Archive for the Light Novel Category


Light Novel: Mikagura School Suite: Stride After School

November 6th, 2017

Last spring we had the pleasure here on Okazu of reading a Guest Review by Mariko S on Mikagura School Suite Anime. In that review the protagonist, Eruna, was described as “an unusual/interesting heroine …. She is that rare anime heroine who has absolutely no lack of self-confidence. She always thinks she can handle whatever happens, and when she loses or someone is nasty to her she fights back with jokes and smiles and energy. She doesn’t mope or cry once. …you can’t help but love Eruna.”

This got me feeling hopeful, so when One Peace Books sent m a copy of the first volume of the Light Novel series, Mikagura School Suite: Stride After School, I happily made space for it on my to-read pile. And now have I read it. 

What a strange Light Novel. ^_^; The author is credited as “Last Note” which seems fitting.

The book appears to be a prequel to to the anime. We begin by meeting Ichinomiya Eruna, the aforementioned confident protagonist. But what may appear to be confidence in the anime turns out to be something closer to delusions of grandeur with a side of unhinged in the LN. But never in a bad way. Eruna just has a selective memory, which rarely includes most rational deductions based on normal external stimulus. If Eruna were to be reaching for a hot coal, and you screamed “Don’t touch that!” she’s likely to assume that you mean, because she’ll have a magic power that will make her unable to feel their heat. That kind of “confidence.”

Eruna is a generally lazy, unmotivated person. Eruna is also interested in girls. She choses the school entirely because of the beauty of the girl in the catalog. But when she goes to take her exam (running extremely late) she is basically alone in a room. The exam, which she has been told is really hard, isn’t. And she still sucks at it. Nonetheless, she’s accepted. This quickly becomes a pattern…no one explains anything, Eruna, too delusional to realize she’s missing info asks nothing useful and fails to be even remotely competent…and still she gets into the school. She’s told only that she must join a club, that all the clubs are culture clubs and they battle. The battles determine the student’s status in the school. We and Eruna are told these things about half a dozen times and by the end of the book, we know nothing more than that. Thanks, Eruna.

Because Eruna is the protagonist, of course she’ll be fine, but I have to admit a couple of times I wanted to put her through a wall. In any case, it was a good exercise in being inside the mind of a character I couldn’t cope with at all. ^_^

The art by Akina is blocky and kind of appealing, in a way I’m finding it hard to describe. It’s sort of Pixiv-y or fanartish, maybe?

Ratings:

Story – 7 Silly, goofy, contentless wackiness
Art – 7
Character – 5 Everyone is in on the school except Eruna, so no one explains anything
Yuri – 4 Eruna is absolutely into girls
Service – 0 Not really

Overall – 7

So with all the wackiness and nonsense, would I read the next book? I think I might, if only to see if anything about the school is explained at all. It was an entertaining, if occasionally vexing, read. Thanks to the folks at One Peace for the review copy!

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Light Novel: Miniskirt Space Pirates, Volume 7 Souhaku no Dokuroboshi (ミニスカ宇宙海賊7 蒼白の髑髏星 )

October 18th, 2016

minisuka7When we left Captain Marika and the Bentenmaru crew at the end of Volume 6, she had just fought another, formidable, pirate ship to a standstill and forced them to run. In Miniskirt Space Pirates, Souhaku no Dokuroboshi, Volume 7 (ミニスカ宇宙海賊7 蒼白の髑髏星 ) Marika is visited by a representative of the Imperial Government’s Intelligence Division, Nash.

Nash makes Marika an eyebrow-raising offer….would the Bentenmaru like to be part of the Imperial Navy’s war games?  I admit I re-read this bit a few times to make sure I got it right.  War games? Yes, War games. The Navy is about to gear up for their annual war games and this year they want to integrate pirates into the scenario. Marika asks the crew and they are in.

Now that that’s settled, Nash confides to Marika that he’s actually there for two things. Yes, the government wants the Bentenmaru’s participation, but the Intelligence Division needs Marika’s help, as well. Captain Miura Grant of the Chimera of Scylla, the ship fought by the Bentenmaru and her allies, has escaped off to the Pirate’s Guild HQ, the Skull Star. No Imperial agents have ever been able to infiltrate this base. With Marika’s help, Nash wants to finally be able to gather intelligence.

