Demons and samurai are like bread and butter. Samurai while nice by themselves would be just as good with a smear of demons, which just sounds wrong. It is why movies like Ninja Scroll become instant classics, they build a fantastical world where the samurai are tested by supernatural means and pushed beyond their limits. This time around though, we have a special type of story. One with women taking the helm in this demonic adventure! Yes a samurai story that involves badass females fighting off hordes of foreign…demons, there has to be some political message in there somewhere. These females though as you will come to see, are not really the heroines you think they’d be. Yeah they are scantily clad female warriors with a lot of nude shots, yup it is this type of manga.
Tale of the Hakodate Youjin Outlaws…Himegami is a mouthful of a name and tells you exactly what it is about. Female warriors who fight off Youjin, demons, and are outlawed by the powers at play. This Meiji era piece is riddled with both Western and Eastern powers, American and even Russian. It is a weird mishmash of historical references and bouncy samurai/ninja women. I never thought I would be reading something like this, but coming off of Burning Hell I’m more lenient to anything. That being said, I may have been a tad too lenient when deciding this as the next piece to review for Samurai Month.
The element of Hyou and Himeka’s relationship is the main draw of the series. While some of the elements as to why there is such a strong bond in the first place are sketchy to say the least, the execution of the art showcasing their love for each other seemed quite genuine. The more the mystery of Himegami unravels to Hyou, the more the relationship expands and the feelings become more genuine. That being said, Hyou’s tsundere routine is at times a far bit too over the top. It becomes grating rather than cute. Himeka on the other hand lacks a sense of progression as she states time and time again she was already saved, thus already progressed without the viewer’s knowledge. Himeka is interesting, but there needs to be more that the viewer can see that would lead us to want to care for her love of Hyou.
At times this manga is exceptionally lazy. The lazy writing, lazy fanservice everywhere, lazy characterizations, lazy plot points, all of it hinders the experience that could have been at the very least good. The large amount of times deus ex machinas come into play is just atrocious and the resolving of some problems is laughable in how quick or meager it is. So many plot points are unexplained and given a more matter of fact way of revealing which is problematic when more than half the time it doesn’t make sense. At no point do you feel tension towards the well-crafted action sequences, which is also attributed to the large amount of fanservice given. Yes there is ample amounts of nudity in this one, from the French consulate to the brothel to just the relationship of Himeka and Hyou! This mangaka is indulging far too much into the curvatures of its characters’ figures, instead of the roundness of their characterization! The character designs are either of buxom women or the costumes are just hilarious in how revealing their designs are. The costumes of the Himegami are like oversexualized versions of Power Rangers outfits!
The supporting cast except for one person are complete throwaways to fanservice or just one-off moments. It is sad because there could easily be many moments to showcase good characterization, yet instead they would rather throw breasts out instead. You often wonder what the point of said character is in the whole scheme of the story, but none truly contribute. The police officer chief is an interesting concept and probably the only character that works somewhat in the realm of the story. Even then, there is deus ex machinas that ruin any potential for growth in this cast, there is nothing truly difficult to overcome.
Himegami is a frustrating story with all its lazy writing. If the ending wasn’t so lackluster it might’ve gone up one more rank, but my goodness the ending is all the problems this manga has all condensed into singular moments. The art is such a great pull, but when half the images are of nude women it just loses its luster. I’m more livid about this piece of wasted potential than about the mess that was Burning Hell. That being said it is by far better in execution of some moments than Burning Hell in its entirety. The relationship of Hyou and Himeka is still a nice thing to behold even if you know everything else is just horrid. Himegami thinks that fanservice is the most important aspect, but fails to execute a flowing narrative or even decent characterizations often relying on deus ex machinas to fill in plot points.