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Iono the Fanatics, along with Strawberry Shake, is in my not so humble opinion the best manga I have read from the sadly not so popular genre of yuri comedy (not including some rather fun oneshots). It’s so hilarious that I suspect it even might just appeal to the poor souls who dislike yuri. And unlike the Strawberry Panic manga, so far it has not taken a nose dive in quality, nor does it have annoyingly childish characters. In fact, the only kid character is probably more mature than most of the SP characters…not that this is that big of an achievement.

The plot revolves about Iono, who is the young queen of some country whose location is not too clear. Her obsession is acquiring sobame. For those of you who are not masters of Japanese or have read the manga – sobame can be translated as lady in waiting but also as a concubine. This ambiguity is crucial so the translator has left it as “sobame”. Anyway, back to the adorable Iono. When I said obsession, I really meant it. In just a year she has apparently added more than a thousand sobame to her harem…I mean court.

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Nevertheless, the queen wants more to the despair of her financial advisor. They strike a deal to go to Japan in search of “black haired cuties”, if I am to quote Iono. But the queen can only add five girls to her humongous court. Poor Iono…A myriad of funny situations ensue, including sobame audition, fits of jealousy from some of the sobame escorting the queen and so on. Iono even has the audacity to publicly announce her sobame recruiting audition. I can just picture the outrage if some sheikh in the real world decided to buy some ads in a major Western newspaper, asking for girls willing to enroll in his harem… 🙂

Not surprisingly, the driving force of the manga is Iono. You know those archetypical rich bitches that seem to be angry with the whole world and yell at everyone? Well, she is nothing like them. She can and does behave like a spoiled child from time to time but she can also be very smart when it comes to handling the various issues arising between her retainers. She also has the rather disturbing tendency of not accepting negative answers when it comes to convincing some beauty to join her harem but rest assured, this is not an S&M manga and Iono does not try to rape anyone. Just some good old-fashioned glomping. In short, Iono is like a force of nature and is one of the most easy-going and fun characters ever. She speaks in a rather odd way, with many exclamations, mostly “Why!” and it seems to me that if she existed in reality she would be able to convince many democracies to revert to monarchy just to have her as a ruler. 🙂

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Now, I shall describe her retinue. Let’s start with Aida – she is the royal beautician. Not surprisingly she is very busy – the Queen has to look pretty and Aida is more than willing to do that. She loves her job because it gives her excuse to stay around her beloved Queen all day. Aida’s relaxed and calm approach to everything often stops the quarrels among the sobame. To balance things, there is Kass. She always worries about something and Iono’s antics drive her crazy very often. But of course like everyone else she is too smitten with the Queen to quite her job. The arguments between Kass and Aida are often highly amusing, the latter can really teas the former even better than Iono. The biggest worry for Kass is the fact that the Queen loves to shirk from her duties and go in search for new sobame. And much of her frustration comes from the fact that the Queen has been ignoring her romantically despite her hard work. Thankfully this is resolved without unnecessary amount of angst.

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The first new sobame is introduced in the first chapter (although there is a bonus chapter which is chronologically before this one), so writing about her is not exactly a spoiler. Her name is Hachibe Eto, also known as Careless Eto or Careless Hachibe. She tends to act impulsively and also tends to forget thing like keys or to check whether the gas in her home is turned off. Of course, that only serves to attract Iono to her even more. Her first duty as a royal attendant is to hold Queen’s head in her lap while Iono takes a nap. Who says there are no romantic types these days? Eto is also quite beautiful, especially if you happen to like girls with glasses. A lot of the funny situations in the manga revolve around Iono trying to finally have sex with Eto but something always getting in her way, literally or not. Talking of sex, there is nothing explicit, even the kisses aren’t as much shown as implied (you see the characters faces getting near, ready to kiss and then in the next panels it shows something different) which is a bit annoying. Therefore it’s remotely possible for some yuri haters to enjoy this. Saying that, I am not sure I would read yaoi manga even if everyone assured me it was really hilarious, but I had to mention it.

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Arge is the Queen’s bodyguard. She is just a kid but following the manga cliches in a rather twisted way, she can beat up grown men with ease. Arge knows the Queen pretty well – when she “innocently” offers Eto the task of reading her fairy tales at night, the girl remarks “Horny Queen”. Her Mother, Freshe is also in charge of security and Iono’s driver. Unfortunately so far she has not been in the spotlight too often which is too bad because she seems to be a rather interesting lady.

The art, while not spectacular in any way is nice – the characters are pretty and easy to distinguish and the expressions on their faces in a lot of situations are simply priceless. To make things funnier, often the characters are shown as chibies and Iono with a huge head, weird expression and a very small body is absolutely hilarious, at least for me. The only problem is that there are some action scenes (apparently the Queen has a lot of enemies) in which it’s very difficult to keep track of what’s going on. It must be noted that I often have this problem with action scenes in various mangas, so maybe the problem lies with me, not the manga.

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The great thing about “Iono the Fanatics” is that it not only makes me laugh but it’s generally very much a feel good type of manga that I love to read after I have had a bad day or just finished some annoying task. There is jealousy among the characters but no stupid angst, no annoying characters, no dumb plotlines, not much stupid fanservice. It’s simply a must if you are into yuri or just comedy but you can tolerate some yuri.

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