If you have watched the Canaan anime, you have read the Canaan Light Novel.
The Light Novel is very much a novelization of the anime series, written by a competent writer and enhanced with pleasing pencil art illustrations.
The LN series is in two parts. This first volume is, like the anime it shadows, a nice mix of exposition interspersed with action. We meet young photojournalist Ohzawa Maria and her mentor Mino, see a lot of Shanghai both above ground and below. We learn about the UA Virus, and a bioterrorism threat by the terrorist group the Snakes, just as Shanghai hosts an International Conference on Terrorism. And we meet Canaan and Alphard, our foils that are the same in every way, except that they are not the same at all.
If you have not watched the anime, you will find no difficulty following the story – it is well told and well-executed. There is a lot of moral ambiguity – governments are terrorists, just as much as the terrorists are and the only truly innocent in the book is the title character, the assassin Canaan. Her synesthesia was one of the most visually striking qualities of the anime – I wasn’t sure it would translate well into text. I’m pleased to note that the author is competent enough to communicate it well. It works.
As I sat down to synopsize the plot, I find that it’s actually too complex for me to do it simply without losing much of its appeal. On the other hand, if you haven’t watched the anime and don’t really care about Canaan a priori, I’m also not sure I could convince you to pick this book up without it.
So I’ll do what I always do and focus on the Yuri. ^_^
Maria and Canaan’s relationship is a difficult one to nail down simply. They love each other – so much so and so obviously so that crazy villianess Liang Qi comments on it. But, then, Liang Qi herself is obsessed with the love of Alphard, the apparent villain of the series. And Alphard is obsessed to the point of monomania with Canaan, someone who she believes stole everything she had, even her name. (I’m still not convinced she’s entirely wrong.)
Canaan is, as I said, an innocent. She absolutely, unreservedly loves Maria and there’s a sense that, were she actually aware of things like “love” in the adult sense, she might actually be “in love” with Maria. But…she is not. Her love is like a child’s, or a puppy’s. Not because she is stupid or childish, but because Canaan does not yet know desire – and there’s no real way to know if she ever will at this point.
Maria’s love for Canaan is less perfect/more human, but is also, at the beginning at least, more admiration. She sees Canaan as something unearthly, like a superheroine. Yes, they are friends, but until she sees what she considers to be a flaw in Canaan, Maria is unable to regard her as an actual human. She is very much a Lois Lane to Canaan’s Superman and ultimately, Maria’s desire to bring them both onto an equal footing is what will drive the plot in the second volume – and change them both forever.
I was very, very vexed with the anime for bringing both of them right up to the moment of recognizing that they love each other, then providing what I saw as a rather lame excuse for “not that way, though.” As the novel has been, so far, an exact duplicate of the anime, I expect no less in the second volume. But, for the moment, Maria and Canaan yearn for each other more as the series puts them through increasingly dangerous situations.
This novel ends with the Snakes’ takeover of the Terrorism conference and Alphard’s plan to infect all of the world representatives with the UA Virus. The final scene in the book is Alphard fighting Canaan in the tunnels below the building.
So, basically, if you liked the Canaan anime and want to re-experience it through a text format, this is a good, compelling action story. If you like action flicks, and want to practice your Japanese reading skills, this book is an excellent choice – it has a fair amount of furigana and even the technical/scientific stuff is not impossible to understand.
I think this novel would have a chance to sell reasonably well, were it to be brought over here in English, as long as the translation was competent. (I don’t know if Seven Seas has a Kadokawa contact, but this would not be a bad match for them. A little Yuri, high gaming interest on account of it being Type-Moon, moe, action. I think they could make it work, since they have decent translators and adapters.)
Art – 8 (the pencil art mitigates what is otherwise typical moe)
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – ??? You could pretty much put any number on it, from 0 to 10 and be right. Let’s split it down the middle and say 5
Service – 4, but like 85% of that is Liang Qi
Overall – 8
It’s a good read and I’m glad I took a chance on it. Nice mix of character and plot, action and emotion, comedy and tragedy. Kind of the best of all possible worlds for a Light Novel and one of the best of breed I’ve seen in a blatant franchise extender.