Sixteen-year-old Chiaki is sleepwalking through life, unable to find real enjoyment in anything. As it turns out, it’s not just a teenage phase. Eight years ago, on a trip to Greece, he was bitten by a strange three-headed dog. That dog was the mythical Cerberus and that bite stole a piece of Chiaki’s soul. Now, Cerberus feels really bad about the whole incident—bad enough to come to Chiaki’s house personally and try to make things right.

But the Cerberus who shows up at Chiaki’s house isn’t a dog. She’s a cute teen girl who calls herself Kuro—and who has a dog tail. Chiaki, thinking it’s fake, grabs her tail, and Kuro transforms into another girl with a totally different face and personality! Another tug of the tail turns her back. Chiaki soon discovers that Cerberus can take the form of three different girls: Kuro, Shirogane, and Roze. These girls (a.k.a. Cerberus’s three heads) have different attitudes and priorities, but they are here to be Chiaki’s companion and bodyguard. Which is good news for Chiaki, because he has no friends and his incomplete soul has begun to attract monsters.

This is a harem manga—a story with many girls interested in one guy—despite the fact that three of the girls who are obsessed with Chiaki are kind of the same girl. There’s also his classmate, Hinata, who happens to be a monster-fighting shrine maiden, and volume two introduces another mythical canine, Fenrir, also in the form of a pretty teen with an interest in our hero. That’s not to say that Chiaki’s entire social scene is made up of girls who are into him; with the help of Kuro, he’s starting to make friends, including a socially-awkward classmate and his cat-demon companion. The characters’ personalities are distinct and make for interesting conflicts and friendships.

Chiaki is well-intentioned, if a bit of a listless loner. Kuro also has her heart in the right place, but is completely clueless. This results in a lot of humor based around an uncomfortable Chiaki frantically trying to stop Kuro from joining him in the bathtub, or in bed, or explaining to her that “put on an apron to help clean up” does not mean “take off all other clothes.” As of the first two volumes, the manga doesn’t show any nipples or genitals, and no one is actually having sex, but there are a number of sex-related jokes and suggestive scenes.

The art is crisp, polished, and detailed. All of the characters are delicate and pretty, with expressive faces. The backgrounds are intricate, but without distracting from the characters. When monsters or other supernatural elements appear, they blend smoothly with the style of the rest of the art.

So far, this is an upbeat, mostly low-stakes story. Kuro (the form Cerberus most commonly takes) is determined to help Chiaki learn to be happy. She recruits his classmate Hinata to help, and it’s cute to watch them drag Chiaki to an amusement park and convince him to throw a study party. Periodically, monsters come sniffing around Chiaki, which usually means a fight for Cerberus and/or Hinata. However, there are hints that things are more complex than they seem. For example, Roze wears a mask that blocks some of Cerberus’s power. Just what is she hiding?

Fans of wacky fantasy will enjoy the oddball premise of this series, while fans of harem-style romantic comedy will like the cast of unusual characters and their frequent, silly misunderstandings. The fanservice and some sex-based humor makes this series best for readers who are at least in their teens.

Today’s Cerberus, vols. 1-2
by Ato Sakurai
Vol 1 ISBN: 9780316545457
Vol 2 ISBN: 9780316504591
Yen Press, 2016-2017
Publisher Age Rating: Teen

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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