Tatsuya Tsugawa seems to be a particularly pathetic specimen of junior high student when we first meet him in the pages of Aion Vol. 1. He’s being shaken down by some older students, and a girl in his class has to come to his rescue.
Tatsuya soon finds an even more pathetic victim of bullying than himself, however, a mysterious classmate who repeatedly tells him to butt out since she wants a particularly mean girl to throw her down and kick her when she fails to buy her the right sort of bread for lunch.
Trying to live up to his father’s dying wish that he be “a big man” someday, Tatsuya persists in interfering until he comes across the girl’s secret: She has a weird shadow dragon named Aion that flows out of her finger, swallows evil people whole, and then spits them out, having only digested the evil parasites from the ocean that are living in their brains.
After that, the pair’s lives become intertwined when Tatsuya finds the girl living in a cardboard box in the park and invites her home with him, where she discovers his scheming relatives are hosting evil parasites as well.
In the first volume of this new series from Chibi Vampire creator Yuna Kagesaki, much about the heroine Miyazaki and her relationship with Aion is left unexplained, with Kagesaki only offering occasional teases and hints (For Miyazaki, strange attributes like her unkillability are a fact of life and require no explanation, while Tatsuya is too timid to press her for any information).
That sort of slow build can sometimes make it difficult to judge a series solely by its first volume. The questions are intriguing, although there’s not terribly suspenseful—the answers will either be fascinating, or they won’t.
Kagesaki’s artwork is definitely appealing though. The kid characters are all pretty big-headed, with more detail devoted and attention paid to their faces and heads then their bodies (Kagesaki even seems to avoid fan service, despite a couple of opportunities appearing in the story).
Aion itself is a design with a great deal of potential, here occasionally appearing comedically as well as scarily, with occasionally quite creative angles used to depict the act of a, um, shadow dragon finger extension monster thing.
I found our point of view character Tatsuya to be the most compelling aspect of the book, however. Rather than the typical character who we are told is quite pathetic despite the fact that the magical and/or beautiful women in his life are attracted to him and bring out the hero in him, Tatsuya is sad to the point of being pretty funny:
While Miyazaki comes by her outsider status naturally, the heroine of The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko Vol. 1 carefully cultivates hers. Hurt by the two-facedness of a childhood friend, junior high-schooler Kanoko has devoted herself to becoming the perfect, purely objective observer of school drama, keeping detailed notes on her classmates and their relationships.
As with science experiments, however, the mere act of observing affects the thing being observed, and Kanoko generally becomes deeply involved with her most prized observation subjects, generally using the knowledge she’s collected to help the innocent and punish the guilty.
She also changes schools at the start of every single story, which makes this first volume of Ririko Tsujita’s comedy not only episodic, but somewhat repetitive. Sure, the details change, and the friends Kanoko reluctantly made in the first story occasionally make appearances in the succeeding ones, but the pattern remains the same, and that pattern quickly becomes a formula.
As a character, the above-it-all, sharp-witted Kanoko is really fun to spend time with, but it doesn’t take all that long to get frustrated with the way she spends her time.