Eniale & Dewiela: Shirahama Kamome

You may have heard that Shirahama Kamome was going to be a featured guest for TCAF this year. She even drew a poster for us! And then the world exploded, TCAF was cancelled, and the many hours and emails and meetings that went into making her visit happen were all for nought. (Well, we did get that cool poster. And I got to hang out with her on the train home after one meeting, which was great. She showed me pictures of her dog.) So I didn’t have to do the usual frenzy of preparations, which left me feeling oddly adrift in March and April, like there was something very important that I was forgetting about. It seems that after all these years, TCAF has turned into a body memory for me, and when there is no surge of stress in the spring that peaks in May and then drops off a cliff the day after TCAF when I fall into bed and sleep for twelve hours, I don’t know what to do with myself. 

Part of working with an artist for me is reading every single thing they’ve ever written. Which in Shirahama’s case means the eternally delightful Witch Hat Atelier and her debut series Eniale & Dewiela. I’ve been shouting about Witch Hat from the rafters for years now and I was so, so happy when it was finally released in English because it is far too pure and good to be contained by one language. But I’d never gotten around EniDewi for some reason, even though my usual habit when I find an artist I love is to go and read everything else they’ve ever written. So when TCAF was still on, I put the series in my online shop basket so I could get myself up to speed. And then, of course, the world exploded, as mentioned above, and I never got around to actually buying the books.

But with or without TCAF, I do love Shirahama’s work and I did want to read this initial series from her, so I finally checked out with that basket and the three volumes arrived in the last box of books I got from across the ocean. And I will warn you here: if you’re looking for more Witch Hat, you will not find it in this decidedly more adult-oriented work. The art is filled with the same obscenely brilliant linework and incredible movement, plus perfect panel pacing and amazing two-page spreads you could drown in. But the obi of the first volume perhaps sums up the difference in the story best: “Angel and demon cat fight!!” There’s a lot of boob shots in this one, hot women being hot as hell. I’m certainly not opposed to hot women being hot as hell, and Shirahama captures the curves of the titular Eniale and Dewiela very nicely. But it’s no pure land of magic in which innocent children offer dragons beds made of clouds.

Although there is an overarching storyline that starts in the first chapter and wraps up in the last, this series is more mishap-of-the-week style. At the start of the series, angel Eniale and demon Dewiela are in the middle of an epic showdown–because Dewi borrowed Eni’s eyeliner–when they come across a baby on a bench and decide that the only proper thing to do is to find the baby’s mother. But they are a little out of touch with things like reality, so they steal a herald’s trumpet and broadcast the desire for the love of a mother through every speaker in the world before summoning a giant poodle. Yes, it’s silly. In another episode, they fight over the immortal soul of a little girl who wants her mother to get better from her fatal illness. Another time, Dewi summons the demon Crocell to build the perfect onsen for Eni. Then there’s the time Eni ends up a zombie due to unforeseen circumstances and certainly no fault of her own. Naturally, there’s a romp on the beach, a shopping trip to Paris, and an incompetent newbie who ends up learning a valuable lesson from her screw-up partner. It’s like a buddy comedy where both buddies have devastating magical powers and no real forethought or any sense of actual responsibility. And no buddy comedy would be complete without a nemesis.

This is the thin thread that connects all these episodes of soul stealing and closet swapping. From the moment the giant poodle appears, Interpol officer and exorcist Donovan is on the case. He knows this is the work of demons. He just has to figure out who and take them out. Fortunately for Dewi, he is not good at either of his jobs, so there are some hilarious mishaps and near misses. But this plot only shows up every two or three chapters and never really seems more than a side bit until the last chapters when Donovan takes on a bigger role to bring the story to a conclusion.

It’s fun and cute and well executed, but the book lacks whatever bit of magic that Witch Hat possesses. Some chapters touch on that magic, like when Dewi goes to collect on a contract for the soul of an old woman who’s about to die and ends up hanging out and cooking with her. It’s still fun and silly, but there’s a depth to it that’s unexpectedly moving in a series about a cat fight between heaven and hell. I feel like art-wise, Shirahama was already at the top of her game here, but story-wise, she was still working out a few bugs. As I was reading, I wondered why this hasn’t been licensed in English yet since Witch Hat is such a huge deal. So I looked it up and discovered that Yen Press did indeed license it and I just missed the announcement. So monolingual readers, you can look forward to checking this one out yourselves very soon!

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