Publisher: Yen Press
Author/Artist: Salt Seno
Translator: Amanda Haley
Letterer: Abigail Blackman
Rating: T (Teen/13+)
Release Date: 10/27/2020
MSRB: US $15.00/ CAN $19.50
Reviewer’s Note: I received a review copy of Heterogenia Linguistico Vol. 1 from Yen Press in exchange for an honest review of the volume. I was not compensated for my review, nor will I be compensated post-review. All manga reviews are spoiler-free and image-free unless noted in the review. Opinions are my own.
I’ll be honest: this might be backdated to 12/6 -for archival reasons and whatnot- but this is currently being penned on 12/9 from my sick bed. This will be the case for the next four posts until tomorrow, 12/10.
No worries thoughL I’m COVID free! In fact, I’m just a bit laid out from a combination of sinus and asthma issues. I should have predicted this: after all, it’s my first autumn back in the states. Still, four years of no allergies in Japan -a really boon, considering how many people suffer from allergies there- has made me forget that in the states, I’m a sniffling mess.
So, to boost my mood, I’m playing catch-up with four days of manga, starting with Yen Press’ charming Heterogenia Linguistico: An Introduction to Interspecies Linguistics Vol. 1!
Heterogenia Linguistico Vol. 1 follows novice linguist Hakaba on a journey into the Netherworld in place of his injured mentor. Thoguh Hakaba has studied loads of Netherworld races -from far away- this marks his first time getting up close and person with “monsters”. With the aid of his mentor’s half-werewolf child Susuki, Hakaba sets off to live and learn and hopefully, come to understand those who dwell in the Netherworld…even if things get a bit hairy from time to time.
As said above, our story kicks off with Hakaba taking the place of his professor and mentor who…threw his back out whilst getting out of a hot air balloon. Without any hesitation Hakaba sets out for the Netherworld for a year of studying the “monsters” that dwell there. Quickly, he realizes that the “monsters” who dwell in the Netherworld are only monsters in name: in fact, they’re quite “human”, living peaceful lives and even sometimes, courting and coupling with humans, in the case of half-werewolf Susuki.
There’s a lot of heart in Heterogenia Linguistico Vol. 1, as well as a lot of humor. The curious lives of the supernatural beings that make up the world directly mirror human society: the werewolves in the initial chapter show a wide depth of emotions, and even joke with Hakaba multiple times. Additionally, a lot of humor is derived from miscommunication and cultural misunderstandsings: real-life things that we all deal with as we move through the world and learn more about one another.
The series is also quite keen when it comes to race: a lot of Hakaba’s lessons come from breaking down the huge category of “monster” into species and understanding how they perceive one another. For example, the lizardfolk mentioned on the back cover don’t have a racial name for themselves: they’re just “us”. Likewise, the werewolves don’t have a distinct group name: they’re just themselves. It’s a uniquely insightful take on what a group means to the group itself and one that I welcome in a year like 2020.
In many ways, this was a nostalgic read for me: it made me think of all of my foibles while living in Japan. I made a lot of mistakes that Hakaba does: I misunderstood or misspoke or assumed, and in turn, learned and grew and became a better linguistic and Japanese-speaker. I really found myself sympathizing with Hakaba everytime he misstepped, even if I was laughing to myself.
One thing I have to point out is how good the lettering is because y’all: it’s fantastic. Abigail Blackman does a simply fantastic job with the lettering, especially when it comes to the foreign languages of the various Netherworld denizens. Together with Amanda Haley’s super translation, you have an incredibly readable first volume that successfully conveys Hakaba’s difficulties understanding the various languages of the Netherworld without tripping up the reader.
Additionally, the cover and interior give off big Delicious in Dungeon energy, which is another series that involves plunging the depths of a curious place riddled with monstrous beings as well. I found myself happily comparing these two series -both by different authors- a lot during my read, and found that fans of one will most likely like the other as well.
I really can’t express how happy I am to have read Heterogenia Linguistico Vol. 1. It’s a wonderful first volume filled with lots of good comedy, loads of heartful interactions between Hakaba, Susuki and the denizens of the Netherworld, and so much promise for Hakaba’s growth. I can’t wait for the next volume!
TL;DR: Heterogenia Linguistico Vol. 1 is a genuine, heartfelt series about a junior linguist trying to better understand the world around him. The series’ thoughtful look at the word “monster” and how those who are different feels genuine, successfully breaking down what it means to have “humanity” while making you laugh along the way. The jokes are funny and land well, the art is very nice to look at, and the relationship between Hakaba and Susuki is sweet, and honestly, one of the most charming I’ve seen in a while. I can’t recommend this title enough.
Read If You Like…
* Yen Press’ Delicious in Dungeon
* Viz Media’s Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle
* Series about monsters and humans cohabitating
* Stories about (fictional) languages
* Stories about monsters and beasties
Rating: 🟊🟊🟊🟊🟊 / 5 out of 5 stars
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