The Shiunji Family Children is a very well-drawn and well-presented manga. The character designs aren’t anything flashy, but everyone is very distinct from one another, with a substantial amount of detail present. The layouts aren’t too cluttered, and the story’s framing is quite powerful. Many scenes don’t rely on dialogue, dividing pages with character profiles and letting certain situations sit for a while. It’s a great way of keeping readers engaged while keeping them engaged and pondering the main character’s motivations. Considering the complicated subject matter on display, that’s a good way of hooking your reader’s curiosity.
This first volume is mostly set up for a longer planned narrative. According to creator Reiji Miyajima, he has an ending that should take about thirteen volumes to realize. While that makes it difficult to judge this volume as a complete piece, I can tell there is a strong deliberateness here. There are a lot of scenes that are foreshadowed or cut off in deliberate ways without feeling cheap or forced. I’m shocked this came from the creator of Rent-A-Girlfriend.
However, the biggest problem with a volume full of set-ups is there’s little to reveal what is being set up. It also risks that the investment isn’t worth the payoff, especially with a sensitive subject like incest. The Shiunji Family Children does the classic anime thing of introducing a bunch of siblings who have some tension between them and then revealing in an almost comedically over-the-top way that none of them are related by blood. Most other anime and manga use this as an excuse to explore potentially taboo territory without crossing any ethical lines in the sand. As if it’s suddenly okay to bang your brother as long you’re not related, right? The Shiunji Family Children engages in that trope to an extent, but it feels much more self-aware than other stories. To its credit, the story does highlight how uncomfortable and shocking such a situation is. I wouldn’t call it super realistic, but a surprising amount of the reactions did seem to stem from the realm of realism.
Even though none of the characters are related by blood, they’ve known each other as siblings for most of their lives, and having this news dumped on them comes with a rough transition period. There are also other things to consider, like who some of their biological parents are, why their father took so long to reveal this to them, and whether or not this changes any significant dynamics between certain siblings. Yes, there is an element of taboo sibling romance to this, but surprisingly, it was handled in a relatively mature way and probably accounted for one of the only real fanservice scenes in the book. There are talks about how romance or admiration can blur and whether a sense of concern if certain feelings for a sibling are a phase or if they should be taken seriously. Everybody else seems concerned with whether or not the life they’ve been living was a lie or whether or not this means that everyone will naturally grow distant from each other without a blood bond.
Our main lead, Arata, seems more concerned with pursuing other girls and being a good big brother than he is with seeing his siblings in any sexual way. The story, however, isn’t consistent with that. On one hand, The Shiunji Family Children is surprisingly thoughtful and well-written with a delicate subject matter. On the other hand, it still leaves room to explore those taboo elements in a more gimmicky and fanservice way. If the story is about the former, we may have a surprisingly unique story on our hands. Still, if it’s the latter, I feel like this is just a false advertisement because I’ve been burned by shows that have done similar things before (looking at you, Oreimo).
Is this a story about siblings realizing there’s more to being a sibling than blood? Is this a story about teens realizing that blood was the only thing holding them back from hooking up? I am not sure, but I guess I have to wait for the next volume to get a clearer picture. If you’re in the mood for a harem story that’s a bit different from the norm, I would say this first volume does enough goodwill to at least inspire a peek. If you get wrapped in the same way I did out of curiosity, we can continue from there. But if you’re cautious about any story that deals with such a subject matter, then maybe it’s better to try something else until we get a full picture.