All cynicism and jaded otaku tendencies aside (I really don’t have many), stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the protagonist of this manga can see things that no one else can. That right there is the surefire way to dip one’s toes into any story in almost any genre, and it’s with that concept that Yuki Sato’s Yokai Doctor kicks off, leading up to its monster-filled turn on the formula.
Kotoko Kasuga can see yokai—a variety of mythical Japanese monsters, many of which you’re likely familiar with whether you know it or not—but she holds a somewhat uneven conception of them. Heck, half the time she’s trying to exorcise them, and comes from a line of folks with similar abilities. That starts to change when she bumps into Kuro Gokokuji, who looks like the quintessential class nerd that most everyone avoids. Though he attempts to keep it a secret at all costs, it isn’t long before she discovers his bizarre occupation: he’s a real-deal monster medic.
The Black Jack of Beasts he is not—he would need to take a few hundred classes in “cool” to get there—but he sure knows the ins and outs of these creatures. Now that Kotoko knows his secret, she pretty much has no choice but to help him in his work, learning the ways of misunderstood monsters in the process.
The first couple of chapters, Yin and Yang, contain the short story that lead to Sato’s series being published in Weekly Shonen Magazine. While it’s essential that these be included, as they contain a large chunk of the setup, it also leads to repetition once the first chapter kicks in. That chapter basically retells the introduction of Kotoko and Gokokuji from the latter’s perspective. As a result, the first volume seems to tread water throughout the middle, and comes off as an artist that couldn’t decide which narrative direction to go in, thus choosing both.
There are character traits exposed in both versions of the story, shedding necessary light on the protagonists, but things would have moved along a lot more quickly if Sato could have nailed that in one go, consolidating it all with a combination of perspectives; a “greatest hits,” if you will.
Yokai Doctor isn’t a bad title overall. The art is pleasant, the story is innocent and the characters are reasonably likable. It just doesn’t present anything fresh inside other than the concept of Gokokuji and his new assistant treating mischievous yokai rather than battling them. That said, there’s definitely an audience for Sato’s work, and despite some boob jokes and sexual references, it’s inoffensive enough for most anyone.
It’s tough to hand out either a pass or a recommendation based on this first volume, and in this case it may simply come down to whether or not the premise does it for you. As for myself? As much as I love yokai in general, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to see what happens next. Nevertheless, we’ll be sure to keep you posted if the series really picks up down the line.
Publisher: Del Rey
Story & Art: Yuki Sato
Rating: T 16+
©2007 by Yuki Sato