Phew, finally here, at today’s actual post. Although this is my third post of the day, I’m most excited for this one because it’s actually very applicable to what got me into triple-posting-ness in the first place. Basically, thank goodness for manga! Without it, my late nights barfing and all around not being able to sleep would have been even more brutal than they were.
Let me first say that I really enjoy this author. I first ran onto Fukuyama Ryoko with one of her earlier series, then came along the series that followed Monokuro, and then finally came onto Monokuro this past weekend, when I was sprawled on the couch, completely nauseous, and my body feeling like it had been hit by a truck. Not that this sort of detail is crucial, but, yeah. There it is.
Monokuro Shounen Shoujo is the story of Mimachi Kureha, who is chosen as a recruit to a prestigious private school with the hope to start anew. Only, there’s something weird about this school. Come to find out, it’s actually a high school built for the prince and princesses of the beast world to go to–and Kureha is put in there under the guise of the Rabbit Kingdom’s princess in order to help the students to learn to be around humans… without eating them. Yep. It sounded too good to be true!
Apparently, the position is so hazardous that the Rabbit candidate had never made it past two weeks. Yikes. The top three royals from her year are charged to watch over her: Wolf Country’s 6th Princess, Chouchou; Panther Country’s 4th Prince, Ukyou; and Tiger Country’s 2nd Prince, Chigaya. Their job includes making sure that she not only isn’t eaten but also that she also doesn’t run away.
At first, Monokuro wasn’t really catching my attention. I was fairly ready for it to be a typical fantasy-shoujo-school-life manga–a genre I’m not particularly clamoring for–including the all-too-familiar trope of the super beautiful and popular group that the lead character magically is thrown into. The writing was funny, yes, but the characters and how they related to each other felt, well, basic. Too basic even for me to continue much further.
Suddenly, at the end of chapter 2, the characters spiced up a bit. Then, chapter 3, it’s like the stale parts of the first few chapters are gone, and suddenly these characters have all this depth. Chigaya, who must work through the muddy feelings of always being “second fiddle”. Chouchou, who wants what she feels like she can never have. Ukyou, whose goal is to never want anything (or anyone) again. And last, Kureha, the girl who wants a place to call home, and finds it in this insane school filled with beasts.
What at first felt like a cool idea, but nothing more than that, quickly executed what became a very interesting plot that burned at a solid and interesting pace. Things don’t feel strung out, nor do they seem rushed. Oftentimes I feel like shoujo manga is so much of, “Oh my gosh, I love him. But no, I can’t have him, the drama–!” and cue fainting.
Monokuro was refreshing in the fact that there was natural interest at the start, but that the actual attraction and later feelings developed and were brought out organically. When the characters are prevented from accepting their feelings, it’s because that’s what may actually happen if these four kids were real. Because, no, we don’t figure out our feelings all at once. Then again, even when we think we know our feelings, we find that maybe we were wrong. Monokuro portrays this very well, and I think this is something that author Fukuyama is great at.
The world building in Monokuro is very well done. Not only are we given Kureha’s character so that we can learn about this world alongside her, but the structure of the world is compelling. As Kureha finds herself class president by a random turn of events, she begins learning about just why this beast school is in existence in the first place. It’s not just to build up a tolerance for humans, even more, its a small time in these kids lives that they get to live outside of their very structure, very royal lives.
The number of rules in which these beast teens are required to live–no interspecies marriage, arranged marriage–are somewhat dampened in this high school. It’s like their one moment to be free from the obligation of their blood. Kureha realizes that this “home” which she’s built is temporary, just like so many us are forced to realize as we’re nearing high school graduation. We can’t be together forever, it’s a reality that most of us must face, and it’s interesting in the context of Monokuro.
The key plot in Monokuro is that the points in which the students of this school work so hard to accumulate are so that they can have a chance at being human. At the end of their third year, whoever has the highest amount of points is offered the chance to become human, and this is a rare and much-wanted opportunity by the student body.
It bears repeating that the three who were given the duty of watching over Kureha were the top three students–and eventually Kureha’s three closest friends–and thus the three with the highest chance of being human at the end of their third year. This means that one of them could potentially go and live as a human alongside Kureha when they graduate.
See? The premise picks up into something VERY intriguing. But let’s not forget Monokuro‘s humor. Holy crap, this manga is funny. Not only does it have its fair share of regular ol’ high school funnies, but the author’s use of animal based humor is exceptionally good. This includes the beginning of chapters where there are little gags of Kureha’s adventure in learning just how animal-like her friends are. It’s truly hilarious!
I also like how the animal-ness applies to the romance and relationship development within the story. Things like marking your scent or even biting play into the relationships for some unique developments, and I really enjoyed it. Especially when Kureha can figure out the animal-ish romantic advances, and has to assume that she’s at risk for her life again, it’s pretty hilarious.
One thing I’m realizing is that not all the chapters for Monokuro Shounen Shoujo are on Bato.to (the best place for scanlated manga reading), but you can find them all on the app Manga Reader on Android. I hate to be suggesting a crummy money-making manga app, but it’s free to use, virus free, and all the chapters are there, so just read the missing chapters there and then get back on Bato.to where it’s higher quality and non-sleazy. (For the love of Pete, don’t try finding it on other manga aggregate sites on your browser I promise your computer and your eyes will thank me!)