By Nina Matsumoto
Published by Del Rey Manga
Slugline: Be careful for what you wish for, because sometimes you will get it. Too bad you don't know any better.
Hamachi is living with his gruff (and not in a kindly way) grandmother after the death of his parents when he comes across a yokai, a Japanese demon/spirit that can have any number of origins or attitudes. The fact that there are so many of them means that there are more for Hamachi to learn about, much to his grandmother's disgust. Her disgust is so great that she lays a trap for one which Hamachi secretly rescues. When Hamachi learns that his grandmother laid the trap, he tries to overlook it, but the yokai that was trapped by it steals her soul while he is away. Upon his return, he decides to go to the yokai homelands through a portal to recover his grandmother's soul, or at least talk to the yokai that took it. Once in the yokai lands, he begins to make friends and enemies, but is still a long way off from confronting the yokai that has his grandmother's soul by the end of the first volume.
The manga at first starts fairly serious and straightforward, but as the volume continues, the story becomes more meta and self-referential. I don't think that is a good way to go, how serious one should take the story needs to be consistent, otherwise readers may feel that they are being manipulated (in a bad way.) To a certain extent, Hamachi is too naive and idealistic. He claims that he has read the books about yokai, so he knows that some are good, and is open to those but he seems to refuse to believe the truthfulness of those same texts in that some yokai are harmful and dangerous. Some amount of caution and learning from the dangers he is exposed to should be expected, but he seems impervious to them. After nearly having his own soul stolen, he just laughs it off. That sort of fits with the more metatextual aware Hamachi from later in the volume, when he seems to be more aware that he is in a story, but not so much in the beginning of the volume. It is this uncertainty over what the nature of the story is that robs it of tension and storytelling power.
Yōkaiden, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga