I hemmed and hawed over whether I should review this or not. Evidently, I’ve decided to do it.
So, why’d I almost not? Well, I’d been planning on writing about this series when the first volume released. It has, I bought it, I planned to review it quite specifically today. But then! Last week’s chapter followed by this week’s chapter revealed to me the obvious: this series is being axed. It was going to be axed inevitably, as it has sat firmly at the bottom of Weekly Shounen Jump’s table of contents ever since it began being “ranked” (this is a bad thing) AND the first volume did not sell very well in its first week, but I kind of hoped it would last a little longer. It’s not in the cards, though; this series simply didn’t stand a chance. Knowing that, I wondered “why bother writing about it?”, but I kind of adore this series so I figured I’d give a rundown on what I thought of it.
Takuan and Batsu’s Daily Demon Diary (たくあんとバツの日常閻魔帳, Takuan to Batsu no Nichijou Enmachou) is, as far as I know, the first serialized manga of author Itani Kentarou (井谷賢太郎). It’s a comedy, ecchi (pervy/full of fanservice), action, mystery manga that I believe had some noble and notable qualities. Did I think it was HIGH quality? Kind of yes, kind of no. Actually, even though I liked it a lot I have no problem criticizing it. Also, although it’s ended, I don’t feel torn up about it. Whether or not it was his intention, Itani-sensei accomplished a satisfying amount in a little bit of time and showed off pretty well what this manga could be. It’s just a shame that its full potential couldn’t be realized.
The premise of Takuan and Batsu is an easy enough one that allows for an episodic and sometimes arc-based structure. Basically, you have main character Tsukumo Takurou who earned the nickname of “Takuan” after ranting about takuan (pickled radish commonly eaten with Japanese meals) at one of his school’s morning assemblies.
He’s got this obsession with keeping status quo and valuing daily life. Naturally, his life is thrown into a mess one day when the second title character, Batsu, appears.
Batsu has an obsession with order. She’s the daughter of the “Enma“, the legendary king of Hell from Asian mythology who is a stickler for rules and who judges the dead/demons. A common joke with Batsu is that for anything done to her or done by her, the foul or favor must be equaled out in return. Naturally, this is used for fanservice fairly often but before we get into that, a quick explanation as to why she’s here on Earth instead of in Hell.
Batsu is here to stop them. See? Simple. Demons possess humans that are brimming with malice, thereby allowing them to cause crimes like robbery, kidnapping, or even murder. This is where the mystery aspect comes in, since the villains are human in appearance at first, requiring some sleuthing on the protagonists’ part to discover them (and as the reader, you can also join the characters in trying to solve the mysteries, which is always neat). What’s more, the horror aspect arises from how disgusting and twisted many of these demon-possessed humans look.
So what’s up with the guy with the horn? Well, you probably already figured out that it’s Takuan. Here’s what I find to be one of the very interesting aspects of the series.
Basically, Takuan himself is one of the malice-filled humans that demons possessed after Batsu’s father was killed. The reason is that someone murdered his mother in front of him and provoked him to have revenge if he wanted it. As a result, an oni (that is, a fairly classic, ogre-like Japanese demon) possessed him based on the malice of wanting to slaughter criminals who ruin people’s lives. This is quite twisted, putting the hero on a same or similar level as the villains in a very reasonable way. Plus, oni are cool. Brutish demons that fight with fists and giant clubs? Hell yes.
Learning this fact, Batsu takes Takuan on as her minion. Yes, not partner, “minion”.
Anyway, speaking of things that are awesome, Batsu is no slouching “whatever” heroine in this series. Although Takuan is definitely responsible for heavy-hitting when they join forces, Batsu is capable of a wide variety of very radical magic courtesy of her supernatural gavel. She will slam it into something (like the floor or the air), leave a seal, and from it summon things or change people (like putting portals on their body, changing their size, sending out ice, or sending out flames). I also like hammers a lot since they’re an uncommon weapon in fiction, so I was very pleased to see Batsu’s moveset.
