ZE 1-2 by Yuki Shimizu: B-

When Raizou’s beloved grandmother dies, he leaves the country home where they had lived and moves to the city, where he enrolls in culinary school and takes a job as a live-in housekeeper at a mansion. There, he meets the members of the Mitou family, who wield the word-based power of kotodama, and their kami-sama, human-like creations made from paper who heal the wounds caused by using kotodama. We are told that relationships between kami-sama and their masters must be homosexual and that healing requires contact with a mucous membrane of some sort. This results in all sorts of lusty shenanigans, as one might expect.

Among those living in the house is Kon, a kami-sama without a master, since the Mitou for whom he was originally created died before they could meet. Typically, a kami-sama in such a situation would be destroyed, but Waki, Kon’s maker, keeps him around and uses him to heal paying “guests” (read: pimps him out). Kon doesn’t object, though, since he doesn’t see any purpose to his existence other than being useful. When big, kind-hearted Raizou arrives, he is immediately captivated by Kon and, as he is further exposed to Kon’s sorrow and detachment, falls in love with him.

There are some things ZE does very well, but guiding readers gently into its complicated world isn’t among them. Seven characters are introduced in the first chapter alone, and two more follow by the end of the first volume. That’s a lot of names to try to remember! Many of these characters are one-note, like Kotoha Mitou, who is happy and likes sweets, or Benio, the kami who cosplays and flashes her boobs a lot. The focus is primarily on the relationships, but there are also some hints of things to come, like a trunk of which Waki is fiercely protective and some mysterious spectral attacks that come out of nowhere. This is definitely more plot that I’m accustomed to in a boys’ love series, and I credit it with being both intriguing and ambitious, but also found it to be pretty confusing at times.

The best thing about the series is the relationship between its lead characters. Raizou has nothing but good memories of living with his grandmother, which ground him in a healthy place and provide a contrast to the world Kon has known thus far. To help relieve Kon of his feeling of uselessness, he pledges to become his kotodamashi, an arrangement that’s accepted by the rest of the family. True, Raizou doesn’t possess a magical power of words, but the warm and loving things he says reach Kon anyway and effect a change within him. The intimate scenes between the two of them, filled with eagerness and awkwardness in equal measure, are absolutely fantastic; Yuki Shimizu could give lessons on how to make such moments entirely about the characters and not merely “insert tab A into slot B.”

Shimizu’s artistic style may not be distinctive, but it is at least clean and attractive. Despite the surfeit of characters, I never had any trouble telling them apart. There are a couple of things about the way sexy moments are drawn that amuse me, like inordinately slobbery kisses and the ridiculously huge cone of light representing Raizou’s manly bits, but I positively adore the cover to the second volume. If you look at most boys’ love covers, the two leads are usually clutching each other passionately. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another that looks so genuinely loving.

While ZE has its flaws, I ultimately found it to be enjoyable and thought it improved in the second volume. Shimizu is well known for crafting long series of quality (her Love Mode, published by BLU, clocks in at eleven volumes), so I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

ZE is published in English by Digital Manga Publishing; they’ve released two volumes so far. In Japan, seven volumes have been released so far. The series is still ongoing.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.

Speak Your Mind