Archive for the ‘ Light Novels ’ Category

朧月夜 // “Oborodzukiyo” – ヒカルが地球にいたころ…… “Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro” [4]

I know I need to get back to translating, but I just had a 15 hour day at work, so ^^;

朧月夜 – ヒカルが地球にいたころ……④
 ”Oborodzukiyo” Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro…… (4)
 ”Oborodukiyo” When Hikaru was on the Earth…… (Official-Off-Cover-Translation)
著:野村美月 (Author: Nomura Mizuki)
画:竹岡美穂 (Illustrator: Takeoka Miho)
ファミ通文庫 (Famitsu Bunko)
ISBN-13: 978-4047279889
発売日:2012/05/10

Introduction:

I dove into this volume for two reasons, one because I was a little disappointed with Wakamurasaki, and wanted to give the series an immediate chance to “redeem” itself in a way. The second reason was that I was really behind on my yearly reading goal already, and figured I might as well keep rolling.

Well, I’m glad I did. So far this is the highest point in the series, for a variety of reasons. It had a strong pace, plenty of hooks, mystery, and to top it all off, it overturned several stereotypes. This time it wasn’t just a simple aversion to being an idol like in Wakamurasaki, but a scorn for the worship of purity embedded right into the plot.

It is the “impure” girl who is lauded as the “most beautiful” and “the one I am most proud of”.

Characters:

赤城是光  Akagi Koremitsu [Protagonist / Living]

帝門ヒカル Mikado Hikaru “Hikaru no Kimi” [Protagonist-II / Deceased]

右楯月夜子 Udate Tsuyako “Tsuki no Miya” ["Heroine"]

左乙女葵  Saotome Aoi “Aoi no Ue”

式部帆夏  Shikibu Honoka “Nioi-Murasaki/Purple-Hime”

齋賀朝衣  Saiga Asai “Asa no Miya”

帝門一朱  Mikado Kazuaki

近江ひいな Oumi Hiina

若木紫織子 Wakagi Shioriko “Shi-ko”

Plot Snippet:

Did Aoi just confess to Koremitsu…? Not exactly – Koremitsu is faced with “playing the part of Aoi’s boyfriend” in order to delay all of the high status families from selecting another fiance for her. However, it’s clear that it’s a bit more complicated than that, and Honoka is having none of it, pelting Koremitsu with a barrage of questioning texts, and even resorting to half-stalking him.

In the middle of all of this a mysterious but beautiful upperclassman with long red hair approaches Koremitsu. She carries out the exact same conversation that Koremitsu had with Hikaru when they first met, in the exact same place.

“I have something to ask you…”

“So what is it that you wanted?”

“I want you to be my boyfriend.”
“I want you to pretend to be my boyfriend.”

-

“Hikaru? Yes, I was one of his flowers, but rather than boyfriend and girlfriend… we were more partners in crime; we were lovers.”

“But really, I need your help. I can’t sleep at night.”

“Is this another joke?”

“If I stay like this, I’ll ruin all of Hikaru’s precious flowers… Watch me, watch me so I don’t!”

-

“That wasn’t your first kiss, was it?”

-

“You’ve forgotten that I’ve confessed to you, haven’t you!!!”

-

“No… If the spiders come to cloud the moon… That woman will appear again…”

-

“The name of the woman who ate her husband and his lover alive… Rokujou…”

-

“No matter what I do, all will be forgiven – That’s the kind of person I am.”

Evaluation/Rating:

In a way this volume deals with the side-characters of the original Genji Monogatari it is the first volume to not use a chapter title as its name, and the main heroine is only briefly mentioned (Rokujou isn’t even really given a backstory either), without even making an appearance. Though still heavily Genji-plot based (from what I gather), this is where Nomura Mizuki really shines, when she can use a story as a leaping board for her imagination, not just writing an adapatation, but imagining beyond that.

Honoka is given life again as a character. She is less cookie-cutter, more desperate, and more individualistic.

We find out that Tsuyako only became the beauty she is when she learned to believe in herself, be proud of herself, stand on her own two feet, and then step forward.

First we’re led to believe that the plot is driven by just another bi-polar character that does bi-polar things, and we are wrong. Nomura Mizuki takes a common plot driving structure near the end, and turns it inside out.

Without spoiling anything too much, let me go on an important tangent:

I hate “Hurry up! Hurry up! If you don’t, this pure-pure girl is going to be raped!” sequences. Most of the time they make me livid. Though perhaps not quite as bad as “women in refrigerators” (Google it), I always get the feeling they perpetuate a jealous ownership. Many times, the emotions and driving factors floating around are not that “this girl is about to possibly go through severe mental and physical trauma and have her world turned upside down”, it’s that “she’ll no longer be pure, she’ll no longer be innocent -for me-”. It’s the whole NTR thing, and while I don’t really have much of a problem with NTR for NTR’s sake, it’s just so goddamned common, everywhere, in inapproprate places. Always the pure-pure girl – why not weep for the prostitute who is raped and murdered? It’s just a trend I see and have no psychology degree to go too indepth with. If you’re going to have a hero that you know some people are identifying with, have him care about – just something different. Bakemonogatari even does an excellent job with the “nothing happened, but it’s still even then incredibly traumatic.”

Back to the story and you guessed it. I’m raving about this novel because it did it right. It did it so superbly right that it’s off with the hats and hands a’ clapping. Here’s a skeleton of plot events: Our hero discovers one of his friends is in trouble, finds out where she is and runs off to save her. This takes place in 2-3 lines. Perspective immediately switches to girl. Girl slowly realizes that she’s betrayed and you listen, you bake in her fear. The villian, has a villianous rant on precious virginity – says the word 6-8 times, says it so often it’s ringing in your head. The whole NTR sketch is full throttle, with a whole “I’ll rape you while you stare into the face of the one you love, and make you mine forever” scenario. Hero bursts in with entourage. Takes a few seconds to punch him in the face absolutely disgusted with every fiber of his being. Hero leaves girl to entourage. In a very short time frame, he then runs off alone, unhelped, to instead save the girl that isn’t pure, that isn’t a virgin, a girl that is guilty, that is hurting, that is lost and guess what? She is not any less important than the pure-pure girl, she’s even given more pages and more emotion. After all, why -should- she be any less important? The world may be on the hero’s side as he saves the pure-pure girl, but it isn’t when he barely makes it by himself in time to save the other.

Every single element of that is amazing for what it is.

Once again:

It is the “impure” girl who is lauded as the “most beautiful” and “the one I am most proud of”.

Who says a story that’s turning into a harem extravaganza can’t be feminist?

Overall: 9.7

Concept: 9.5

The more imagination utilized, the better it seems.

Pacing: 9.6

I literally could not put this book down, and stayed up till 3:30 in the morning even though I had work the next day.

Plot: 9.4

A strong plot both on the surface and underneath. It ties heavily into the main overarching/underlying plot.

Characters: 9.7

Tsuyako.

Writing Style/Flavor: 9.6

Things tended to flow a bit better, and many of the scenes were completely immersive. Just the introduction of Tsuyako took my breath away.

Illustrations: 9.7

Absolutely beautiful illustrations that fit well with the characters and only added to the mystery.

若紫 // “Wakamurasaki” ーヒカルが地球にいたころ…… “Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro” [3]

I wanted to have finished reading this one about a month ago, but what with getting sick, being busy with C83 stuff, being busy with having to make up all the hours I missed at work, I really took my time getting around to this one. I really have gotten to the point where I haven’t read any of the source material for this series, so at some time or another I’ll probably have to track down one of the large volumes of the English translations and read through the whole story.

Shorter than normal review this time. (I think.)

若紫 – ヒカルが地球にいたころ……③
 ”Wakamurasaki” Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro…… (3)
 ”Wakamurasaki” When Hikaru was on the Earth…… (Official-Off-Cover-Translation)
著:野村美月 (Author: Nomura Mizuki)
画:竹岡美穂 (Illustrator: Takeoka Miho)
ファミ通文庫 (Famitsu Bunko)
ISBN-13: 978-4047277199
発売日:2012/01/05

Introduction:

It’s never a good idea to go into an isolated place with a elementary school girl, Koremitsu. What are you going to do when she decides to pull your pants down? What then?

That’s all I have to say.

Characters:

赤城是光  Akagi Koremitsu [Protagonist / Living]

A very delinquent with a kind heart. A fitting personality for a once stray, now vicious guard-dog. || Koremitsu (Hikaru Genji’s Assistant/Friend)

帝門ヒカル Mikado Hikaru “Hikaru no Kimi” [Protagonist-II / Deceased]

The beautiful ghost of a beautiful romancing boy loved by almost all women everywhere, who has made way too many promises and likes to use flowers as metaphors. Currently possesses Koremitsu. || Hikaru Genji

若木紫織子 Wakagi Shioriko “Shi-ko” ["Heroine"]

A nine year old elementary school student who partakes in the sport of “Sparrow Hunting”. Hard pressed for money after her grandfather, being too kind, ended up having to sell his home to pay off an acquaintance’s debts. A girl whose only tears are fake tears. The first characters of her name spell Wakamurasaki, and her name can be read as “bookmark girl” || Wakamurasaki

式部帆夏  Shikibu Honoka “Nioi-Murasaki/Purple-Hime”

The girl who sits one seat across from Koremitsu. She feels an inherent duty to help Koremitsu with what he’s trying to do, and lately has found herself worrying and thinking about him so much that she doesn’t really know what to do with herself. Under the pen name “Purple-Hime/Princess Purple” she writes cellphone romance novels and manages a love consulting forum. || Murasaki Shikibu (Author of the Tale of Genji)