That she’s a female protagonist who ISN’T completely ignored in favor of making the male protagonist look good (in a Weekly Shounen Jump manga where that’s completely uncommon, no less) also totally hyped me up.
And here’s another grand positive: when these two say “we”, they mean “we”. Takuan and Batsu come to have a mutual respect for one another (Batsu respects that Takuan struggles with his inner malice and uses his strength to save others, Takuan respects that Batsu can stay strong in spite of her father’s passing (and that she helps humans, even though a malice-possessed human killed her father)), and the two of them fight TOGETHER when they fight. Both of them are rather clever, both of them grow throughout the series — it’s great. It’s not just great from a “this is so rare to see” angle, it’s great from a “this is a good story and these are good characters” angle.
Along this short journey, the series is rather funny, too, in both a Gintama way and a Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro way. Batsu is completely weird with some very strange powers, Takuan is a firm straight man. Batsu’s got a kind of sadistic streak that oddly fits snug with her rule-abiding, prim and proper self, making her both an intriguing and amusing character (at least to me). Plus with how strong-willed Takuan is I ended up taking a shine to him better than the usual shounen protagonist. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and isn’t utterly dense; both of these characters are super refreshing. Honestly, the sense of humor this series has clicks particularly well with me. Whenever it tried to make me laugh, it succeeded.
I guess I’d describe the humor as matter of fact, zany, or otherwise cartoonish. Oh, and of course there’s the fanservice-based humor.
And on that note, let’s talk about the fanservice.
I’ve noticed that when it comes to eroticism regarding lady parts in Japanese media, emphasis tends to go toward boobs and panties. Not so with Takuan and Batsu! Takuan and Batsu is a thighs and butts manga, and that is a marvel for Japanese fiction and especially Weekly Shounen Jump. This is a focus that few have gone with to my knowledge, most notably Chairman of Prison School and the venerable Dr. P (a favorite of mine). Furthermore, it has a habit of going with unusual routes of fanservice such as “female dominance (femdom)” or — here’s an especially weird one — vore (the act of swallowing a person…not my fetish, by the by).
You don’t really get pantyshots but you get an awful lot of butt shots and sideboob in addition to outlandish sexual kinks. In a weird way I admire this bold approach to fanservice in blunt defiance of the usual conventions. But, being unconventional doesn’t make you instantly popular. In fact, that’s rarely the case for Weekly Shounen Jump manga.
Takuan and Batsu could have really gone places. Itani-sensei’s imagination when it came to fanservice was quite wild, and the premise of “malice-filled humans” made for interesting stories that could range from silly “I was filled with malice because girls’ skirts were too short!” to “I was filled with malice toward myself, for sick and disgusting emotions I was selfishly feeling once upon a time”. Matters of suicide, bullying, and self-loathing are brought up in this series and it’s actually all handled incredibly well — it’s not as if it feels out of place, nor do any emotions it attempts to bring up in you feel undeserved. Action is varied in thanks to a mix of magic and brute force, courtesy of Batsu and Takuan respectively. Furthermore, since not all “encounters” had to be “fights”, “action” could be portrayed in ways like “protecting another person from an overwhelming force” and still be rather hype.
And better yet, near the final chapters a third character was introduced to Takuan and Batsu’s group who could assist with fighting using their own unique abilities — and this person was female! Two female fighters and one male, and it’s not as if the girls felt shoehorned in (“this girl kicks butt because she kicks butt; even though she’s as thin as a supermodel!”): since power is largely based on magic/malice, strength is as well. And this girl who is introduced is arguably even stronger than the main character because her malice is stronger — she hates herself more than Takuan hates criminals. That’s genuinely interesting stuff that you just don’t see often. It’s twisted and screwed up in all the right ways. But again, maybe not right for Jump.
I am not going to say that it’s only because this manga was placed in Jump — a magazine aimed at young boys who like action and simple fanservice like in To Love-Ru — that it wound up failing. I think it’s a large part, and that had this series found a home in another magazine it may have survived better, but the series did have some foibles that I wonder how much were the fault of Itani-sensei and how much were the fault of just trying desperately to survive. For one thing, the series has a decently sized cast of characters and it introduces them at a regular pace. Mako, for example, is this ridiculous character who picks fights with walls and is not-so-secretly self-conscious that I’ve posted earlier (the white-haired guy with the ponytail). I think he’s hilarious, but here’s the thing: he barely shows up. After he is introduced in a mini-arc, he might appear when people reference him. Then there’s this cow-girl in a fundoshi named Gozu who loves to eat so much she proposes to Takuan (who can cook quite well). After her and her cohort’s introduction? Barely shows up. Gozu even arrives with a plotline of “the denizens of hell are split into ‘kill humans’ or ‘protect humans’ factions now that the Enma is dead” that we sadly don’t get to see much of. That’s the typical thing with this series in the few chapters it exists: new characters do not get frequent play. Not for nothing — I like Takuan and Batsu a lot and do appreciate episodic stories, but more entertaining characters is more entertaining characters.
Was the lack of recurring characters an attempt to just keep things moving and not waste time developing a cast, thereby hopefully raising the series’ popularity, or was it just Itani-sensei’s preference in writing to introduce side characters but only focus on main characters? For what it’s worth, although we know them for a short while Takuan and Batsu do grow somewhat and grow closer (in a romantic sense, of course) which is nice to see, but hey, I don’t slobber over World Trigger simply because Osamu, Yuuma, and Chika are great, I slobber over it because like 60 characters in it or so are great.
So I could have used more from the greater cast, I suppose, but I don’t know if that would have helped the series live or not. Some other criticisms that I suppose lay more with Itani-sensei are that the art is sometimes amateurish (he has his strengths, but he also has his weaknesses) and that the series is lewd. Yeah, I admire it for being lewd, but I think it was just too much for the audience and not necessarily “there” enough with the art to turn over those who weren’t sure about the series. Couple this with unpopular eroticism focuses (butts and thighs) and you can easily see why this series fell. In many ways it was an unconventional manga, and it wasn’t so incredible that it could simply recover off of sheer amounts of quality.
And that, dear readers, is the tragic story of Takuan and Batsu’s Daily Demon Diary, a Weekly Shounen Jump manga that almost nobody in the West had heard of and few in Japan favored (relatively speaking, compared to other fanbases). In my opinion it was funny, it was delightfully lewd, it had amusing rare fanservice, it had interesting action, it had intriguing mystery that I could piece together on my own, it had fun characters (sadly underutilized), it had equal opportunity between the sexes in character strength (both in a quality and a “fighting” sense), it had surprisingly dark and well-handled themes, and of course, it had lots and lots of potential. Call me crazy, but I highly recommend reading it. Now that it’s over, I will be eagerly awaiting whatever Itani Kentarou-sensei does next.
You cannot find anything but the fourth chapter of this series readily available in English (at least easily; the first three chapters were translated by Viz Media). Raws used in this review were provided by an anonymous source while translations were either also from an anonymous source or from me (as in, I translated some of these pages). Typesetting outside of pages from the first four chapters was all done by me; this series has no scanlator. If you intend to read it, you’re going to have to buy it and you’re going to have to know Japanese (or have KanjiTomo at the ready to recognize kanji). You may also push for the series to be translated if you are similar to me and like it. All the raws of this series are available in some mysterious place on the Internet, and…yeah, I think that’s about all that needs to be said.
You may purchase Takuan and Batsu’s Daily Demon Diary from Bookwalker (guide), CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan. Thanks for reading all these things I had to say regarding probably the most unknown series I’ve ever written about, I honestly hope you’ll read and enjoy the manga. In some ways, Takuan and Batsu is a hidden gem. Until next time, peace.