Manga Monday: Hybrid Child

Hybrid Child CoverHybrid Child is a one-shot shōnen-ai manga title by Shungiku Nakamura.  It was originally published in Japan in 2005 and released in North America by Digital Manga Publishing in 2006.  Rather than a single story, it is actually a collection of three shorts that center on the titular creations:  essentially androids that are not quite human and not quite machine.  The Hybrid Child creation is the work of a man named Kuroda who designed them to develop strong emotional bonds with their owners and grow based on the love and attention that said owner lavishes on them.

And the first chapter the young and somewhat spoiled head of the Izumi household, Kotaro, who owns a Hybrid Child named Hazuki.  When they were children, Kotaro found Hazuki discarded in a garbage dump, so he took him home and has kept him with him since, though he doesn’t always treat Hazuki well.  Now adults, Kotaro is forced to deal with the unwelcome news that Hazuki is nearing the end of his life span, a revelation that makes him come to terms with his feelings for his long-time companion.

In the second story, a younger Hybrid Child named Yuzu watches over his master, the kindly Seya. Because he has yet to grow from a child, Yuzu thinks Seya doesn’t really love him and instead is just pitying him.  Even more than Seya’s love, though, Yuzu desperately wishes he could erase the deep emotional pain his master carries inside. 

The final story is spans two chapters, and finally takes us back to creator Kuroda’s past, detailing both how he became friends with Seya, and more importantly the love he lost to tragic circumstances that drove him to make the Hybrid Child series. There is also a short bonus chapter with a more humorous take that goes a bit further into Kuroda’s past while ending the book on a lighter note.

Hybrid Child is an odd blend of historical romance and futuristic sci-fi story.  Though it is set in the mid-1800s during the time of the Boshin war, the android-like creations are clearly something requiring advanced science and technology that did not exist at that time.  Readers might even be confused initially, as Nakamura doesn’t really play on the historical setting or truly reveal it until the third story.  The first time I read it, I know I thought it was in a modern time, then started to wonder just how long Kuroda had lived while reading the second chapter before finally realizing the whole thing was that in the past in the third chapter.

Beyond that flaw, this isn’t a bad story at all.  In the relatively short space this format allows for, Nakamura manages to develop compelling characters and stories that are able to pull you in and evoke an emotional reaction.  While I enjoyed all three, Kuroda’s bittersweet story stood out the most for me.  I wish there had been more space to fully play out the events, and I could have easily seen it taking up the volume all by itself.

There’s no sex, explicit or otherwise, in any of the stories, though one could argue it is implied in a single one scene.  Though I personally prefer sex in my romantic stories, I was fine with it not being in this one though it does certainly put it purely in the shonen-ai category, despite Amazon’s labeling it as yaoi.  The overall artwork is nice, with well drawn characters and nicely detailed backgrounds.  I found it easy to distinguish between the different characters in each chapter, though admittedly all three chapters have relatively small casts which helps.

All in all I’d recommend giving it a shot.  Being a single volume is not a heavy investment, and is worth the price for Kuroda’s story alone.

Hybrid Child is readily available in paperback format.