Nate Adams is a normal elementary school student until he releases a yo-kai named Whisper. Whisper gives him a device called a “yo-kai watch” which allows Nate to see yo-kai and, to Nate’s surprise, Whisper insists on becoming his butler. Whisper explains that yo-kai are spirits that can affect human lives while invisible, but many yo-kai distrust humans and are more likely to cause trouble. After making friends with Jibanyan, a cat yo-kai, Nate starts using his yo-kai watch to befriend yo-kai and mediate between the two worlds, and his life quickly ceases to be normal!
The first two volumes of Yo-kai Watch were cute and fun, if somewhat formulaic. Both volumes follow a similar plot: Nate uncovers a mysterious happening, uses his watch to reveal the yo-kai, then uses his brain and yo-kai friends to resolve the issue, gaining a new friend in the process. The action of the series is slapstick and the situations created by the yo-kai are frequently amusing; for example, a memory-eating yo-kai creates chaos at Nate’s school by causing teachers and students to forget important things. Meanwhile, Nate’s attempts to handle these situations are just as likely to cause problems as they are to solve them. As an older reader, I got a little tired of the stories’ predictability, but I found the artwork and comedy appealing.
The art of Yo-kai Watch has a classic manga look that uses a lot of the exaggerated expressions that are hallmarks of anime and manga humor. Nate’s character design includes a customarily large head and eyes, while the yo-kai have cute and distinctive designs that remind me of Pokémon. Likewise, Nate’s quest to befriend yo-kai underscores the series’ resemblance to Pokémon, which may draw in potential readers. The manga’s panels set the pace for the story and include a lot of hyperbolic facial expressions, which contribute to its overall humor; I found myself grinning over a funny picture on more than one occasion.
Viz Media rated this series for all ages, but given the age of its protagonist and formulaic stories, this series would have the most appeal for elementary school age readers who are looking for a light-hearted manga. The series has been fully translated, including sound effects, so younger readers should not have any difficulty reading the story on their own; for those who are not familiar with manga layout, there is a guide in the back. The Yo-kai Watch game arrived in the United States in November 2015, and if or when the game catches on, purchasing this series will likely be a must.
Yo-Kai Watch, vols. 1-2
by Noriyuki Konishi
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421582511
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421582528
Viz Media, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages