PR: VIZ MEDIA ANNOUNCES NOVEMBER HAIKASORU IMPRINT RELEASES

Here are the details of some new releases from Viz’s Haikasouru imprint of translated science fiction and fantasy. I’ve read one of the books from the imprint, The Lord of the Sands of Time. I didn’t realize before that the author of Good Witch of the West was getting her novels translated. I enjoyed a few volumes of that manga series even though I wasn’t compelled to read to the end, but now I am a little curious about Dragon Sword and Wind Child.

THE OUROBOROS WAVE by Jyouji Hayashi
Price: $14.99 U.S. / CAN $19.99 • Available Now!
Ninety years from now, a satellite detects a nearby black hole scientists dub Kali for the Hindu goddess of destruction. As human society expands to Mars and beyond, the generations-long project to harness the power of the black hole pits the retrograde humans of Earth against the imminently rational men and women of the Artificial Accretion Disk Development association. While conflicts simmer, a mystery within Kali itself tests the limits of intelligence—that of both human and machine.

Jyouji Hiyashi was born in Hokkaido in 1962. Having worked as a clinical laboratory technician, Jyouji Hiyashi debuted as a writer in 1995 with his cowritten Dai Nihon Teikoku Oushu Dengeki Sakusen. His popularity grew with the Shonetsu no Hatou series and the Heitai Gensui Oushu Senki series – both military fiction backed by real historical perspectives. Beginning in 2000, he consecutively released Kioku Osen, Shinryakusha no Heiwa, and Ankoku Taiyo no Mezame, stories that combine scientific speculation and sociological investigations. He continues to write and act as a flag-bearer for a new generation of hard SF.

DRAGON SWORD AND WIND CHILD by Noriko Ogiwara
Price: $13.99 U.S. / CAN $18.99 • Available Now!
The forces of the God of Light and the Goddess of Darkness have waged a ruthless war across the land of Toyoashihara for generations. But for fifteen-year-old Saya, the war is far away—until the day she discovers that she is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden and a princess of the Children of the Dark. Raised to love the Light and detest the Dark, Saya must come to terms with her heritage even as she tumbles into the very heart of the conflict that is destroying her country. The Light and Dark both seek to claim her, for she is the only mortal who can awaken the legendary Dragon Sword, the fearsome weapon destined to bring an end to the war. Can Saya make the dreadful choice between the Light and Dark, or is she doomed—like all the Water Maidens who came before her…?

Noriko Ogiwara was inspired to write by the classic Western children’s books she read as she was growing up. Dragon Sword and Wind Child is her first book, part of the award winning Magatama Trilogy. The second book of the Magatama Trilogy, Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince will be also available from Haikasoru in May 2011. Her other books include The Good Witch of the West and Fuujin Hisho. Ms. Ogiwara makes her home in Japan.

VB Rose Volumes 8, 9, and 10

VB Rose Volumes 8, 9, and 10 by Banri Hidaka

VB Rose is one of those shoujo series that I need to get caught up on – I’ve read four volumes but it is already almost up to volume 10. I previously looked at volumes 1 and 2 and volume 7.

VB Rose Volume 8

The slowly forming love triangle gets resolved when Ageha’s friend Nat-chan confesses his feelings for her. Nat-chan is the younger brother of Ageha’s best friend Mamoru. Ageha isn’t sure how she feels. She believes that her crush on bridal boutique owner Arisaka, who overheard Nat-chan’s confession, is one-sided. Ageha spends a good part of the volume filled with emotional turmoil. She blurts out to Nat-chan “I’ve just got the mixed-up confusions because…someone as good looking as you likes someone like me!” Nat-chan points out that he knows she likes Arisaka, but he thinks that Ageha feels more natural and comfortable around him because they’ll make a good match. Ageha goes to work with Arisaka, and he’s drawn with his hand supporting his head, surrounded by conflicting thoughts. He’s wanting to say “Choose me instead!” but when Ageha tries to find out how he feels about her new romantic prospect he yells at her.

Ageha goes to tell Nat-chan that she only feels friendship for him, and Arisaka goes after Ageha to apologize. After so many volumes of the relationship slowly getting built up, Arisaka and Ageha manage to express their feelings for each other. One of the things I like about this series is that even though the romance is moving forward, there’s still a business to take care of. There’s a photo shoot at VB Rose and Ageha decides to tag along on a trip to meet with Arisaka’s ex-girlfriend. Despite Kana’s bitter facade, Ageha learns more about Arisaka’s past.

VB Rose Volume 9

Ageha and Arisaka’s budding relationship is put to the test when the VB Rose boutique has to scramble to get a dress ready for a bridal show. One of the reasons why I like this series so much is that the store setting and general emphasis on sewing and crafting puts a slightly different spin on the typical “everyone work together for something” plotline that usually is expressed in shoujo manga through putting on school festivals or other high school events. Ageha is going to model the dress, and the entire VB Rose team comes together to achieve some emergency alterations at the last minute. Arisaka has surrounded himself with a second family that supports them, and it is nice to see everyone recognizing Ageha’s importance and her new place at Arisaka’s side.

As I was leafing through this volume in preparation for writing about it, I was struck again with the clarity of Hidaka’s art. She doesn’t use a ton of tone or draw extremely elaborate backgrounds. Instead, the details of the clothing and other crafts constructed at the boutique are given greater importance, as are the facial expressions of the characters. Hidaka tends to go into full-on flower background shoujo mode for moments that have the greatest impact on the characters. Ageha descends a staircase wearing the VB Rose showcase dress surrounded by flowers and music, only to find Arisaka waiting at the bottom step to take her arm.

VB Rose Volume 10

In the tenth volume the reader gets a big explanation for Arisaka’s personality quirks when his mother abruptly shows up at VB Rose. Ran Kashiwagi’s an actress who had her son and got married when she was far too young for both responsibilities. Arisaka’s father was a steadying influence, but Ran’s habit of going out and leaving Arisaka home alone put the boy in danger. Arisaka’s father asked for a divorce, and Ran moved to Tokyo and was discovered by a talent agency. Ran’s approach to try to ingratiate herself back into her family is to arrive with an expensive car for Arisaka. When she realizes that Ageha is Arisaka’s girl friend, she drags her off on an extravagant shopping trip. Ageha listens to Ran’s story about her past with Arisaka’s father and she councils her on the best approach to try to make things up with her son. She points out to Ran that if Arisaka really hated her, he’d have turned away from her immediately.

Arisaka is left at the boutique with his stepmother, imagining what might be happening to Ageha in the company of his mother. Arisaka realizes that his colleagues are actually his friends for life, and he’s lucky to have found Ageha. Mother and son end up hashing out their relationship issues, which I think is a good foundation for Arisaka and Ageha to be able to move forward with their relationship.

VB Rose doesn’t have the over the top soap opera elements or trainwreck drama that makes some other shoujo series entertaining. Instead, it focuses on the small day-to-day revelations that push relationships in new directions. The core of the story is the network of friendships that have been built at the boutique, and the fact that the characters are so supportive of each other might make this manga seem quieter or more low-key than other stories, but insteadVB Rose ends up being much more heartwarming and sweet.

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Story of Saiunkoku Opening

Today’s Saturday morning cartoon is Story of Saiunkoku! So many pretty men! So much wind blowing flower petals!

Bunny Drop Volume 2

Bunny Drop Volume 2 by Yumi Unita

I’ve had the second volume of Bunny Drop for several weeks, and when I finally picked it up I was reminded of how charming this low-key josei series is. Daikichi and Rin have settled in to their new lives together, but trouble looms ahead as Daikichi starts to try to track down Rin’s real mother. He also has to deal with school enrollment for his new charge, and the societal implications of his choice to voluntarily downsize his job.

One of the things that I like about this series is that despite the premise of a batchelor suddenly having to take care of his five year old aunt, it isn’t overly sentimental. Daikichi isn’t drawn to look particularly handsome, and most of the time he his expressions look just like what you’d expect from an overburdened new father. Fortunately for Rin, Daikichi’s family has started to warm towards her, and she’s able to enjoy visiting with them. Daikichi’s mom starts going into full on crafting mode, making school supply bags and digging out old handknit sweaters for Rin. It was fun seeing the subtle ways Daikichi and RIn have bonded as a family. When she has something to say to him that she’s afraid of saying out loud, she just stares at him until he leans down so she can whisper in his ear.

I was surprised at how quickly the mystery of Rin’s mother was solved. Daikichi figures out who she is and goes to meet her. As befitting the subtle ways Bunny Drop handles character and plot development, she isn’t a monster who abandoned her child. She’s a very confused young woman who seems to have brainwashed herself to discard any maternal instinct whatsoever. Daikichi decides not to feel guilty about stepping into the role of Rin’s parent, because he’s clearly the only person in her life who actually is trying to take care of her interests.

