Archive for the ‘ Light Novels ’ Category

Sound Euphonium! Welcome to the Rikka High School Marching Band! Mid-Point Review

Cover Art for Part I (left) and Part II (right)

Sound Euphonium! Side-Story:
Welcome to the Rikka High School Marching Band!
By: Takeda Ayano

響け!ユーフォニアム シリーズ

(*note: This “review” is not exactly spoiler-free, but I masked some major spoilers, which you can read by highlighting the text.)

Rikka follows Suzuki Azusa as she navigates through her first year as a member of Rikka High School’s nationally acclaimed marching band. Despite rising quickly through the ranks of the trombone section, Azusa is not satisfied playing second fiddle to anyone, and will not rest until she has usurped her section’s ace, third-year Sezaki Mirai. However, being part of a band with such high expectations does not come without its challenges, and Azusa must not only hone her skills as a trombonist among the best, she must maintain balance in a web of interpersonal relationships stressed from all sides.

In relation to the broader Sound Euphonium! series, Rikka is concurrent with respect to the first three books (or four, if you include the first short story collection), which cover Omae Kumiko’s first year at Kitauji High. If you are familiar with the books, anime (see season 1, episode 5) or movies, you may remember Azusa as Kumiko’s friend from middle school—but, to be clear, Azusa was friends with everyone, and the main reason Kumiko sticks in Azusa’s mind at all is that (apart from Kumiko being such a lovable derp) Azusa feels guilty about letting Kumiko’s status deteriorate within their middle school band after Kumiko took the spot of an upperclassman. Apart from that, Kumiko is mentioned only in passing, as if to remind us that yes, this story does take place within the same universe as Kumiko’s struggles.

The stylistic format and general outline of Rikka is identical to that of the other Sound Euphonium! novels—it follows a progression of episodic scenes, in a close third person perspective—but this book is a very different beast, and it owes that difference primarily to the fact that Azusa is a very different protagonist, and Rikka is a very different school. Although Azusa is not exactly the polar opposite of Kumiko, she functions like an anti-Kumiko. Kumiko is not the sole narrator in the mainline series—we get glimpses into the minds of Mizore and Nozomi in the second year books, and in the short story collections, even minor characters like Niiyama Satomi (the woodwind instructor) get a chance to narrate—but what sets Azusa apart is that she’s not meant to be relatable (at least at first). You may think this sounds like a recipe for disaster—but it works for a variety of reasons: First, the characters surrounding Azusa are much more relatable, and serve to keep your bearings. Second, as exceptional as Azusa is, the environment she is in is just as exceptional. A more neutral, relatable Azusa would feel unnatural in the same environment. Third, and most important of all, Azusa functions like an inverted Kumiko, and this inversion allows a different perspective even as Rikka rehashes many of the themes already explored in the mainline series. To put it simply: Kumiko develops as a character by running around and trying to put out fires. In Rikka, Azusa harbors the biggest fire of them all, but remains oblivious to it, resulting in a grand dose of dramatic irony. In Rikka, other characters develop by trying to put out this fire. Essentially, everything is flipped on its head.

This inverted formula introduces and requires a sort of dissonance between the reader and the narrator. Like Kumiko, Azusa is very perceptive and laser-focuses on certain aspects of other characters, but unlike Kumiko, Azusa makes too many assumptions, and is very blind with respect to herself. However, given the very subjective narrative style, it takes some poking and prodding to clue us into a more objective view.

One way this is accomplished is through a sudden shift in view, usually introduced by another character without any change in narration. Takeda uses this technique to great effect with Nozomi in “Daytime Christmas Lights” (from the Year 2 short story collection), where Nozomi projects unto the unlit lights, seeing ugliness and suffering, only to have that view challenged by Natsuki, who sees underappreciated beauty. A similar scene happens in Rikka where Azusa’s thoughts of how unsettling a scene is all but interrupted by another character seeking affirmation of its beauty. Not all of these introduced dissonances are so stark—some are long takes of misunderstanding, where Azusa spends most of her time talking past someone, without grasping their side of the conversation—but what matters is that we come to understand that Azusa sees things differently compared to most people around her.

