Shadow Star Vol. 6: What Can I Do For You Now?

By Mohiro Kitoh
224 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

It’s been a while since the last collection of Shadow Star was published in English—almost a year, and it was a year before that we saw the previous volume—and it’s safe to say that any momentum of interest and word-of-mouth may have gotten killed as a result. Now that the series is (hopefully) back on track, what better time to remind people of Mohiro Kitoh’s puzzling and intriguing series?

Shiina didn’t realize how much her life was going to change when she found the strange star-shaped creature in the ocean. Hoshimaru at first seemed like a cute little being that could change shape, but he turned out to be just the gateway to something larger. A great number of the shapeshifting “Shadow Dragons” are active in Japan, each of them mentally bonded to a teenager. While Shiina may be a sweet and innocent kid, some of the others who discovered their own Shadow Dragons aren’t quite so nice. Battle lines are slowly being drawn as the abilities of the Shadow Dragons begin to mature, and there may be very few that Shiina can really trust.

Shadow Star Vol. 6: What Can I Do For You Now? is in many ways a series of bridging stories, as the events of the earlier volumes prepare to give way to a whole new set of conflicts. Letting the reader catch their breath, it lets us learn not only about Shiina and her friend Akira, but about some of the other Shadow Dragon wielders and their own twisted personalities. Kitoh’s able to re-introduce the cast to readers (it’s almost like he knew that the English publishing schedule would hit a delay right here) and at the same time tell nice short little stories involving ghosts, romantic rivalries, and sociopaths. There’s also groundwork laid for what’s to come; characters are aligning themselves with each other, and war is about to break out between the factions of Shadow Dragons. Not everyone may realize it, but the conflict is about to erupt, just waiting for that final spark to ignite everything, and Kitoh does a great job of subtly ramping up the tension levels, chapter-by-chapter.

The visuals of Shadow Star continue to be the element of the book that lets Kitoh’s writing take people off-guard; at a glance, everyone in Shadow Star is just so darn cute. Shiina’s pigtails and perpetually grinning face just exude happiness and trust, and Hoshimaru looks like a big stuffed animal with his starfish shape and his big googly eyes. Shiina’s got a wonderful youthful exuberance about her no matter what she does, from trying to catch a fish, to surfing through the air on Hoshimaru’s back. It’s only when you look a little closer and you see Naozumi’s manipulative, cold interior shining out of his eyes that you begin to realize that not everything is sweet and light in Shadow Star. Those who have read the earlier volumes and know about the violence that ultimately erupts in those chapters will attest to the quiet darkening of the series as it progresses. It’s a subtle but important shift as the characters mature under the influence of the Shadow Dragons, and says a lot about the volumes to come. Last but not least, I really love Kitoh’s inventive designs for the different Shadow Dragons; with each one able to look different, there’s a wide variety of forms we see, from strange sea creatures to broomsticks and all points in-between. It really adds to the alien nature of the Shadow Dragons, while letting Kitoh just have fun coming up with new ideas for shapes for the creatures at the same time.

Shadow Star is easily one of my favorite series; now, with any luck, we’ll be seeing more collected editions before too long. This is one of those books where I think people may have avoided it because of the cute covers; the reality of the book is much more gripping than one might have otherwise suspected.

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