Her Majesty’s Dog 7 by Mick Takeuchi: B-

From the back cover:
Someone from Amane’s village is out to ruin the young shamaness’s life! Framed for a crime they didn’t commit, Amane and Hyoue return to the island in disgrace… and this time, they won’t be allowed to leave. Forced into fulfilling her duty as head of the Kamori family, Amane discovers that she is prisoner to a destiny that could keep her and Hyoue apart forever!

Once again, the back cover blurb is inaccurate. Yes, Hyoue was suspected as the perpetrator of a crime, but that accusation was dropped. Amane’s actually instructed to return to the village because a photo of her and Aoi hugging was printed in a tabloid.

The pattern of goofy plots mingled with some decent character moments continues. My favorite chapter is the first one, in which Takako takes center stage and frets about her tendency to butt into other people’s problems. The worst is the chapter in which Hyoue wants to buy Amane a birthday present (that’s not the bad part) and ends up working in drag at a bar to make money. It’s played like “tee hee, isn’t this the most hilarious thing?” but really, it is inane.

Amane’s kimono-wearing uncle shows up in later chapters and reminds me a lot of the president of the talent agency in Skip Beat! After a big reveal about Amane’s “destiny,” there’s a scene where he councils a hot-headed Hyoue that bears similarities to scenes between Shigure and Kyou from Fruits Basket. Except not nearly as good.

There’s still no word on the assassin/defectors subplots, and I seriously doubt that they’re ever going to get mentioned again. There is something about “outside influence” causing some trouble amongst the Kamori clan, but it seems like something entirely different connected to the yawner of a reveal on the final page.

Wasn’t this series supposed to be getting good about now? I’m still waiting.

Her Majesty’s Dog 6 by Mick Takeuchi: B-

From the back cover:
Fearing that his feelings will only lead to misery, Hyoue keeps his distance from Amane, leaving her confused… and open to a more aggressive classmate’s affections! Threatened with expulsion from school and besieged by restless ghosts, Amane’s life is in danger of collapsing—and her precious demon dog may be the cause!

Um, Amane is never threatened with expulsion from school in this volume. I have no idea where that came from. The boys have to take some supplementary lessons, but the penalty for not succeeding at those is repeating the school year, not expulsion.

My question from the last volume regarding Hyoue’s human form gets answered in this volume. There is a convenient seal on the island that keeps the koma-oni from leaving, so that’s what’s controlling Hyoue’s powers. He and Amane undergo quite a simple ritual and then, poof, suddenly she has no more issues controlling him.

Back in Tokyo, the chapter with the supplementary lessons is pretty lame, though it does feature Hyoue’s attempts at drawing, which are amusingly wretched. This is followed by a couple more lame chapters about some ghosts haunting Aoi’s film shoot. These would’ve been tedium personified but for some stuff personal stuff happening with the characters. After the binding ritual with Amane, Hyoue secretly requested the village elder to erase his feelings for Amane. Now, believing they’re gone, he’s been keeping his distance, no longer smooching Amane in order to feed on her life force, et cetera. So she worries, until cheered by Aoi, who curses himself for helping his rival out if only to see Amane smile.

So, yes, not great personal drama by any means, but at least it made the goofy plots (Takeuchi admits in the Author’s Note that she is “groping along in the dark”) tolerable.

Her Majesty’s Dog 5 by Mick Takeuchi: B

From the back cover:
The kingon curse is broken—and Hyoue’s powers are out of control! Heartbroken, he returns to the village where it all began—unleashing a flood of memories about the origin of his relationship with Amane. Meanwhile, Amane herself must take part in the village’s annual ceremony before a contemptuous crowd. With no allies at her side and a malicious koma-oni on her heels, can she muster enough strength to track down her loyal demon-dog and bring him home?

This volume is an improvement over the last, at least. Unbound Hyoue is too much for Amane to handle, so he gets sent back to the village to live in the sacred tree in which koma-oni dwell until the yearly festival when they get to go outside, be challenged by manatsukai (word magic users), and strike up pacts with them. The whole time he’s in Tokyo, he’s stuck in monster form, but when he gets to the village, he’s shown in human form again. I can’t tell if this is because the power of the tree allows him to shift again or if it’s because of a blurb of Takeuchi’s that says “for your convenience, the koma-oni are being shown in their human forms.”

When he returns to the tree he reminisces about how he and Amane originally met. I like this part best, probably because eight-year-old Amane is very cute and serious (and because when, given the chance to give Hyoue a new name, wants to pick “Baron Manifesto Pegasus”). However, I think this conflicts with something we were shown earlier about how they made their pact. I remember Hyoue being in a tree and young Amane approaching him, but things don’t happen like that in this volume. Takeuchi, thy name is inconsistency!