After we are made keenly aware, through these dissonances, of where Azusa’s perception is warped, we can piece together a more objective view and work backwards from that view to examine Azusa herself, in a way that Kumiko might, to see if we can solve her problems. Once we take that stance, in effect, we are siding with the other characters in the story who instinctively know something must be done about Azusa. This is how we end up with the Kumiko formula turned on its head.

Another way Rikka differs from the other Sound Euphonium! books is in the environment of its setting. Rikka’s marching band has a different starting point and a different set of priorities compared to Kitauji’s concert band. For example, SunFes, the first major performance for Kitauji and climax of the second chapter in the first book, is little more than a footnote in Rikka. Rikka only sets aside two weeks of intense practice for the first leg of the National Concert Band Competition, whereas Kitauji turns its attention to the competition immediately after SunFes. At Rikka, the instructors mostly leave the students to self-govern, only stepping in for intensive practice sessions and deciding auditions for the concert band competition. Students are responsible for the choreography of their marches, and decide who will participate in the marching competition. As for the Agata Festival, featured prominently in the main series? Azusa laughs it off. Nobody has time for that at Rikka.

As the start of a new arc, Rikka has to spend a lot of space introducing characters, and there are many. The marching band has 103 members, thirteen of them trombone players. There are nineteen names listed under major characters at the front of the book. I’m going to focus on only a few here.

Sasaki Azusa, the protagonist of this story, is inhuman in her propensity for work and incredibly conceited. Her pride is served by her spectacular musical ability, a product of hard work more than talent, but she feels threatened by the notion of prodigies—anyone who is as good or better than her despite having spent less time learning their instrument. Although a true extrovert who thrives on interpersonal interactions, Azusa wears a mask at all times and prefers substance-less talk she can easily parry over meaningful discussions fraught with chances for her to slip up. She views the number of friends you have as a measure of status, but also a liability, because it can be difficult to maintain a neutral relationship with every single one of them. Her pride leads her to see discord within her web of friends as a failing of her own social skills, and rarely gets close to anyone because of her defensive stance. But here’s the catch: Azusa also has an intense, overwhelming desire to be needed. Azusa’s bandmate Amica fulfils this role for Azusa, and somewhat ironically, Azusa becomes dangerously dependent on Amica’s dependence on her. Apart from this, Azusa lives alone with her mostly absent mother, and although she has a good relationship with her, the absence fuels a jealousy of others and shoehorns Azusa into her fierce independence. Furthermore, a past relationship with a girl at her middle school, yet to be made clear, unnerves her so much that a chance reunion nearly sends her into shock.

Nase Amica is a complex little marshmallow. Out of all 103 members of Rikka’s Marching Band, she is the only one (this year) to start learning an instrument after joining the band. She immediately latches on to Azusa, who is more than happy to take her under her wing. Their relationship appears lopsided, but, as mentioned before, the dependence is mutual. Azusa is fiercely protective of Amica and genuinely does seem to care about her more than she does any other human being (apart from herself). The problem is, however, that Azusa infantilizes Amica to the point of being downright insulting, and feels threatened by any sign of Amica gaining independence. Amica’s feelings toward Azusa are a bit more pure.

You see…

Amica was ostracized from the rest of her classmates at a relatively early age and found herself burdened with social anxiety as she struggled to break out of the corner she had been boxed into. She explicitly notes that she’s terrified of boys, but honestly, she’s probably just as terrified of other girls. What prompted Amica to change was her family’s move to Kyoto, where she had a chance at a fresh start. She decided that her best shot at a fulfilling school life was to mimic the behavior of the popular girls at her previous school—and part of this mimicry entailed joining the school band. Little did Amica know how big of a hurdle that would be. From Amica’s perspective, if Azusa was not there to help her, she would not have lasted a week. Her plan would have fallen apart and she would not have had the courage to try again. However, in part because the band is so demanding, Amica did not really get a chance to make friends outside of band, and to make matters worse, she faces hostility from other first years in her section. Therefore, Amica’s dependence on Azusa becomes so great that when Azusa has to turn her attention to Shiho to deal with a problem, Amica falls into what looks like an irrational panic, pleading for Azusa to not abandon her.

