This week

Manga street datesElex: 9.03 · Level: 9.03 · m&c!: 9.03
Anime (on Animax Asia):
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(airs Mon – Wed)
Bleach Season 7, weekdays, 630pm WIB
Space Dandy Season 2, Sundays 9pm WIB

1.07.2008

Shi to Kanojo to Boku by Kawaguchi Madoka begs comparison with Ghost Hunt (shoujo manga review)

Yukari and Yusaku - From the Other World volume 7 (Elex Media)

Shi to Kanojo to Boku © Kawaguchi Madoka/Kodansha
Published in Indonesia as From the Other World by PT Elex Media Komputindo

Kawaguchi Madoka (川口 まどか)-sensei likes neat knots. The sort that don't take forever or a pair of Aha! Scissors! to unravel. At least that's how it struck me as I read Shi to Kanojo to Boku (死と彼女とぼく) AKA Death, the Girl and Me — either title sounding like it could double-duty as a Ghost Hunt tagline.

From The Other World volume 6 (Elex Media)

I will delve into  [SPOIL!] these knots in the review proper. For now, lemme share that I wouldn't have picked up this Kodansha shoujo josei series—especially as the Indonesian version, released as the more mildly-titled From the Other World, was published by Elex Media flopped—had I not been seriously disgruntled over when that other more popular Kodansha asset streets. (Del Rey will come out with Ghost Hunt 10 on 2009.04.07? Uso deshou? That's next year! As for volume 11's 2009.09.01 release sked—let's not even go there.)

So imagine my watermelon-slice grin when I discovered what looked like a fangirl's serendipity in StKtB. Because nimiety of repulsive monsters notwithstanding, there is an equal surplus of warm and fuzzy moments—that quickly reach temperatures beyond low simmer—to make up.

Case in point: Yusaku (Boku of the series title) kisses Yukari as early as volume 3 chapter 10 (see right). Yukari and Yusaku first kiss - From The Other World volume 3 (ID) And it's not a *blush* *blush* shy one either. (It's feverish.) What makes the early in the timeline kiss even more surprising and such an unexpected gift can be understood when viewed from this perspective: if you've read the 15-volume Platinum Garden by Fujita Maki (and I have), you probably screamed Kiss the girl already before I grow any more grey hairs! way before Mizuki deigned to buss Kazura in volume-I'm-not-telling. In fact, by the time the PG kiss made its appearance, I had all but given up on seeing it in my lifetime. What's even more ironic is that despite the paranormal bouquet clinging to it, PG was an out-and-out romance, unlike StKtB which tries to dissemble with the supernatural.

As if to cement that relationship development in StKtB is in hyper-drive, by chapter 13 (volume 4), Yusaku and Yukari are in bed together. And no, it's not that chaste, too—they're down to their undies. Kyaaaa! to infinity and beyond!

But before I mislead you into thinking that StKtB is a maigo no Cheese! shoujo manga with my fall into the gutter, let me drag in a synopsis.

Shi to Kanojo to Boku by Kawaguchi Madoka begs comparison with Ghost Hunt

Josei manga review by huamulan03
(Some rights reserved)

the StKtB lowdown

Yukari and Yusaku - From the Other World volume 6 (Elex Media)

[Our StKtB heroes Yusaku and Yukari]

Tokino Yukari presents a temptation to apparitions of all shapes, states and dispositions. In the darkness of their otherworld, Yukari shines like the proverbial, just asking to be mobbed beacon, which translates to a motley crew of shades, specters, akuryou dogging her footsteps. She gained this unlooked-for power after nearly dying at age seven.

Matsumi Yusaku has always been able to hear the voices of all living creatures, as well as those that are not. He can communicate with cats, dogs, birds, snakes, trees, sashimi-grade fish—heck, even the apple his father tries to bite screeches pain at him. Speculations over how he can even eat aside (which the series answers anyway), there IS one voice Yusaku can't hear: that of his deceased mother who passed away when he was three. Growing up, Yusaku resented her silence, seeing as how she bequeathed the omni-aural gene to him and then left without a manual or FAQ.

His father mitigates Yusaku's bitterness by telling Yusaku that his mom wanted him to grow up strong. Yusaku takes the counsel in earnest. At age seven, on a night of the full moon, he stumbles over his calling: he hears the thoughts of someone pleading for help.

Finding this person thus becomes his Quest.

the StKtB rating

Even though I'm not Yusaku, I can already hear some of you going, Huh? Yes, the rating, and yes, this early. Because this post is probably going to be ultra-ultra, super-duper, chou-chou-chou, and Can I get an upsize on that? long, I might as well plonk down my assessment before your much-appreciated patience gives out.

