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Alethea & Athena
Kigurumi Guardians volume 1 
27th-Sep-2017 07:29 pm
glomp
I don't know if we really have time to do this, but we're going to post a review today any! The post is already written, so we should be able to post it in a jiffy, right? (Not if we get too caught up reading and reminiscing...) Anyway, here is the long-awaited review for Kigurumi Guardians 1! Spoiler level: High, if you can follow what I'm talking about.


Oh my gosh, you guys, this series is so cute! Maybe not cute in the normal way that I'd think a series is cute, like I think if I hear about a cute series I would think about maybe Gakuen Babysitters or something, but this series is really cute in a different way...like, the facial expressions on Hakka are super adorable, and so are the expressions on a lot of the other characters.

But first, let me tell you what it's about. Here, let me just copy and paste the cover copy we wrote:
Hakka Sasakura's life is about to turn upside-down. She comes home from a day of admiring her student body president to discover that a mysterious creature resembling a man in an animal suit has taken up residence her home. What's more, she has been chosen to work with this strange being to fight off invaders from another dimension and save the world!

Incidentally, we wrote that cover copy a couple of weeks before we really got to work on the book in earnest. Our editor needed it fast, and we thought okay, we'll take some time to read the book so we can write that up real quick, and then Athena realized that it would be more efficient in the long run to go ahead and do a first draft of however much story we needed to write a cover copy with. Usually you don't need more than a chapter to write cover for the first volume. But, thanks to low text density and fairly typical dialogue, we made it through the first two chapters in just one CD. Athena says she thinks part of it is that Lily Hoshino doesn't like to do exposition, like her attitude is, "Oh, you'll find out!", which might be why this book ends with a ton of question marks. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As a result of translating two chapters ahead of time, we decided we might as well make it a general practice to just work for a CD or two a day on the first draft on the week when we wanted to finish three translations in a week. If that all worked out as planned, we would have the first draft done by the end of Thursday, and be ready to do the edit on Friday, and ideally finish it by the end of the day on Friday. That didn't quite work out, but the point is, we usually have one big chunk of days (maybe only two days) dedicated to a book, but this one was more spread out. I don't think that's going to affect this review much, but it certainly affected our experience. For example, because we usually got to it after our normal work hours, I associate it with the evening, even though as a magical girl series that generally takes place in the daytime, it seems more like a daytime sort of series.

But anyway! None of this gets into the really good stuff, which is the whole thing, really. First of all, it's about giant stuffed animals. And when you put it that way, we have to wonder why in the world we didn't see the title and immediately think we needed to email our editors and claim it. I mean, hello. Stuffed animals. But instead, we did a little research, because we tend to be more wary of everything these days. The reviews at Amazon Japan said it was cute, but there's some BL stuff, so if you don't like that stuff, be warned. Well, now we were warned and we don't like that stuff, so we were like, "Oh, I don't know..." But it didn't matter, because it hadn't been offered to us. Or had it by then? Well, either way, it did get offered to us, so we did more research. There was almost the whole first chapter on Nakayoshi's website! Kodansha is really great about making its titles available to sample. So we read it, and it was super cute, and based on the sample we had a pretty good idea what the BL stuff was going to be, and we decided it wasn't that big of a problem, and STUFFED ANIMALS!, so we accepted it.

Okay, let's be honest here. Much as I do love stuffed animals, they really weren't the main draw. In fact, we've been pretty apathetic toward kigurumi for the vast majority of our lives. The only ones we have even a mild interest in are the ones at Disneyland, and that's only because they're based on Disney characters (gotta say, the new Beast kigurumi is amazeballs), so they're not really kigurumi, they're Disney characters. Subtle difference. And our older sister has been telling us that it's a girl in the Pinocchio suit and a guy in the Queen of Hearts suit at least since we were like seven. So we were kind of with Hakka on the opinion of kigurumi, only without the trauma. So what was it that had us so enamored with the series? The hot guys, of course. And even without Chigaya's explanation, we could tell that the key was a kiss, and we kind of agree with Chigaya on that count--it is romantic. So that's why we couldn't resist it. Plus, Hakka and Ginger are super fun characters.

Let's talk about Hakka and Ginger. Their dynamic is hilarious. We are a little concerned about Ginger's abusive tendencies, though. The violence made for some good slapstick comedy, but it was like, "Waaaait a minute." I was especially worried when he made his comment about how any idiot should be able to figure it out by then. I mean, the physical abuse as a stuffed animal is bad enough, but does he have to verbally abuse her, too? But after looking at it closer, it looked like he wasn't necessarily calling her an idiot; he just always talks like people are stupid. And if you pay attention, when he's in human form, he never does anything worse than a forehead flick, so he probably figures that, when he's a kigurumi, hitting her is pretty much like hitting her with a pillow. And most importantly, he knows her heart and so he knows she can take it. I think that might be part of why he chose her--he needed someone who was strong enough to take a beating...not because he intends on beating that person, but because he knows that being with him is going to come with a lot of danger. Like Sanzo in Saiyuki. So overall, as of volume one, I would say that while I do enjoy watching Hakka and Ginger play off of each other, I don't think girls should be like, "Ooohh, I want a boyfriend like Ginger!"