After that incident, Amica becomes more aware of both of her dependence on Azusa and how her over-dependence may negatively affect her, so she starts looking for other ways to support herself within the band, for both of their sakes. Eventually, when Azusa starts to go a little off the rails, Amica confesses that she’s in the process of reworking her personality, starting from mimicry but rediscovering herself in the process. She reiterates how important Azusa is to her, and how she wants to build some independence from her for both of their sakes, but to Azusa, each step towards independence feels like a betrayal. This comes to the head at the end of Part 1, with Amica taking a confident step forward, but Azusa only feels like she’s being stabbed in the back.

There are three other characters of note, whom will likely be more important in Part 2: Sezaki Mirai, Takagi Shiori and Hiiragi Serina.

Sezaki Mirai is the ace of Rikka’s trombone section, and Azusa’s goal to beat. Like Amica, Mirai only started playing the trombone after she joined Rikka’s band. Regardless of their age difference, the fact Azusa remains behind Mirai despite having had more time with her instrument bothers her. Apart from Mirai’s playing ability, she is also a competent leader: She notices early on that Azusa may have a problem and moves quickly to resolve discord among the first years (due to Togawa Shiho’s frustration with Amica and her own struggle to improve).

Takagi Shiori is Mirai’s former mentor, the second most proficient third-year trombonist, and second-in-command of the section. She has a inferiority complex with respect to Mirai due to how quickly Mirai surpassed her, and has a lot of difficulty connecting with Azusa, despite her best efforts —particularly after Azusa bests her in auditions for the concert band competition. Shiori is also tasked (among others) with developing choreography for marches, which takes up a lot of her time.

Hiiragi Serina is a girl from Azusa’s middle school, who apparently shook Azusa to her core by seeing right through her. Serina was never the part of any band, and is currently a student at Kitauji. You may recognize her name if you read “The Friend of a Friend is a Stranger” from the Year 2 short story collection. Like Kumiko, Serina chose Kitauji to distance herself from the people who went to her middle school. So far, we know very little about her, but no single person has bothered Azusa more. Additionally, as Serina is featured on the next cover (and can often be found among Azusa and Amica in fan art), I expect her role to become much more important in Part 2.

Finally, to address the last remaining, all-important question (for shippers anyway): how gay is everyone? Well, compared to our always-horny bi-hero Kumiko, Azusa’s gaze is fairly subdued. She herself claims to be uninterested in love, because she does not understand it. However, she does show a mild interest in a fellow male first-year’s appearance, and her eyes often move to her own set of beauty points when interacting with some of the girls—particularly Mirai. The main difference is, whereas Kumiko has a healthy obsession with thighs, Azusa often focuses on girls’ fingertips and nails—and in Mirai’s case how her ears peek out from under her hair. We do get some attention to calves, but mostly on their function—i.e. how muscular they are.

Amica on the other hand, is a different story. Despite what we learn later about her motivations, Amica is very close to Azusa and very comfortable with that closeness. She physically touches Azusa often, in a way she does with no one else. She reacts when her Azusa (on rare occasion) touches her back. She brings up the topic of love to Azusa while they are alone. Amica is clearly bothered by Serina and Azusa’s relationship and tries to ask about it. According to Amica’s parents (who are supportive), Azusa is all she ever talks about. Most importantly, Amica pays close attention to Azusa and tries to factor what’s best for her in her decisions. The Sound Euphonium! series doesn’t like to throw around concrete labels, but I’m not sure you’re going to find more evidence than what I’ve listed above. AmicaxAzusa forever.

As for the other characters, Shiori definitely gives off gay vibes. You could easily slap a “gay idiot” label on Saijou Kanon (one of the twins), and Mirai’s cool, somewhat-masculine demeanor seems to attract more than just Azusa. Mirai scoffs at the band’s straight members fawning over Taki (Kitauji’s “hot” instructor), and we get some sweaty hugs from her as well, but it’s hard to be definitive about most of the other characters. Shiho and Taiichi (the other two first-year trombone players) are both as straight as a board though.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to Part 2. The inversion of the regular formula keep things interesting, and it is easy to fall in love with Amica. Azusa’s pride can get aggravating at times, but there’s a good amount of comic relief to offset that, and she is most certainly an interesting character. I think, so far, I’d recommend at least reading the Year 2 books before starting Rikka, if only because you can better appreciate the differences after following Kumiko’s development, but Rikka does not depend on hardly any knowledge from the rest of the series, so it is possible to dive right in.

