ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Mao,’ Volume 4

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mao Volume 4 - But Why Tho

Continuing the time-hopping supernatural adventures of Nanoka and Dr. Mao, Mao Volume 4 is written and drawn by renowned mangaka Rumiko Takahashi (Inuyasha, Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura), and published in English by Shonen Sunday, an imprint of VIZ Media. English translation is done by Junko Goda while Shaenon Garrity handles the English adaptation. James Gaubatz does touch-up art and lettering, and Yukiko Whitley does the cover and interior design. Mao Volume 4 is edited by Annette Roman. 

 Mao Volume 4 contains ten chapters that continue the story directly from where Mao Volume 3 left off. Nanoka and Mao come face-to-face with Byoki, the cat demon who cursed them. And Byoki isn’t the only face from Mao’s past; shockingly, two of the apprentices from Mao’s time in the Goko clan, Kamon and Hyakka, are still alive centuries after they should’ve died. Their appearance is yet another mystery for Mao and Nanoka to solve. And when monsters threaten Mao’s life, Nanoka has to save him.

Nanoka’s spending more time in the Taisho era than ever, but there are still things keeping her tied to her own time. Mainly the mystery of her grandfather, as well as the research she does with but she still is spending a little time in her own time doing research with Shiraha, a boy who has a crush on her. However, Nanoka isn’t safe from Byoki even in her own time. 

Nanoka in Mao Volume 4 is far different than in earlier volumes; she’s grown a lot. No longer does she need Mao to save her every time; now she can hold her own in fights. While facing a group of water-type Shikigami, Nanoka fights using a weapon Mao made for her to harness her earth-type energy. The way Takahashi develops Nanoka feels very natural. The timeline of the narrative is such that it feels believable that Nanoka’s fighting ability has improved to the level it has. It’s a delight to see Mao assisting Nanoka in fighting as their relationship was previously a bit rocky with Nanoka thinking Mao didn’t care about her.

Mao Volume 4 begins with a chapter that wraps up the cliffhanger from the end of volume 3 and as such, it feels out of place.  While the chapter bridges the gaps between plot points it doesn’t flow well, feeling rather like a jump cut from one to the other at the start of the volume. Including the first chapter at the end of volume 3 would have solved everything and given Mao Volume 4 perfect pacing. 

Takahashi has a distinct art style and it works well for this story. Overall the art of Mao Vol. 4 is fun and distinct. Takahashi excels at creating memorable fight scenes and unique-looking monsters. However, Takahashi’s coloring has some issues. On some pages, the contrast between various elements of the panel such as characters and the background isn’t clear enough and the visuals blur together. 

I flew through Mao Volume 4 and when it was over, all I wanted to do was keep reading. The stellar story more than makes up for minor issues with the art, and Mao Vol. 4 is the best entry of the series thus far.

Mao Volume 4 is available wherever books are sold March 8th, 2022.


Mao Volume 4
4.5

TL;DR

I flew through Mao Volume 4 and when it was over, all I wanted to do was keep reading. The stellar story more than makes up for minor issues with the art, and Mao Vol. 4 is the best entry of the series thus far.