Monsters and tamers and girls, oh my!
You all heard of monster girls in recent years, buuuuuuut, have you heard of monster TAMER girls? No? Well, then I have the title for you, aptly named Monster Tamer Girls. Is it good?
Tatara Girls’ Academy is one of the most prestigious schools in Japan. Why? It’s because of their Monster Taming Program, where young girls from all around come to learn how to tame and handle big and small monsters that had suddenly appeared in recent years. Ion Hidaka is new to the Monster Tamers Program and is incredibly meek and nervous. However, she’s going to need to summon all of her bravery to be able to handle her new major–and fast.
Mujirushi Shimazaki’s Monster Tamer Girls is of the slice-of life-genre, distinctly of the young-girls-doing-their-own-thing-and-being-cute variety. Despite Hidaka essentially being the main character, the first volume also centers around her friend, a girl a grade above them, and a graduate of the school. The volume focuses on what all of them do as well as how they feel about where they are. There’s no overarching plot to the book, just vignettes on the characters and the adventures they get into. Some stories are longer than others, but outside of character development it’s a very laid back series with little happening from book to book. For those interested in this subgenre and focus, there’s something to enjoy here.
However, I can’t help but feel this series is a bit too quick and not as strong as it could be. For instance, early on we establish Hidaka and her senpai of sorts, Tsukiko Miyama, as interesting figures in their field. Hidaka is meek and afraid of monsters, while Miyama likes them but has a difficult time working with them despite being the chair of the Tamers Committee. Hidaka gets over her fear of monsters by the end of the first chapter and becomes more confident. While she still has some hesitation around monsters, her mental state change is too quick and feels like it would have been better paced over fifty pages instead of less than twenty-five. Miyama, on the hand, we explore for over three chapters with regards to her inexperience and difficulty with monsters, showing her insecurities and her attempts to overcome them with a monster she finds. While, like Hidaka, she still has work to do, her growth feels better plotted and more relaxed, making her a more engaging character.
As a whole, I find the manga a tad lacking in its characters. Outside of Miyama, most of the cast members are kind of dry and leave a bit to be desired. No one is necessary bad or poorly written, but there’s a lack of characterization and of much going on for them that makes me interested in reading more. The main character’s fears, the most interesting angle about her, are mostly quelled in the end and all that’s left is a character who just seems naturally good at everything despite her timid nature. Sora Misumaru just exists to be a friend for Hidaka to hang around with and Kotomi Kagurazaka just comes across as a clingy, very attached friend for Miyama. The fact that she’s very young and graduated so early isn’t really explored, and the angle that her dad might be an ousted scientist who proposed a theory that has seemingly come true is only briefly hinted at. The main focus of the manga is on the characters, but I wish there was more of them or to them here to get invested in.
Overall though, the writing is fine and there’s no major issues with it. The pacing is pretty quick and early on it feels like a bit of a detriment to the story, rushing through characterization and progression. With that said, the breezy pace works later on when the stories go longer than just one chapter. The storytelling doesn’t usually over-explain anything and there’s not a lot of dialogue, which helps in the quieter and more beautiful moments, such as the end of chapter four. The background is not fully explored, as we’re just given little pieces here and there about how the world works, but that’s okay. Given what type of manga this is trying to be, that approach works well. Sometimes you don’t need all or many of the answers right away. The dialogue has some good lines here and there, but there’s nothing about it that jumps out. The type of writing the manga has works very well for what kind of story it is, but the overall characterization could stand to be stronger for the cast as a whole.
The artwork by Shimazaki is perfectly good for the story, and again, fits with its genre. It has a light, cheery tone with its Moe-style girls and its details that are minimalist outside of the monsters themselves. The characters are just expressive enough to convey the feelings needed for each scene to work, though they themselves are indistinguishable outside of their hairstyles due to the limiting style. The layouts are effective in doing their jobs and there are some beautiful-looking shots on occasion, like some of the ending scenes that convey a lot with their use of space, shading, and angle. The monsters tend to look like a lot of other monsters we’ve seen in fantasy series, but none of them are drawn badly at all, and at times they’re expressive through their body language. As a whole, the art is perfectly serviceable, but that’s about it.
Is It Good?
Monster Tamer Girls Vol. 1 is a manga perfect for fans of the slice-of-life genre that focuses on teenage girls and their odd lives, though with a school fantasy bent to it. It does most everything right, but it doesn’t seem to stretch for the stars like other series I’ve read in the genre, like Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction. Monster Tamer Girls feels a touch generic in its writing and presentation. That being said, there’s not a lot wrong with this volume and if you’re looking for an upbeat series from this genre, you can’t go wrong with it.