If you would like to take a look at my real-time impressions about the book, search my Twitter (@ZephyrRz) for the tag: “#eupho rikka”. Year 2 and Year 3 are tagged “#eupho y2” and “#eupho y3” respectively, and if you dig deep enough (to around 2015), you can find comments about the Year 1 books under just: “#eupho”.

A good unofficial character diagram of the Rikka characters (including many I have not mentioned) may be found [here] (in Japanese).

*Final Note: Rikka’s Marching Band is based on the real life Kyoto Tachibana SHS Marching Band (京都橘高校吹奏楽部) so, if you’re having trouble visualizing the kind of movements that earn them the nickname “The Blue Devils” in the books, looking up a few videos of the real band online should solve that.

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


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”.


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.”


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


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


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.


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. || ?


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


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. || ?


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:


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. ^^


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


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.


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!

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

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

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)

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)

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.


・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

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!

どんなに願っても 埋まらない距離がある (ドア向いてく)

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

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.


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…


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….

Impressions of Dantalian no Shoka // ダンタリアンの書架 // Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian

If you have not listened to the music from Dantalian no Shoka, I suggest you search for: 澄んだ空気。感情的になり過ぎず、歌うように。 That track is amazing, on so many levels….

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything like a light novel review, and I felt that it would be nice to do one after a while. Other than translating, I probably spend most of my time reading. I used to read a lot when I was a little kid, but didn’t read hardly anything once I hit junior high up until at the very end of high school, so part of me thinks I’m just trying to make up for lost time. ^^ – plus nothing helps Japanese vocabulary and grammar studies than reading.

Lately (on and off), I’ve been reading Dantalian no Shoka. I grew to like the anime and around episodes 9, 10, and 11 (黄昏の書, 幻曲, and ラジエルの書架) I decided that I’d buy the entire series (8 volumes). (It’s a bit difficult to come by books, and I save money buying in bulk, so…) – After reading half of those, (covering all of the anime material and more,) I wanted to give my thoughts on the series as a whole: the light novels, the anime, and the series in comparison to others. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Dantalian no Shoka – ダンタリアンの書架 – Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian.

Dantalian no Shoka came on to the anime scene right after GOSICK, and I get the feeling at least anime-wise there was a romantic influence from GOSICK to Dantalian. They are set in the same time period, in between World War I and World War II, and both have a distinctive Gothic mystery element, so I suppose it was natural for something like that to happen.

I get the feeling that GOSICK’s watcher base was split between Dantalian and Ikoku Meiro no Croisée – one taking GOSICK’s mystery/occult portion, and the other taking, well – France. I didn’t like Ikoku Meiro no Croisée though, so that’s all I’ll say about it here. But after I breakdown and explain my impressions of both the light novel and anime versions of Dantalian’s characters I’ll make paralells to Kujou Kazuya and Victoriqué, and how those differences reflect on how both stories are told.

First of all, let’s take a look at the differences between Dalian and Huey from the light novels to the anime. I’d say that the differences between both versions are similar to the differences between PC-98 Reimu and Windows Reimu, essentially the same, but beyond a difference in looks, there’s a definite difference in emotion and character.

First, Dalian. I get the feeling that a bit of moe shine was added to Dalian for the anime. Not that I mind; the new design for her locket was cool and offered up a nice solution to the light novel Dalian’s lock paradox. Lock paradox because light novel Dalian has a giant box-like lock that appears to hang from the leather/iron brace around her neck and connect to her hip guards – over her clothing. Despite this, to actually clear the lock to open it, she has to take off a significant portion of her clothing, and the lock is actually embedded in her skin. (I just assume that there are slots in the lock so that she can slip her clothing around it properly.) The anime instead has a portion that looks like a locket, but when the key is inserted her blouse magically blows apart, and we see that the “locket” is actually the top portion of a large heart-shaped lock. I’m not entirely sure who designed that – but most of the clothing in the anime was designed by gothic/sweet lolita clothing shops (like Baby the Stars Shine Bright), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the lock redesign was handled in the same way. This all adds a bit of maturity and grace to Dalian’s appearance in the anime and makes her look older than her original “age” of 12-13. This change is important to the romantic direction that the anime takes.