齋賀朝衣  Saiga Asai “Asa no Miya”

Head of the student council and full of disdain and doubt, she keeps watch over Koremitsu’s actions. || Asagao

左乙女葵  Saotome Aoi “Aoi no Ue”

Part of the elite class and Hikaru’s (former) fiancee, has complicated feelings towards Koremitsu, her “brother” is afraid she’ll strip in front of him. (ww) || Aoi

近江 ひいな  Oumi Hiina

A member of the newspaper club, she while working directly with other possibly blood-related characters in the background, does everything she can to stimulate a response and grab information from Koremitsu. Appears to be trying to find out who killed Hikaru. || ?

Plot:

Koremitsu’s in a pinch. Honoka kind of just confessed her love, but then half retracts it. Not a few days ago Koremitsu said goodbye to his first love, and he’s a bit mixed up inside. He sort of ends with “If Honoka’s ok with proclaiming that ‘I-it’s only like, not love!’, then I’ll just leave things be for now.” Just his luck though, and the whole school starts to think he’s gay. So to distract himself from all the headache he decides to go clear up Hikaru’s next love regret.

In front of a nearby elementary school, Koremitsu asks Hikaru again, “Are you sure this is the right place? And why am I wearing a dog collar anyway?” At first he thinks he’s going to have to deal with an elementary school -teacher- before a young girl half his height asks him, “Are you Hikaru’s friend?”

“Are you here to take my virginity?”

“I didn’t want to make Shi-ko into a girl who couldn’t cry when she wanted to.”

“I’m not a child!”

“From this day forth, you’re going to be my dog.”

“We’re going hunting for sparrows.”

“What are you doing!?!? You chased him away!!”

“My mother, on her way to becoming an idol, died giving birth to me at fifteen.”

“Good people are only deceived until they lose everything! I’ll never be a good person, I’m going to be on the deceiving side!”

Evaluation / Rating:

Part of it may be due to the fact that I mostly read this episode in a more fragmented fashion, but so far – I liked this volume the least of the series. Don’t get me wrong – I liked and appreciated a lot of the themes, about family and potential and the differences in being kind and cutthroat… though the word Hikaru uses for Shioriko-chan is “my joy”, I think “my hope” would have been more appropriate. I doubt the series is going to span five to ten years, but Shioriko’s duality of light and dark (even in her blood) would make her a more interesting character than she is now. I guess my complaints have more to do with Honoka getting pushed aside and made a bit more into a flat, Nanase-like character. Though I had a kick out of the “gravure” scene, I would have actually rather her shown up less than having her popped up the way she did. It’s not like she’s not in a complicated situation, it just feels like it’s being glossed over a bit – again, not that I would mind her role in this volume cut back – it’s not really her time yet, but still… I found myself much more interested in the Hikaru’s “relative” who we meet again for the first time in a long while, other than her part in writing the parts at the beginning and ending of each volume.

I know Asai’s still three volumes away, but I’m also looking forward to seeing more of her character; we only get a complicated flash of anger in this one, but it’s enough to draw you in. Another thing I liked about this volume was the fact that we actually got to see some of the character come out of Koremitsu’s grandfather and aunt. Characterization of a protagonist’s family is extremely rare in this sort of medium; parental figures are usually treated like ghosts.

For whatever reason, I also appreciated Shioriko’s attitude toward the “idol” profession. “I’d rather engage in dangerous blackmailing operations than step one foot inside a studio.”

Remember, these points are kind of like points are in QI – they don’t really mean much.

Overall: 8.6

Not bad, it felt more like a transition volume, mostly because I found myself more interested in the backdrop of the story than the actual story.

Concept: 9.0

Great as always. Unfortunately I know very little about the original to make proper comparisons.

Pacing: 8.8

You’re either learning something about characters, chasing worried after Shioriko, or watching a comedy scene. It flows – the only problem is tied with the plot.

Plot: 8.2

If I sit and think about the plot, and the plot alone, it feels like an “interesting glimpse” of a war of elites from the perspective of a collateral casualty. I liked and felt the themes that were floating around, but one problem was that I always felt like I was being jerked in and out of the plot, so it was harder to pay attention to it. Worst of all, when I encountered the scenes that were part of the “overarching plot” I was so much more interested that I almost forgot what was going on in the foreground.

Characters: 9.2

Shioriko is about as deep and complicated as is realistic for someone her age, if she were any “deeper” I think it would be hard to get into the story, but I rank “characters” high more for the glimpses that we get of everyone else… except Honoka, Honoka was flattened for this volume, and I’m still a little upset about it.

Writing Style/Flavor: 9.0

Rather average, but “average for Nomura Mizuki” which means it’s still a 9.

