If you want to set yourself up as a soothsayer for the manga industry there is one simple rule that will make you look like you can read the stars with perfect accuracy: Look what happened to the anime industry 5 years before and then just predict the same will happen with the manga industry. You will be the Nostradamus of manga. In that respect we are finally moving into aperiod with the simulpubs of manga as well as a far more robust marketplace for digital manga. While the demand for physical manga has not become the complete niche collectors market that the anime sphere has become there is a growing demand and preference for a digital option. That means new companies popping up to meet that demand.
The thing is all these new services need titles to hook potential costumers into trying their services. A title to draw in readers when they could be buying physical books, using other manga services, or just spending their time and money elsewhere. If you remember the launch of Crunchyroll manga you will remember they came out swinging with titles like Fairy Tail and Attack on Titan. Viz has all its best-selling Jump manga. But beyond that you need a good base of good series that are not a big marquee titles but are enough of a draw that hopefully people will look into them when they are done with books that drew them in. At least that seems to be standard formula.
It seems that Book Walker has gone done a different path. Instead of having one or two killer series and backing them up with a handful of other series they seem to have gone with a wide breadth of solid mid-tier manga. They have a lot of series with have anime and good reputations but nothing that is guaranteed to sell like Naruto or Sword Art Online. It is not that these titles can’t get that popular it is just that they are much more likely just to do well as opposed to selling like gangbusters. But that also means there are some titles in their lineup that are extremely good but for one reason or another that have been passed over by the transitional physical manga publishers.
One of those series is definitely Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. We wrote about the anime in 2014 but the anime was only part of the story. But now that you can get all of the series in English I felt like it was worth talking about the manga again.
Inari Fushimi is a kindly goof that saves a fox spirit on the way to school one day. As a reward the fox’s master, who is known as Uka-no-Mitama-no-kami, and is the goddess of the local shire, gives her a wish as a reward. When the wish goes awry Inari winds up with some of Uka’s divine powers. This means the life of the girl and the goddess become intertwined. But the powers of a goddess only complicate Inari’s life. Now Inari must not only deal with her awkward nature, an unrequited crush, and neurotic friends but she also has to deal with the supernatural world of spirits, gods, and magic. At the same time Uka’s involvement and friendship with the human world might have unintended ramifications for the world of the divine as well.
We already did a whole post on what is so great about this series so if you want details just read that article instead. But to reiterate our points I will point out this is a wonderful comedic series with a solid narrative through line that makes it more than just gag manga.
Inarai and Uka’s friendship is a mixture of mentor and student while also having a sisterly feel. Inarai starts the series being a bit of a clueless and awkward innocent but as the series goes on she continually grows into someone worthy of the powers she has gained. Uka on the other hand is distinctly more competent but at the same time she is also learning from watching over Inarai as much as Inarai is learning from her. Their bond is the soul of the series. Inarai and her friends and family have great relationship that engender comedy, drama, and romance with ease.
But overall the series is just plain funny and heartwarming. Most of the stories will keep you laughing while at the same time have a good message at the end of the story. There is also some romance in the series but it never overtakes the core humor of the series. It is just a story that makes you feel warm after most arcs with enough comedy so it does not ever feel overly sappy.
The anime ends about half way though the series. It is a good place to end anime since the story was unfinished at the time but if you wanted to see the conclusion of the tale then the manga ends in a very satisfying manner that ties up the lose ends of the series in a way that I think will makes fans of the anime very happy.
Back when we wrote up our review of Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha we mentioned that we really hoped that someone would pick up the manga. It seemed a bit unlikely at the time but we hoped the strength of the series would help it overcome a bit of the unpopular nature of its genre. Now that series has not only been licensed but all ten books are easily purchased online it would be irresponsible to point that out.
If nothing else this is a great format for series that might a bit too risky to license conventionally but have enough of a niche appeal that it is worth trying them out in a slightly cheaper format. I hope series like Inari Konkon Koi Iroha can show that this is the perfect way of realizing that there is method of releasing these titles that might not sell like Fruits Basket but can still find an audience and do well in their own way. If you are interested in trying out Book Walker the first title I would try would be Inari Konkon Koi Iroha.