Dalian is very different in the light novels. She is described as having a much more awkward appearance, a bit of a lisp, and the general behavior of a tiny dog that acts bigger than it is. At the same time though, her skin and features are described as doll-like, and along with the tone of her voice, more beautiful than any normal human being. By the tone of her skin (out of place in Britain), she looks “Eastern” or Asian. Her lock gets constant attention for being extremely out of place, and while Dalian wears a standard black and frilly dress, she is also heavily armored. Not counting anything else that might be under her dress, she has a leather and iron guard around her neck, iron plates around her waist and hips, gauntlet like protectors around her wrists and steel plated boots. In the light novels, she’s deflected attacks several times (like wonderwoman). The main thing to keep in mind about Dalian in the light novels is that while she’s beautiful, she’s more outlandish than beautiful, and that while she likes to bark and anyone and everyone, she never lets go of Huey’s coat.

Just to add, a large majority of the characters in Dantalian no Shoka mistake Dalian for Huey’s “wife to be”. “Oh, so you’re -that- kind of person. Don’t worry about it, I don’t discriminate.” Relatives that realize that’s not the case try to push Huey to marry. Haha. Jessica Elphinston is one love interest (~15-16).

^I feel a lot more sorry for Huey now. Remember all those times Dalian kicked him? She did it with these.

Remember the first episode of the anime, (Episode 00 in the light novels) when Dalian talks about the world in the gourd from the old Chinese tale, and how Dalian is “like” it? The light novels take it a step further and suggest that she is in fact that very gourd (explaining her Eastern heritage). We learn that it was only 300 years ago (from 1920-ish time) that she became a library, when she was owned by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II who attempted to collect every grimoire in existence (I’m not sure how this ties into the anime finale, but I might have to read to the end of the series to find out – four volumes in and we’ve only met the girl inside the library once – definitively). “Dantalian’s Library” according to the light novels also appears to have more than the noted 900666 grimoires, including prophesies of other people’s lives (though you might consider the records of everyone’s lives one grimoire), and Dalian has used her library to transport large numbers of ordinary books. The library in the light novels is also less abstract that in it is in the anime, more wood and stone, and maze-like passageways in hexagonal shapes that all together from the center constitute a giant tower like the tower of babel.

Huey is more human in the light novel than he is in the anime. He’s actually not a great shot and only makes good use of the gun at close range. It’s probably been used to deflect attacks at the last minute as many times as it’s been shot. Huey’s number one expression in the light novels is “bitter smile”, he doesn’t like to consider himself a military man, and constantly uses phrases such as “all I did was fly” to refer to his service in World War I, despite the fact that he was rewarded special rank and was an ace. Huey is very protective of Dalian in the light novels as well, but his reasons and relationship with the girl in the library is masked. I think it took a while for the anime to get to this side of his character. Until episode 11 I just considered him the “awesome deus ex machina antithesis of (useless) Kazuya.” But Huey really isn’t an idiot, and uses his head quite often to solve problems rather than popping a solution out of the library. Lots of people die before Huey can do anything about it and the caveat of “life-saving magic works only once” makes him avoid it if he can help it.

What this all means anime vs. light novel is a difference in atmosphere. The anime is made to be more romantic and fantastic, whereas the light novels are more gothic and like dark fairy tales. A number of chapters are based on fairy tales (Bluebeard and Sleeping Beauty for some). I think that the ED sequence for the anime embodies that element a little more then how the anime responds. The first chapter of the light novels for instance, (Episode 01: Meditations de Gastronomie) ends with Huey walking away from a man lustfully feasting on his own brains and losing his humanity and sanity in the process. Though, the light novel doesn’t go the point of making Dalian emotionless, but is very clear that Dalian has seen a lot of death – her entire manner changes drastically in different situations, from that of a frightened puppy to that of an all knowing and sorrowful being. Not to spoil much of anything, so I’ll try to be vague, but other dark tales include: a sickly daughter that loved her father – when she finds out that that “love” was a false excuse to see a certain mistress, the daughter kills her father, his mistress, and becomes that mistress, attempting to resurrect at least in her mind or in a delusional state her father so that he would love only her; an impish man wanting for a mother attempts to cut open and crawl inside women (and girls) who are taller than him that he thinks might be suitable to be his mother. But don’t worry, there’s quite a bit of silly comedy as well.

