published by Viz; $9.99 US
Rasetsu Book 9
by Chika Shiomi
This volume, the final one, wraps up that storyline, but the way it’s done will only be of interest to those who’ve been following the whole series. There are a lot of statements intended to be meaningful about finding your inner strength and people gesturing at each other to symbolize the battle with the demon — rather generic, I thought, as well as predictable. (Did anyone think that the girl would be turned over to evil without her friends assembling their powers to help save her?)
“Don’t allow darkness to overcome you” is the message, but it will have little resonance for young readers, since the messages of loving friendship and belief in yourself are typical of most shojo. The art is muddled and sometimes confusing to read, with many panels of figures standing alone in the dark. The symbolism of courage and love bringing light is simplistic.
A one-page bonus features the author talking about how she had originally plotted the series differently before her editor guided her. I’d have liked to know more about that.
Library Wars: Love & War Book 5
by Kiiro Yumi
Continuing from Book 4, Iku is trying to cope with her parents visiting her, since they don’t know the true scope (and danger) of her job. Mom wants her to leave, but Dad is convinced after a conversation with her boss. That’s an implication that’s a bit unpleasant, with overtones of the men making decisions for her because she’s too immature to be sure of her choices.
I originally found Iku charming in her puppyish devotion to do a good job, but her childishness has become grating. I find myself asking why anyone puts up with her, let alone keeping her around. Maybe that’s why most of the book focuses on a story of one of the other team members and the hearing impaired girl, a childhood friend, who has a crush on him. It’s twisted politically to try and get the Library Forces in trouble, leading to scenes of Iku yelling at her bosses, disobeying orders, and running off to cry.
I’m having a hard time recognizing what I ever saw in this series. I think I wanted it to be science fiction, doing more with the censorship premise, while the manga is firmly shojo, concentrating only on visual, emotional reactions and who’s secretly in love with whom. It’s too silly for me to want to keep up with, but it’s probably imagination-spurring for the younger teen reader.
Butterflies, Flowers Book 7
by Yuki Yoshihara
I do wish Viz would quit labeling this as “shojo”, even though it ships shrink-wrapped and has a Mature reader rating, because I hate to think of teen girls reading the rape plotlines.
In this volume, secretary Choko wallows in misery; she’s jealous of her boyfriend Masayuki’s ex-girlfriend Kaori, and she’s insecure about why anyone would want her. That’s why she’s so stupid as to go to a hotel room alone with her boss Otaki, who won’t listen to her rejection of her. He drugs her, strips her, and tells her they’ve had sex.
The worst part of the book is that she is blamed for all this. Obviously, goes the broken logic, if she’d been firmer with this criminal, he wouldn’t have thought there was still an opening, and she wouldn’t have been raped. After this horrendous event — played for laughs — she feels horrible, not because she’s dealing with the trauma, but because she’s no longer good enough for her boyfriend. She’s completely internalized the “You Touched My Stuff” plot device of objectification, of harm to girlfriend as a motivation for male action.
The idea of love shown here is being willing to beat someone else up for your loved one. That’s the only part of this book that isn’t adult; instead, it’s an immature idea of love as possessiveness. I know some people dream of that, but it’s creepy to read in all these variations. Especially combined with the frequent portrayal of people who are unwilling to take “No” for an answer when it comes to romance.
Eh, next book is the last, after which the series will become quickly forgotten, I suspect. I should have stopped reading several volumes ago. It just doesn’t match my sense of humor.
The Story of Saiunkoku Book 3
art by Kairi Yura, story by Sai Yukino
After completing her goal in the earlier books, Shurei has returned home, but the emperor Ryuki continues to pursue her, long distance, with letters and gifts.
Shurei amuses me with her determination (shading into pig-headedness), even though at times I want to tell her she doesn’t realize how good she has it. A best friend, Seiran, who’s gorgeous, strong, and brave. Two other handsome court officials who come for dinner (and bring the meal fixings). Not to mention the devoted emperor, who’s not as innocent as others think.
In the summer heat, Shurei finds herself going back to the palace. There’s a shortage of capable workers, due to weather-induced fatigue, so her skills will be valued — although she has to dress as a male page. She’s assisting the Minister of the Treasury, a strange masked figure. The job makes her dream, to become a civil servant, more possible, yet she is depressed by the reminder that a female can never be permitted to achieve it. It’s an interim moment of conflict that provides some spice to the otherwise normal daily events.
Much of this volume is quite talky, as one character tells another something that’s happening, but I still found it interesting to read. Like Shurei, I care about what happens to this kingdom and how to best defeat the risks that threaten it. In being so wildly removed from anything I know, it’s wonderful escapism, especially as the characters get remixed with the introduction of a shaggy, mysterious old friend who rapidly winds up staying with Shurei. The characters are gorgeously drawn, with elegant gowns and hair (including the males).
All books were provided by the publisher as review copies and are priced at $9.99 US.