This post is written for the September 2012 Manga Moveable Feast hosted by Manga Report. This month’s featured topic is Viz’s Shojo Beat imprint. If you’d like to participate, more information is available at the Call for Participation post or in the Google group.
Yurara is just your everyday love story between two boys, a girl, and a ghost. Okay, guardian spirit, but you’re just being fussy.
In most shojo manga, a love triangle is a plot tactic often used to build and develop emotional tension. It seems very much the stuff of young fantasy: a cute girl has to pick between two equally attractive boys vying for her favor. Each boy would have qualities that differentiate him from his rival; one may be quiet and brooding, whereas the other would be loud and impulsive. It really becomes a matter of closing your eyes and letting random chance pick between two great flavors, since in the end, either one is probably worth it.
In this shojo series, the relationships are further complicated because the two boys, Yako and Mei, are competing for the love of Yurara, their classmate and Yurara, the guardian spirit that possesses and protects her.
It’s stories such as these that are the reason why I can’t ever give up shojo manga. As if teenage love wasn’t complicated enough without adding a ghost into the mix.
Warning: unmarked spoilers after this point.
Yurara Tsukinowa has always been the weird girl. She blankly stares off into space and starts crying for no reason whatsoever. Turns out, she has a special ability: she can see ghosts as well as have empathy for their emotions. The ghosts that she encounters have a reason why they can’t pass over, and it’s these remaining emotions that she feels and which trigger her own emotional response.
On the first day of high school, she literally finds herself in-between the two boys who would change her life. Mei Tendo and Yako Hoshino, like Yurara, are able to see spirits as well as possess abilities that they use to repel the ones that have become malevolent. Mei uses demon fire, whereas Yako uses a water barrier — again, playing on the stereotype that rivals have to be opposite to the other.
Yurara, unlike the two boys, doesn’t have an offensive or defensive ability to help her if and when the spirits should attack. Unknown to her, she has a guardian spirit, which only reveals itself each time Yurara finds herself in trouble. The spirit, which is revealed to be Yurara’s ancestor (and whom she was named after), possesses her body and has the ability to exorcise the ghosts from the earthly realm. When the spirit takes over her body, Yurara’s appearance takes the form of her ancestor, even though she continues to be aware of what is going on.
The primary conflict in Yurara is more a matter of logistics than anything else: Yurara loves Mei (and vice-versa); Yako, in turn, loves the guardian spirit, who only appears to take over the body of high-school age Yurara. There’s just not enough physical bodies to go around! Each time Yurara transforms into the form of the spirit guardian, the guardian’s emotions are so strong that they take over the entire being, thus causing even additional emotional turmoil for Yurara, who thinks that she is in love with both boys at the same time. When Yurara agrees to become Mei’s girlfriend, she feels like she’s betraying his trust by still having feelings for Yako each time the spirit appears. The random kisses with Yako don’t help her case too much either.
(It’s a good thing that Yurara isn’t Natsuyuki Rendezvous — if Yurara’s spirit guardian were as selfish as Atsushi, then this story would have ended up a little differently…)
To her credit, though, Yurara has always known that Mei was the one whom she loved. He accepted her and loved her as herself. He would sometimes tease her and make jokes that he prefers the more statuesque guardian, but he genuinely loves Yurara, the normal, slightly weird girl the most. Yurara’s choice to become independently strong, to live without the protection of her guardian, came about from her desire to save Mei. Once she was able to use her own powers, the guardian no longer needed to protect her. The guardian’s soul was able to follow her own love without being joined to Yurara’s physical body.
How about Yako? Does he get his happy ending? Well, that’s why Rasetsu came about.