Posts tagged ‘Chika Shiomi ‘




Rasetsu

TITLE: Rasetsu
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Chika Shiomi
PUBLISHER: Viz
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
CATEGORY: Shoujo
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 9
SCORE: 9 (Great)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Chika Shiomi (mangaka of Yurara, Canon, and Night of the Beasts), Ghost Hunt, supernatural manga, romance, comedy, drama

I feel Rasetsu is a rather appropriate title to review this month, for the title character happens to share my birthday, which was November 2nd. Granted, it probably would have been even a better fit for October, considering it’s a supernatural romance about a group of exorcists, but I didn’t have time last month to write a review.

Rasetsu is the story of an eighteen-year-old girl of the same name who has the ability to see and exorcise spirits. Three years before the start of the story, Rasetsu was marked with a rose tattoo by a powerful demon, who informed her that if she did not find true love by her twentieth birthday, he would take her and make her his. Because of the demon’s threat, Rasetsu is obsessed with finding a boyfriend while also working as an exorcist for the Hiichiro Amakawa Agency.

One day, a handsome young librarian by the name of Yako Hoshino (of Yurara fame) comes to the agency for help with a possessed book. Though he has paranormal powers of his own (over water), he cannot exorcise the spirit himself. Through various circumstances, instigated by Rasetsu and her co-worker Kuryu, Yako ends up fired from the library and forced to work at the agency as well. As they work together, Rasetsu begins to think Yako might be the “true love” who will save her from the demon’s curse, but, unfortunately, he’s still in love with the departed guardian spirit Yurara, who Rasetsu greatly resembles.

First of all, I think it’s important to note that even though Rasetsu is a sequel (or spin-off, as it is billed as on the cover) of Yurara, no prior knowledge of the previous series is needed to enjoy it. Rasetsu stands fine on its own, with everything you need to know about the events of Yurara explained in the story. That being said, I do recommend you read Yurara first. Not only is it good series in its own right (though not as great as Rasetsu), but several characters from Yurara make guest appearances as clients, and you’ll get more of a kick out of their cameos if you’re familiar with their backgrounds and relationship with Yako.

To be honest, going into this series, I wasn’t expecting to like it very much, mostly because I never really cared much for Yako. I was a total Mei fangirl, so a story with Yako as the lead male didn’t interest me at first. However, I am a Chika Shiomi fan and thought the premise held promise, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Rasetsu is by far my favorite of Shiomi’s works currently released in English. One of the things I really like about the story is that it kind of straddles the line between shoujo and josei. The romance is very shoujo-y, but the fact that it takes place in an office enviroment and the characters are all over eighteen gives the story a bit of freshness, compared to the usual high school stories that dominate the genre. The supernatural aspect was also a big appeal for me, as it is with all of Shiomi’s works. Admittedly, the majority of the cases the agency works on over the course of the series aren’t terribly interesting on their own merits, usually being wrapped up within a single chapter — which is pretty much the main reason I didn’t give Rasetsu a Masterpiece rating; I was hoping for a bit more of a Ghost Hunt vibe, involving actual paranormal investigation — but I enjoyed how the cases served to reveal more about the characters and the overall plot involving the evil spirit who cursed Rasetsu.

But the main reason I love Rasetsu is the relationships and interactions between the five main characters who work at the agency. At heart, Rasetsu is a rather dark story, what with the main heroine cursed to die on her twentieth birthday and the male leads dealing with their own past issues, but its the romance and especially the humor that sold the story for me. For example, it’s rare that I find the ubiquitous Big Eater found in many anime and manga all that hilarious beyond the first couple of gags, but Rasetsu’s fanatical love of cake and anything sugary cracked me up in almost every scene it appeared (which was a lot, considering sugar actually fuels her psychic powers). Her facial expressions during these scenes are just priceless, and I also love how watching her eat all that sugar — sometimes even resorting to sugar cubes just to get her fix when Yako complains about how much company money she spends on expensive cakes — has a tendency to make people sick to their stomach. Another big source of humor for me is the rivalry between Rasetsu’s two love interests, Yako and Kuryu. They have a like/hate relationship similar to the one that Yako shared with Mei in Yurara, but the hate part is more subtle, in keeping with the fact that they’re both in their mid-twenties. It’s just plain fun watching Kuryu tease Yako, frequently abusing his kotodama powers just to do so, and Yako’s always at his funniest whenever he’s annoyed.