Illustrations: 9.5

A lot of Shioriko/Shiiko. I still think Honoka’s cuter.

夕顔 // “Yugao” – ヒカルが地球にいたころ…… “Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro” [2]

I just got volume four and five in the series (朧月夜/Oborodzukiyo and 末摘花/Suetsumuhana, respectively; somehow I’ve managed to get first printings of every single one \o/ – in contrast to Bungaku Shoujo which ranges from ~4th to 30th) along with a classical dictionary and some other books today in the mail! I guess I’ve really commited to this series.

I’m still going to translate songs this month (got one queued up right now), but in order to meet one of my New Year’s Resolutions I need to read 3 more light novels before the end of the year, and December’s already busy as it is! To top it all off I’ve been really itching to work on my Bungo/Classical Japanese page, especially after having learned a lot since I last worked on it, and since I’ve now got my (amazing) aforementioned classical dictionary.

Well here goes – these aren’t exactly my speciality ^^;

夕顔 – ヒカルが地球にいたころ……②
 ”Yuugao” Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro…… (2)
 ”Yugao” When Hikaru was on the Earth…… (Official-Off-Cover-Translation)

著:野村美月 (Author: Nomura Mizuki)
画:竹岡美穂 (Illustrator: Takeoka Miho)
ファミ通文庫 (Famitsu Bunko)
ISBN-13: 978-4047274693
発売日:2011/06/10

Introduction:

I wouldn’t quite say that after reading “Aoi” I just -had- to pick up the next volume in the series. It was more that “it was very good, but my thirst for Nomura Mizuki was not yet quenched”. “Aoi” felt like an introduction novel, and rather than character development, it was character revealing, like the petals of a morning glory opening slowly before the sun rises (excuse the flower metaphors, after reading two volumes of this series… it’s not likely to stop). So more than anything else, I was just curious what would happen as the story began to open up more.

The mystery of Hikaru’s death just skirted the edges of “Aoi”, but it crawls itself out of the cracks and begins to wrap itself up in the plot more with “Yugao”. An exploration of character, rather than revelation of character starts to take the forefront in “Yugao” – I think that’s part of the reason I grasped on to this volume a lot more. I still remembered enough of the original “Yugao” chapter to realize that while there are most certainly parallel elements of plot, Nomura Mizuki’s “Yugao” is more than anything else a projection and exploration of a mysterious character that you care for, but can’t explain why.

“Just what is love, anyway?”

I’ll continue this discussion in the “evaluation” section.

^Oumi Hiina on the left, Saiga Asai on the right (I’m gradually trying to make it so you get a glimpse of all the characters at least once.)

Main Characters:

赤城是光  Akagi Koremitsu [Protagonist / Living]

A very estudious delinquent with a kind heart. (Nomura Mizuki screams, “NOT A DELINQUENT!” in the distance). || Koremitsu (Hikaru Genji’s Assistant/Friend)

帝門ヒカル Mikado Hikaru “Hikaru no Kimi” [Protagonist-II / Deceased]

The beautiful ghost of a beautiful romancing boy loved by almost all women everywhere, who has made way too many promises and likes to use flowers as metaphors. Currently possesses Koremitsu. || Hikaru Genji

奏井夕雨  Kanai Yuu

A hikikomori ever since being subjected to bullying mid-way through her first semester in high school, she is older than Koremitsu, but still technically a first year student. She loves the sea and everything in it, hiding away from the world with a half-deaf stray cat “Koruri”. When Koremitsu says he’s come to fulfill the promise made between her and Hikaru, she has no idea what he’s talking about. (Her surname is a pun for “inside the house”.) Possibly Possessed. || Yuugao

式部帆夏  Shikibu Honoka “Nioi-Murasaki/Purple-Hime”

The girl who sits one seat across from Koremitsu. She feels an inherent duty to help Koremitsu with what he’s trying to do, and lately has found herself worrying and thinking about him so much that she doesn’t really know what to do with herself. Under the pen name “Purple-Hime/Princess Purple” she writes cellphone romance novels and manages a love consulting forum. || Murasaki Shikibu (Author of the Tale of Genji)

頭条俊吾  Toujou Shun’go

A mysterious figure that seems to be at the root of Yuu’s bullying, who is he and what was his relationship to Hikaru? || Tou no Chuujou (Hikaru Genji’s Brother-in-Law)

齋賀朝衣  Saiga Asai “Asa no Miya”

Head of the student council and full of disdain and doubt, she keeps watch over Koremitsu’s actions. || Asagao

近江 ひいな  Oumi Hiina

A member of the newspaper club, she while working directly with other possibly blood-related characters in the background, does everything she can to stimulate a response and grab information from Koremitsu. Appears to be trying to find out who killed Hikaru. Plays the rape card. || ?