Another thing that bugs me is that so far, there are two unresolved subplots floating around. One’s about an assassin sent to force Amane to return to the village and another’s about some defectors. Not a peep about either is heard in this volume and, now that Amane’s actually in the village for the festival, no one tries to get her to stay or do her any harm at all. I fear that, like the way in which it was crucially important to keep her abilities a secret until it wasn’t, the danger about returning to the village will suddenly just become no big deal.

Her Majesty’s Dog 4 by Mick Takeuchi: C

From the back cover:
Hyoue Inugami is a powerful Koma-Oni—so powerful, in fact, that a spell of binding has been put on him to restrain his supernatural strength! Hyoue can only remain Amane’s guardian providing he never says the forbidden words that break the spell. The problem is, he doesn’t know what they are! When Amane agrees to take the role of Beauty in the school’s production of Beauty and the beast, Hyoue seems perfect to play the Beast—but what if the forbidden words are in the script?

School festivals, athletic and arts, serve as the backdrop for the action in this volume. Aoi torments Hyoue throughout, needling him about confessing his feelings to Amane on the theory that it’ll be too much for Amane and she’ll turn to Aoi instead. I find their antipathy tedious. Also tedious are the antics of a pair of girls who are peeved that Amane gets cast as the heroine in the school play. They set out to play various cruel pranks upon her. Most unfortunately, this includes a “slipping on a banana peel” gag.

The main drama concerns a binding spell that was apparently cast on Hyoue when he became Amane’s koma-oni. She was a child at the time, and by binding his power it would make it easier for her to control him. At least this explanation makes sense, even though it’s kind of retconny. And despite how the back cover blurb makes it sound, Hyoue doesn’t suddenly worry about the words in the script for no reason—for most of the volume he gets warning twinges that some of the dialogue he’s helping Amane practice may be close to the forbidden phrase.

There’s a little bit of good stuff in this volume, but it almost always gets derailed by some unfunny attempt at comedy. I like that Hyoue acknowledges the problems of love between a mortal and immortal—when Amane tells him she wants him by her side forever, he thinks, “You’re the one who won’t be with me forever.” I’ve been known to get sparkly-eyed over this kind of angst, but really, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who did it so much better. It just doesn’t have the same impact when two pages later, someone’s super deformed, flailing, and breaking the fourth wall.

Her Majesty’s Dog 3 by Mick Takeuchi: B-

From the back cover:
By necessity Amane Kamori lives a life of secrecy. The only ones who know the truth about her powers and Hyoue’s true form are her best friend Takako and her cousin Hayato. But when Amane’s desire to help others exposes her powers to a stranger, the high school shaman finds herself at the mercy of a manipulative and egotistical classmate. If Amane is the “slave” of this new “master,” does that make Hyoue his “super-slave”?!

To miquote Willow, “I think this book’s mostly filler.”

To be sure, it’s all pleasant enough filler, and I continue to like Amane, with her cool exterior and earnest faith in others, even when it leads her into trouble. I like her friend, Takako, too, but Hyoue still doesn’t do much for me. Each volume so far has had a spot near the end where Hyoue and Amane bicker and he vows not to help her, but always ends up doing so anyway. I suppose we’re supposed to be all, “Hyoue! Squee!” in those moments but I just find the squabbling odd, as it arises from the most inconsequential comments.

Anyway, this volume starts off with Hyoue acting strangely on account of gambling debts that he has amassed on behalf of some random old guys. Amane has amazing luck with dice, as it turns out, and saves the day. That’s… pretty much the extent of that chapter.

Next, they meet a jerky kid at school who is, of course, a teen celebrity. Usually they’re models, but this one’s an actor. This guy, named Aoi, lies all the time, is possessed by a female spirit, and has a great deal of angst. Amane, of course, gets through to him by believing in him and now there’s another person who knows her secret. Last volume, a big deal was made about Takako promising not to reveal it, et cetera, but now this other guy knows and it’s like it’s no big deal.

Lastly, a girl who’s been cast out of the Kamori clan sells her shamanic skills online until Amane puts a stop to her endeavors. Amane is capable of sympathizing with her, too, since the girl just needed a way to support herself away from the suffocating atmosphere of the village (which she left so she could indulge in her hobby of ogling pop stars), and somehow seems to convince her to give up cursing people with her powers of sincere speechifying.

And that’s pretty much it. Oh, except for a couple of panels in which it seems the Kamori clan sends someone after Amane to either return her to the village or kill her. Her cousin Hayato, who is utterly devoid of any kind of characterization, was briefly gone and came back, so I guess we’re meant to wonder whether it’s him or not, but he’s so dull I sincerely doubt it.

Her Majesty’s Dog 2 by Mick Takeuchi: B+

From the back cover:
Hyoue Inugami is a lot older than he looks—500 years older, to be exact. Long before he became Amane’s loyal guardian, this demon dog served another master. He wasn’t alone in his duties, however. The sorcerer Kaiso kept two guardians—Hyoue and Zakuro. Now, after centuries of separation, Zakuro is back. The sprightly demon child says he’d like nothing more than to serve Amane alongside his old friend. But demons, like dogs, can be quite jealous when it comes to affection. When these two beasts start scrapping, who will emerge as leader of the pack?

