Okay for real now.
This is probably the most perverted non-H manga I’ve ever read.
I don’t imagine I’ll ever review or even find anything else like it,
lewd to this degree, and in so many ways.
Every kind of body, female and male, can be found here
naked and sexualized.
It is 18+, not safe for work. Bothered by any of that sort of thing? Turn away.
You’ll be missing an amazing manga, but saving yourself from offense.
Steel your heart or stay back.
Tsugumomo is great.
Tsugumomo (つぐもも) is a supernatural adult harem battle manga that is the first and only long/major series of author Hamada Yoshikazu (浜田よしかづ). It is also goddamn crazy. The things Hamada-sensei likes most of all are action, being perverted, and human anatomy — particularly female human anatomy. Really, he just obviously likes drawing quite a bit, the art undoubtedly being Tsugumomo‘s strongest point. He also knows how to craft a story very well, though, with his pacing often being very on point, and the characters within his stories being very interesting. Presently, it seems this manga is a somewhat revered one in Western circles, but with major caveats. See, Hamada-sensei’s indiscriminate love of the human form combined with his being an enormous pervert means you will see chubby women, muscular men, teenage girls, buxom women, very young boys, teenage boys, muscular women, and very young girls in some extremely sexual situations, if not engaging in heavily implied sexual acts (basically, things happen and we may not directly see them, but other times…). This means recommending it to others comes with a great big bowl of salt rather than one simple grain. Personally, I have typically avoided recommending it even though I’ve wanted to because I know quite a few people would be utterly put off by some of the content. If the content doesn’t make you seethe or feel disgust, then you’re in for a real full-bodied work going into Tsugumomo. I’ve said Youkai Shoujo might be the best harem battle comedy, and with the advantage of increased accessibility that might even be true, but if we ignore the hurdles Tsugumomo easily takes the top spot.
But you know, that said, it takes a little while to become that way. Tsugumomo has kind of a slow start. It’s a monthly series and it really starts picking up with the small arc that occurs from chapters 7 through to 9, meaning for about half a year of publication, Tsugumomo was merely “alright”. When I first started reading it (around when it was first picked up for translation, so a little over seven years ago) my impression was “this is a kind of fun series with a unique, somewhat throwback/old school art style” but that was about it. I really did like the art style and thought the main heroine was refreshing, but it was a manga that I read thinking “eh, this will probably never be given dedicated translations”. There’s some rather good stuff about the first ~6 chapters, but not stuff that makes me think “Yep, that’s Tsugumomo alright” knowing what the series becomes. In fact, I don’t believe the series really starts coming into its own until chapter 16/volume 3. And even then, halfway through volume 4, and more importantly the whole of volume 5 are the definitive points that will make you think “ah, so this is what the series is like”. That said, there exist two major barriers to entry that you’ll want to stop at if you find them disagreeable. After these points, the series carries itself with confidence, becoming a unique and special existence.
So, the premise. I’ve noticed what premises/summaries you could find on this series are pretty misleading — they make the series sound generic, although it really isn’t for a number of reasons. The story is, Kagami Kazuya is an eighth grade middle school boy who goes everywhere with an obi (a sash for kimono) in his possession — an obi that is a memento from his late mother, and carries the scent of cherry blossoms. One day, while he’s breathing in the calming aroma at school, he is suddenly attacked by a wig.
It knocks him off the roof and before he dies, a magical thing happens.
The obi explodes outward, cushioning Kazuya’s fall. It slips out from under him, bundles up, and opens to reveal the form of a cute girl — obviously the main heroine.
For one second, it seems like she will be the “cool beauty” type heroine. Instead, she is simply not archetypal at all.
This is Kiriha, and she is something else.
I could say how the rest of chapter 1 proceeds in detail, but it isn’t super necessary. The wig is basically a monster possessing another student and Kiriha is a mythical Japanese “item” given sentience from a long period of use — a tsukumogami (in her case, an obi tsukumogami). Kiriha destroys the wig while explaining a few things. The action is quick and not great, exactly. Not bad, but considering what the average Tsugumomo fight scene becomes later, saying the first fights of the series lack “oomph” is a real understatement. Kiriha disappears after the encounter and Kazuya goes home, eventually going to bed. He wakes up to find Kiriha sleeping with him, like always.