We learn that Nash and Corrie, the Bentenmaru’s electronic warfare specialist, have a history. Nash implies it’s more that just friendship, but I’m inclined to believe Coorie more. She insists on coming along and Gruier demands a place, as Marika has promised  to let her join the crew of the Bentenmaru, or so she says to Lynn, who comes out and  asks to join after graduation. Marika demurs, but I think Lynn’s reasoning is sound. She knows she’ll be working for Jenny eventually, and wants to get some experience first. She could learn a lot from Coorie, so that makes sense all around.

So Gruier, Marika, Coorie and Nash take the Silent Whisper (the prototype cloaked ship Jenny gave to the Bentenmaru) and head off after the Chimera of Scylla. When they catch up, Marika asks Captain Miura Grant to give her entree to the Pirates’ Guild HQ, which is an asteroid that looks like a giant floating skull. Miura agrees. Marika and the gang meet Miura’s older sister Maira, who runs the Queen of Love, a hot pink whorehouse pirate ship.  Maira is taken with Marika and offers her Gruier and Coorie several opportunities for dressup scenes. While Nash defects to to Miura’s ship, Marika takes the opportunity, with help from Maira, to forge a treaty with the Pirate’s Guild. So there, Nash. In your face.

Again, again, again, what I like best about this series is watching Marika being a really excellent Captain. She forges an alliance with the Pirate’s Guild. Hah! How awesome is that!

In the beginning of the novel Ririka asks her whether she’ll continue pirating after graduation and she doesn’t really have an answer. Maybe, probably not? But at the end of this book we want Marika so desperately to be a full-time pirate. She’s so good at it! With Jenny as an industry contact, Princess Gruier Serenity on her crew, she’d be the best pirate captain ever. She already is.

Illustrations have become even more perfunctory than before. This should just be a novel and stop pretending to have pictures.

I read this book in digital format on Bookwalker Global, but it is also available in print.

I’m going to stop pretending that I may or may not read the next book. Obviously, I will.

Ratings:

Overall – 9

I even liked the stupid dress-up scenes this time.

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Light Novel: GIRLS UPRISING

September 26th, 2016

fmkguIt only took me 6 years to finish GIRLS UPRISING, the collaboration between science fiction writer Fukami Makoto and illustrator Kazuaki. The story ran inside the cover of the 2010 reboot issues of Comic Yuri Hime, and the illustrations captured my attention. Unfortunately, I found the small type and weird color choices of the original an actual barrier to reading.

When the story was printed as a collection in 2014, I snapped it up…only to find the type just as small on pages about the same size as the magazine. That meant four 2″ tall horizontal rows of vertical text per page. My intentions were good, but it was just a hard book to read, physically. And the story (which is rather messy) didn’t make it compelling. It kept falling to the bottom of the pile.

And now I’m here to tell you, for once the reviews on Amazon JP and I agree. This book is not Fukami’s best work.

In a post-apocalyptic world, at a school for girls where the discipline/security committee assures the students’ safety by carrying around lovingly described guns, we end up following a character so unlikable I actually waved goodbye as she headed off to certain death.

Chisato and Kotono are gun-bearing members of the disciplinary and student council.  They are best friends and lovers. Kotono is a bit moody. Chisato is a jerk. She leaves Kotono for Sayaka, then proceeds to be a jerk to her, too. Kotono finds solace in the loyalty of her vice president, Megumi. And while we spend oodles of time following these young ladies arguing and buying bathing suits, a completely different story is happening across town.

In the tower across town, lives an evil scientist, Musaki Origa and her lover/guinea pig Hyouko. Hyouko is cared by for by the android Chanel who predictably, is the 5th of her kind. What, exactly, the experiments are for, are vague. Something about an elixir of youth, but really, it’s just torture porn. Hyouko is determined to escape from the tower. Chanel, who seems to have fallen in love with her, is willing to help.

Somewhere else in this war-torn town in which shopping malls that sell bikinis and bottled water still exist, another girl, Tatsuki, meets and saves a girl in a wheelchair, Kiriko. Tatsuki, we learn, was Kotono’s former lover.

As an aside, I always find it a little silly when high school aged characters speak of “long ago” or “former lovers” as if they are 47 instead of 17. ^_^

Tatsuki relays to Chisato that her sister is the girl in the tower and Chisato tells Sayaka that her only true love is her twin sister, Hyouko. She runs off to save her sister/certain death. Bye, Chisato! You’re a jerk! I said, waving. But, no, Sayaka, Megumi and Kotono head after her.

