Diabolic Garden by Ichigo Shiraki

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Diabolic Garden is pretty much everything I would NEVER chose to read on my own.

But, once again, I decided to press the “Surprise Me” button on MangaPanda to see what it might find for me.  When this popped up, I thought, ‘No way!’

The art style was a big turn off and it had that label ‘comedy’ which is my least favorite.  I actually moved my cursor to hover over the button again, thinking I’d just try again,  but then I noticed that the manga looked to be complete at 10 chapters, so I thought ‘I can read ten chapters in one sitting, so why not?”

What a phenomenally bad idea.

Plus, this is another one of those manga that people just stopped scanlating. MyAnimeList.net tells me that what I have is about half the completed story.

In another weird turn of events, all the information I could find about this manga is in French.  According to the French Wikipedia (which Google helpfully translated for me): “The French version is published by Ki-oon in three volumes released between November 2010 and May 2011.”

So, you know how we’re always saying so-and-so is ‘big in Japan’?  Well, apparently, in Japan, Ichigo Shiraki is saying, “I’m big in France, you know.”

SPOILERS

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The manga starts with a fake-out.

The first few pages looks like we’re starting middle-battle in some fantasy fairy land, but it turns out that what we’re reading is a manga being presented to an editor of Monthly Gothic Fantasy by a high schooler/wannabe mangaka named Makimura Kotone.  The editor tells Makimura that she needs some fresh ideas.  Her stories are getting repetitive.

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I tend to actually really enjoy manga about mangaka.  I read all 21 volumes of Bakuman and watched the entire first season of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun (which is also a manga that you can read here: http://www.mangahere.co/manga/gekkan_shoujo_nozaki_kun/.) I also really loved the anime of Barakamon, even though that one is about a professional calligrapher, not a mangaka, per se.  For reasons, I tend to find the writing/artistic life–particularly struggles within the industry–endlessly fascinating.

Thus, at this point, I thought ‘oh, okay, maybe this won’t be so bad.’

While wandering around town, trying to think up ideas for her gothic fantasy manga, Makimura stumbles across a spooky-looking teashop.

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Yes, they sell TEA, not books….

Here, Makimura meets the mysterious Tsukasa, his clown-like demon doll assistant Kanon, and uncovers the secret garden of Hell plants.  For reasons of plot, Makimura breaks into the garden uninvited and accidentally ingests some Hell-devil fruit in the garden, which she mistakes for a strawberry (I see what you did there with your name, Shiraki-sensei!)  The side-effect of this devil fruit is that Makimura now exudes the odor of the very tastiest in demon food, which of course makes her deeply attractive to them.

This is actually kind of bonus for Tsukasa, whom Makimura instantly crushed out on, but who previously had zero interest in her.  Turns out the tea shop isn’t exactly popular among humans, given that most of Tsukasa’s concoctions taste like crap to us, and so he makes his living as a demon hunter.

All those books you see? They’re actually sealed demons.

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Um, yeah, that’s not vaguely horrifying at all, why do you ask?

The next several chapters involve ways in which Makimura gets herself into trouble with various demons and Tsukasa gets her out.  At the end of chapter five, we meet up with the local boss demon and his mouse yokai assistant, Geschtalt.

Geschtalt is kind of a classic bumbling demon assistant, who generally doesn’t have a bad heart, except for the fact that he’s working for the bad guys, you know? Plus, he turns into an adorably fat little mouse. What’s not to love?

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Weirdly, this guy was one of my favorites. I blame Stockholm Syndrome at this point.

Turns out that it was good that I didn’t invest a lot of my energy into Makimura’s character because for the next four chapters, she completely disappears.  Her storyline gets entirely dropped and instead we follow Tsukasa’s younger sister as she, the mouse, and the clown doll demon attempt to infiltrate a Goth rock band that’s been infested by a demon, who has been leeching life-energy from the bands’ followers.  Luckily, the Goth band is holding a contest for a fan-band opening act, and it just so happens that Tsukasa’s younger sister is an expert vocalist who specializes in Goth glam music.

The series ends just as our heroes get on stage to do their audition piece to hopefully impress the demon band.

I probably would have kept reading to the end, despite myself. As you can tell from my review, there were things I thought were moderately nifty about the universe of Diabolic Garden.  What I’m not focusing on, however, is the so-called comedy.

Humor is one of those things that doesn’t translate terribly well.

I get that.  So, milage may vary.  For me, a lot of the humorous moments in this manga fell flat.  For whatever reason, a lot of the humor in Diabolic Garden is of the sort where one character basically says something cold or cutting to other character… and so the humor seems biting and unkind.  I’ve run across this kind of humor before, particularly in Tactics. I get that it’s supposed to be funny from the reactions of the other characters, but it always leaves me cold, and certainly not in stitches.

Because I failed the humor, there was a good half of this manga that I didn’t appreciate at all. Also, I didn’t find Tsukasa hot in any way, shape, or form, so I failed the romance, too.  The supernatural stuff–now that kind of almost worked for me.

So, would I recommend it?

Maybe if you’re French.

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