Zodiac P.I. is a series that I have a huge soft spot for, as it’s one of the earliest manga series that I ever read and, if memory serves, the second one that I ever bought! Written and illustrated by Natsumi Ando (who is perhaps better known for her other shojo works such as Kitchen Princess and Arisa), Zodiac P.I. combines two things that I was enamored with as a young teen: Astrology and Mysteries. It’s always interesting to revisit media that I loved when I was a child or teenager and see how well, if at all, it holds up now that I’m an adult. So let’s dive into Zodiac P.I. and see what I think of this old favourite now that I’m older and, hopefully, wiser.
Lili Hoshizawa is a junior high student with a gift for astrology who works part-time telling peoples’ horoscopes as Mademoiselle Lili, but she actually has a huge secret. She’s also Spica, a private investigator who cracks criminal cases with the help of the Star Ring, a magical item left to her by her mother. When she calls upon the power of the Star Ring, Lili can summon the astral spirits of the western zodiac constellations and use their insights to gain clues to help her solve mysteries that even stump the police. Despite this, she still hasn’t been able to discover what happened to her mother, who was the original Spica before she disappeared and Lili took over the role. As Lili works hard to fill her mother’s shoes as Spica, she is aided in her detective work by the genius Hiromi Oikawa, her childhood friend who recently moved back to town and has mysteriously developed an allergy to girls in the time he’s been away. With Hiromi’s smarts and Lili’s mystical powers, the pair make an unbeatable team who can solve any mystery and bring any criminal to justice!
As I mentioned earlier, one of the major things that drew me to this manga initially was that it involved two things that I was very interested in at the time: astrology and mystery stories. In my opinion, Zodiac P.I. incorporates one of these elements very well, but not so much the other.
Having each of the zodiac constellations represented by a spirit that Lili can summon for help is a fun idea and I think it works well in the story. The spirits show up as tiny, chibi-style sprites and each has a unique design and personality that’s based off of the traits associated with their zodiac sign. I found myself getting excited whenever a new spirit was about to be summoned, wondering which one would show up this time and what they’d be like. The manga also included little information blurbs for each sign that explained the original Greek myths behind the constellations and provided some basic horoscopes, which I remember finding really interesting when I was a teen.
Unfortunately, the mystery component of the series doesn’t work nearly as well. The biggest problem with the mystery stories presented in this manga is that they don’t function as “True Mysteries” because the reader isn’t ever given enough information to be able to work out the solutions on their own. The hints Lili receives from the zodiac spirits are always too vague to be of any real help and huge leaps of logic are often required to reach the solutions based on what facts have been presented. Also, half the time Lili or Hiromi will bring up clues during their expository speeches on how they deduced the guilty party that were never actually shown to the reader prior to that moment. This makes the reveals rather unsatisfying. To the manga’s credit, it presented some imaginative ideas when it came to the crimes themselves, but a lot of the tricks used by the culprits are overly complicated and, in trying to be clever, the stories wound up just being unbelievable.
While Zodiac P.I. can’t claim well-crafted mysteries as one of its strengths, it does have its charms. Lili is a fun heroine who has seemingly super-human athletic abilities in addition to mystic powers. She’s peppy and brave, never hesitating to run to someone’s aid or risk her own safety if it means bringing a criminal to justice. I still like her quite a lot all these years later. The romantic sub-plot between her and Hiromi is sweet, even if the manga employs a number of goofy gimmicks with Hiromi’s character. I feel like the idea of a character having a psycho-somatic response that causes them to break out in hives whenever they come in contact with the opposite sex was a common manga trope for a while in the 90’s and I’m glad that it seems to have gone away in recent years. I remember thinking it was stupid at the time and I still feel that way now. Hiromi is also supposed to be such a genius that he already has a University degree in Criminal Psychology. So why is he attending an ordinary Junior High School, you ask? Who knows, no explanation for that is ever given.
In the end, I enjoyed revisiting Zodiac P.I., but it’s a series that I feel is best suited to tweens and younger teens. Younger readers will likely be drawn to the attractive art and be entertained by the light-hearted plot with it’s elements of fantasy, action, mystery and romance. However, I think anyone older then 15 or so might find this manga to be silly and the writing too juvenile to be appealing.
Final Score: 6 out of 10
What did you think of this manga? What’s your zodiac sign (I’m a Libra)? Let me know in the comments!