The author, Yellow Tanabe (nice name, eh?) mentions that when she was a child, her and her friends would play a game in which they pretended to create invisible walls. Their declaration was, “I stretched the barrier from here to there!” And if someone walked into the area, they would get the cold shoulder, as if breaking the most important law of life.
From this imaginative game comes the making of Kekkaishi. In the first volume, we learn that in order to make a barrier, called a kekkai (“protective ward”), a Kekkaishi must perform three acts: (1) say the word “Hoi” to designate a target, (2) say “Joso” to position the Kekkai, and (3) call out “Ketsu” to create the barrier. Once that is established, the user has the option to either say “Kai” to let their prey go, or “Metsu” to destroy it.
Since the first volume is so filled with content—more so than most manga—my brief overview only covers a little bit. So just keep this in mind.
Where a Junior and Senior High School stands, there once towered a castle. Buried deep below the school is the spirit of the master of that castle, who was from the Karasumori clan. He possessed a power that to this day attracts nasty beings called ayakashi. If they spend any significant amount of time in the school grounds, they will grow bigger, more powerful, and dangerous.
Two children, who have special Kekkaishi powers passed down from generation to generation, are designated the guardians of the school. Since ayakashi are creatures of the night these guardians must lose out on a lot of sleep. If that wasn’t enough, it just so happens that their families are in a feud over who should be the true successor. This puts both Yoshimori (age 14) and Tokine (age 16) in an awkward position, as they so often end up working together.
When Yoshimori was nine years old, his naivety lead to the scars on Tokine’s arm. To this day he has two major goals: (1) never allow someone to get hurt in front of him again, and (2) make a castle cake big enough to live in. His dream to build the cake is constantly being overcome by his crotchety grandfather, lack of money, and fighting off ayakashi. As is the case when he finds out that one of Tokine’s teachers happens to posse inhuman powers, and the two of them must put a stop to it.
The characters are wonderfully designed, the artwork is top rate, and the story is brilliant. A page turner for sure. This is currently one of my favorite manga series.
Things to consider:
I’d target this for boys at around the age of thirteen. There are a few places with slightly crude humor, and ayakashi are often called demons, but remember that demons to the Japanese are more like monsters to us. There is a lot of action violence too, but it’s done with proper cause.
Opportunities for discussion:
Yoshimori shows us that there are times to give second chances and times not to. We must be discerning of such things ourselves. He also shows us how to put someone else above ourselves. Not without emotional insecurities and flaws, his character is noble and pure underneath it all.