Seventeen-year-old Kira Fujikawa has never had it easy. She’s bullied by the popular girls in school. Her family ignores her. And she’s also plagued with a secret: She can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Japan. But things accelerate from bad to worse when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon to hunt down an ancient relic and bring the world to a catastrophic end.
Not exactly skilled at fighting anything, much less the dead, Kira enlists the aid of seven powerful death gods to help her slay Shuten-doji. They include Shiro, a kitsune with boy-band looks who is more flirtatious than helpful, and O-bei, a regal demon courtesan with covert reasons of her own for getting involved.
As the confrontation with Shuten-doji draws nearer by the day, the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. Can Kira save humankind? Or will the demon king succeed in bringing eternal darkness upon the world?
Warnings: bullying and physical assault, death of family member, description of body horror and gore
The authors already made a note about the anime influences and how it is sort of a retelling of the movie Seven Samurai, so I will just say that yeah, the anime feels were definitely there. It reminds you of urban fantasy anime with yokai elements, with Kira as a shrine’s priestess, who can see the spirits, and who has to prevent a major catastrophe from occurring by raising an force of seven shinigami to fight an evil and powerful oni, while also balancing a life as a high school girl.
The fantasy parts of the book were good, but I am not so happy with the high school elements. From the start, like the first scene itself, it felt sort of forced into a plot where the magical aspects far outweighed it. Kira’s alliance with a kitsune’s shinigami mother has her searching for other shinigami who would fight alongside them, but with the shinigami clans taking a neutral stance in the matter, her prospects are few. She has her shrine’s guardian, Shiro, a kitsune (and also her love interest) by her side, but as the days go by and the time of the blood moon approaches, their quest seems tougher. It incorporates a wide variety of creatures, most of whom are against them, so there’s a lot of action. My favorite might be the nekomata, Oni-chan, because (a) cat, and (b) demon cat who is still a softie.
Kira’s story starts from a place of powerlessness and having to be the ‘good daughter’ to her parents, but with the new challenges thrown at her, she takes up the mantle of responsibility of a hero, to take charge of her fears and face down bullies, whether human or yokai. On the romance side, well, it was cute and inevitable, but the development was a bit weird in that there were some plot holes or missing scenes, so I was a bit confused as to how it grew even in the sidelines. There was also the fact that main plotline sometimes didn’t give us all information, or kept us a step behind from Kira to catch up. For instance, I didn’t understand why they needed seven shinigami in the first place when it wasn’t that essential (even with the deal made, it was puzzling) to make a cabal and then mid-way, they were like, we need to get this sacred Imperial sword that the enemy also wants (seems like keeping it out of enemy hands would be the logical step) – so it was between these two different strategies of defeating Shuten-doji that I was confused at to which one was intended to be the main plotline. The story pacing had me, at times, reluctant to continue, too – it wasn’t engaging enough for me to keep reading in one streak (which is what I expected from it).
Overall, it has its atmosphere and characterization down, but the plotline and pacing made me go ‘eh’.
Is it diverse? Set entirely in modern Japan; has Japanese main characters
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.