Grimm Otogi is the descendant of the famous Brothers Grimm. While he has grown up learning the famous fairy tales he, like most everyone else, has never believed them to be anything more than stories. He is shocked one day to receive a letter from his presumed dead father instructing him to move to a new town, enroll in a new school, and move into the family mansion. Due to his unusual “family circumstances” and the recent death of his mother, he decides to follow the letter’s instructions. Once in his new home, he discovers that the Grimm legacy is rooted in reality—not fiction. The Brothers Grimm were demon hunters and all the characters and weird creatures of their stories are not only real, but out for revenge on relatives of the Brothers Grimm.
With the help of an old bound book, Otogi discovers the original Cinderella—in this world, he’s male—stuck in his chimney. Cinderella becomes Otogi’s protector, helping him learn the ropes when it comes to fighting the fairy tale demons that are out to kill Otogi. Thankfully, as a descendant of the Brothers Grimm, Otogi can wield the book and trap the demons within its pages. On his first mission, Otogi and Cinderella explore the old school building on campus, supposedly haunted by a long-haired lady. In the process, Otogi befriends the outcast Sorimachi Yuma, who got kicked out of his previous school, and the nerdy Hiyori Hatsushiba, who just so happens to be a master of martial arts. The climax of the first volume comes when Hatsushiba gets kidnapped by Snow White, a male demon who embraces the female side of his fairy tale (he wears costumes that border on lingerie, paints his nails, wears makeup, etc.). The volume ends with Otogi’s fight with Snow White and the betrayal from a close friend!
Cinderella will appeal to the yaoi fans—he is very feminine looking and, at times, his conversations with and protectiveness of Otogi borders on the flirty side of things. However, Cinderella is also a total masochist, which plays into the fictional story of Cinderella having to do all the chores that her stepmother and stepsisters required her to perform. In “reality,” Cinderella LOVES to be told to clean, so there are some slightly naughty jokes as Cinderella basically begs Otogi and others to boss him around. Also playing on the cleaning theme of the original Cinderella story, there are some funny moments when people anger Cinderella because of their actions. For example, while walking with Otogi on the school campus one morning, Cinderella sees a boy throw some trash in a trash can, ignoring the recycling bin right next to it. Cinderella proceeds to throw the bottle so hard it gets embedded in a wall near the boy, yelling, “Next time it’s your face!” Cinderella also can’t help but stop whatever he is doing to clean up a mess; it is his one weakness.
One element of manga art that can really diminish my enjoyment of a story is if the characters are not easily differentiated in the art. Too often, I read series where all the boy characters have the same large, dreamy eyes and the same hair color and style which can make it confusing in determining who is who in a given scene. Kanou’s art does not suffer from this problem at all. Cinderella has his long, flowing blonde locks, while Snow White has short, dark-colored hair. When Robin Hood shows up, his costuming and hood help keep him distinguishable from other dark-haired characters.
Dictatorial Grimoire was much better than I expected, and I enjoyed the dark spin put on the stories of the Brothers Grimm. It will appeal to a wide variety of fans: those who like magic stories; those who like strange takes on fairy tales; and those who like boys’ love stories (while this isn’t a big focus of the plot, there are some little hints of attraction between the various boys). I really liked Hatsushiba—a nerdy outcast girl who was able to hold her own in a fight and didn’t need saving from anyone—and the gender-swapped versions of the fairy tale characters. The series only runs three volumes (or one omnibus edition), so the whole series takes up far less of your shelf space than other manga series.
Dictatorial Grimoire, vols. 1-3
by Ayumi Kanou
Vol. 1: Cinderella
Vol. 2: Snow White
Vol. 3: Red Riding Hood
Seven Seas, 2013-2014
Publisher Age Rating: 14+