We really dug the first volume of this coming of age manga, and all eyes are on Interviews With Monster Girls–an anime was recently released in America as well. But with vol. 2 of the manga out, we have to ask ourselves if the quality remains the same. We review.
Interviews with Monster Girls Vol. 2 (Kodansha Comics)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
It’s one thing after another for the Demis and their teacher, Takahashi-sensei! From finding out how vampires really feel about garlic, to what it means to be a Snow Woman, to how high school girls refer to each other…our intrepid sensei will get to the bottom of it all. And what’s this about a mysterious new transfer student…?
Why does this book matter?
This series is wonderfully weird and captures the awkwardness of being a teenager with the added element of monsters. The characters are very well rounded and feel real even though they have supernatural powers (like their heads coming off!).
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
With the characters introduced, this volume starts right up where it left off as the girls continue to foster a crush on their teacher. The jealousy between them over it is also a storytelling element as the complexity of their dynamics grows. This issue has the girls bonding too, which helps keep the manga interesting. That includes some weird habits, like the vampire girl nibbling on the necks of people to itch her teeth!
A main focus of the teacher and his interviews involves the vampire and the snow woman in this issue. The teacher attempts to understand their powers and how they live in the world. He’s fascinated with demis–those are monsters by the way–as they are rare, but live amongst us. Author Petos uses this opportunity to explain some of the rules of these creatures and it’s interesting to see how he fleshes them out via interviews with the teacher. As a mentor, he helps these girls cope with their powers, but also their real fears of integrating in regular life amongst other students. Many times this book is easily relatable as it captures the frailty of teenage youth and their doubts and it’s endearing to see the teacher help them understand themselves. It’s not unlike what you might see in a real high school only instead of powers it’s insecurities about image or family.
In one example, the snow-woman character is deathly afraid of touching anyone as she thinks she might freeze them. This allows Petos to delve into the traditional myth of snow people, but also relate to this girl’s real fear. It’s an endearing moment for the teacher as he mentors the student.
Speaking of the teacher focusing in on the vampire and snow-woman, the reader gets a fun wrinkle on each, as the teacher discovers why say, the vampire likes to eat garlic, but why garlic is considered an enemy of vampires. It’s a fun way for Petos to show these characters are more real than you think.
It all sounds very serious, but believe me there’s a sense of fun and youth throughout the book. Each chapter ends with a short page of panels that helps convey the silly nature of the story. The vampire girl in particular is wild and reminiscent of a hyper child who is silly fun.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The crushes the girls have on the teacher is probably more unnerving in American culture, but it’s still something that bothered me while reading it. It’s conveyed in a way that suggests it’s cute and harmless, but it’s still awkward to say the least. There’s a bonus chapter in this volume originally appearing in Young Magazine that actually brings up sex. Now, it’s probably a good thing as it helps kids relate and understand their bodies. Not talking about sex is bad after all, but considering these girls are crushing on the teacher it’s still awkward for me. It’s an element of the series that’s actually quite fascinating as it shows how Japanese culture is different from American culture.
The last chapter of the volume which runs 20 or so pages feels out of place. That’s because it sets up a new character, but then ends abruptly. You never get the sense of where the story is going or why it matters. It’s as if they should have included the next chapter rather than ending it here.
Dun dunn dunnnnnn!
Interviews with Monster Girls continues to be deeply rewarding as it captures the angst of teenage life. The supernatural element is a great way to infuse such a delicate topic with fantastical elements. All that said, the teacher’s relationship to the girls, and their crush on him, makes for awkward moments that I’m sure American audiences might have trouble with.