Manga Review: Mao Volume Two

Mao Volume Two continues the story of the series by answering some questions but also introducing some new ones.

Mao Volume Two
Written by: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 9, 2021

The early part of Volume Two focuses on Nanoka fulfilling an agreement with Mao by trying to infiltrate a cult to investigate its priestess, Shoko. Near the end of the first volume, the father of one of the girls who joined the cult died after the priestess predicted that he would due to not believing in the cult. When Nanoko encounters Yoriko, the girl whose father died, she decides that this lead is worth checking out. Fortunately, Mao has sent Otoya to help her out. Meanwhile, Mao has found a curse doll buried near Yoriko’s father’s home, and Mao learns something interesting from this discovery.

Between what Mao learns and what Nanoka and Otoya figure out, they realize that Shoko isn’t what she seems, as well as who the real puppet master behind the cult is. And thanks to Mao’s abilities, he is able to take down the puppet master with their own curse. In a not surprising revelation, the puppet master got too full of themselves and didn’t realize any weaknesses in what they were doing. At least Mao was able to bring about an end to this scheme.

The most important thing to come out of this storyline, though, is the one prophecy that Shoko knows is legitimate… that the end of the world is coming, with the earth splitting open and tornadoes of fire descending. When Nanoko returns to her own time, she realizes Shoko has to be referring to the Great Kanto Earthquake. She asks Shiraha, her classmate who has a crush on her, to help her do some research on the earthquake. Nanako realizes that the Great Kanto Earthquake took place on September 1 at 11:58 a.m., and that the sinkhole accident that killed her parents was also on September 1, around noon. While reading through accounts of interviews self-published by a local researcher, she finds reference to someone referring to seeing a huge cat peering down through the smoke, and Nanako thinks this might be a reference to Byoki, the cat demon that Mao is looking for. She also discovers that a keystone (a sacred rock) that was in the area at the time of the earthquake disappeared afterwards and left a huge crater. At this point, it really does feel like Takahashi is dropping hints of potential connections between the Great Kanto Earthquake and the accident that killed Nanoka’s parents.

Meawhile, in the Taisho Era, Mao and Otoya discover a church near the site of the keystone shrine. It turns out the nuns in the church are ayakashi that want Mao’s body and are trying to drink his blood. The poison in his blood is supposed to kill ayakashi, but it’s not affecting these ones. Just as it seems like all hope is lost, Nanako appears and helps Mao and Otoya get away. Nanako learns that Mao has to drink liquid from a kodoku pot because he needs it to replenish his life force. Otoya tells her that Mao’s body has lived for 900 years and is near its end. Hmmm… I have to wonder if there’s a connection between that liquid and the smoothie that Nanako is forced to drink every morning before going to school.

A little later in the volume, Nanako warns the two of them of the impending earthquake, and finally admits to them that she comes from almost 100 years in the future. Before she leaves to return to her time, Mao gives Nanako an antidote when she’s in trouble and needs strength.

When Nanako returns to her time, she first discovers that a month has passed in her time while she was in the Taisho Era. I recognize her grandfather’s cover story of Nanako being the hospital to explain her disappearance… I guess that’s the easiest way to cover up a long absence, and Takahashi likes utilizing this cover story both here and in Inuyasha. But when Nanako feels that something’s not right after drinking her smoothie, she takes the antidote that Mao gave her… and she finally remembers why she and her parents were traveling on the day of the accident. But having this realization makes her question whether the grandfather she’s been living with since her parents died is really her grandfather. This makes her question what Mao’s antidote really is, and she rushes back to the Taisho Era. Unfortunately, she chose the wrong time to go… because the earthquake hits. And this is where the volume ends, and this works as the perfect cliffhanger.

While I still did see a couple of things that made me think of some of Rumiko Takahashi’s other manga series, I felt that Mao Volume Two did a fantastic job of helping the series find its footing and become something that readers want to continue following. I honestly believe that Takahashi was able to start a story here that has a much stronger hook to grab the reader, which is something that her previous series, RIN-NE, lacked. And while we start figuring out and learning some things about Mao, Nanoka’s storyline opens up a whole new question… is her grandfather really her grandfather?

By the end of this volume, it feels like the story is reaching a climax, but the preview for the next volume indicates that this story will continue past the earthquake. I expect that it’s going to take time for Nanako to continue piecing together what happened to her and her life after the accident, and that these revelations will be slowly revealed as the series continues. And this volume also establishes that Mao is running out of time to find Byoki and get his curse broken. At this point, we don’t know fore sure just how much longer Mao has, but I think this plot point will make it harder for Takahashi to keep this manga going for chapters on end and still have it feel believable.

There were a couple of things that bothered me as I read this volume, though. I found at least two mistakes in the text. At one point, Shoko’s assistant, Sogen, is referred to as “Shogen.” And in the section where Nanoka is reading the account of the eyewitness who said he saw a huge cat peering through the smoke, the word “cat” was “can” (although the picture on the page definitely shows a cat). I don’t know how these typos slipped through, but hopefully the next volume will avoid having those kinds of mistakes.

Even with those typos rubbing me the wrong way, I’m very curious to read Mao Volume Three and continue the series. I think I’m picking up on potential connections between events and objects, and I’m hoping that future volumes of the series will either confirm or debunk my thoughts.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Additional post about Mao:

One comment

  1. momomanamu · November 3

    I love Rumiko Takahashi’s work. I’m going to have to read this one!

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