Maybe one as protective as Ginger, though. It's so cute when she's talking to Satsuki and they start bickering, and Ginger comes along and pulls her away. He has some reactions to her talking to Chigaya, too. We always read his mind by saying, "Omoshiroku nai," which basically means, "I am not amused," but the subtext of it is, "Don't touch; mine." I think it's cute when guys are jealous, okay? Man, it sounds like I'm undermining all feminine values.

Speaking of political correctness! It came to our attention that the word "master" needs to be used with great caution. We didn't realize this was an issue until after we started working on Noragami, so we're sticking with it in there, but man is it hard to find a decent substitute! Especially when the person literally is the character's master. I mean, I get in computer terminology "supervisor/worker" or whatever it is is way better to use than "master/slave," but in a master/servant dynamic, what are you supposed to use? Supervisor doesn't generally work in that context! We were talking about it and reasoned that, "Oh, maybe that's why Funimation always translates aruji to 'lord and master,'" which always bugged us because it's super wordy and I don't know, it's just annoying somehow. And I said, "Maybe they did that because they couldn't find a decent synonym, either," and Athena was like, "Yes they did--it's right there. Lord and master." And I was like, "Heeeeey!" So we tried it in the place where we needed it, and it didn't not work, so we figured we might as well use it. I do think that "master" is going to have to be used in other places--maybe not in this series--but there's no sense shoving it down people's throats when we don't have to. I will say, though, that while I definitely agree that we should be sensitive to people's feelings, I can't say I like the idea of banning words.

Anyway! Hakka! She is so stinking cute. And Hoshino-sensei draws her in such cute poses! For reference, see when Ginger kisses her to demonstrate the whole repart thing, and she has one foot in the air, and also see the first page of the bonus manga, where she's sitting in the chair holding Pocky. But speaking of the kiss picture, Athena is reminded again that Ginger does not wear socks, which reminds us of when we had to deal with Nobara's comment about why she doesn't like Basilico. Her opinion can really mainly come from the visual, because as for his personality, she should know about that from when he's in kigurumi form. So to get a better idea of what she meant, we turned back to the last page of the second chapter, and it shows all three guys, and his shirt is half unbuttoned. And we were like, "Yup, he's charai." But we weren't sure how to translate it. "Superficial" is an accurate translation, by the way. It just might not come across that she gets that impression based on the visual.

And then there's Chigaya. I think this may be the one thing that was most affected by our slow translation of this volume. Every time we finished a bout of translation, we'd be like, "He's evil." We'd come up with crazy theories like he was like Lavender and Masaki was his puppet. He was especially suspicious when he said he'd like to kiss Hakka. I mean, hello, the male lead is obviously Ginger, so if you're going to be a rival that early on, you have to be a bad guy. And look at how he dresses. And he's the student body president, for goodness sake. He's also hilarious, though. His silliness is almost enough to make you think, "Hmmm, maybe he's not evil after all." Until the end of this volume, that is! Dun dun DUN! What is up with that?

I mean, of course we knew all along, but the ??? comes with the telephone conversation he's having with Ginger when we get the reveal. Also, if he's evil, why is he doing this? And why do they have to be kigurumi? Are they cursed? Is it something like a space suit? What exactly are their powers anyway? Do they like human hearts, too? How do they know Lavender? Are they members of the Puppet Guild? Are they EX members of the Puppet Guild? Who's the chick with the feather hair? Is Lavender a puppet, too? How long has Ginger loved Hakka? Are Satsuki and Fennel going to be a couple, because I'm also seeing some Satsuki/Nobara flags? But Basilico is so cute, too!

But back to this conversation with Ginger. Obviously the Kigurumi know more than we've been told. Why are they helping, anyway? Do they eat hearts, too? ...Oh wait, they never said anything about eating hearts. We just assume that, because this was clearly inspired by some kind of Kingdom Hearts fever dream. But anyway, Ginger knows Chigaya is evil, right? Does that make him evil, too? Is he working with the bad guys to protect Hakka because he fell in love with her so long ago? Does he have a relationship with her like Sora's with Ventus only romantic?

