When the death of her beloved twin brother drives young demon hunter Takamichi to shut down emotionally, her father makes her take responsibility for a pair of abandoned half-demon wolf pups. Caring for anything, let alone two adorable, defenseless balls of boundless energy and unconditional love, is the last thing Takamichi wants. Nevertheless, three years later, the shape-shifting brothers have wriggled their way into not only her heart, but into her bed, her hunting patrols, and even her high school (where, incidentally, they are quite the hit). Needless to say, Takamichi’s life is far from boring. But she’ll need all the experience she can get if she chooses to take her place as head of her Dark Hunter clan, filling the role once destined to be her brother’s.
Jiu Jiu is a fast-paced shojo fantasy/action/dramedy about growing up, growing together, and moving forward, with a surprising level of genuine emotional complexity woven into its plentiful silliness.
Snow and Night, the wolf boys in question, quickly come to mean more to cool, short-tempered Takamichi than just jiu jiu, her clan’s traditional half-demon hunting partners. Despite their differences (fair Snow is rowdier and more childish than his dark, slightly more mature brother), the two are obviously kin through nature as well as nurture, mirroring each other’s tail-wags and tongue-lolls and communicating with knowing grins as they conspire to love and protect their prickly mistress. Even when in their human forms the boys’ brief attention spans (especially in the presence of words like “walk” and “Frisbee”), instinctive rough-housing, and perpetual impulse to please and snuggle leave no doubt as to their canine ancestry. And yet they are also very much human. That careful dichotomy impresses the reader and confuses wounded, wary Takamichi as she gradually learns to accept both their affection and herself.
In the same manner, manga-ka Tobina successfully blends different genres and tones through her art and storytelling. The small handful of demon-fighting sequences help counter the overabundance of shojo screentones, while the smart, easy slapstick of the boys’ wide-eyed earnestness and Takamichi’s proud reserve complements the emotional heft of the struggle of all three to mature and be what they want to be. In this way, the ridiculousness of Snow mistaking a bra for a pair of glasses as the trio shops for clothes he can’t easily wriggle out of becomes a subtle foundation later on for the heart-tugging frustration he feels at his continued inability to button his own shirt. The sometimes brisk pace of the plot may tempt the reader to fly quickly through the pages, but slowing down to appreciate all that’s going on in the deceptively rich panels will make the jokes funnier, the characters deeper, and the story clearer.
Despite two of its principals going about naked half the time (par for the course when they transform from wolf to human without dressing first), the series so far is surprisingly tame, as no significant bits get panel exposure and occurrences are either played for laughs or ignored in favor of more pressing matters. The cover of the second volume may raise a few eyebrows, featuring a more well-endowed Takamichi in a very loosely-tied kimono that reveals almost as much as it covers, but it doesn’t at all reflect the tone of the book’s content. Instead, it’s a self-indulgent deviation from expectations which the laughing author freely owns up to, congratulating readers who’ve the courage to take a book with such a cover up to the check-out counter. These shenanigans, along with the mildly strong language (including an instance of “bitches” as used by an evil werewolf to describe his female prey) and some non-graphic demon-fighting violence, should be fine for teens and adults comfortable with the fanservice.
While these first two volumes focus on introducing the central trio along with several other personalities (including Takamichi’s father, his jiu jiu Moon, an arrogant vampire-pig prince, an overly-devoted selkie, and an assortment of amusingly accepting classmates), future volumes look ready to delve further into the wider world of Dark Hunter politics and Takamichi’s challenges as she, Snow, and Night continue to save each other from loneliness and danger alike.