This all ages manga begins with a mystery—a small, frightened creature hiding, pursued by wolves, and finally captured. Then the story begins with the history of Senzou, the black fox. Powerful, selfish, and evil; he was imprisoned by the Sun Goddess for three hundred years and he’s finally free… but he’s not at all remorseful.
Then he discovers that he’s not free after all; his punishment will continue and he’s been assigned as guardian to Manpachi, a young tanuki and that’s just to start! Manpachi is lonely, bewildered by his parents’ rejection, and uncertain of how to use his new powers. Senzou is revengeful, angry, and hates everyone, especially this annoying little pup. This isn’t going to be easy for anyone, including the annoying dogs and wolves keeping an eye on them, a white fox trying to mother them, and a sly and wicked badger with his own agenda coming back from Senzou’s past.
The art jumps quickly from chibi characters to more serious, artistic washes of ink. Senzou is sometimes his own, terrifying self, with intricate markings, but more often his cartoon transformation, complete with white-tipped tail and cartoonishly big nose. Some characters change from human to their animal or spirit form, but they always keep their own personalities, so readers will giggle to see carefree spirit dog Tachibana racing through the streets in his human form, tongue lolling out, or the wacky transformations the little tanuki inflicts on Senzou as he loses control of his new powers. The chapters are divided by single illustrations of the various creatures, “The Bakemono Field Guide” with delicate drawings illustrating the types of characters and their abilities and weaknesses.
This story combines cute, big-eyed furry characters of the Disney variety with darker and more dramatic mythological creatures and several underlying plots. It’s rare to find truly all-ages manga, but so far as can be seen in the first volume it should be just right for readers who love the manga format and the magical and mystical creatures of Japanese legend but aren’t ready for the more mature relationships and plots of most manga. There are definitely dark and dangerous moments, so this is not for extremely sensitive readers, but if they can handle Pokémon or Studio Ghibli films they should have no problem with this series. The only barrier to adding this to collections serving middle grade readers who enjoy manga is the unreliability of Tokyopop’s publishing schedule and the rapidity with which their publications tend to go out of stock and out of print.
The Fox & Little Tanuki 1
By Mi Tagawa
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages
Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)