After you’ve been reading manga for a while, you start to realize that there are definite patterns in the way magazines are marketed to the public. Ribon and Nakayoshi, for instance, are pretty clearly for the 8-11 year-old-girl crowd. Shonen Jump for early teens in the male populace. There may be crossover, especially in the case of a really popular series, but for the most part magazines are pretty consistent in who they are trying to attract. Knowing this, it becomes obvious after a short while that Hana to Yume is for the creepy, weird, sci-fi, action-oriented girl otaku out there. Many of my favorite series, such as Sukeban Deka, which I reviewed yesterday, are Hana to Yume titles. So is today’s title – and this one takes the prize on weird shoujo.
Kaguyahime – Shimizu Reiko
This series has been running for what seems like forever. In fact, it began in 1994 and is showing no signs of ever ending which is kinda cool, even if it’s only coming out at the rate of one tankubon a year or so. (Update: In fact, the series ended in 2005.)
There is *no* way to simply describe the plot of Kaguyahime, but let me try and get the main points across. Expect to be very confused:
The story begins as two mysterious boys (who look like girls) kidnap our heroine, butchy and cool Akira (who looks like a guy) from the home of her foster mother (who is her lover) and her foster sister, who is in love with her.
She accompanies the two boys, Midori and Yui, to a mysterious island, where all but twelve of her companions die from a mysterious disease. When Akira’s foster sister arrives on the island, having killed her mother in a jealous rage over Akira – you just *know* this is going to be one weirdo ride.
As the story progresses, we add in bizarre science (Akira, Midori, Yui and the other boys all are clones created to be replacement parts for really wealthy, rich people who keep dying from some mysterious disease, probably caused by the piece of moon rock they own, but when the clones’ bodies are used, *their* personalities take over and now they are powerful and rich) , mythology (1) the clones were created to: feed Kaguyahime, who comes from the moon and; 2) the fantasy Chinese feudal kingdom that Akira now rules as the replacement clone and; 3) Yui, who also appears to be from the moon) and an amazing amount of violence and sex. (Mayu, Akira’s suicidal/homicidal foster sister is raped no less than three times, Akira sleeps with *everyone,* including her foster mother, foster sister, the girl in the feudal Chinese kingdom, Yui, the guy from the feudal kingdom and probably, eventually, her foster father – who looks like he’s the real bad guy in this series.)
There’s just tons and tons of same-sex overt and covert storyline. Several of “the boys” (my name for the other clones) are gaga over each other, but those are implied, or played with, while Midori and Yui have definietely slept together, and Akira’s above Yuri forays. Despite this, the main love interest is supposed to be Yui and Akira, and they are obviously in love, but I live in hope that Yui will die or have to go back to the moon, or something – I don’t like him much.
This is not an easy read, and it’s coming out slowly, but wow, it just gets stranger and stranger with every volume.
If you like a challenge, strange sci-fi, conspiracies, pretty boys, hunky girls, angst, fantasy, absolutely ravishing art, and a TON of BL and Yuri, you need to read this manga.
Let me just stop and say this – the art in this series is absolutely stunning. Shimizu Reiko is one of the most genuinely talented artists out there drawing right now. It’s complex, yet easy to follow, detailed and the clothes and settings are luscious. She uses minimalism when it’s called for and some of the most gasp-making frames have the least in them. It’s really worth it just for some of the color pictures of Akira dressed as the queen of the fantasy Chinese feudal kingdom.
Art – 10
Characters – 9
Story – 9, either you like this kind of strange, or you don’t. I love it.
Yuri – 8
Overall – 9