This volume offers a twist on the romantic rival plot when Zakura, Hyoue’s former co-guardian, returns and manages to get Amane to declare that she’ll keep him for her guardian, too. It’s hinted that he’s got a sneaky agenda, so it was one of those, “Nooo, don’t believe him!” moments. Of course, he turns out to be a bad seed with lots of angst, but these chapters were all pretty good. I like that some interesting questions were raised, like what Hyoue would do if Amane were to die, and also a mysterious reference to Amane being “like that” back in their village.

My favorite part, though, is the first chapter in which Takako, Amane’s first and only friend, begins to have dreams about the events in volume one, where Amane protected her from a ghost assisted by Hyoue, who transformed into what Takako believes is a white cow. Hee. Some of the attempts at humor in this series are not funny, but I did have to snerk at super-deformed demon guise Hyoue all affronted at being mistaken for a cow. Anyway, I kind of figured that Takako would be allowed to keep her memories in the end, but I was all for that because every strong heroine needs a civilian who’s in on her secret! I guess I just like that Buffy dynamic.

Her Majesty’s Dog is quite entertaining. The angsty Zakuro plot didn’t thrill me, but there are several elements of its execution that genuinely surprised me, which bodes well for things to come.

Her Majesty’s Dog 1 by Mick Takeuchi: B+

From the back cover:
Amane’s not like other girls. With her ice queen demeanor and naiveté, she’s become quite the misfit on campus. Even more unusual is her relationship with fellow transfer student Hyoue Inugami, the hottest guy in school. But the truth is that Amane is a powerful psychic and Hyoue is her guardian demon-dog, whose powers are fueled by her kiss! And when Amane lets her “dog” off his leash, no vengeful spirit is safe!

I’ve been hoarding this series since Go! Comi first started releasing it, and since the last volume is finally coming out this month, it seemed the time to get reading. I’ve not read much by Go! Comi before, so I never noticed that they state “absolutely no artwork or dialogue has been censored” on their credits page. Interesting.

The story of Her Majesty’s Dog is pretty good so far. I like Amane, who is mostly reserved and competent. Somehow, her lapses in knowledge, due to her isolated upbringing in a country village, don’t look like ditziness coming from her unsmiling face. Hyoue is okay, too, though he spazzes out a little too often for my taste, and the antagonistic relationship he has with Amane’s cousin (who wants her to return to the village) doesn’t really interest me, either.

Amane’s power is the ability to use names to exert control, and I like how that’s portrayed in the scenes where she has to use it. The first couple of chapters are my favorite, where Amane and Hyoue deal with a ghost of a student in the gym storage room (lots of manga I’ve been reading lately have involved gym storage rooms, it seems) and then a vengeful dog spirit. The chapter about the dog is actually kind of dark and features a beheaded canine. I like, too, that Amane gets her first real friend and uses her powers to aid said friend, even compelling Hyoue to help out, as well.

The other three chapters aren’t as good, really. There’s the one where the cousin shows up, one with a boy who has a crush on Amane, and one where Amane gets mad at Hyoue and tries to deal with some spirits on her own. The mangaka’s notes talk about how surprised she was at the series’ popularity and even that it had been collected into a tankoubon. At some point, I assume she will realize it will have an extended run and a longer plot will arise. I’m looking forward to seeing how the series develops.

Bogle 1-2 by Shino Taira and Yuko Ichiju: C

When Asuka’s brother lands his dream job as a detective, he and his sister relocate from Okinawa to Yokohama. Asuka begins attending a private high school where the principal secretly finances “the chivalrous burglars rocking the world, Bogle.” Bogle consists of a pair of good-looking boys (and their faculty advisor) who specialize in retrieving precious items for their clients. The school administrators know all about Asuka’s scandalous past as a cat burglar, and draft her to join the clandestine group.

For the next two volumes, the members of Bogle accept and fulfill commissions, often interacting with their clients in civilian guise as well so that we can all see how happy the person was to get back their prized music box. The cases, like the characters, are all exceedingly boring. Supposedly, Bogle confounds police with their “brilliant strategies,” but those seem to consist of breaking into a building equipped with silly code names, matching outfits, and an arsenal of awkward poses. Seriously, in one panel Asuka seems poised to topple over and one of her male compatriots looks like he has to pee.

One glance is enough to know that the artist, Yuko Ichiju, is influenced by CLAMP. All of the female characters have an approximation of the “CLAMP eye” prevalent in earlier works like Cardcaptor Sakura, the boys have the disproportionately broad shoulders, and Asuka’s new friend has Hokuto Sumeragi’s hair. Ichiju also seems inordinately fond of knitted brows; someone’s sporting them on practically every page.

I do have to wonder how this one got licensed. It’s hard to imagining anyone clamoring for Bogle.

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