Review: That Wolf-boy is mine!

After some traumatic experiences, Komugi Kusunoki transferred from the city to start a new life in rural Hokkaido. But on her first day of school, the school heartthrob Yū Ōgami blurts out, “You smell good!” Despite the hijinks, Komugi tries to adjust to her new school, but it’s not long before she stumbles across Yū dozing off under a tree. When she attempts to wake him up, he transformed…into a wolf?! It turns out that Yū is one of many other eccentric boys in her class year–and she’s the only one who knows their secret…!

Shojo protagonists who are aware that they are in a shojo manga are some of my favorite. Komugi happens to be at least a little aware, and that alone makes her an interesting lead. She’s a grounded, kind girl, with understandable insecurities and the courage to voice her thoughts in spite of them.

Like Komugi herself says, love interest Ōgami is pretty much like a dog: smells you when he meets you, craves your attention once he’s attached (which happens pretty quickly) and it’s a good boy.  While this might seem like a werewolves manga at first, other main characters and “school idols” are what I, for convenience, will refer to as fox boy, tanuki boy, and cat boy. The first volume doesn’t really show much of tanuki and cat boys though, besides implying that they have all the chill the protective, bad-tempered fox boy lacks.

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That Wolf-boy is mine! approaches its premise with humor, self-awareness and just enough thoughtfulness. You can tell that by how mangaka Yoko Nogiri pokes fun at some tropes and character archetypes, or how she subtly calls out the “he’s hot so it’s alright” mentality, commonly seen in romances. She also loves her dreamy shojo clichés; That Wolf-boy doesn’t miss a chance to have our love interest stand up for or (unnecessarily) carry our girl in his arms in glowy, almost full-page panels.

So far, the female characters besides Komugi are her mother and her two new school friends. Although they don’t appear much yet, they show a lot of promise, and their existence alone is already reassuring. Without them, That Wolf-boy could have easily fallen into a very questionable “all girls are jealous bullies” path. Instead, their friendliness helps Komugi feel more comfortable, and their presence in her life means that she isn’t isolated with the pretty boys in her new town. With them, the manga thankfully takes a moment to show that, unlike the girls Komugi fears, others can have different interests too, like their club activities or games.

Yoko Nogiri’s art style is one of the manga’s highlights. She draws slender, delicate boys and likes giving cat eyes and messy, fluffy bangs to her characters. But what really stands out are the variety in her paneling, the animals, and when they happen to be surrounded by threes, the almost cinematic backgrounds.

So far, That Wolf-boy is mine! is an interesting execution of a typical fantasy romance. It’s funny, it has a likable lead and the boys seem entertaining and nice enough. While I have my concerns about fox boy in particular, so far he does seem like an understandable person, and hasn’t crossed any line yet. With Komugi’s anxiety, some of the boy’s bad experiences and the narrative’s hopeful tone, it has the potential to meaningfully explore healing, getting out of your comfort zone and learning to trust others. If it doesn’t… well, it was still a nice read.

This title is licensed by Kodansha, with 4 volumes available. You can find it on its website or on Amazon (affiliate link) and Comixology.

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