Today I’m out of the office doing some shopping for my niece and nephew who are, not surprisingly, extremely cool people. True story: Sometime last year I was buying a birthday card for my nephew and decided all the cards in the store made me feel stabby. I sent him a check and a card…and a letter. In the letter I proposed a deal. I could send him some crappy card that insulted his intelligence and a check for birthday/holidays and that would be that. OR he could give me carte blanche to get him whatever *I* feel like getting him – and I promised that it would be strange, potentially hazardous and probably distressing. To my great relief he took the offer of distressing. Later that year, my niece also asked to be in on the deal. And so, for the first time in my entire life shopping for a relative is fun for me too!
In any case, while I am wandering the cold city streets today, I thought I’d give you some random items that have either crossed my desk or originated from it.
Let’s start with – shopping! It’s only fitting. Right Stuf is having a holiday sale until December 13th and the newest special on tap is an unbelievable bargain – all 4 seasons of Maria Watches Over Us for $84.99. That’s like $100 off the retail value. So if you’ve been waiting or have thought that there’s someone you’d love to get this for, go for it. Remember, Jesus’s Birthday was an important day for Mary too – celebrate it by buying an anime in which she appears as a statue and a vague concept!
Next up, on Hooded Utilitarian this past weekend, I waxed poetic about Hana no Asuka-gumi: Fighting, Fashion and Literature. The comments go into a totally other direction that is both fascinating and totally “wtf?” at the same time. As happens so often at HU. I’m just glad I got to talk about Hibari-sama and the Zenchuu Ura on a blog with TCJ.com in the URL. :-D
Lastly, I want to talk about the O-Shaka-sama mo Miteru series of books by Konno Oyuki. Unlike the Maria-sama ga Miteru series, OSsmM begins on the first day of school, as Yuuki stands at the gate, trying to decide which path to take into school. If you recall, at Hanadera, one path is reserved for the “Heishi” clubs, the sports and physical clubs and the other for the “Genji,” the culture clubs. Yuuki, who is not planning on joining any club also does not want to make a statement about which side he favors. At which point Kashiwagi comes up and signs his name in Yuuki’s student ID notebook, changing Yuuki’s life forever. Yuuki has become Kashiwagi’s eboshigo, his protege, his particular kouhai. Which means Yuuki is now involved with the Student Council.
In the course of the first book, Yuuki meets and befriends his posse – Kobayashi, his best friend just sort of goes where Yuuki goes. Yuuki saves Arisu from being teased just slightly too much and becomes Arisu’s hero. Takada and Yuuki will eventually bond over sports, but it’s actually Arisu and Takada who become close. (Very close. Slashably close – and Takada knows it. He even wonders a bit about it himself.)
Already on the Student Council are Nikkou- and Gakkou-sempai and a non-entity called Rampo-sempai (a pun on his family name of Edogawa) and our asshole, erm antagonist, Andre-sempai (so named because of his hair, which makes him look like Rose of Versaille‘s Andre.) And here is where the book’s one real flaw appears.
In MsgM, *all* the characters are likable. Okay, fans got their knickers all bunched up about Sachiko or Yoshino or Touko or whoever, but if you think about it a bit, you’ll see that really, all the characters are likable. Especially since they all come to like Yumi, and we like Yumi. It’s easy to be friends with people who like our friends, so unless you’re a petty, jealous friend, you learn to like your friend’s friends too.
Andre is not likable. He’s an asshole. Remember when we learn that Yuuki had to learn the Island dance for “a sempai?” We all just assumed that was Kashiwagi, hazing the new kid. Actually, it was Andre and he put a massive condition on it and was an asshole about Yuuki sucking it up and doing it. He’s being an asshole in the fourth book again, and the worst part is that Yuuki, Kobayashi, Takada and Arisu are really, really likable and I want to read about them – not about the one unlikable guy in the series.
In the second and third books, we spend a lot of time in Arisu and Takada’s heads. Arisu is, particularly, handled with delicacy that I found appealing. He’s got a massive issue with swimming, because he hates boy’s swimsuits. He feels topless – more so now since a kid in middle school teased him about “seeing his titties.” Takada finds himself enraged at this nameless kid. Takada also goes through a crisis precipitated by, of all things, Yuuki. Apparently Yuuki is good at baseball. REALLY good – like could go all the way good. But he over pitched and screwed up his shoulder and can’t play anymore. When the basketball team tries to recruit Takada and the baseball team asks Yuuki to fill in so they don’t have to default, Takada goes through a crisis of identity.
Arisu gets to sneak into Lillian in one of the novels. Dressed casually, during summer club meetings, with girls walking around the campus, he just sort of blends in and gets to pretend, for a little while, that he’s where he wants to really be. He discovers from Yuuki that at Lillian they have strawberry flavored milk and begins to obsess about it. When Yuuki gets Yumi to bring some home for Arisu, Arisu goes so far as to kiss him (not quite on the lips) in thanks. But…that’s not the first kiss in the series. Kashiwagi has also kissed Arisu…and Yuuki. Oh yes, he has.
And while all this is going on, Yuuki is at the forefront of a teeny little rebellion that is quietly taking place. Because *everyone* at Hanadera *has* to pick either Genji or Heishi…and Yuuki will not. He steadfastly refuses to choose either a White cover to his student ID or a Red cover. Kashiwagi gets around it by being on both kinds of clubs. But Yuuki refuses to decide – he walks around campus with a Black, uncovered notebook in his pocket. This act is a testament to his strength. And it does not go unnoticed. He waits for a friend in either Heishi or Genji clubs to be able to enter school, but he is already famous in the student body – and a hero among the 1st years. As Book 4 of the series opens, Kobayashi has joined Yuuki in wearing his black notebook openly in his uniform pocket.
Unlike Yumi, Yuuki is a natural leader. Like Yumi, Yuuki is a master manipulator simply by being honest and straightforward. As we suspected, his being President of the Student Council as a 2nd year will be no fluke.
And there we are. I’m about halfway into the 4th book and they do not suck. Really. I’m still reading them. Will I be glad to leave Hanadera to return to Lillian – you betcha. But the Fukuzawa siblings aren’t done, yet and I for one think they still have some surprises up their respective sleeves.
Overall – I’d give the series as a whole a 7, but Book 3 (Wet or Dry?) was an 8 and Book 4 (Jibun no Ouendan) is sort of 5-ish so far because we spend too much time with Andre.