But here's the thing about Ginger! Did you notice!? The white markings around his eyes! If you think of Mickey Mouse, you have a half circle for each of his cheeks, and a half circle over each of his eyes. Ginger's got a similar thing going on, only look at that! Around his eyes, instead of just half circles (or ovals or whatever you want to call them to be "geometrically accurate"), he has hearts shapes! Just like the shells! What!!! What's going on! Is that why he's so abusive? And which of the Guardians is going to be turned into a shell, and how close are they going to get to becoming a puppet?

But let's talk about the kigurumis for a second. First of all, I don't know if this is going to be changed by the editor or not even be noticed because the font is in all caps, but I wanted to point out that when Chigaya refers to the kigurumi, I spelled it with a capital K, because he was referring to a specific team of them, but when everybody else said it, it was a common noun, because it generally is. But anyway, what kind of animals are they supposed to be!? I think they're kind of like the Wuzzles. Does anybody remember the Wuzzles? It's this old Disney cartoon from the '80s about these animals that were all hybrids, so you had, like, Elaroo, who was part elephant part kangaroo, and Rhinokey (rhino/monkey), and Butterbear (butterfly/bear), and Bumblelion (obvious, right?), and Hippopotamoose. So to me, Ginger looks like a cow/penguin hybrid, and Basilico looks like a lion-monkey. Fennel confuses me, because he looks like he's just all eagle. But maybe Basilico is just a lion with big ears, and Ginger is the only hybrid. Does that make him special, just like his heart eyes? So many questions!!!

I like how they talk with signs. And I especially like how Ginger uses his sign. He's such a fun character. That second chapter was just the best, when they were walking in the rain and when they took a bath together. (Incidentally, the placements of Ginger's sign in that chapter are pretty hilarious, too. Did you notice he holds up his sign to cover her chest, and he holds out his arm to cover her nether regions...but he's not looking at his arm. That was purely for the censors' benefit.)

I also love when Ginger gives Hakka a pep talk, and how he has such a hard time doing it. I did have questions of a different sort about Hakka's fear that she couldn't put Yagi-san's heart back. If all she has to do is wish strongly for it to go back, it's like, why would you fail? Because you don't really want her heart to go back after all? I think her fear that she'd fail would only make her wish more strongly, so I'm like, "Don't worry Hakka, it's actually good that they told you!"

So anyway. I think that just about covers it. I didn't say how much I love all the characters. I mean, I talked about Ginger and Hakka, but really every single character is just great. It's a great series, and there are lots of really romantic pictures, and super cute ones. I almost wonder if Chigaya is the embodiment of fangirl desires, because he's like, "I think it's a good thing to have lots of opportunities for kissing," and at the time, our reaction was, "Dude, you're so evil," but now that I'm reviewing the series in my mind and flipping through the book, I'm like, yes, making the key a kiss was the right thing to do. Bravo, Hoshino-sensei!

So yeah. Good stuff. We like it. We hope you all like it, too! And we hope that they animate it so they can add romantic voiceovers to all of the romantic pictures. And of course Takahiro Sakurai will play Chigaya. (His name is Kagami. He is so evil. (It hasn't come across in a lot of the stuff we translate, but Kagami seems to be mostly a villain name.))


Argh, I knew it would be long! Okay, gotta go. Tune in next week for...something! Athena reminds me that Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is next. So tune in! This week's release is In/Spectre 6, but we didn't keep track of what came out while we were in Japan. We'll get caught up when we have a little more free time.

Today I'm thankful for making enough progress that I think we can finish on time if we don't have too many interruptions, getting to look back at Kigurumi Guardians, amusing Sentai announcements, our new monitor arriving today, and getting to finish the episode of Fuller House that we had to stop in the middle yesterday.
Comments 
28th-Sep-2017 02:03 pm (UTC)
Ahhhhh, what a great review!!! What a great book! Of course now at v3 I'm a little sad about Lily Hoshino's "Oh, you'll find out!" approach. But on the other hand, that's my approach to reading stuff anyway, so now reading this review it's so exciting because you think and analyze the details more so now it's like I get bonus content :) (I'm lazy.)

But dude, yes, the art is so so so cute. Everyone is cute (or hot)! Thank you for pointing out some of the especially cute Hakka panels (Ginger's drooling in the one with pocky! hahaha). I also appreciate all you have to say about those two's dynamic. Ginger's words and actions are all kind of confusing... (I don't necessarily think it's bad to see guys be jealous, but when protective gets into possessive or when they're not otherwise honestly showing their affection it does bother me. but I still like Ginger.) Chapter two was pretty funny. Impulsive, thoughtless Hakka... And we got to see Ginger has a sense of decency :)

I kind of think your idea about the heart(?)-shaped white areas around Ginger's eyes is maybe overthinking it, but then again...? I don't know because it seems like a shape that is natural to Hoshino-sensei's art style (even when people's real eyes go that shape it's creepy but also somehow fitting). But now that I'm seeing Ginger's face as those eyes I can't stop!!
29th-Sep-2017 04:10 am (UTC)
I know, right? I'm sure she'll get back to it...eventually... They were still selling all three volumes of it at a Kinokuniya in Shibuya, so people are still thinking about it two years later.

