Friday, June 12, 2009

Yuri Manga: Kannazuki no Miko volume 2 (English)

Kannazuki no Miko feels like a cross between a mindless summer blockbuster (Explosions!! Gut-crunching action!! Cute girls screaming as things explode!!) and one of the strange, sexually-charged legends from the Nihon Shoki or Kojiki. That is to say: this series isn't intelligent by any means or remotely politically correct, but it makes for a strangely compelling read. ^^;; Considering how many elements it packs in that I despise, that's saying something.

Volume 2 begins with the aftermath of Chikane's rape of Himeko (one of the few times I've wished an English manga publisher hadn't reproduced the color pages in color; I support faithful reproductions of Japanese tankoubon, but...bleh...). Himeko wakes up, believing that the rape was only a dream- or was it? When she sees Chikane, she seems pretty normal, but at school she ominously tells Himeko that she wasn't dreaming. (I felt terrible for Himeko, but I also wanted to smack her upside the head for the idiotic reason she came up with for "Chikane-chan" raping her.)

We learn that Chikane raped her because, like all religions that boast antediluvian views of women, the sects (?) of Ame no Murakumo and Orochi demand that women must be virgins to remain of holy value to the gods. Specifically, in order for the evil god Orochi to be revived, the life/virgin blood of either the sun or moon priestess is needed, so Himeko can't be sacrificed now because she is "impure."

Chikane, who is in cahoots with the Orochi followers, tells them that Himeko is disqualified for the sacrifice, and so Girochi goes to Earth to attack Souma, who he thinks is responsible. Himeko spends most of this volume playing "Hide the Rapist", while everyone (except Chikane, of course) wonders who did it. Chikane kills the rest of the Orochi necks (besides Tsubasa and Souma), and long story short, Himeko and Souma fly in Souma's mecha to the moon where Chikane is waiting for them. Chikane does some more evil, twisted sh*t, like killing Souma in front of Himeko and molesting Himeko yet again. Himeko, being the Kaishaku heroine that she is (and clearly suffering from Stockholm syndrome), still forgives Chikane, actively saves her from suicide, and tells her that she loves her and wants to be with her forever. (That part was pretty funny, actually: "Let me die, damn it!! What does it take for you to freaking hate me!!??" *smashes Souma* "Nooooo!! Soumaaaaa!!!! But I still love you Chikane-chan!! Let me make you happy!!" "Damn iiiit!!" I'm not exactly quoting the characters verbatim, but that's pretty much how it played out. -_-;;)

Himeko gets to choose how the world will be re-made, from eight conveniently pre-determined choices. She chooses- wait for it- to create a world without either her or Chikane in it, so they can do whatever on the moon for eternity. Inexplicably, however, in the epilogue the two shrine maidens are reincarnated as twin sisters who are still in love with one another. Happily ever after...I guess...

As illustrated in my summary, this is definitely not p.c. Himeko is a disturbingly spineless heroine who makes Tohru Honda look like Utena Tenjou (maybe not *quite* that bad...). Chikane makes a very effective villain, but a f*cked up love interest, and Souma's just there. My opinion on the other Orochi acolytes varies- I like Sister Miyako, the manga author (I forget her name), and the idol (ditto), don't like the nurse cat girl or Girochi, and think Tsubasa's okay. Nevertheless, as unlikeable/unremarkable as the core cast is, watching them scheme and back-stab one another to change their perceived pre-determined fate made for some compelling light reading. The story never fulfills its ambitions of being a great fantasy epic- as in the anime, there are several plot holes like "Why did these specific people become followers of Orochi? Where did the field of flowers suddenly come from? How can they breathe on the moon? And how were Himeko and Chikane reborn again? And why twins!?" And Kaishaku can't resist throwing in unnecessary otaku-pandering elements (cat girl nurse, sexy nun, clumsy moe heroine, etc; that kind of thing is their shtick). But despite those negatives, they keep the story paced quickly, moving briskly from event to event until the strange, strange ending. Kaishaku can't write a truly good story to save their lives, but by god, they know how to wrap it up quickly.

The art is pretty good. The character designs are appealing when they aren't mired in fan service or cheesy mecha battles (Souma's eyes literally beam light when he's firing up his mecha in one panel), and backgrounds are done surprisingly well. Tokyopop's reproduction is very well done. I noticed, maybe, two pages in which some of the lines were a little faded. Otherwise, the ink was clean and crisp. Those damnable color pages begin the book, and after the story, there are several black and white pages of bonus art of Himeko and Chikane. The translation is excellent. The dialogue flows smoothly, the honorifics as well as the Japanese names for the gods and Orochi mecha are all preserved faithfully, and each character comes across as having a distinctive "voice." If only every Tokyopop release received this treatment. (Especially if they decide to license a really good yuri manga. :) )

Story: C+
Art: B
Translation: A
Overall: C+

Ironically, while KnM itself is a miasma of suffering for Himeko and (to a much lesser degree) Chikane, when they appear as side characters in other Kaishaku series (all three volumes of Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora and UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie volume 7) they make a surprisingly cute, functional couple. What gives, Kaishaku?

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