Another highlight is the characters themselves. Rasetsu is a great lead, with just the right amount of strength and vulnerability. It’s remarkable to see just how much Rasetsu has grown since she was first marked by the demon when she was fifteen, as shown in the several flashbacks to the period right after, but even after the story proper begins three years later, she continues to develop into a stronger person. At the beginning of the story, Rasetsu is desperate to find someone — anyone! — to love her, in order to save her from the evil spirit’s curse, but as the series continues and she falls into (what she believes is) unrequited love with Yako, she begins to realize that “true love” really means and that having a boyfriend may not actually be the answer to saving her from the demon. (Love doesn’t actually conquer all in a shoujo manga? Shocker!) I thought that was a fantastic message to put forth in a series like this, meant to be read by teenage girls who may feel they are worthless without a boyfriend by their side.  

As for Yako, I ended up liking him a lot more here in Rasetsu than I did in Yurara. He’s still recognizably Yako…but different. More mature, I guess you would say, which makes sense, considering Rasetsu is set around eight years post-Yurara. I do rather miss his love of telling ghost stories, which was a fun quirk of his from his teenage Yurara days, but the new and improved Yako is much kinder and warmer than his younger self, making him a more palatable love interest in my eyes. He’s definitely more swoon-worthy here.

Unfortunately, even with his improved character and new leading man status, Yako still manages to be outshone by an even more interesting rival. That would be the Kuryu, whose sly, cheeky personality hides an incredible inner pain. His speciality, as I mentioned before, is kotodama — one of the most fascinating psychic powers I’ve ever come across in fiction. Basically, he can use his voice to manipulate people, animals, spirits, objects, and even the weather to do whatever he commands. He claims that his power isn’t very useful and that he can only use it a few times a day — in the first chapter, it was just once a day, but that seemed to be retconned in later chapters — but as the series continues, it becomes apparent that he is a heck of a lot more powerful than he initially seems.

One of the things I’ve always admired about Chika Shiomi’s work is that she almost always gives her stories some sort an unexpected twist. The twist in this case concerns Kuryu. It’s foreshadowed early on that there’s something a bit different about him, and I suspect many readers will think they’ve figured it out the twist within the first few volumes. In fact, had Shiomi stuck with her original plans as explained in one of her author’s notes in the last volume, those same readers probably would have predicted correctly, as Kuryu’s character was meant to go in a different direction. Had she actually continued developing him in that direction, it still would have led to a great, if somewhat more predicable, story, but the real twist is almost guaranteed to leave you in tears by the end of the series. Really, Rasetsu has one of my all-time favorite manga endings. I can never read it without sobbing my heart out. (It’s happy, but very bittersweet.)  

As the most recent of Shiomi’s works to be released in English, it’s no surprise that Rasetsu boasts her best artwork to date. Some of her full-page and two-page spreads are just gorgeous, making me wish for an artbook for the series. (There might be one in Japan; I haven’t checked.) Even her character design for Yako has improved from Yurara. The slightly longer layers of his hairstyle are much more flattering on him, and his wardrobe gets a stylish boost. Actually, I really loved everybody’s clothing in this series, from Rasetsu’s trendy outfits to Kuryu’s suits to even Hiichiro’s yukata.

Really, there’s a lot more I could say about this series — I didn’t even get the chance to talk about super-lazy Hiichiro and his faithful, non-psychic assistant Aoi, who are also great characters — but I think you get the picture. I love this series, and if you’re a fan of supernatural romance, I think you will, too.

Add a comment November 15, 2011

Canon

Originally posted on Mar. 11, 2010 at LiveJournal.

