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Takao Riichi has written two books that have utterly delighted me in the past year. I read the first one sometime last year but never talked about it because I didn't think I could do justice to my love for it. But I just read another book that also made me squee in happiness, and I just need to share.

First, the book I just read. It's called Oni no ou to chigire (illustrated by Ishida Kaname), and it's a fantasy set in a world with oni. Back in Heian times an onmyouji had a child with an oni, and that half-oni kid was able to bond with oni and become their master. His kids inherited his abilities. Fast forward 1000 years or so, and the Yase family still does the same thing. The ability to bond with oni has been diluted over the centuries so not all kids born into the extended family have the ability. The ones that do bond with an oni and do missions assigned to them by the head of the family and his subordinates. The main character, Tokimori, is a timid kid who totally wished he was normal. Ever since he was small he was freaked out by the scary looking oni that were always around him, especially a particularly large oni that basically stalked him. Luckily, when he was five that big oni disappeared and he met the tiny oni that he would bond with, Yato. Because Yato is so small and weak, they get assigned the lamest missions when he turns 15 and begins doing them. This suits Tokimori just fine. He likes not having to kill people or provide people for his oni to eat. Yato, who grows a bit over the years but is still small, only requires a kiss as recompense for doing the missions. Yato is a talkative and adorable little thing who adores Tokimori. All oni have great affection for their masters, but Yato is fiercely attached. So when Yato's true nature is revealed (he's actually a really big, really powerful oni, the one that stalked Tokimori until he figured out how to shrink his size and conceal his power) he is desparate to stay with Tokimori. Tokimori, for his part, is upset at being deceived and is totally scared of big and powerful Yato. They have to work things out between them as well as deal with a threat that shows up later in the book. The details of the supernatural world don't quite make sense, but if you hand-wave such things away the relationship between Tokimori and Yato is worth it all. It's so, so sweet.

The book I read last year is called Ookami no tsumagomi (illustrated by Okigin Jou) and is about werewolves. In this world werewolves live as packs but are more or less integrated within human society. Most werewolves are mixed blood with humans and can't transfom into wolves.They have better senses and wolfy instincts, while pureblooded ones can actually transform. The main character, Ritsu, is not part of a pack. His ancestors had broken away from a pack and lived in hiding. Packs don't hunt down werewolves that leave, but they monitor them. They don't want random werewolves causing problems in human society and exposing their existence to the general public. Ritsu, like all unattached wolves, does not want to be monitored. He lives alone as his parents had died in a car accident. He's being harrassed by a fellow student at his university, who turns out to have werewolf blood and had been lightly monitored. That student leads the head of the local pack, Magami, to find out about Ritsu. Ritsu has a couple of secrets besides being of werewolf descent, and Magami finds out one of them. The way Magami finds out makes Ritsu despise him, but Magami has fallen for Ritsu. He "knew" the moment he met Ritsu that Ritsu should be his mate and sets out to woo Ritsu. Ritsu does not want to be with anyone, let alone the head of a pack. He also has another secret he's trying to keep...

This book has two elements that usually are big turn-offs for me. Both would be spoilers so I won't mention what they are, but the characters and the story really overcame those turn-offs. Magami is adorable as he courts Ritsu, and Ritsu's slow acceptance of Magami is sweet. It doesn't help that it's considered good manners to have wolf ears and tail out when in the company of other werewolves, so big bad pack leader has adorable ears and tail out when he comes visiting Ritsu. He wags! His ears perk up when happy! They flatten when he's not! Another hilarious bit is that he gets Ritsu to let him in by howling in wolf form outside on Ritu's balcony. He's pushy, but he takes care not to push Ritsu too far after the first encounter. The climax of the courtship is a really great moment. XD;

I’ve read and posted about other books by this author (about wolf gods, tengu, and their brides!), but these two books are nearly perfect to me. ♥♥

I’m disappointed that the oni book will probably never get a sequel and the werewolf book had a spin-off instead of a true sequel. I haven’t had the heart to buy the spin-off, even though I know the main characters from this book appear in it. I am happy that this author seems to get paired with very good artists. Nothing is worse than a decent story hobbled by crappy art.
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December 2015

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