The first few chapters are used to set up the series’ foundation with concepts and definitions, information which gets repeated just enough to keep things in mind in case you forgot how things work. It’s also thankfully not hard to grasp any of it, nor are the explanations long-winded. Anyway ONE: we have tsugumomo — items given life after years, spiritual power, or desire are poured into them. There are two kinds: tsukumogami (like Kiriha) who are intelligent and “human”-shaped, and “amasogi” (like the wig), items given sentience except they are malicious, generally monstrous, and single-minded. TWO: we have “curse”, essentially a negative energy prevalent throughout the atmosphere that fluctuates in density and causes strange things to happen — very similar to magic. THREE: we have exorcists, one per “area” of Japan. Exorcists fight alongside tsukumogami to keep things peaceful. They work with the local god of the area.
At the start, Kiriha fights alone using neat “obi weaves”; wrapping up opponents, making drills, or folding giant hammers. Kazuya does not fight nor does he intend to. He isn’t a coward, but he simply has no desire to “be the hero”, nor could he even REALISTICALLY “be the hero”. Kiriha protects him instead (calling him her servant), with the manga briefly suggesting that the way the series will go is that Kazuya will get caught up in mysterious/dangerous circumstances and Kiriha will rescue him, usually punishing him for being a fool later on. This changes with the events of chapters 7-9, and the introduction of this character:
What? Oh wrong pic.
With the introduction of this character, Kukuri, the god of Kazuya’s town. Kukuri seems kind of like a rival of Kiriha’s, and Kiriha has a lot of bad words for her. When she’s introduced in the story, she basically demands that Kazuya become an exorcist, which makes Kiriha fly into a rage for some reason. They fight, and with their fight comes the first really pretty cool series of action sequences in the manga. Not quite up to par, yet, but getting there. Also, you may have noticed that Kukuri’s form is that of a little girl (for some reason, she has lost much of her divine power and this is the result). Furthermore, during the fight Kiriha expends so much power trying to protect Kazuya that she ends up like this:
Consider this the first barrier to entry. The series is yet to be FULLY perverted at this point.
Anyway, during the fight Kazuya is spurred to actually partner with Kiriha as intended, wielding her like a weapon. It turns out he is Kiriha’s master, although most of the time he doesn’t care to act like it (it may help the fact that any and all memories of his mother, Kiriha’s last master, are “blocked” in his mind). After this, the series builds and builds, starting with Kazuya being mostly incompetent until he becomes a full-fledged badass with Kiriha. Not AS badass as her last wielder, but he’s cool.
From this point forward, we will see occasional short training sessions between Kazuya and Kiriha where Kiriha tries to get Kazuya’s body in tip-top shape to be a proper exorcist. The training is usually brief and somewhat vague, which I like a lot actually. It leaves things to imagination and doesn’t “waste time” going over all the small details of obi weaving. The two of them also often chat about things back home to make sure everyone’s on the same page. This is usually done in the bath.
When we’re not seeing training (which is most of the time) we get either slice of life segments or, more often, arcs where a mystery is introduced and Kazuya/Kiriha have to sniff out the cause just in case it’s supernatural, usually fighting amasogi at the end.
Getting to the bottom of mysteries is actually pretty important, from finding out why someone committed suicide to finding out what the twisted rules of an environment under the influence of an amasogi are (for instance, one amasogi makes everyone in the series stuck in a video game, confined to fighting game systems). It’s important because the best way of destroying an amasogi is to have its creator/master destroy it themself. If they don’t, and an exorcist destroys it for them, they can suffer from “curse backlash”. This can range in severity extremely, from having silly things like losing your hair for a while or smelling terrible for a week, to having very serious things like devastating body alteration. The idea of how necessary it is to destroy amasogi you created on your own is something brought up many, many, many times in the series, and for good reason, but I can’t say why.