Bunny Drop isn’t a series with extreme highs and lows. It has a measured approach to storytelling that feels very naturalistic, and the way Unita portrays Rin’s milestones like getting a new school backpack or being able to help in the kitchen seems like an accurate portrayal of a young girl slowly beginning to grow up.

Library Wars: Love and War Volumes 2 and 3

Library Wars Volume 2

The plot in Library Wars might not be the most serious, and the art might not be the best out of all the shoujo series that I’m currently reading but this manga about a militarized task force of librarians seems tailor made for me. In the second volume Iku struggles with her relationship with new recruit Tezuka, whose excellence at academics and marksmanship cause him to look down at his bumbling female classmate. Iku’s roommate Shibasaki figures out that there might be a mole in the library corps. Iku’s team comes together in an attempt to foil the evil temporary head librarian. Dojo continues to act hot and cold, throwing himself over Iku to prevent some shelving from falling on her, then flicking her in the face after he tends to her wounds. When the Media Betterment Committee executes a raid on library corps headquarters, Iku’s quick tactical thinking and physical courage cause her to finally win Tezuka’s respect and he asks her out. She isn’t sure what to do.

One of the things I find amusing about Library Wars is the more intelligent members of the supporting cast are all aware that Iku and Dojo are in love with each other, even if the hapless future couple are determined not to confront their feelings. Shibasaki runs to Dojo with the news that Tezuka has asked out Iku and mockingly proposes herself as his replacement girlfriend. Dojo tells her “I don’t think I can take the competition. There are going to be a lot of jealous men.” Dojo doesn’t try to prevent the recruits from going out, but he warns Tezuka that if he goes out with Iku, he better take it seriously. Iku and Dojo continue to grow closer, and when Iku finally answers Tezuka it is clear that the two trainees are much better off as friends.

Library Wars Volume 3

This volume puts romance aside to focus on censorship, specifically the very common “Think of the children!” type of censorship that often results in book challenges at school libraries. Not surprisingly, children aren’t happy about having their access to their favorite series limited, and a pair of boys touches off an incident when they try to set off fireworks at a pro-censorship rally. Dojo sends Kasahara to grab the perps, and her super speed results in their capture, much to Tezuka’s dismay. Kasahara ends up bonding with her two juvenile delinquents when they reveal that their favorite series is going to be censored. She yells “It’s a great series! Why would they do that?” Dojo quickly warns “Don’t conspire with suspects!” After being lectured by the frightening Major Genda, the boys decide that they’ll fight censorship with research, designing a survey and compiling the responses from the other kids. The kids’ book censorship problem ends up getting solved in an unsubtle way, but I still enjoyed the way the library corps members worked together in an attempt to solve the problem

Dojo confronts Iku over her habit of romanticizing her mysterious library corps prince who helped her when she was a child and her favorite book was about to be censored. Dojo says “If he hadn’t mislead you by overstepping his authority, perhaps you would have better respect for the rules.” Still not realizing Dojo is talking about himself, Iku fires back “If it had been you in that bookstore, I wouldn’t be where I am today!” Iku’s life is complicated further when a reporter wants to profile her, and her parents announce that they are going to come for a visit.

Since everyone but Iku and Dojo know that the couple is going to end up together, there isn’t a whole lot of suspense in Library Wars: Love and War. In some ways, the lack of suspense translates into a cozy and stress-free read. It is easy to see where the plot is going, but I enjoy the characters and the militarized library setting so much the shortcomings of this series don’t bother me at all. I tend to read Library Wars for the scattered moments when Iku and Dojo seem like they’re getting close to an emotional breakthrough, and the fighting scenes as librarians battle censorship are a bonus.

I do hope that Iku comes into her own soon though. It seems to me that she lacks the life experience to leverage her gifts to her advantage. Dojo says to Iku at the end of the second volume “Your honesty and sense of justice, they’ll become your strength in the future.” I think that Iku’s quick reflexes and tendency to leap into action have been hindering her so far, but for someone who appears to be not very intelligent about alphabetizing books, she has some soldier’s instincts that can’t be taught. So far Dojo and Iku have been locked into a mentor/mentee relationship, so I hope they’re able to function more as equal partners by the end of the series.

Review copy of volume 3 provided by the publisher.