In a crappy no-malls or bikinis part of town Chisato saves a little girl from rapists, but they are both captured by the bad guy pedophile who had never been mentioned until now, who wants to rape the girl. Chisato and the girl, Midori, are tortured a bit, then the guy’s hands are blown off. The cavalry has arrived. We kill all the bad guys and… the book ends.

Um, but what about Hyouko? Dunno. She escaped but…

This story, which was originally presented as a series of standalone chapters just didn’t work all that well with the new, final, messy chapter. In retrospect, the only two chapters that worked on their own at all were Hyouko’s story “Rapunzel” and Tatsuki and Kiriko’s brief flash of happiness.

Kazuaki’s illustrations still hold up well enough, but the novel just felt forced and fetishy without any of Fukami’s typical skill in weaving a good story.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 5
Characters – mostly 6, but Chisato was a jerk – 3
Yuri – 9
Service – 9 Practically nothing but

Overall – 6

Making the unlikable Chisato the protagonist was a terrible idea. But there were still decent moments. So not unreadable, just not great.

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LGBTQ Light Novel – Friends

September 11th, 2016

friendsoyuki As the light novel series Maria-sama ga Miteru began winding down after more than ten years, creator Konno Oyuki did not rest on her laurels. She immediately moved on to a fantasy romance series called Ame no Tiara (雨のティアラ). I tell you this, because it’s a very human thing to assume that if you’re not personally reading someone’s work, they must have just stopped creating. ^_^

But, no. Konno-sensei is a professional writer and so, has been writing – often several novels at once. And, now a mere two years after she wrapped up the multiple strands of Maria-sama ga Miteru and Oshaka-sama mo Miteru, we are back in her front yard, looking at her with giant eyes, full of anticipation.

In Friends, Konno-sensei tells us the story of Kazumi and Midori, two young women who had been so close in high school, they practically were each other, But now that they attend the same fine arts college, and run in the same circles, Kazumi has basically been avoiding Midori. Circumstances will bring them together again…but in what kind of relationship?

There are many good qualities in this book. First and foremost, Konno-sensei is deft at building the characters. Kazumi has a family, a circle of friends, a history and a future she’s striving towards. There’s nothing about her that we’re left wondering “yeah, but what about…?” She’s fully developed. Midori, at least at first, appears to be more of a mystery. As the book progresses, we come to understand why – we’ve been seeing Midori through Kazumi’s eyes, and she’s working hard at not “seeing” Midori.

They clash during a gokon – a group date. Kazumi is genuinely uninterested in the men in the group, but not really sure whether it’s just that she’s uninterested or that they are boring. Eventually, her friend Mutsumi has had enough of her and tells her to leave, she’ll be replaced by Midori. Midori and Kazumi meet – and decide to blow the others off and go out together.

The book takes a sharp turn as Kazumi starts to realize that her discomfort with Midori was her own feelings for the other woman. She’s infatuated, but has no coping tactics. Kazumi ends up discussing her confusion with her savvy grandmother, who instant recognizes it as love, “koi.” Kazumi suddenly starts to realize that her distance from Midori is her own fault.

The two women are supposed to join friends on a camping trip, but Midori falls sick, so Kazumi cancels. When she visits Midori, she learns two things that profoundly affect her – all these years she’s been friends with Midori and she knew nothing at all about her family. Now, Kazumi is mortified to learn that Midori’s parents are a famous designer and actress. As she visits with Midori, she remembers whole chunks of her life with the other girl – and the dog they both loved – that she had forgotten. Kazumi breaks down and apologizes to Midori for being so aloof for so long.

Their relationship changes again. Hanging out together, going out to eat, shopping, Kazumi is spending more time with Midori, against a backdrop of her own family life and the mild mystery of the old man and young man who have moved into in the “haunted mansion” around the corner.

We turn away from the two women, to watch Kazumi’s family life, with her middle sister, who just started middle school, elementary school-age sister and their parents. Conversations are realistically weird, as the girls imagine whole novels’ worth of intrigue about the new neighbors.

But…there’s Midori. One day while shopping, Kazumi tries on a skirt that looks terrible on her. Midori tries it on and it looks stunning, so she buys it. Kazumi snaps. She leaves Midori and goes home, miserable. Midori is taking everything – her attention, her time, even her yellow skirt!

Miserable, Kazumi calls on their mutual friend Mutsumi to talk it out (although beats me why, since Mutsumi’s been kind of a jerk). They meet at their old high school. Mutsumi admits that she’s always thought that Kazumi and Midori’s relationship was unhealthy and that they needed distance between them. Upon learning that Midori is there at the school, Kazumi runs off to find her.

