Urara Meirochou — vol. 1–3
Wild girl groping other girls in a town of magical diviners
A note on digital releases: starting from volume 3 there is a noticeable resolution bump to a whopping 1920 vertical pixels, so at last official digital manga looks as gorgeous as it should always have been.
Chiya, a girl raised in a mountain forest who understands animals better than she does society, comes to an all-girl town of soothsayers in search of her mother. But the only lead is an invitation letter to study at a divination atelier — and there, with three other cute apprentices, she strives to master the art to become a top diviner and come closer to her original goal while hijinks ensue.
Also, what the subtitle said.
some more words
This is the next manga by Harikamo after Yorumori no Kuni no Sorani, also reviewed here, that recently gained some attention thanks to an anime adaptation announcement — something that I was really hoping for back when I picked it up. Unlike Yorumori, which was a bit too unique to be adapted, Urara Meirochou is closer to other Kirara titles in tone and general story composition while still retaining a vivid fantastical element so you could say it was an expected pick. Flying Witch, another slice of life series about daily witchy activities, has done reasonably well so I have high hopes this one will follow in its footsteps.
By the way, the summaries on all popular sites are off in one way or another so please ignore them for now.
The setting this time is Meirochou, a labyrinth town where maidens study and work as Uraras, prophet girls who help people find the right way on the crossroads of fate. Basically, a local term for diviners believed to hear the gods through a mediator of their choice — usually items normally associated with fortune-telling like crystal balls, dowsing gemstones, tea leaves and whatnot.
Meirochou, like a board game, is split in ten sections, each corresponding to one of ten ranks an Urara can have with 10 being the lowest and with an iron-clad rule that lower-ranked Uraras can neither live in nor visit districts of the higher level. Chiya’s main reason to advance through the ranks is to meet a legendary Urara who doesn’t seem to leave the First District and is believed to be the only fortune-teller powerful enough to find a person you’ve never seen and know nothing about.
Conveniently being given by her guardian a letter of invitation to study at Natsume-ya, one of the ten active “houses” of Urara education currently headed by a talented Rank 5 and a worrywart Nina, Chiya meets three other freshmen after barely being able to clear up the misunderstandings caused by her literally wild behaviour, including bringing along a swarm of animals, showing your belly when apologizing like a good dog should and expecting others to do the same. The latter getting her in trouble with the local tomboy policeman who only sees her, completely justified, as a perverted forest wolf. And so, together with an earnest, diligent by-the-book girl and fanservice target Kon, a playful Meiji restoration era westaboo “Miss Plum” Koume and Nina’s shy little ventriloquist sister Nono, Chiya moves in to the second floor of Natsume-ya to begin her fun days of apprenticeship.
The first two volumes cover the main cast learning divination basics from Nina, exploring the Tenth District and getting to know various personalities and places important to the life of the town, and it’s as Kirara as it gets with a touch of mystery here and there. Throughout the first volume you’re not even sure if it’s fantasy because nothing supernatural happens until the very end and it feels like you’re reading GA or Hidamari in a different setting — which is of course a compliment coming from me. The second volume is closer to the aforementioned Flying Witch with hijinks taking a turn to small-scale heartwarming and funny magical happenings.
The last currently published volume, however, mostly consists of an exam arc and that’s where “a bit of shounen” in the genre list comes from as you’re treated to a fair amount of encouraging dialogues about friendship, teamwork and whatnot. It also introduces new characters towards the end, something that I think might happen earlier in the anime seeing as that’s what Dogakobo’s adaptation of New Game! has done to a great effect. Especially since one is basically Noel from Sora no Woto and you can’t help but love these adorable genius sleepyheads.
Still, unlike most of the comics published in Manga Time Kirara magazines (with the obvious exception of Forward), there is an overarching plot regarding Chiya’s quest that trickles into the comedic slice of life proceedings little by little and the reveals forecast some serious business happening down the road. As with Yorumori, Harikamo loves to tease a dark past for some of the characters involved to contrast with the absolutely light-hearted events of the present. Although here in particular every situation that’s looking dead serious for three frames out of four is immediately defused by a gag scene and sometimes it can be genuinely hilarious, as the author’s humour gained a level or two since the last outing and you can feel a Kirara editor’s influence.
Harikamo’s art has significantly improved compared to Yorumori with the girls looking as gorgeously moe as physically possible with trademark Harikamo eye shading at work and lots upon lots of fluffy hair I’d want to bury myself into. It did come, however, at the cost of losing some of the unique and lovely jaggedness present in Yorumori’s art and especially its backgrounds as the illustrations in Urara Meirochou are more normal in comparison. The occasional monsters are still very reminiscent of creatures from the Forest of the Night — and in fact an early prototype version of Chiya with a giant snake familiar wouldn’t have felt out of place in that manga at all.
And of course I can’t help but mention the high amounts of yuri tension between various characters — be it between the tomboy policeman Saku, raging lesbian in complete denial, and Nina or between Chiya and literally everyone her age. It is a Kirara title, that’s what we’re here for.
- It’s a magical slice of life, this genre is awesome by default. The mildly supernatural atmosphere of the setting is soothing;
- Chiya carries the manga with her Mowgli-esque logic and behaviour, the comedy is pretty good in general;
- Harikamo’s art, already distinctive, got even better. Cuteness overload is guaranteed. It did lose some of the COLORS and jaggies on the way and there are less colored pages than in Yorumori, but unless you read that one (you probably didn’t) it’s not something you’re gonna notice;
- Balance between plot and slice of life so far is just on the right scale with the former adding a nice mysterious context to the latter;
- Not stuck in a single setting like most SoLs;
- Somewhat educational if you didn’t know about throwing sandals to predict weather or burning paper lamps with stars;
- You can look forward to the anime adaptation — and it’s so suited for one that I literally hear seiyuu voices in my head.
- The downside to the former point is that the manga plays many character and plot cliches very, very straight;
- A bit of shounen and supokon is all right, but I can only hope it doesn’t go completely shounen later on. The signs are there, it feels slightly Harry Potter, however I put my faith in Harikamo and his Kirara Miracle editor.
This is, by all means and standards, a funny and heartwarming cute girls doing cute things manga, just with a flavor of mystery. So if you like that kind of thing — it’s a solid recommendation, one of the best among the newer ones. If you don’t know Japanese it might be better to wait for the upcoming adaptation t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶e̶n̶d̶ ̶u̶p̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶h̶a̶n̶d̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶e̶i̶t̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶D̶o̶g̶a̶k̶o̶b̶o̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶S̶i̶l̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶L̶i̶n̶k̶,̶ ̶e̶i̶t̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶w̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶b̶r̶i̶l̶l̶i̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶c̶h̶o̶i̶c̶e̶ actually by J.C. Staff and I have mixed feelings about it.
Japanese difficulty: moderate (not much trouble reading with a dictionary)