Anyway, this brings us to volume 4, chapter 15 (curiously put ahead deliberately later in time than original release order, presumably because the author thought the chronology would be better this way), and with this chapter we have the above character — a female god (translations you can find refer to her as a man at first, but she most definitely isn’t a man). This person, Kaneyama is the second and last major barrier to entry. She is serious. Kukuri, who is a poor god of a rather unloved shrine, goes to her for money lending. She seems to really not want to go, and when the crew meets Kaneyama they don’t see why. She has them play a matching cards game where the person receives what is written on the cards if they match two. In this way, they can earn money, right? Sort of.
Putting it as gently as possible, Kaneyama is…excited by the forms Kukuri and Kiriha have taken. She was probably eagerly awaiting this opportunity, and she cranks up the sexualization to unseen before levels.
This is your point of no return, it gets positively ridiculous after this. Like I said immediately, Hamada-sensei sexualizes everything, so if you’re looking for big boobs or toned boy chest, you’ll get both, but at this point know, for sure, that you’ll also be seeing things like this. I’ll talk more about the perversions of Hamada-sensei later, I think by now I’ve gotten all the necessary information out of the way and can discuss characters.
Kiriha is unique. She is a violent, boastful, domineering girl with unmasked sexual desire. I really can’t think of another character in anime or manga truly similar to her. As the main heroine, the abuse she subjects the main character to usually comes from selfishness (using force to get him to buy her pudding) or as punishment (for being a moron), but not for seeing her naked, as is typical of harem heroines. She doesn’t care about being seen naked, and would probably bang Kazuya if he ever asked. He doesn’t, but I’ll explain why in just a bit.
Before that, I should say that I’m happy to declare that Kiriha’s fondness for and attraction to Kazuya does make sense. At a glance, Kazuya is pretty normal, but there are things about him that stand out on examination. He’s strong in spirit and very concerned about the well being of others, which is mostly standard for a hero, but I think what makes him a little more distinct is that you basically have to earn his affection before he’ll really take a shine to you. When he “meets” Kiriha, he almost only finds her a nuisance, but by volume 8 he doesn’t want things to change at all, with her or any of the other people who wind up in his harem. The change is actually kind of subtle, with him going from “touchy, annoyed kid” to “protector and stalwart friend” of the girls surrounding him. He’s also strong physically, after a while, which is a plus. He gets pretty manly, despite that girlish face of his.
It basically becomes increasingly clear what Kiriha sees in him; I never once felt like her affections (or the affections Kazuya gets from other girls) were unwarranted or undeserved. You could argue that Kiriha is predisposed to being attracted to Kazuya, but there are actually older reasons for her (and Kukuri) being fond of him that we learn about in flashbacks — flashbacks we always knew were there, just out of sight because of Kazuya’s blocked memories. As for other girls, like Kazuya’s childhood friend Chisato, the rival exorcist Sunao, or the bird-priestess of Kukuri’s shrine Kokuyou; they all also have good and different reasons for wanting to jump Kazuya’s bones (respectively, for being a guy who’s always been friends with her and close, for being someone who taught her a very valuable life lesson while also fulfilling the qualifications for a powerful marriage candidate, for protecting and defending her fiercely and reassuring her that she’s beautiful in no uncertain terms). Since my biggest issue with harem series is generally “believability”, Hamada-sensei managing to keep my disbelief suspended means a whole lot.
He is not a dense protagonist (mostly — for example Sunao doesn’t quite get through to him, but she’s also a special case), instead he holds himself back in most cases. I guess, like Hamada-sensei, he is also a fan of female anatomy and so just about any girl will get him going, thusly his desires are essentially at all times threatening to burst loose of their confines. What stops him is not a meekness possessed by many harem protagonists where he’s scared to get kissed or scared to hold boobs, what stops him is that he knows full well that if he goes to the next level with any of these girls the relationship dynamic will completely shift. It is a precarious balance he keeps to allow peace in his and the girls’ lives. It’s basically the same deal as Touhou Suzunaan~ Forbidden Scrollery.
(that’s a joke, by the way)
I could describe the other characters, but I think that will have to do because there are other things I need to talk about. Briefly, Kukuri is very cute, Sunao is very amusing and straightforward, and Kazuya’s mom… Okay, actually I do want to talk about Kazuya’s mom just a little bit.
