Light Novel: Noblesse Oblige ~ Kayamori Kuzuha’s Resolution

August 23rd, 2010

Kayamori Sakurako is the granddaughter of the head of the Sacred Tree Blue Heaven Style of sword fighting. On her first day of high school, her grandfather names her his heir, and awards her the sword name “Kuzuha,” the fourth woman in the family to bear the name.

When Kuzuha gets to school, she comes across a young man attacking a schoolmate of hers. Although the schoolmate is also a kenshi, a swordfighter, she’s trying to protect the people around them and is, as a result, losing. Kuzuha jumps in and saves the other girl, who turns out to be Kajimoto Ami, a member of the school’s self-policing organization, Luminous Force. Thus Ami and Kuzuha meet…fatefully.

You know how you’re listening to someone talk and you suddenly realize you have no idea what they are talking about and you have to say, “I’m sorry, now who was that and what was going on?”

I felt like that through the entirety of Noblesse Oblige ~ Kayamori Kuzuha’s Resolution. (ノブレス・オブリージュ ~茅森楠葉の覚悟~)

Which is not to say that this was a bad book. It wasn’t. I just kept wondering things like, “so what’s going on here and why do we care?” and “why was this book written, again?” This may makes it seem like I wasn’t enjoying it, but that’s not true. This was a nice novel, in fact, it had some really excellent elements, I just felt like I was missing something, as if it was a franchise extender for a game or something else that I couldn’t find.

I can’t synopsize the plot of this book, because there isn’t actually a plot. The point of view starts as Kuzuha’s, then switches to Ami’s for the rest of the book, except when it switches back in the middle of the story to Kuzuha’s.

The book takes place at Seibou Girl’s Academy, an elite academy for daughters of the nobility (kazoku) and the knightly class (kenzoku). Ami seems to be the sole commoner at the school. That she is part of Luminous Force, protege to the Guardian of the West, does not make her popular, but neither does she seem to be bullied. She is hounded by a random girl who demands that she admit that the reason she’s a Luminous Force member is because she and her mentor, Sayaka-sama, are LOVERS. Ami’s reaction is wonderful. “Lovers?” she thinks. “First I’ve heard of it.”

Kuzuha is trying to integrate being the public heir to her family’s fighting style into her life. She visits another of the Luminous Force members, Guardian of the South, the seventh of her line to bear the name Nanami. Kuzuha’s maid and Nanami fight, but when Nanami attempts a killing blow, it’s Kuzuha who stops the blade with her bare hands. In return for injuring her, Nanami spoils Kuzuha a bit at school.

Ami and Kuzuha are set up by another member of Luminous Force, Eastern Guardian Koyuri, to fight as part of the school festival, but Kuzuha takes a dive. It later turns out that she had never before picked up a shinai in her life, having always practiced with live blades. Ami finds herself sympathetic towards Kuzuha and really, really wants to be friends with her. The more she gets to know about Kuzuha, the more she respects and admires her. It’s obvious that Kuzuha is a truly excellent swordswoman, and the loss to Ami was a gift to the other girl, to cement her position as a member of Luminous Force,

One day, Ami is waiting for the bus when Kuzuha pulls up in her family’s private car. Inexplicably, she tells Ami that she’s found glasses like Ami’s and wants to do her hair up like Ami has. She’s girlishly excited when the her maid tells her they look the same. After asking to borrow Ami’s sword, she leaps out of the car and runs after…the guy who attacked Ami in the second chapter. The kid, not knowing Ami well, except superficially, believes he is fighting Ami, so when he is summarily defeated by Kuzuha’s Pure Sky Cut, they are all pretty sure he’ll never bother her again. When they reach school, they learn that Nanami has taken Kuzuha into Luminous Force as her protege.

Ami retaliates for that act of kindness by bringing Kuzuha’s best friend into Luminous Force so those two can be closer, too.

The final scene, Koyuri pairs Ami and Kuzuha up for a re-match, this time, for real. The end of the book is actually kind of silly, and everyone is laughing by the final page.

And I still have no idea what the book was about. ^_^

However, the sword fighting was really pretty good, until the very end with the Pure Sky attack which is right out of comics. The book had me hooked when Kuzuha’s maid, Kofuyu, mentioned that she uses only a wakizashi to fight. As I’m inordinately fond of wakizashi, (indeed, it’s the only kind of Japanese blade I’m comfortable with, having trained all those years with a two-edged sword, and because of a certain wakizashi I once had the pleasure of bearing…) I just got all tail-waggy happy at that scene.

The other element which was excellent was the complete lack of Yuri. It’s not like there weren’t lead-ins all over the place: Kuzuha’s close relationship with her maid Kofuyu, Nanami and Kuzuha, Ami and Sayaka, Kuzuha and her best friend Suzune, Ami and Kuzuha…and you know what? None of them were anything even close to being treated with stupid service. In fact, all the relationships seemed totally organic and normal considering the unreal setup. The one I expected to be totally Yuri-fied was Sayaka and Ami, since they were *clearly* the Sachiko and Yumi of the series, but it never once went there. Sayaka was cool, kind, sympathetic, friendly, scolding, but nothing more. She was a firm/kind mentor, Ami her protege. The end.

When Ami watches Kuzuha defeat the guy, disguised as Ami, her desire to embrace Kuzuha was really, honestly, just to give another girl, a friend, a hug.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 1
Swordplay – 8
Service – 1

Overall – 8

So despite the fact that I really haven’t a clue what this book was about, or who it was for, or why it was written…I liked it. There’s a sequel, about the other Luminous Force member, Harumi. I’m sort of even tempted to get it. ^_^

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