If we want to look at some of the ways the anime romanticized the original work, one of the best examples is the first summon in the anime. At the same time, this is one of the reasons the anime is so great. When Huey summons the Slyph before the dragon in the first episode. What he reads becomes his life story in a nutshell – you get his characterization in a flash. “Oh Sheol… Hear my voice! Hear the grevious cries of a mourning child! The carcass of the butterfly you have ensnared may pale or tear apart, yet still, there are those who would tempt death for a single scale… Watch as shattered dreams take flight again!” etc. That scene was awesome, not only stylistically beautiful, it plays a strong rendition of the second main theme (in 夢想的情緒。驟雨の様なピアノの間奏). In the light novels, we’re still confronted with a dragon. Dalian gets Huey to open the lock, and while he’s sitting there stunned, she plunges her hand into her chest and draws out Book of Faeries, opening it just as they are about to be engulfed in flame, and so summons the Slyph. No romantic readings or standing in front of the dragon. A lot more proactive on Dalian’s part. It is less in this case that Dalian is commanding the Sylph or anything, but more letting it out across the boundary so they can stall the Dragon. (It doesn’t actually die or vanish in the light novels). It takes a while in the light novels before we actually see Huey read one of the grimoires. He does not magically read the words perfectly, but stumbles over them. It does appear that in chapters later on the timeline he’s much more skilled at this but he doesn’t start out that way.

Although they aren’t given as much attention as Huey and Dalian, Hal and Flamberge are a bit different as well. Namely Flamberge’s outfit is more tightly bound and her hands are tied not by her sides but twisted and locked in front of her face. She’s used to it, but she can barely walk and Hal sometimes slings her over his shoulder if they’re in a hurry. One thing that’s notable is that Hal always betrays a smile if he knows he’s made someone (usually a little girl ;3) happy, or rather happy to see someone happy just to be and not wanting at all to rely on magic. Another interesting bit that’s hard to tell in the anime is that whenever Hal has that thing about his fate is most probably to die in his own flames (like the race of giants that his weapon is supposedly handed down from or based on) Flamberge suddenly shows sadness for Hal.

Raziel and the Professor are far, far more covert in their operations in the light novels than in the anime. Neither of them make an appearance in the zombie episode, they just supposedly handed the original book to an ex-german-military man. The most we’ve seen of him has probably been in “Raziel’s Library” and in a short fragment about gambling. If anything he is more suave and more like “Moriarty” than in the anime. We actually get Raziel’s motivation in the light novels. Raziel (which means “Secrets of God” in Hebrew) the angel, the scribe to the Jewish god, had a book that contained near infinite knowledge (obtained by writing everything down). The other angels grew jealous and stole the book, casting it into the primordial seas. By the time it reached land its knowledge was broken up and distributed by humans – much of which was written down to form the first phantom books – and it’s original form was lost forever. But a philosopher (who may have made Raziel if she’s not the angel herself in a way) postulated that if all the phantom books were gathered in one place, one might be able to recreated Raziel’s book – and it would take not only all of the books in existence per say, but all of the knowledge that had been given in an abstract sense, which could be resurrected with the formation of new phantom books.

At any rate, so far the light novels are a good read. The limited third-person narration really lends itself to the format so that each chapter is more like a “tale”. Each chapter lightly reintroduces Huey and Dalian (but only as the narrator observes them), and scarce narration works better in the story. For instance it’s not that the narrator is mean and not giving you critical information (I’m talking about you GOSICK), but the narrator doesn’t know if that’s Huey or not because he hasn’t spoken his name.

From stort to story some are better than others, and sometimes the mystery’s a little too scatterbrained (I’m talking about you 幻書泥棒), but there’s a reason I keep going back to it.

I believe that I’ve hinted that I was going to talk more about GOSICK, but, just read this instead, [GOSICK Rant] and you’ll probably easily figure out what I’d have to say. I do like GOSICK a lot, and the linear and overarching plot lends itself to a much better mystery element – but where as Kazuya really liked to get on my nerves, and Victorique got a little ridiculous at times, Huey and Dalian are much easier to get attached to. They’re much weirder after all, and I like weirdos.

I had a twitter rant a while back about the differences between “Raziel’s Library” vs. Episode 11 of the anime on Twitter discussing the differences in the poetry read aloud and how the light novel’s version was much, much darker, but I don’t know where I put my notes and this is already long enough I think, so I’ll go ahead and end here.


I’ll leave you with this: