In a world where elves, dwarves, trolls, and winged people co-exist with humans, Itoko Kazamori is a relatively rare changeling: an elf who was born in “the other realm” and swapped with a human baby at birth. Now at high school, she has deliberately cultivated an aura of mystery and magic—to hide the fact that she can’t do magic at all. When she discovers that her classmate, tactless boy genius Ohki, is actually capable of science so advanced it serves the same purpose as magic, she drops her image and demands he make her a device that will allow her to appear as a magic user to others.
This is the basic premise of the story, but it is actually packed with numerous other fun elements. The cover calls it a rom-com, and that’s a decent description, higher on the com than the rom right now but with scope for a number of odd couple pairings should it go down that road. In the meantime, it is just a story of friends from various species going through usual high school activities while navigating friendships, missteps, and misunderstandings. That’s a solid foundation for an entertaining series.
Kazamori is an endearing example of a “kuudere” character, with a cool exterior and hidden soft side. When she begins to spend so much private time with Ohki, classmates begin to wonder about their relationship. Kazamori realizes a female friend would be the ideal way to divert suspicion, only to realize she doesn’t remember how to make friends, or what friendship even entails outside grade school. She begins to type “how to make friends” into a search engine only to stop in horror at how pathetic that makes her seem. Kazamori’s desire to cling to her dignified image clashes with Ohki’s blunt honesty, which causes misunderstandings and leaves Kazamori hunting for ways to mitigate the damage to her reputation.
It’s worth noting that though it’s a manga rom-com, Species Domain does not try to humiliate its characters. Lazy jokes like upskirt shots, unintentional groping, or accidental kisses are consistently avoided. This choice makes for a strong, smart introduction to the series. By the end of the volume there are multiple directions it could take to make the most of its distinct characters, range of relationships, and genuinely funny dialogue. This is an obvious candidate for an anime adaptation and deserves to be very popular. Recommended.
publisher: Seven Seas
story and art: Noro Shunsuke
This story appears in the August 2017 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.