It's October once more, which means it's time to look over some monstrous manga. That is, manga about monsters and hopefully manga that ARE monstrous.
Well, hopefully at least.
Let's start things off with a quirky little oddity from the dying days of CMX and their short-lived partnership with web manga distributor Flex Comics. It was meant to bring revolutionary new titles to the States. The actual result were weird little one-off projects like today's selection.
ZOMBIE FAIRY (Kyonshii Sennyo), by Daisuke Torii. First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2008.
Aoto Hozoki's family didn't think much about the weird old coffin in the basement. All they knew is that Grandpa picked up 20 years ago from an old Chinese monk. Until Aoto took it on TV for experts to examine, they had no idea what it could contain. What it did contain was Chun-Ai, a jiang-shi (or Chinese hopping vampire) who turns out to be a magical being under a terrible curse. Now Aoto and his family must help Chun-Ai break her curse and return her to normal all while keeping things under control in their own household.
Zombie Fairy. That's a weird combination of words. It simultaneously offers up something overdone and kind of boring with something magical and exotic. In other words, it's a perfect reflection of the work itself.
At its core, this is another sitcom-style comedy, albeit one with a touch of action to it. Torii certainly wrote his cast like they were in a sitcom, in the sense that they are the blandest sitcom stereotypes you could imagine. You know you're dealing with a serious lack of character when the most well-defined member of the cast is the horny old grandpa pulled straight from some 90s schlock. Aoto might as well not be there for all he contributes to the story. That being said, the magical beings aren't treated much better. Chun-Ai has only two modes: innocent girl and mindless monster. For a while it looks like they will trade on Lin-Fa's vanity as a gag, but she mostly gets relegated to the role of Giver of Exposition. When it comes to the cast, Torii was clearly just going through the motions to get to what he really wanted to write about: the mythological angle.
To his credit, Torii digs deeper than most supernaturally-themed manga do for his creatures, which is part of the reason why the title is so clunky. It's not that it's inaccurate, it's that Chun-Ai is a combination of creatures that few in the west would recognize off-hand. Jiang-shi are obscure enough (unless you like old Hong Kong exploitation films), and it's weird that they went with 'zombie' when they are often more closely tied to vampirism. The 'fairy' part is even more complicated. Chun-Ai is meant to be a sennyo, a being from Chinese/Japanese Buddhist mythology that's closer to what westerners would call a 'nymph' versus a fairy. The story finds a terribly convoluted way to make combining such drastically different ideas work, one that involves demons and seals and the Chinese zodiac. None of it makes a bit of sense, and the worst part is that it ultimately doesn't matter.
That's right: there's no ending. The story sets up a big quest to hunt down a bunch of demons and simply leaves it there. It seems that Torii was no more successful in Japan than he was in the States. Maybe if Torii had put more effort into the story overall, that might not have happened.
That's a real shame because Torii's artstyle is pretty cute. The character designs are more doll-like than the standard, anime-friendly look that most works like this use. He also plays with perspective a little, and the character designs can actually hold to that without looking weird. It's actually kind of unique looking in that sense. That's about the only unique quality, though. He's a perfectly competent artist, but no more beyond that. The jokes, the action, the backgrounds - all of them are drawn in a perfectly unremarkable way. Honestly, the title and the characters might be the only original ideas to be found in the entire thing.
A title like Zombie Fairy demands a certain degree of commitment and skill to make it work without being ridiculous, and this Torii guy simply wasn't up to the task. This renders the book nothing more than an obscure oddity, even by the standards of the CMX library.
This book was published by CMX. It is currently out of print.