The story receives a 7.5 and the YxY shippiness a 9 of 10 kisses.

I don't think the smooch counter needs explication, but if you're curious about the basis of the score (StKtB was flirting with "8.5" until volume nine of 10—one point away from what I would have given Ghost Hunt), then by all means, read on.

the review (in which I compare StKtB with GH because it's just begging for it)

Where do I start? Oh, yeah, the knots. Or more specifically, the constant tying up of loose ends (with big, pretty bows) that define StKtB and makes Kawaguchi Madoka-sensei an anal model to envy.

If you haven't heeded the   [SPOILER!] warning in the beginning and want to remain unspoiled, I suggest you STOP reading now. I mean it. I can't continue without further side commentary and SPOILAGE. I warned you.

Monster of the Chapter

With some “myth”-arc exceptions, each StKtB installment is self-contained and features at least one star monster and a cast of, if not thousands, then a good dozen ecto-extras. The installments conclude very nicely at chapter's end. Is this neat resolution meant to compensate for the messy mien/nature of these ghosts? I don't know. What I do know is that these pat mystery endings contrast sharply with those of Ghost Hunt, which customarily take a full volume to solve and sometimes, even require more than one tankoubon to finish (though that's to be expected; the GH manga, after all, illustrate Ono Fuyumi-sensei's novels).

StKtB also differs in that there are no ghost hunts/whodunits as such and even if there were, you can bet that the culprit wouldn't be humans casting curses nor triggering poltergeist activity.

Additionally, the StKtB akuryou are definitely more malevolent. Very rarely (I only remember four in the span of 31 chapters) do the phantasms have redeeming qualities. In the StKtB world, spirits are bad news; they're always wanting to drag Yukari and Yusaku and whomever is in the pair's vicinity to their death or some other equivalent existence. Why? Because they can.

(I can only presume that Kawaguchi Madoka-sensei thinks a good person without regrets upon kicking it wouldn't end up a haunt in the afterlife, hence the near one-dimensional portrayal of monsters in StKtB.)

Monsters - From the Other World volume 1 (Elex Media)

[Monsters in StKtB (volume 1)]

ID'ing which spirits are evil is a no-brainer. The art provides the obvious clue: they're nightmare-hideous. Kawaguchi-sensei is very sparing in the use of twists; you can rely on extremely ugly ghosts having equally reprehensible agendas. I can only recall one ghost who looked normal but in the end also turned out to be affable-evil and without Yusaku's timely remote intervention, would've fatally choked Yukari.

So even in cases in which the spirit looks benign and/or is not thoroughly evil, it still manages to lead Yukari or Yusaku or both into trouble.

That there 7—as well as Yusaku's reminiscences—are significant

Yukari nearly died at seven. Yusaku hears someone calling for help at the same age. Is there a connection? What do you think? This is remember-this-post's-thesis Kawaguchi Madoka-sensei we're talking about; you get that foreshadowy knot untied within the first volume. Yes, it was Yukari that Yusaku heard calling for help when they were both seven. Whenever Yusaku refers to what happened 10 years previously, as when Yusaku explains to classmate Minato why he's transferring schools in chapter 6, Death, her, and me

There's one thing that keeps me going. It's that person who also sees spirits. That person's name... age... or even where he or she lives, I don't know. All I know is that kid and I share the same pain.

I want to hear that person's thoughts when he or she is happy. I really want that. So I've been looking. For 10 years now. While this person's thoughts are usually painful and sad, there are times when he or she surprises me.

That's why, if I can, I want to help this person. Become his or her strength... Even though he or she doesn't realize I exist.

—it's an excuse to bring Yukari into the picture and reinforce that we're-meant-to-be-together/MFEO thing. Though I still wonder what Yusaku would've done had that person turned out to be male—just shrugged and hugged him anyway like he did to Yukari at the end of chapter 1 and made StKtB “Shi to Kare to Boku”?

(If you're wondering how Yusaku was able to track down Yukari's school when from the time he was 14 he'd ceased hearing anything, he picked up her thoughts again one morning whilst on his way to school. Yukari had just moved back to the city (after being away for three years because of her father's work) and was also en route to class. Yusaku scrambled to trace the thoughts and saw a girl getting on a train. Finding out that the uniform she was wearing was Jotonishi's, he made plans to transfer there.)

Yeah, those StKtB knots continue to be predictable. The quickie revelations are altogether divergent from Ghost Hunt in which the clue trail traverses the entire series and you have to work to figure out things—like why Naru-chan called Mai, Mai, early in the story. (Naru's answer: Because you did the same thing earlier only gains light-switching-on significance after you've reached novels seven and eight/been spoiled.)

So Kawaguchi Madoka-sensei's not only a neatnik; s/he is also economical in plotting. There's nothing of the extraneous in the narrative; everything has meaning, and as noted earlier, Will Be Explained with What? Already? haste.

Parallels here meet

In chapter 1, The girl who sees spirits, after her nth contact with a ghost, Yukari falls into the depths of despondence and wants to gouge out the eyes that sees spirits. As she trots blindly (not literal; she's just not paying attention to her surroundings), she nearly gets into an accident. She would've been run over by a car had someone not pulled her back in time. The same someone tells her, That's dangerous. When you walk, you should look in front. He then pats on the head saying, You have pretty eyes, after all.

Later, we find out that Yukari's savior was Yusaku (which makes that forward petting understandable; the guy has only been after her for a decade) and that his empathy stems not just from his ability to likewise see spirits but also from his similar attempt to puncture his ear drums so as to stop hearing all those voices.

This forced-neat correspondence is not that bad, I can still deal, even if I did cringe. It's similar to what the GH anime did—whittling down Mai's ghost-telling friends by one so that when Naru makes his appearance, he can call out, Shi instead of the manga-compliant Go—because we all know how much more ominous the number 4 is. In any case, what I couldn't take was a particularly egregious instance in middle school Yukari's meeting with the ghost Kyoko in chapter 29, Distant memory. When Kyoko was alive, she was also haunted by spirits, so she knows what Yukari is going through and tries to help the confused girl. Kyoko resembles a certain someone and after a long, what-is-the-point-of-this backstory, tells Yukari as she disappears: I look forward to your meeting...

...who else but that guy who's been looking for Yukari all these years. Who turns out to be Kyoko's son.

This grated because we really didn't need that sort of congruence, especially as it only raises questions of why Kyoko went to Yukari when her first-born could've used her guidance as well. It smacked so much of running out of ideas, or wanting to finish the story already.

So why 7.5?

It was with some regret that I dropped the story rating down to 7.5 by the last volume, when all along I'd assessed StKtB as an "8.5", if not a "9". See, I'd actually gotten used to the Knot Master Mentor's predictable style—even the somewhat ugly art which fortunately became prettier as the series progressed; I just expected another big red bow to finish off the story.

That's why the last chapter 31, My last wish, came as such a disappointment. Yusaku and Yukari's story just stopped. As in aliens-abducted-the-manga-ka-while-s/he-was-taking-a-break stopped. Sure, the Ghost of the Chapter vanished like usual, but after all the build-up and explaining that YxY are Destined To Be Together (albeit without actually mentioning the D-word) throughout the series—

(I'm doing a truncate, too. :P)

Yukari and Yusaku - From the Other World volume 4 (Elex Media)

[The Yusaku and Yukari scene
that made the eyes bug out (Volume 4)]

It's particularly frustrating because I enjoyed the portrayal of YxY's relationship throughout StKtB. Here, unlike in your usual shoujo title, there's no Mimosa pudica shrinking on the part of Yukari when faced with Yusaku's daitan advances. As observed, their relationship progresses fast (he'd already hugged her by chapter 1; all that was missing from that scene was the stock I will protect you! declaration). Yukari doesn't even go hysterical upon finding out that Yusaku can read her mind/kokoro (I assume that's because she's just so relieved that her misery has company) and obediently follows him home whenever he issues an invite (usually when dad is conspicuously absent). That's not to say though that she's blindly biddable; given time to mull, Yukari always has a considering look on her face before she assents.

Additionally, I liked that while Yukari doesn't have as much ghost-subduing power as Yusaku, she's not depicted as a damstrel in distress. Except for one outrageous rescue in volume 1 (when Yukari lay bleeding in her bathtub from a glass shard that had severed an artery), times when Yusaku has to extricate her from some malefic's clutches were fairly low-key and not disgustingly Here-I-come-to-save-the-day! repetitive.

Yukari's natural acceptance of Yusaku and her not being too dumb to live account for the YxY shipment retaining the original 9 rating I'd given it from volume 1. Nothing, however, erases the feeling of dissatisfaction that accompanied the closing of volume 10, nor the conviction that StKtB is no Ghost Hunt. For while GH may yet leave us with questions unanswered, I doubt it would go out with a whimper.

死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(1) 上

Shi to Kano to Boku Yukari
© Kawaguchi Madoka
Kodansha

For all my ranting and comparisons, I don't hate Shi to Kanojo to Boku (the shippiness goes a long way in compensating). I also don't blame Kawaguchi Madoka-sensei for the what-comes-next hanging ending. When I tried to visualize how else this story could've closed, other than perhaps explaining why YxY were supernaturally gifted, I also drew a blank. But then, I'm not an established fiction meister and I still believe Sensei could've concluded this story better—in that already established loose ends neatly tied manner. As it stands, you can chop StKtB off at volume four/chapter 15 and still not miss anything.

I can only speculate that the sequel, Shi to Kanojo to Boku Yukari, was written to address the story, interrupted and provide a more acceptable ending (I live in hope).

the StKtB not-so arcana

死と彼女とぼく(2)

The 10-volume series was rereleased in bunko edition in 2003 (five volumes). In addition, there's a drama CD starring Koyasu Takehito-san (Wakatsuki Shuusuke in Myself; Yourself), Hikami Kyoko-san (Usada Hikaru/ Rabi~en~Rose in the Di Gi Charat series) and Noda Junko-san (Mokkun, Shounen Onmyouji). Since the drama is reportedly based on the One More Kiss magazine series, I'm assuming the story is from StKtB Yukari. Kawaguchi-sensei illustrated the CD cover artwork.

Here are the ISBNs and original release dates for the StKtB series. If I have time, will upload thumbs of the front covers in a separate post—not just to show how the Indonesian ones differ from the Japanese editions (the original front covers appear on the back cover of the Indonesian versions)—but also to show the progression of StKtB pretty.

Shi to Kanojo to Boku regular tankoubon/Shinsho-ban (1991 - 1999)

01 死と彼女とぼく(1) 1991.07.13 ISBN 978-4-06-176304-3
02 死と彼女とぼく(2) 1992.05.13 ISBN 978-4-06-176343-2
03 死と彼女とぼく(3) 1993.04.13 ISBN 978-4-06-176344-9
04 死と彼女とぼく(4) 1994.07.13 ISBN 978-4-06-176428-6
05 死と彼女とぼく(5) 1995.07.13 ISBN 978-4-06-331006-1
06 死と彼女とぼく(6) 1995.11.13 ISBN 978-4-06-331012-2
07 死と彼女とぼく(7) 1996.05.13 ISBN 978-4-06-331019-1
08 死と彼女とぼく(8) 1997.10.13 ISBN 978-4-06-331033-7
09 死と彼女とぼく(9) 1998.10.13 ISBN 978-4-06-331039-9
10 死と彼女とぼく(10) 1999.12.09 ISBN 978-4-06-331043-6

Shi to Kanojo to Boku Bunko-ban (2003)

01 死と彼女とぼく(1) 2003.03.12 ISBN 978-4-06-360486-3
02 死と彼女とぼく(2) 2003.03.12 ISBN 978-4-06-360487-0
03 死と彼女とぼく(3) 2003.04.11 ISBN 978-4-06-360488-7
04 死と彼女とぼく(4) 2003.04.11 ISBN 978-4-06-360489-4
05 死と彼女とぼく(5) 2003.05.09 ISBN 978-4-06-360490-0

Shi to Kanojo to Boku Yukari regular tankoubon/Shinsho-ban (2003 - 2009)

01 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(1) 2003.05.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340433-3
02 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(2) 2003.10.10 ISBN 978-4-06-340454-8
03 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(3) 2004.05.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340485-2
04 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(4) 2004.12.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340522-4
05 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(5) 2005.05.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340546-0
06 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(6) 2006.02.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340578-1
07 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(7) 2006.11.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340619-1
08 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(8) 2007.09.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340665-8
09 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(9) 2008.06.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340703-7 [Added]
10 死と彼女とぼく ゆかり(10) 2009.01.13 ISBN 978-4-06-340734-1 [Added]

~niki DBA huamulan03 (花木蘭03) who seems to be ending her first 2008 post just like how Kawaguchi Madoka-sensei closed StKtB

copyright information

Shi to Kanojo to Boku is © Kawaguchi Madoka. First published in Japan by Kodansha. Indonesian translation by PT Elex Media Komputindo. No infringement intended.

other invaluable resources

KODANCLUB.com (Death, the Girl and Me) · Girls’ Horror Comics:  Madoka Kawaguchi · Kodansha online shop (Search results)

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