I know, right!? They're SO adorable! (I agree about jealous guys. I was even reading this review, and I was like, "But I don't think that's healthy..." It's still super cute to read, though.)

Hmm, you think so? I don't think so, but I guess only time will tell. Maybe. Sigh.
29th-Sep-2017 04:37 am (UTC)
Well, I only kind of think so. But you're the ones that are good and experienced at analyzing and noticing all these details, so nobody cares what I think!! (even I'm not too set on my opinion :) ) I'm totally okay with being wrong, as long as we do get some answers one day.

(at some point I noticed on the MangaUpdates page for this series, they list 3 volumes and 29 chapters as the point it went on hiatus, which (if it's really correct) means there are 10 chapters not yet released in volume form, which is just a little more agonizing... (I assume the author would want to review the chapters before committing them to collected edition or something, and hasn't had the time to do so... but to think they're out there...!!) (tangentially, you still haven't read the uncollected Noragami chapters either, have you? I'm still holding out (from asking for them) till the series comes back and gets its next volume, but agh. sorry I'm getting off track here.)

Also this reminds me I want to bug some editor about licensing Otome Yokai Zakuro because I just want to look at more of her pretty art, even if it's different characters! I'm sure they're just as great!! You watched that one back in the day, right? Is it worth getting my hopes up for?
30th-Sep-2017 04:42 am (UTC)
Wow, that's a lot of chapters. Yeah, we've read in places about authors going over chapters before they come out in graphic novel form, so maybe that is why they haven't published them. At least there are only two Noragami chapters. (We still haven't read them; we just do not have the time. Maybe someday...)

We've seen the anime and read some of the manga! Yes, I think it is worth getting your hopes up over; it's definitely a similar level of sweet shoujo manga. We'd love to translate it... (I have to put the ellipsis because I'm not sure if it's safe for us to translate it, as in, we have dangerously high levels of work already, but still...)
2nd-Dec-2017 09:45 am (UTC)
"Kigurumi Guardians" is on hiatus?!? Why would Kodansha start releasing KG in English instead of "Otome Yokai Zakuro" (which I assume from the existence of the anime is either completed or had at least reached some point with a fair amount of closure) if they knew KG was paused more or less in mid-storyline after just three volumes? Was "Otome Yokai Zakuro" released in Japan by a rival publisher, thus rendering it impossible, or at least impractical, for Kodansha USA to get the rights to it? Or does Kodansha have some sort of behind-the-scenes reason to believe that Lily Hoshino will be getting back to KG sooner rather than later, at least enough to revise/approve another volume's worth of the already-completed leftover chapters? Maybe they just thought KG would be more accessible because it's set in the present, while "Otome Yokai Zakuro" is set in some alternate version of the Taisho period(?), which the average English-speaking shoujo fan who knows nothing about 1920's(?) Japan might find confusing.

I was also rather puzzled by what kinds of animals the Kigurumi were supposed to be in their pseudo-stuffed forms. Ginger basically looks enough like a very cartoony cow (or bull, I guess) that it's easy to overlook the fact that from some angles he seems to have little wings unobtrusively sticking out behind his shoulders, not to mention a rather ducklike butt. The hybrid possibility hadn't occurred to me previously, but your cow/penguin theory seems pretty convincing to me.

Basilico is the really confusing one. Like the little kids at the store in volume 2, I'd assumed that he was supposed to be a bear until I noticed his long tufted tail. Between that and his insistence that he's not a bear, my fallback theory was that he was supposed to be a monkey--but monkeys' tails don't usually have tufts on the end of them, either. So your monkey/lion hybrid idea seems plausible, too.

I also have some thoughts on Chigaya and what he might be up to. But since they're largely based on stuff that happened in volume 2, I'll save them for my comment on that.
2nd-Dec-2017 09:19 pm (UTC)
While I can never speak for why Kodansha USA chooses to publish a series, I will say that yes, Otome Yokai Zakuro is done by another publisher, and therefore is inaccessible to Kodansha USA. I'm pretty sure the setting has nothing to do with it, because Taisho-era manga has been a thing in the States for decades. Maybe you've heard of a little series called Rurouni Kenshin.

Obviously the kigurumi are not supposed to be real animals; don't let it bother you so much. I do want to point out, though, that Ginger also has a beak, which isn't a thing in most mammals.
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