TITLE: Canon
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Chika Shiomi
PUBLISHER: CMX
RATING: Teen (13+)
CATEGORY: Shoujo
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 4
SCORE: 9 (Great)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Chika Shiomi (mangaka of Yurara, Rasetsu, and Night of the Beasts), supernatural, violence, romance

I am not a fan of vampires. They just aren’t my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I can understand the appeal — I love sexy pale-skinned, angst-ridden guys as well as the next woman — but the blood-sucking part just squicks me out. Big time. However, I am a fan of mangaka Chika Shiomi, so I put my general squick of vampires aside to check out her debut series, Canon.

The title character of the story is a sixteen year old girl who is the sole survivor of a massacre that left all thirty-nine of her classmates dead. During the attack, she was forced to drink the blood of their killer, a pureblood vampire by the name of Rod. This turns Canon into a “servant” vampire — meaning a human who was turned into a vampire by another vampire. But Canon isn’t like most vampires — she refuses to drink human blood and uses her powers to turn other servant vampires back into humans, all the while hunting for the vampire who killed her friends in order to enact her revenge.

Six months after the attack, she meets another vampire by the name of Sakaki, who also wants to kill Rod. Handsome Sakaki is a “half-breed”: his father was a pureblood vampire, but his mother was human. It is vampiric law that all half-breed vampires must be destroyed. The purebloods fear half-breeds because they possess very strong powers and are not harmed by the sun, so Rod is sent to kill Sakaki and his parents. Sakaki, however, manages to survive the attack and vows to avenge his parents’ deaths. To do that, he requires Canon’s help.

One thing that really impressed me with this series is how genuinely unpredictable it is. You may have formed some idea of how the rest of the plot will play out from reading the brief summary I gave above, but I can pretty much guarantee you that you are wrong. By the second volume, almost everything you thought you knew up to that point is incorrect. I wish I could elaborate further, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises in store. Just know that this is not a story that is as straightforward as it seems.  

The characters are also not always who they seem at first sight. Again, I don’t want to delve into too much explanation in fear of spoilers, but I will mention Fui. I love Fui. He’s probably my favorite character in the series, and get this — he’s a talking vampire crow. Yes, a crow. Granted, due to my lack of knowledge of the vampire genre, I may be too impressed by something that is relatively common, but I have never come across any sort of vampiric animal before. (Well, besides bats, of course, which this series has as well.) I, for one, thought it was an interesting and original idea.

And Fui himself is a hoot. As Canon’s sarcastic, wise-cracking partner (of sorts), he warns Canon when there are vampires nearby with his vampire-enhanced sense of smell. He also acts as somewhat of an advisor to Canon, being more knowledgeable about the vampire culture than she is, but admittedly, it’s rare that she actually takes his advice, which often goes against her morals. Fui, unlike Canon, doesn’t see anything wrong with drinking blood, and he often complains about having to follow Canon’s rules. Still, despite their sometimes rocky relationship, it’s clear that Canon and Fui care about each other very much.

Canon is quite the character herself — very strong-willed and determined, and she can certainly hold her own in a fight. I just wish we knew more about her life before she was turned into a vampire. We know that she spent a lot of time in the hospital because of some unnamed, incurable disease, but no mention is ever given to her family. Is she an orphan? It never says, but I have to assume so, given that after she “disappears” from regular society, no one seems that concerned about finding her. Little attention is given to Canon’s dead classmates, either. Understandable, perhaps, since they were killed before the story begins, but only one (Akiko, the sister of a photographer who appears in the first chapter) is mentioned by name. I would have liked to see more flashbacks to Canon’s school days; I think it would have helped to understand just how much Canon’s friends meant to her and made her need for revenge for their deaths more personal. 

Artwise, Canon is quite well-drawn for a debut series. I mentioned in my review of Night of the Beasts how Shiomi had a tendency to draw short-haired women like men, and it’s the same here with a female vampire named Machua, who even dresses in menswear-style clothes. If not for the lipstick and heels, I would have sworn she was male. Aside from that complaint, though, I think I may actually prefer the style of Canon over those of her later works. As an extra, there’s also a colored version of some of the chapter title pages in the front of each volume, something I always love. All four are beautifully done.

I think any fan of vampire fiction would really like Canon. Even those who don’t normally like the genre — like me — may find themselves won over by the intriguing plot, despite all the violence and gore (of which there is plenty; why is this only rated “Teen”?) It’s just plain good, and I highly recommend it.

