Arisa Volume 2
Compared to the previous volume from Del Rey, the design of this book is remarkably similar. Same types of translation notes, same layout and cover look, exact same honorific page, even the same translator. When set next to each other, only the logo at the bottom of the spine differs. That’s a bonus for those of us who are a bit obsessive about that kind of thing.
New to this volume and very helpful is a comprehensive “story so far” page, with character names, relationships, and plot summary. That will remind readers who tried book one last year of the cliffhanger upon which it ended. Tsubasa is determined to find out the identity of the wish-granting King after he threatened her twin sister. She thinks she’s figured it out, but the savvy reader will suspect quickly that the discovery is a little too pat. Soon enough, there’s a reversal, providing new ground for shocking plot twists.
There’s a charming short flashback to the twins as kids that sums up their perspectives. Tsubasa’s determined, competitive, and willing to get sweaty and dirty. Arisa’s more concerned with feelings, wanting to talk it out to avoid people being mean to each other. But both are seen as strong, in their different ways. That one page, of how they took care of each other, was my favorite in the volume.
I had the season finale of Gossip Girl on while reading this, and the appeal was similar — young people wallowing in extreme emotions, schemes that seem life and death, ridiculous revelations and doublecrosses and characters running off to punctuate the drama.
Ultimately, this volume wasn’t as satisfying as the first, because we no longer need the introductions, and while there are secrets revealed, we don’t actually make any significant strides forward. A couple of the characters from book one are barely present, and another has become more two-dimensional in motivation … at least, based on what we’re shown. I don’t think Natsumi Ando’s very strong at mysteries, and I’d rather see her put less emphasis on the artificial suspense they create and more on the relationships among the characters, an area she handles better. The small moments of characterization here, as when the students take care of each other in minor ways, are the best parts. I’m hoping volume 3, scheduled for July, plays more to those strengths.