The two reconcile, and finally Kazumi admits her feelings, but she also admits to Midori that her interest in sex is abstract, at best. Midori says that her feelings are the same. They agree that they don’t necessarily want a physical relationship, but the idea of the other with someone else upsets them. What they both want, they agree, is to be together. They hold each other’s hands and look at each other. “Should we kiss?” asks Midori. “I think not.” say Kazumi and they smile and walk off hand in hand.

The last scene is some months later, as Midori, Kazumi and their friends plan for their group camping trip. The girls will get a cabin, the boys will tent outside. Kazumi watches Midori and sees angel’s wings spreading from her shoulders as Kazumi herself wears that beloved yellow skirt that Midori has redesigned for her.

The illustrations – which open up the book’s sections – highlight objects like the skirt, or Mutsumi’s lipstick, that are key points of the section. They are competently done, but give no particular insight to the story.

I have a policy when reading anything. It’s based loosely on Maya Angelou’s advice, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Basically, I take most of what I read at face value. I can’t tell what the author’s intent is and unless I bring my own agenda or intent to a character, I have to assume that what I see is what they wanted me to see.  So, this story has a happy ending for an asexual, homoromantic couple, as we say in the parlance of the day. ^_^

Ratings:

Story – 8
Characters – 9
LGBTQ – 7

Overall – 8

This novel is once again a chance to spend time with incredibly well-conceived and realistically written characters, and watch them deal with a topic near and dear to our hearts – two women in love.

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Light Novel: Miniskirt Pirates, Volume 6 Crimson Pirate Ship ( ミニスカ宇宙海賊6 真紅の海賊船)

September 1st, 2016

MPCPR7Volume 5 of Miniskirt Pirates added a level of complexity to the “Three Ships” arc without resolving it. Jackie Kelvin, aka Jackie Celsius, aka Jackie Fahrenheight, who had been trying to obtain Hakuoh High School Yacht Club’s training ship, the Odette 2 (which has originally been known as the Whitebird and was, in fact, one of the original seven pirate ships from the Galactic war) turns out to have been hired by the Pirate Guild.

In Miniskirt Pirates, Crimson Pirate Ship, Volume 6 ( ミニスカ宇宙海賊6 真紅の海賊船) having fought Jackie to a standstill, the Pirate Guild’s representative, the cuthroat Captain Miura Grant of the Chimera of Scylla, appears and the fight continues. Grant grabs control of the Odette (and it’s star-killing weapon) and runs into hyperspace. The Bentenmaru and Barbarossa give chase, and are joined by several other ships.

The key point of this entire novel is this scene, in which Marika finds herself in command of not only her own two crews (the Bentenmaru’s professional crew and the Odette’s (now under Ririka’s direct command) amateurs, but also being encouraged to lead by Kenjo Kurihara (Chiaki’s father and captain of the Barbarossa) and in indirect control of several other ships, who have joined to help her. Kenjo cheerfully points out to her that Captain Kato Marika is now in control of her own fleet.

Bam.

At that moment, you can feel the shadow of her father, Gozaemon, looming up behind her.

Something else happens at that moment. Gozaemon starts to be mentioned. By name. Not as Marika’s father, or the former captain, but just here and there by name. If you’ve watched the anime, you’ve seen the utterly unsubtle foreshadowing that this echoes.

With the help of the Koukuchou, the Glamorous Ridis, the Death Shadow, and other ships, the Bentenmaru and Barbarossa free the Odette from the clutches of the Pirate Guild. Jackie bails, and Grant retreats.

Back in Volume 5, I said that if this arc doesn’t end in Volume 6, I might not read the next one. But realistically, there’s no chance now that I won’t. I can guess some of what is going to happen and I want to see where it goes.

As I did with Volume 5, I read this novel on Bookwalker Global. Now that I’ve adjusted the type on my Surface to suit my tired eyes, I find reading a page or two digitally every night not insurmountable. As a result, I think I’m moving more quickly though the book than I did in print.

I’m into Volume 7 now and the arc is still ongoing. I already know the climax, but the arc isn’t what’s driving me forward, it is and always has been, the characters. And I really want to know what’s going to happen to them.

Ratings:

Overall – 7

Still a lot of technobabble and space fighting, with a soupçon of electronic warfare and good ole’ reconnaissance and subterfuge. It’s a damn good military/pirate adventure and I can feel the end already.

Ahoy, Volume 7, here I come!

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