it could be made up.) The translation tries to differentiate different manners of speaking, like when Ginger in his kigurumi form tries to talk all cutesy. Anyway, it’s a solid adaptation with choices explained in the back.
Despite the age gap romance, Kigurumi Guardians is an engaging fantasy story thanks to it not being a Sailor Moon copycat but not totally abandoning the magical girl genre. But with no signs of a continuation in the near future, it can join the ranks of other manga like NANA in “good but not recommended due to hiatus”.
Hoshino did the character designs for Penguindrum, the anime of which is available from Sentai Filmworks and the manga of which will be available from Seven Seas. Many of her yaoi manga have been released from publishers like Yen Press, Digital Manga/Juné, and Aurora/Deux.