Recently, I’ve been on the vtuber train and saw the release of a new Hololive vtuber named Pavolia Reine. Something in her 2D anime-inspired design was exceedingly familiar but I didn’t quite remember until she revealed the artist who made her look was IIDA Pochi. This particular mangaka has a specific style that I knew well from her manga series Ara Naru Mono or The Demon Who Became My Sister, and it reminded me that I hadn’t talked about this series before on here. So why not now?
While Ara Naru Mono is a slice of life, it definitely has an undercurrent that makes it feel much darker. The series follows Yuu, a 14-year-old boy who grows up orphaned from his parents who passed away while he was young, and being constantly tossed from one relative to the next, as his family despises him as an outsider. Yuu finally finds himself being taken care of by his unsociable but generally amiable uncle before said uncle mysteriously falls into a coma and is hospitalized. Upon checking his uncle’s things, Yuu finds a summoning circle and accidentally releases an eldritch demon who grants him a wish in return. Never knowing a loving family, Yuu wishes for the demon to be his older sister and thus begins their life together.
While the setup is fantastic for slice of life shenanigans with an all-powerful demon, and the series definitely does enjoy those, Ara Naru Mono never really seems to forget its setup and where its characters come from. Yuu is a boy who’s lived his life filled with a sense of fatalism. He never expected nor thought he would ever have a chance to understand the love and support of a caring family, and so is always surprised by the emotional warmth he’s getting, though it may be from a demon in a contract with him. For Chiyo’s side, she seems to just be very bored and believes the whole thing to be a bit of brevity in her otherwise eternally slumber-filled existence. Because of this set up, while many moments have a happy note to them, there is always an emotional weight behind them. The moments they spend together are very much a series of firsts for these two, but they also both acknowledge with somber happiness how fleeting these moments are. Both Yuu and the demon Chiyo, while having lived extremely different lives, both come together to delicately hold what time they have together as long as they can.
IIDA Pochi’s writing always seems to dip between this balance of slice of life and darker themes of abandonment, loss, and grief, particularly as the series goes on and introduces newer characters. It’s oddly not as melancholy as it may initially seem, but Pochi never shies away from confronting darker moments even amongst the happier days the characters spend together. This balancing act was what initially drew me to this series, as I enjoyed the darker undercurrent that let the happier moments feel more impactful. That said, the chapter to chapter telling of the series comes off much more slice of life than when taking the series as a whole. Most chapters deal with Yuu and Chiyo defining their relationship with stereotypical things a family would do together as neither of them really understand the full concept. Particularly the first few chapters deal with making a meal together, laundry, bug hunting, or getting Chiyo accustomed to human life, all with a bit of demonic flair. However, as the series continues on, more themes and ideas are introduced.
Ara Naru Mono also has a, shall we say, consistently thirsty side to it. Both Yuu and Chiyo as characters are constantly shown to be into each other more than just on a familial level. While Yuu, particularly with his lack of familial care and positive treatment, might go through some hormonal issues as a growing boy, the camera is not entirely one-sided, with Chiyo fondling and coming onto Yuu on numerous occasions. This is the unfortunate yikes part of the series. It makes sense to some extent after I recently learned the mangaka originally made the series as an adult doujin that fit her specific preferences before then making this version. While I can’t speak for that, I will say the series gladly never goes too far with this, up to my reading so far, but I’m honestly not happy with how predatory Chiyo is in her teasing and the power difference in their relationship as Yuu relies on her. That said, the story never strays more than barely into nope waters before turning back.
The series is an interesting mix of melancholy and humor, and while there are definitely darker things at play in the overall story, IIDA Pochi balances this with the happier moments to create a sort of delicate, fleeting happiness. Even if there’s no guarantee it’ll come again, that happiness is still something that can be enjoyed in the now.