I’ve never really read an all-ages manga before so I was actually curious to check out Yo-Kai Watch; a series I know nothing about and frankly only want to enjoy as a manga. The story is fairly easy to sum up because it follows the “capture/befriend creatures” formula. Our main character Nate Adams stumbles upon a capsule machine and uses his money to get a capsule that’s quite strange. He gets it open and there’s a Yo-Kai inside that he can suddenly see. The Yo-Kai, Whisper, explains that Yo-Kai are kind of like spirit creatures with sometimes extraordinary powers. They used to live hand in hand with humans, but after being captured and studied too much they started to become more and more invisible to them until becoming myths. Whisper tells Nate that he’s forever grateful to him and will be his butler going forward. He gives him a watch that shines a light that reveals Yo-Kai and forever changes Nate’s life.
His first encounter with a Yo-Kai is a cat that died from a car hitting it. Now it’s trying to beat up cars, but constantly loses. Apparently this goal came about after the cat’s owner in life said that he was “lame” for dying. That’s jacked up right?! Instead of making fun of the cat Yo-Kai’s goal, Nate encourages him. The cat, Jibanyan, befriends Nate with a fist bump and Nate’ watch produces a coin. When inserted in the watch is can summon that Yo-Kai from wherever they are.
You’re probably noticing a lot of similarities to other kid’s properties like this, the biggest being Pokemon. It’s not too far off, but Yo-Kai has something going for it that Pokemon doesn’t. It can create anything to be a Yo-Kai. It can be a feeling; it can be food that was thrown out. It can be a wall that doesn’t like people. We see this throughout both volumes as each chapter Nate faces a new problem and a new Yo-Kai.
By the second volume I will admit that the formula wears a bit thin as we know that Nate is almost always going to win the Yo-Kai over. I did really like the way he did it though. Since this story is basically a learning lesson for younger readers it actually helps teach empathy, patience, caring and lots of other useful lessons that haven’t been done a hundred times before. In particular, I liked the first volume more than the second.
One of the few problems with the series is a lack of villains. Sure, the Yo-Kai that show up are at times mean, but there’s conflict that Nate is up against. No rival, no evil corporation trying to out-friend him on his Yo-Kai. It’s just, “can Nate solve this chapters’ problem?” and the answer is usually yes. The other problem is that the mystery of the watch and Whispers imprisonment is never addressed. If I was a kid I wouldn't question it either, but as a reader I do wonder what the story behind it is and when it'll be answered.
The art is really good. It’s clean and detailed, but it’s clear that creator Noriyuki Konishi has a range of abilities. This is evident when he illustrates Nate and other characters in a different style. It’s instantly humorous and just a great addition to the book. Its reminiscent of what's done on One-Punch Man. Otherwise, he as a very polished style that works for the story and world that he’s created. If you know anything about manga, then you know that it’s black/white and grey and Konishi does a fantastic job of balancing that. The pages are never blown out or overshadowed. In general, the art is good enough to tell any story, but I’m glad that it’s on this book because otherwise I don’t know if I would read it.
If you were ever a fan of the “capture them” genre, then you should check this book out. It’s definitely geared towards younger readers, but I was able to enjoy it and look forward to reading more. I would definitely grab and read both volumes together if you’re going to do it. They’re a quick read, but actually a fulfilling read if you enjoy the plot and world created.
Score: 4/5 (Both volumes)
Yo-Kai Watch Vol. 1 & 2 Creator: Noriyuki Konishi Publisher: Viz/Perfect Square Price: $9.99 each Release Date: 11/3/15 Format: TPB; Print/Digital