Since May's Shojo Beat issue features a sample chapter of Chika Shiomi's Rasetsu (the sequel or "spin off" to her Yurara, also published by Viz) I thought this would be a good time to talk about the first volume.
Rasetsu is an engaging supernatural shojo tale, as creator Chika Shiomi skillfully integrates character humor with dramatic encounters with malevolent ghosts who haven't moved on from the human world. The front cover calls it a "spin off," as opposed to "sequel," and that is probably because only one character carries over from Yurara (luckily that character just happen to be my favorite from the first series). Like its predecessor Yurara, Rasetsu features a young woman whose life is affected by her ability to see ghosts. But that is where the resemblance between the two leads ends -- Rasetsu is an extraordinarily powerful exorcist and at a mere 18 years her life has already been deeply disturbed by darkness. When she was just 15 years old an evil spirit caught her and marked her as his by leaving a disturbing rose tattoo on her chest, damning her to join him if she doesn't find "true love" by the time she is 20.
While many people would probably do everything they could to find "true love" (even typing the phrase grosses me out a little), Rasetsu instead focuses on developing her abilities and becoming strong enough to help others in need. This doesn't mean that Rasetsu has come to terms with her shortened life span, but she certainly isn't lying around feeling sorry for herself. Yako, the cool, proud and distant young man from Yurara ends up encountering Rasetsu when he enlists her help to exorcise an evil spirit from a book at the library where he works. Yako, who is no slouch himself when it comes to exorcism (why didn't he do it himself? Probably because he needed to meet Rasetsu since you know. He's the spin-off character and whatnot), assumes that Ratsetsu and her co-workers lack the strength to stand up to evil since he can immediately sense the evil spirit that hovers around Rasetsu (thanks to the tattoo).
Of course Rasetsu proves him wrong and then immediately decides that Yako must join her agency since everyone else there is deemed "useless." While it is true the "Chief," seems to only hold the disturbing power of hugs, Rasetsu's usual partner, Kuryu, holds the power of "Kotodama" or making one's words binding, as if speaking a spell. Although Kuryu and Rasetsu claim he can only use his power once a day, that rule is broken by the end of the volume and there are hints that Kuryu is not the affable big-brother type he pretends to be. Particularly when Rasetsu is in danger.
Once Rasetsu decides she wants Yako (for work, of course!), she immediately gets him fired from his library gig, proving this is a woman who knows how to get what she wants. And, of course, we have the requisite love triangle. Kuryu-Rasetsu-Yako. I'm pretty sure since Yako lost his first great love -- guardian spirit, Yurara, who just happens to have looked a great deal like Rasetsu -- by shojo-logic he'll come out the winner this time. Luckily, I just love his and Rasetsu's relationship -- they bitch and quarrel over dumb things but they clearly relate as equals. In a way, this is almost more of a work-place comedy (think Bones with a supernatural bent) more than a comic about the scary things that go bump in the night.
I won't lie -- I love Rasetsu to little itty bitty pieces. It is probably my favorite of Chika Shiomi's works currently published in English -- it has an interesting and strong female protagonist, a likable (and handsome *cough*) foil for the heroine, interesting group dynamics, and extremely attractive art. It may not be the most original work in the "girl who sees ghosts" field, but it does what it intends to do quite beautifully and it is an extraordinarily pleasing piece of pop story-telling.
Review Copy provided by Viz.