Add a comment April 3, 2010

Night of the Beasts

Originally posted on Jan. 7, 2010 at Livejournal. Edited Mar. 23, 2010 to get rid some unnecessary possible spoilers. (This was my first attempt at writing a review, so I was still learning how to balance summary and commentary.)

TITLE: Night of the Beasts
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Chika Shiomi
PUBLISHER: Go!Comi
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
CATEGORY: Shoujo
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 6
SCORE: 8 (Very Good)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Chika Shiomi (mangaka of Yurara, Rasetsu, and Canon), Ceres: Celestial Legend, supernatural, violence, romance

I’ve recently become a fan of Chika Shiomi, thanks to Yurara and its spin-off Rasetsu. While Yurara and Rasetsu are supernatural dramedies (leaning more toward the comedic side), this earlier work is much more serious in tone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoyed the humor in Yurara and Rasetsu, but I also liked the drama in Night of the Beasts, even in spite of how bloody and violent it could be at times. (It should be noted that the high rating is not due to nudity or explicit sexual content — of which there isn’t any — but the violence.)

The heroine of the story is 17-year-old Aria Yamaguchi, an orphaned girl who lives with her mother’s sister. Her mother died when she was thirteen, and she knows nothing about her father. Aria is a bit of deliquent, frequently skipping out on school and her job at her aunt’s cafe to hang out with her friends and have fun. She also gets in a lot of fights, defending girls from unwanted advances from guys.

There has been a series of grisly murders happening in Aria’s neighborhood, appearing to be the work of a dog who likes to eat humans. At the site of one of the attacks, Aria meets — well, more like crashes — into a handsome young man, who kisses her on the cheek, much to her irritation. They happen to meet again the next day, and he introduces himself as Sakura Kijima. (Yes, you read that right. He’s a guy named Sakura. I know, strange.)

Sakura turns out to be a distant, distant blood relation of Aria on her father’s side. He is possessed by the black demon Kagara, who has sworn to murder all four thousand descendents of the human woman Mikage who killed him over 400 years ago. He sought out Aria because of a prediction made by another blood relative who has the ability to see the future that revealed Aria has the ability to calm the demon inside of him. Sakura has managed to stop himself from killing any humans so far (the attacks in Aria’s neighborhood were the work of another black demon), but he’s afraid that once he does, he will be overtaken by the demon permanently, so he wants Aria to help him stay in control of the demon. Aria isn’t too keen on the idea at first, but she has a bit of a “saving people complex”, so she eventually agrees to help.

There are quite a few similarities between this story and one of my all-time favorite manga series, Ceres: Celestial Legend. Even the family founders in both stories are both named Mikage, although Mikage is a woman in NotB and a man in Ceres. What I found interesting is how the blood relatives in this story, who want to kill Sakura due to his demonic nature, are portrayed more sympathetically in NotB than in Ceres. I rather hated Aya’s family for trying to kill her because she was possessed by Ceres, but Shiomi made a point of showing just how frightened and terrified the blood relatives are of Kagara, and the reader can understand why they wantto kill Sakura. (It’ll be interesting to reread Ceres with this newfound perspective of things.) In fact, “kill, or be killed” is a major theme of the story, with several characters having to make that decision.

Like I mentioned perviously, this is a rather violent series. I’m not sure I would have bought it had I known just how bloody it would be — I’m not a fan of gore — but I’m glad I did, despite that. (Although reading this does make me a little hesitant to read Shiomi’s vampire manga Canon…) It’s action-packed with lots of drama/angst and has some great characters. My favorite is probably Shiro, Sakura’s older cousin who, unlike the rest of the family, is hoping to find a way to get rid of the demon without having to kill Sakura.

Personally, I would have liked to see Aria’s and Sakura’s relationship get a little more development before a certain event — obviously, they fall in love, although there’s very little actual romance shown — and the artwork (seeing as this is an earlier work from Shiomi, from the mid-90s) isn’t as good as her newer works — I could have sworn Aria’s short-haired girlfriend was a male the first time I saw her; the same with a mother character in one of the extra one-shots — but those are just minor complaints in an otherwise great series.

Add a comment March 23, 2010

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