Story:

Someone’s started sending texts all over the school: “Hikaru didn’t die in an accident. He was killed.” – Taking this opportunity, Koremitsu confronts Hikaru about his death again.

Believing that Hikaru is guiding him to his killer, Koremitsu arrives at shabby apartment that’s barely holding up. But, what he finds inside is not a killer but a frightened and shivering girl holed up in the dark, wrapped in a blanket and hiding her face. It looks like it’s time to clear up another promise, but Hikaru’s suddenly stopped talking to Koremitsu.

Koremitsu tries to figure out with this hikikomori girl, Yuu, just what promise Hikaru might have made, but the most important promise Yuu can think of is, “He promised me he’d change out the florescent lights…” (Well, I guess it is dark in here… if there’s any place to start…)

Koremitsu starts to visit Yuu regularly, but what’s this about a vengeful ghost? Why is Yuu so afraid of the rain? What do you mean “Hikaru never once touched me.”? Wasn’t Yuu just another one of Hikaru’s lovers?

“I think you’ve misunderstood… I was never Hikaru’s girlfriend.”

“Are you sure you can be happy here?”

“Only the living should think of happiness.”

“He always said that there was just one person, that no matter how much both of them loved each other… they could never be together…”

“You know… I… I don’t actually hate you – so if you have something to say, just say it!”

“Sadness… Pain… They’re all part of a distant world… Here… I don’t need to open an umbrella…”

“Pull yourself together! Don’t get caught up in all of these illusions!”

“I’m sure you’ll be able to smile someday…”

“I promised I’d return your umbrella didn’t I?”

“There is one way you don’t have to lose her…”

“Just what is love, anyway?”

Evaluation / Rating:

The first thing I have to say is that I stayed up to three in the morning, even though I knew I had to get up early and take care of some administrative things before work, because I couldn’t put this book down near the end.

As I think I may have already mentioned, “Yugao” is more engaging (at least it was for me) than “Aoi”. I might have a little bias because I was a hikikomori, though not from bullying (I had a more similar experience to Koremitsu to be honest – and one of my first friends was a guy that had a crack in his eye so it was always bloody, that everyone else was too scared to be around.), but with varying perspectives on both reclusiveness and love – not only its definition but “how it should be”, it’s much easier to get absorbed into the story and connect with the characters.

There were a lot of moments that made me smile this time around too. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I had a friend that did exactly the same thing as Honoka but with a coat instead of an umbrella… plus Koremitsu gets much more personally and emotionally involved this time around. (Any more of Hiina’s antics and my eyebrows may fall off my face though, and honestly, I’m worried about how Wakamurasaki’s going to play out…)

I guess my only story-wise worry is that Nomura Mizuki seems to have this habit of having these great grandstanding scenes, but while it was perfect for Bungaku Shoujo, I’m not sure if it’ll work quite as well in this one. “Aoi” didn’t really have a grandstanding scene, but this one definitely did. However, plotwise it was very much tied into Hiina’s motives and the back plot, so it was definitely acceptable in this particular case.

I have one or two things to say about the ending, but the percent of people reading this that have already read the book is probably 0 or extremely close to 0, so let’s go ahead and stay spoiler free. So I’ll end with this:

初雁のはつかに声を聞きしより中空にのみものを思ふかな

Ever since (I first heard the faintest glimpse of your voice, like) hearing the first faint calls of geese (as the seasons change), my head has been in the clouds (and I can’t stop thinking about you)!

(The other poem had a more interesting grammar structure, but its contents weren’t as interesting.)

Overall: 9.4

The series is accelerating.

Concept: 9.5

There are a lot more deep character exploration in “Yugao” compared to “Aoi”.

Pacing: 9.3

The pacing was better than “Aoi” and did keep me reading late into the night at the end, but it wasn’t perfect. However if anything it matched Koremitsu’s confusion very very well.

Plot: 9.0

The plot is a bit more tangled than the first and there are twists, and a good mystery, but none of the twists really caught me off guard like I have been before.

Characters: 9.5

Yuu is a very interesting character herself, but I think it’s even more interesting how she has affected -other- characters, from Hikaru, to Koremitsu, to Toujou, to Honoka, and even (maybe) Asai. Koremitsu’s character has already shown development, and Honoka is as well as a fresh, complex, rather atypicical but at the same time very classic tsundere ^^.

Writing Style/Flavor: 9.6

Rather than up a notch, maybe it’s just that I’m getting used to the flower talk and I always appreciate the Heian era poems that pop up here and there. I did get some pretty strong emotional chest pains here and there though. ^^;

Illustrations: 9.6

The cover art is very beautiful, and the inside cover picture of Yuu is breathtaking. The inserts all conveyed mood well and etc. ^^

夕顔/Yuugao

葵 // “Aoi” – ヒカルが地球にいたころ…… “Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro” [1]

葵 "Aoi" (Takeoka Miho)

^The moment I realized that this picture was (albeit loosely) based off one of the early woodblock prints of 葵の上 it blew my mind so hard I pretty much fell over.

