Friday, March 27, 2009

Yuri Manga: Kannazuki no Miko volume 1 (English)

This week I've had this and that and a million other things going on. Instead of easing back into the college academia pool, it feels like I've been pushed headlong into it from behind (but that's college)- and aside from my hour long panel at Conbust tomorrow (and I'll make time to check out one or two other panels and stop by the dealer's room- I really need some Pocky a.s.a.p.), this weekend will be owned by homework. Nothing like resuming my bloggerly duties with this fine specimen of a manga.

Kannazuki no Miko is the story of two high school girls, innocent, naive, bubbly blonde Himeko Kurusugawa, and cool, reserved, dark-haired ojousama Chikane Himemiya. On their 16th birthday, they are attacked by the followers of the evil god Orochi and each one, respectively, discovers that she is the priestess of the sun or moon. But while Himeko has no idea that Chikane is the lunar priestess, Chikane knows everything, including the darker reasons behind the priestesses' existence. As the Orochi followers continue to target the priestesses, Himeko and Chikane's classmate and Orochi-follower-turned-good Souma protects them (read: Himeko) with his mecha (which all Orochi use) because he is in love with Himeko. Chikane is also madly in love with Himeko, and Himeko unknowingly vacillates between the two of them.

In theory, the plot sounds like it could be a great story, but in Kaishaku's hands Kannazuki no Miko comes out as merely a lightweight, mindless yet entertaining read that packs in just about every otaku cliche possible. (Catgirl nurses! Mecha! Moe! Long-haired bishonen!) That's hardly a damning critique, however. While virtually every plot element in this story has been cobbled to satisfy otaku tastes, it does so with enough energy and sheer, B-movie-like entertainment value that it makes for a pleasant way to relax from, say, a busy work or school week for an hour. The pacing never drags and constantly keeps the reader pleasantly, if mindlessly preoccupied, until the plot complication from hell arrives in the last few pages.

As a former drooling fan/multiple-viewer of the KnM anime it was nice to revisit the same familiar story, with some aspects shaken, not stirred. The manga pulls off a few things better, like providing more exposition for the origin of Himeko and Souma's deep friendship and cutting down the Chikane-angst.

On the other hand, the manga doesn't provide nearly as much insight into Chikane's mind as the anime did, making her sudden switch to the dark side somewhat more jarring, even though it was still shocking and terrible in the anime. And while the art is fine (smooth and cleanly drawn), the manga character designs seem slightly more rounded than those in the anime, the latter of which I prefer. And the events of the final scene felt more exploitive than they were in the anime (Chikane smiling at the viewer?). Typical Kaishaku.

Kannazuki no Miko is, as far as I know, the third yuri-focused title published by Tokyopop, but the first non-OEL. Kudos to them for bringing over more yuri manga, but I primarily bought this A) out of my old sentimentality for the anime, and B) to encourage Tokyopop and other U.S. manga companies to license other, hopefully higher quality yuri titles. I already own two (count 'em, two) copies of each of the Japanese tankoubon. -_-;;

Story: C
Art: C+
Rating: C+

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