葵 // “Aoi” – ヒカルが地球にいたころ…… “Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Ita Koro” 
^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)
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.
^I can’t tell you how much I love this illustration. Your protagonist, Akagi Koremitsu on the left and Shikibu Honoka on the right.
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.
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.”
“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.
I feel like 9.0 is a good starting point for the series ^^;
I’ll start with a cautious 9.2 – I feel complexity, but I haven’t seen enough to rate it higher.
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.
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.
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.
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.