Well, it’s been weeks since I’ve even logged into my WordPress account, so I’ll go ahead and apologize for that… Sorry. Apart from being a combination of busy, exhausted, and lazy – … – I wanted to finish reading this book before I did anything else, and now that I’ve finished it’s 久しぶりの (‘a long time since last time’s’) review time~!

葵 – ヒカルが地球にいたころ……①
 ”Aoi” Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro…… (1)
 ”Aoi” When Hikaru was on the Earth…… (Official-Off-Cover-Translation)

著:野村美月 (Author: Nomura Mizuki)
画:竹岡美穂 (Illustrator: Takeoka Miho)
ファミ通文庫 (Famitsu Bunko)
ISBN-13: 978-4047272811
発売日:2011/06/10

Introduction:

I actually bought this book, and the next two in the series, a long time ago… (so I’ve got all first editions – Yeah!!!) and now I’ve finally got around to jumping into this new “Hikaru” series. Part of the reason I didn’t get to it earlier was because when I first got it there were only two books in total, I had -just- finished the Bungaku Shoujo series and thought I probably needed a break from Nomura Mizuki (no matter how much I like her writing), and I had heard rumors that it wasn’t quite as heart-rending as the Bungaku Shoujo series (but that’s what I liked best about it!!) and so forth. So I read Dantalian no Shoka, Another, almost died, finished up the Bungaku Shoujo short stories, read Spice and Wolf, Kokoro Connect, and then found myself wanting to read more Nomura Mizuki again.

I had also been learning a lot more classical Japanese/bungo, and had read more of the Tale of Genji (this time – Yuugao), which “Hikaru” is based on. Up until this point I have read fragments of “Aoi”, all of “Yuugao”, and three scenes from “Wakamurasaki” (one, basically a rape scene ^^;;) – which very coincidentally are the first three books in the series: “Aoi”, “Yuugao”, “Wakamurasaki”.

Now, what I remember of the impressions that I got from reading Aoi and Wakamurasaki in college are in order: “Wow, this is incredibly over-complicated.” “Is this ironic, this has got to be ironic right?” “Wait, so it’s incest, but not really incest?” “…This is total pedophilia…” “Goddammit women are scary.” I guess I grew up in the meantime because after I read “Yuugao” it was more, “Why is this so beautiful?” “Why am I crying?” “Why am I sympathizing with this total womanizer, who has his head screwed on a little too tight?” “Why do I feel a bond with this Koremitsu, despite the fact that he’s hardly even a character?” Then I thought back to what fragments I remembered of Aoi and Wakamurasaki and thought things were less complicated in a bad way and more in a good way.

Then, I had to read Aoi. It was time for me to go back to Nomura Mizuki.

Akagi Koremitsu and Shikibu Honoka (Takeoka Miho)

^I can’t tell you how much I love this illustration. Your protagonist, Akagi Koremitsu on the left and Shikibu Honoka on the right.

Main Characters:

赤城是光  Akagi Koremitsu [Protagonist / Living]

Originally planned to be a delinquent, but “NOT A DELINQUENT” according to the author. Based off of Koremitsu from “The Tale of Genji” – Hikaru Genji’s assistant. Has “looks like a delinquent” syndrome and a past that gives him a blanket level of scorn for all women. His writing script is stunningly high class and beautiful.

帝門ヒカル Mikado Hikaru “Hikaru no Kimi” [Protagonist-II / Deceased]

Based off of Hikaru Genji from “The Tale of Genji”. Has “sexiest man alive” syndrome, as well as “looks like a woman” syndrome, and has what Koremitsu calls “a flower fetish”. An incredible womanizer. The story begins at his funeral.

左乙女葵  Saotome Aoi “Aoi no Ue” ["Heroine"]

Based off of Aoi no Ue from “The Tale of Genji”. Hikaru’s Fiancee.

齋賀朝衣  Saiga Asai “Asa no Miya”

Probably based off a character from the “Tale of Genji”/”Asagao”. Hikaru’s cousin, older by one year. Cool and calculating. Looks after Aoi. Head of Student Council.

式部帆夏  Shikibu Honoka “Nioi-Murasaki/Purple-Hime”

Based off of the author of “The Tale of Genji”. Relatively violent and isolated, but not completely anti-social. Writes cellphone romance “novels”. Has a past that makes it hard for her to get along with men.

近江 ひいな  Oumi Hiina [Radical Unknown]

Member of the newspaper club. Will do anything to get a scoop. Advertises in her self-introductions.

Story:

After a somewhat creepy disconnected introduction (you should be familiar with these if you’ve read any Bungaku Shoujo), Koremitsu, the focus of our limited third-person narrator, attends a funeral – a funeral attended by hordes of crying women, not another man in sight. There are girls with various high school uniforms, women in their twenties and thirties, and even a few girls that look like they’re still in elementary school!

