Yui Kamio Lets Loose 013-019 – Manga Review

Synopsis: There’s a new girl in town and she’s a devil! Or a saint. Or both? The creator of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, delivers a comedy that isn’t afraid to let loose! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

Yui Kamio Lets Loose finally, well, lets loose. The manga that’s been spinning its wheels, basking in story content that feels a good decade old, finally starts to shake things up. Considering the series’ lukewarm reception in Japan’s Jump polling, Yui Kamio’s abrupt changes might be the result of course correction in an attempt to avoid cancellation. Let’s dive in.

Chapter 13 sees the subtle start of the manga’s tonal/supernatural changes. Where as previously the greatest supernatural elements came from Yui’s split personality, and even that was used as little more than basis for the premise, we catch glimpse of a character actually getting ready to use magic. Chapter 13 sees Yui Kamio at odds with the Student Council President, who slandered Kiito in the previous chapter. Yui awakens her dark side by herself, and in the ensuing chaos The President’s sister, Koyagi generates a magic circle with her hand. However nothing directly comes of this magical tease, as Koyagi is defeated by Kiito with little more than a sound punch to the face. Nothing comes of Koyagi’s near magic usage, and instead we see the introduction of a very different kind of supernatural shenanigans.

Chapter 14 sees Yui, increasingly aware of her other self, approach an Onmyoji. This Onmyoji, think something akin to an occult shaman, quickly pegs Yui as having an other self and from there we’re not only introduced to another new character, the son of the monk who originally chained Yui’s hair, but also a bunch of mythology surrounding “Mushi,” likely the series new, ongoing villain.The series isn’t terribly clear whether Yui has a Mushi inside herself, or if its a demon, or something else, and I think that’s on purpose. Author Shiibashi Hiroshi is trying to instill greater mystery into why Yui is the way she is. This extends through Chapter 15, without offering much in the way of answers, and then jumps right into yet another tease that sends us deeper down the supernatural rabbit hole.

Chapter 15 final pages showcase Yui complaining that something is pulling on her chain. When Kiito helps her pull the chain free, which now extends all the way into a darkened room, blood comes along with it and several creepy, broken dolls to boot. It’s here we’re introduced to Honoka Awadama, Boss of the Japanese Dolls. Chapters 16-19 cover her attack on Yui, with motivations very similar to anyone else who’s come after her so far: Revenge for being soundly beaten by Yui’s darker self prior. But the difference here is that Honoka’s abilities sit far and away as more supernatural than anything we’ve seen. She’s capable of using these creepy dolls to instill fear in her opponents, and that fear is then used to copy any damage done to the dolls to the target, making them bleed from their eyes and such.

If Honoka’s abilities didn’t give it away, the tone of the manga also changes, adding in a more grim atmosphere, unnerving visuals, showcasing a real effort to try and catch the audience with this creepy imagery. It’s good stuff, and a welcome change from the stagnation the series was suffering from, but also all feels so abrupt. I feel like Shiibashi is really bucking to keep the series alive. I don’t think Honoka and the Mushi that possess and feed off people’s negative energy was a concept inherent from the series’ inception. Prior to this arc the best the series had to offer in terms of the supernatural was Yui’s other self. And as I said before, that merely formed the backbone for the series concept. Sure it left the door open for something like this, but we’ve jumped from zero to one hundred on the drop of a dime.

Ultimately though Shiibashi doesn’t want to abandon his original tone entirely. Kiito still basically saves the day, defeating Honoka and the Mushi that possess her with one of Yui’s chains. Kiito adds a sort of flippant, easy-going, no worry feel to the proceedings, as he works to keep Yui from freaking out when Honoka has her cornered. Even when Yui begins spewing blood from Honoka’s attacks Kiito’s there to keep things from getting too dark. Heck the guy doesn’t even flinch when it turns out they’re transported from a school classroom to a town far away in another prefecture. Kiito’s quick willingness to accept the supernatural elements actually puts a damper on their ability to enthrall the audience. If our hero/love interest barely flinches at this stuff, why should we?

Even Honoka’s arc wraps up neatly, with the return of the series’ more consistent, easy going tone. The group celebrates by adding Honoka, who’s actually a very shy girl when not possessed, to the group with lots of cheer and comedy. It’s only thanks to a tiny panel on the last page that we get the sense that another menace is around the corner.

While Yui Kamio Let’s Loose’s reinvention is welcome, and even interesting in places, it feels too little too late. Looking at the rankings in Jump magazine, Yui Kamio still sits quite low, and the chapters being ‘graded’ would be around when this reinvention started: Chapters 14-15. It’s not looking good. It doesn’t help that Shiibashi seems non-commital on this tonal change, making it feel like this arc is an outlier, rather than the new standard. Yui Kamio has a hard battle ahead to keep itself from cancellation, even with the mangaka’s clout left over from Nura. Unfortunately, I think it may have already lost the battle.

That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Yui Kamio Lets Loose in the comments below!

Yui Kamio Lets Loose is published as part of Shonen Jump.

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