Kazuya’s mother, Kanaka, is a character we only see in flashbacks or in this strange lingering memory that sometimes arises in Kazuya’s mind while he’s unconscious. She was an adventurous, joyful, and glorious warrior of extreme strength. The beast she is casually piercing through in the gallery at the start of this article was one noted for its immense strength, having killed an exorcist already. Apparently, she was a force to be reckoned with, so the question becomes “how did she die?” Her character is altogether fascinating, and when we eventually see the full breadth of her past once the fog of Kazuya’s mind is clear, it’s well worth the wait. I believe it was a very interesting idea to have included a character like this, so close and yet at the same time so distant to the main character. Kazuya has her face and a few significant inclinations, much later starting to arise to the joy of battle and at all times full of the same unending, unquenchable lust (although Kanaka actually acted on her lusts all the time). The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
That will do it for my chat on the characters. Pretty much all they do is interact with Kazuya and Kiriha rather than being a kind of very fleshed out cast with intriguing motivations (Sunao and Kukuri excepted, both of whom are definitely major characters). When a “villain” group is eventually introduced, focusing the plot from its looser arc-based structure, those villains have nice and full backstories and complicated motivations, so it’s cool. The rest of the cast is schoolmates who are varying degrees of pervs.
Alright, I am nearly done now. Not much left to mention! Next: the action.
So, Tsugumomo‘s art is amazing. Hell, check out this art evolution.
Hamada-sensei spares no expense with the precise and unique poses of naked people, or people in loose-fitting (or tight-fitting, as the case may be) clothes, detailing the musculature or little rolls of some fat or creases in skin/cloth with careful lines down to the parts of a body that you wouldn’t usually think about, peeking out in tantalizing ways. Kind of reminds me of an even more detailed Shimimaru (artist of INERTIA 67%), actually. The same kind of love and devotion goes into his balls out nuts action scenes, full of bombast, intensity, high movement, impact, interesting abilities, amazing choreography, crazy angles, stunning paneling, and fully detailed clothing/attacks/weapons/whatever.
Kazuya and Kiriha’s obi techniques are cool and well-explained, but we also get crazy sword techniques, laser cannons, brutal hand-to-hand fights, crazy water magic, crazy fire magic — honestly just lots and lots you could think of and all shown off in immensely cool ways. If you don’t want fanservice, or you don’t think the story is doing anything for you, or you just generally have complaints with Tsugumomo, I would be really shocked if you said you couldn’t enjoy the art in the action scenes, if nothing else.
When that villain group shows up, they show up with tons of new and unique powers, and the showcase becomes practically unending. There is an obvious turning point for Tsugumomo where it goes from being “really damn good” to “great” or “phenomenal“. The plot that is introduced is one hinted at pretty much from page 1 chapter 1, it’s foreshadowed very well, it’s an interesting conflict based on moral dilemma, and you can both agree or disagree with what the villains are doing (it’s not like they’re ONLY sympathetic or ONLY jerks; they’re both). Seeing everything come together is great, and at this point in the series, if you are keeping up with it, all you’ll ever want is the next chapter already, at all times, just to see what’s going to happen next. The manga is also lewder than ever before. If you think To-Love-Ru: Darkness or something is the peak of lewdocity with manga, you obviously have not yet perused Tsugumomo.
This may be due to Hamada-sensei’s “personal style”, which is to make sure female characters are seen naked ASAP. He, uh, seems really into that idea, which produces some hilarious results. Overall, he may be an enormous pervert, but Hamada-sensei is an extremely cool guy. If you’re able to, I highly recommend checking out his afterwords in the tankoubon. He goes into much more detail than is typical for manga afterwords (the usual being “OH GOSH I SUCK SO MUCH THANKS THOUGH OH YEAH SO MY EDITOR…” not that that’s terrible or anything), making things very informative and enlightening.
And…that should do it. I should be unable to say anymore without being excessive. Those are my thoughts on Tsugumomo. If you have no issue with what I warned against, go read it immediately.
This is the end of the review! Thank you for reading. Next week I may write reviews even though it should be my off week. No promises; it depends on how much work I can handle. Until next time, peace.