Koremitsu saw a notice at school that Mikado Hikaru had died in an accident over the Golden Week vacation, but really didn’t know why he had come. He and Hikaru had hardly exchanged two sentences together, on Koremitsu’s (delayed) first day of school, just one day before Golden Week. But just what was Hikaru talking about, when he said he wanted to ask Koremitsu for help with something the next time they met?

On his way back from the funeral, Koremitsu starts hearing voices, and then…

“I have regrets…”

“Listen to me! Saotome Aoi!!!”

“I need you to help me open her heart.”

“You liar!!!!!!!”

“Aoi was my hope.”

“I won’t believe that he cared even one bit for me! The stars are more likely to fall from the sky!”

“If you can hear me… if you can hear me at all, just please…”

“Don’t worry, if she tries anything – I’ll protect you.”

“Are you sure it really was an accident…? Are you sure someone didn’t -kill- him?”

“Not even death can redeem you of your sins.”

Evaluation / Rating:

I really liked this one. Hikaru and Aoi reminded me a lot of the original characters as I remembered them (which is very interesting when you think about it, pairing modern-age characters with those set in a time over a thousand years ago). Comparing it to Bungaku Shoujo, my heart felt less like it was getting stabbed with an emotional exacto knife and more of a fluffy sort of sense of feeling. There’s less serious or rather, life threatening drama to be had – a lot of the plot is light-humor driven until we get used to Hikaru enough (just as Koremitsu is) to feel the pain behind his ever glimmering smile.

My favorite aspect of this first volume, to tell you the truth, was the narration. It is all done in an abstract third person, limited to one character’s thoughts and perceptions at a time. While “Aoi” carries over the secondary letter/diary narration from Bungaku Shoujo, the rest is an entirely new dynamic. When the narration is focused on Koremitsu, it becomes a dual narration that involves both Koremitsu and Hikaru. If the narration shifts from Koremitsu to another character, Hikaru completely disappears. Also, the narration that shifts from Koremitsu to Honoka to Asai to Aoi gives much better psychological insight than anything else could. I guess that’s a must when you’re trying to tackle an adaptation of the “world’s first psychological novel”.

I have to admit that I almost immediately fell in love with Shikibu Honoka. Sure, on the surface she might seem like Kotobuki Nanase (Bungaku Shoujo), whom I didn’t really like all that much – but one volume and she’s already more interesting to me. I like her and Koremitsu’s dynamic, which started up such a quick “friendship” that it felt unnatural enough to feel actually – completely natural – if that makes any sense.

There are a couple sub-plots going on, and Nomura has said that she’s working off of another plotline besides just “The Tale of Genji” (literally, ‘go ahead and smirk if you know what it is!’) so I guess if there’s any fault in that, “Aoi” seems like more of an introductory volume and less of a standalone story than say… Bungaku Shoujo’s first volume did.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. This story definitely feels a lot more directed at female audiences. Male fanservice and budding male friendships and all that jazz.

Another note, the ages (~16-17) for all the characters are eeriely fitting. Hikaru Genji marries Aoi (16) at age 12, and is known for sleeping around with many women by ~14-15 in the original tale. ^^;

Now for all the numbers that don’t really matter all that much.

Overall: 9.0

I feel like 9.0 is a good starting point for the series ^^;

Concept: 9.2

I’ll start with a cautious 9.2 – I feel complexity, but I haven’t seen enough to rate it higher.

Pacing: 9.0

While the beginning might have been a little slow, it never felt slow. I can see people getting tired of the comedy before they get to the drama though.

Plot: 8.0

The plot is simple, but works as a good vehicle for … less character development, but character unveiling. Nothing crazy, especially because it’s an introductory volume. I’ll expect increasingly more with each new volume.

Characters: 9.0

We haven’t really gotten into character development yet, but the characters are like slowly opening flowers, the more you see, the more you want to see more. Again, I love Shikibu Honoka’s characterization. Even if actions/dialogues feel a little too silly, you can still relate to some characters and definitely feel for others.

Writing Style/Flavor: 9.4

You can never fault Nomura Mizuki. I don’t think she could ever fall below a 9.0 in this stat.

Illustrations: 9.8

Beautiful. Especially the cover image, the last picture of Aoi (reserved for readers), and the cat paraphernalia picture featured above. I mean, she was even tasked with drawing the most beautiful man that ever lived, and I think she pulled it off well.

(Left to Right) Oumi Hiina, Saiga Asai, Shikibu Honoka, Saotome Aoi

カーニヴァル // Carnival


I have no idea.

This song was weird so I made sure I was drunk before I started translating it.

It’s Marisa and Patchouli and a disfunctional psuedo relationship of conflicting desires of fantasy, memory and reality. What a carnival!

