- Mangaka : Ogino, Jun
- Publisher : Seven Seas Entertainment
- Genre : Mature, Sci-Fi, Yuri, Action
- Published : December 2021 — present
Bloom into the Bleach
Renowned painter, Pablo Picasso, is widely attributed to the quote “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” We don’t know whether the father of surrealism really said that, but measuring by his quote, semelparous by Ogino Jun must truly be great art. This fast-paced, kaiju-killing action manga throws ecchi and yuri elements around with a stylish flair, while heavily borrowing (or ‘stealing’, as Picasso would have it) from a dozen different series that have come before.
And yet, while we’re on the subject of attributing famous quotes, the legendary philosopher Aristotle claimed that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” – which is to say, no matter how many individual components may come from elsewhere, the final product will always be unique and worthy in its own right.
So join us today (and no more philosophy lessons, we promise) as we review the first volume of semelparous!
Adapted from the mangaka’s 2016 one-shot Each Other’s Guardians, the main conflict of semelparous is an impending invasion of otherworldly monsters (kaiju) seeking to breach metaphysical ‘walls’ between Our World and the Other World, to… do whatever it is that kaiju want to do. Despite the first thirty pages of semelparous delivering a veritable dictionary of new terms, the actual reason behind the invasion seems oddly vague. Land shortage? Climate change? Rising housing prices for millennial monsters? Sadly, we’re none the wiser, but that doesn’t matter – semelparous is here to sell you sexy girls fighting monsters.
In that category, semelparous gets a huge tick. As we alluded to in the review’s tagline, this series takes heavy inspiration from the old-school shounen classic Bleach. The enemies look much more like Kubo Tite’s hollows than Godzilla-style kaiju, and the combat is fast-paced with flashy swordplay and showers of blood and gore. The mangaka has a flair for drawing long, flowing hair, which is a nice stylistic addition to the fights.
Our main character, first-year high school girl Yorino, seeks to avenge her best friend who was killed by a kaiju and throws herself onto the warpath along with third-year captain and combat partner, Youko. The costume designs borrow heavily from the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s plug-suits (for something newer, think Darling in the Franxx), which is to say, the outfits are designed to be as sexily skintight as possible to accentuate the characters’ huge boobs – practicality be damned!
Overall, semelparous is an easy, enjoyable read, but it might leave some readers a little divided. To help you figure out if you want to read the first volume, let’s break down the pros and cons!
1. Goodbye Shounen Pacing, Hello Modern Storytelling
Earlier, we mentioned that semelparous borrows heavily from a number of different series – and that’s true. But many of those series came with huge headaches thanks to their long-running nature, such as overly drawn-out combat sequences, pages’ worth of posturing and attack-name-shouting, and generally a sluggish pace despite the, y’know, impending doom.
semelparous strips away the baggage of those older franchises, opting instead for quick, dynamic fight scenes that feel as if there’s a purpose to the battle. The manga might dump a handful of new phrases on you quickly, but at least you know what’s going on up front without waiting thirty-odd volumes for a ‘reveal’. The pacing is refreshingly quick in a genre that isn’t always known for its speed.
1. Yuri For Yuri’s Sake?
There’s no escaping the ecchi fanservice in semelparous, which seems far more interested in showing off the characters’ panties and breasts than actually advancing a shoujo-ai storyline. Any yuri elements here feel more like fanservice yuri than actual romance, but we will admit that it’s hard to know with only a single chapter – the relationship between Yorino and Youko might blossom later.
For now, however, selling semelparous as shoujo-ai or yuri feels disingenuous. Besides the suspicious need to transfer soul power by placing your hand over someone’s nipples (well, technically that’s where your heart is…), there’s no indication that the female-female pairing is part of the story. We had hoped that semelparous might focus entirely on female-only teams, in a gender-bent take on the usually male-dominated action genre, but there are male fighters too, so that doesn’t add up.
2. Name All The Things
In fairness, excessive naming is a sin of many action and sci-fi manga, but semelparous does love ascribing names to almost everything. We have soldiers (bulwarks) using custom weapons (aegis) that channel their souls (astral body) to fight monsters (kaiju) inside a metaphysical battleground (interspace). Again, as mentioned earlier on, semelparous seems to have lifted and renamed a bunch of mechanics from the likes of Bleach or Attack on Titan, but the first dozen or so pages feel like a word-soup worthy of a dense JRPG.
There’s a lot that semelparous gets right, from the flashy and fast-paced action sequences to the gorgeous character designs. There are also some questionable parts too, especially with the yuri aspect seeming more like forced fanservice (at least in this first volume), and there’s no escaping the numerous other franchises that semelparous has liberally borrowed from.
We are certainly interested to know if semelparous has more to offer for the characters and their relationship, and we hope that the overall kaiju invasion setting will be fleshed out in greater detail sometime soon.
Let us know if you’re reading semelparous down in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading this review!