Notes:
“know too much for their own good” links to a word that means “someone whose -unexperienced- sexual knowledge far outstrips her age”.

カーニヴァル
 Carnival
ヴワル魔法図書館|東方紅魔郷
歌・作詞:IZNA
編曲:NSY
サークル:サリー (Sally)
アルバム:シンドローム (Syndrome)
イベント:例大祭9 (Reitaisai 9)

欲望 種 身悶えし この事象
どうどうめぐり 空模様 今こそ奏でよう!

yokubou tane mimodaeshi kono jishou
doudou meguri soramoyou ima koso kanadeyou!

This seed of desire writhes, but what a phenomenon!
As the sky majestically revolves, let us now make music!

まわしてまさぐって 他人 任せなルーティン
『昨日』と『記憶』は的確にね

ah mawashite masagutte hito makase na routine
“kinou” to “kioku” wa tekikaku ni ne

Ah, set it turning, fiddle and tweak, my routine’s left to everyone else.
“Yesterday” and “memories” to be precise.

揺れる時の最中で 変われないまま私がいる
どんなに願っても 叶わない夢なら (追いかけてる)
『記憶』だけは耳年増ね

yureru toki no sanaka de kawarenai mama atashi ga iru
don’na ni negattemo kanawanai yume nara (oikaketeru)
“kioku” dake wa mimitoshima ne

As time goes its way, I’m right in the middle not changing one bit.
No matter what you wish for, if it’s a dream that’ll never come true (I’m chasing after it)
Only my “memories” know too much for their own good.

時として突発 起こりうるイレギュラァ
歩めど歩めど 前に進めど

ooh toki to shite toppatsu okoriuru irregular
ayumedo ayumedo mae ni susumedo

Ooh, a temporal breakthrough, a possible irregularity
Though we walk, though we walk, though we progress…

踏み躙った涙で 甘く煮込んで絡めたスープ
あんまりきれいに 最後の一粒を (舐めまわして)
飲み干したら死んでしまえ

fuminijitta namida de amaku nikon’de karameta soup
anmari kirei ni saigo no hitotsubu wo (namemawashite)
nomihoshitara shin’deshimae

Here’s a soup brewed sweetly of trampled tears
Finish it cleanly, down to the very last drop (lick your lips)
Once you’ve drunk it all down – die.

・みだりに嘘を吐くな
・素面は敵と思え
・この声が聴こえるか?

・midari ni uso wo haku na
・shirafu wa teki to omoe
・kono koe ga kikoeru ka?

・Don’t spout such reckless lies!
・Sobriety is your enemy!
・Can you hear me!?

欲望 種 身悶えし この事象
毒食らわば最果てまで
さぁ共に手をとり合って今こそ奏でよう!

yokubou tane mimodaeshi kono jishou
doku kurawaba saihate made
saa tomo ni te wo toriatte ima koso kanadeyou!

This seed of desire writhes, but what a phenomenon!
If you’re going to drink poison, then till the very last drop!
Now let us take each other hand in hand and make music!

くだらないポォタブル
相手にしてる暇も無いわ
どんなに願っても 埋まらない距離がある (ドア向いてく)
『記憶』だけは行き違いね

kudaranai portable
aite ni shiteru hima mo nai wa
don’na ni negattemo umaranai kyori ga aru (doa muiteku)
“kioku” dake wa yukichigai ne

Worthless cellulars
I don’t have the time to keep tabs on you!
No matter how hard you wish, this distance between us won’t be filled (I’m facing the door!)
Only my “memories” are in misunderstanding

もう嘆いても笑っても これが最後なら
忘れよう別れよう 思い残しを捨てて

mou nageitemo warattemo kore ga saigo nara
wasureyou wakareyou omoinokoshi wo sutete

No matter how you cry, nor how you laugh, if this is the end
Let us forget, let us part, and throw away all our regrets

『明々後日』も『明後日』も
生まれ変わりゃしません
それでも無情に やってくるのです。

“shiasatte” mo “asatte” mo
umarekawarya shimasen’
sore demo mujou ni yattekuru no desu.

Neither the “day after tomorrow” nor the “day after that”
Will be much different.
And yet you keep cruelly coming after me.

一粒を飲み干せヴァ
この扉をくぐれヴァ
あの朝日が昇れヴァ

hito tsubu nomihoseva
kono tobira wo kugureva
ano asahi ga noboreva

If you’d just drink every last drop…
If you’d enter through this door…
If the sun tomorrow would rise…

はじまりの音楽を
はじまりの音楽を
はじまりの音楽を

hajimari no on’gaku wo
hajimari no on’gaku wo
hajimari no on’gaku wo

Then I’d sing a song of beginnings….
Then I’d sing a song of beginnings….
Then I’d sing a song of beginnings….

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