Sunday, February 20, 2011

An oldie but a goodie (Or, "I had to review it eventually"): Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito

Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito ("Darkness, the Hat, and the Traveler of Books") has become a hazing ritual for certain yuri fans. If you're a newbie to the genre who's thinking, "Oh my god, yuri!! I didn't know that such a wonderful genre existed! I need to see *everything* yuri!! Wheeeee!", you will wind up seeing Yamibou, which will squeeze your heart a little before smashing it into a bloody pulp and kicking a few puppies for good measure. (Or wait, maybe that's just me.) Anyway...

Azuma Hazuki (the dark-haired girl above) is a high school student who is in love with her mute adopted older sister Hatsumi (the blonde). Somehow, the fact that they grew up as sisters flew over my head when I watched this years ago. (I was probably too busy drooling over sword-swinging Hazuki; tall, dark, single-minded, and angst-ridden as she is.) Re-watching it I thought, "Erm...where's the Westermarck Effect?"

On the night before Hatsumi's 16th birthday, Hazuki has a fight with her but later feels bad about it. She goes to Hatsumi's room at about midnight to apologize, but when the clock strikes twelve Hatsumi rises into the air and disappears in a flash of green light. A talking yellow bird named Ken-chan appears and tells Hazuki that Hatsumi's real name is "Eve." She's a goddess who likes to live in different worlds for fun until she turns 16, at which point she disappears and starts a new life in another world for another 16 years.

Hazuki wants to see Hatsumi again, so she starts traveling through worlds with Ken-chan and learns that the universe is one enormous library maintained by a buxom librarian named Lilith who finds Hazuki incredibly attractive and would love to escort her through the different worlds- some of which Hatsumi has lived (and left loved ones behind) in before. Lilith hates Eve because she left Lilith with library duty. Will Hazuki find Hatsumi? Yes, but if there were ever a perfect example of "Be careful what you wish for," it would be what happens to Hazuki.

The bare bones of Yamibou's story (a heroine traveling through worlds to find her lost love, who is a deity who pretended to be human) are actually solid (it's different, especially for the yuri genre), but Yamibou fails to put adequate meat on them.The writers are more interested in building up their female characters' breast sizes than in building a solid story, ultimately leaving us with a narrative that makes little sense and a sad, memory-wiped 15 year old who's due for a nasty shock in her future. There are some not-bad things, like the light "wtf"-inducing entertainment value inherent to the story, the tongue-in-cheek Kaguya-hime reference in the feudal arc and, for seiyuu geeks, Noto Mamiko, but it's basically a poorly written eroge adaptation.

The game this series is based on actually stars a male protagonist and features a very different-sounding story. It's nice that the folks who made the creative decisions for the anime adaptation decided to give it a yuri spin- but in this case, "yuri" and "good" didn't converge.

Story: D+
Art: B- (Character designs are recognizably eroge, but sometimes very well-rendered.)
Overall: D+

If you can't get enough of Hazuki's fruitless search for Hatsumi or are a completist, check out episode 14 of Touka Gettan. (I linked to the Touka Gettan clip above because it succinctly summarizes Yamibou.)

An extra note: Touka Gettan is based on a game by the same developer that created the game Yamibou is based on. The people who worked on Touka Gettan made its 14th episode focus on the characters from Yamibou (pretty easy when they can visit any world they want by cracking open a book) to get curious suckers like me to watch it.


Erica said...

Oldie but a meh-ie? :-)

This story was most notable for people re-writing it in their heads to be something that it absolutely never was.


Katherine Hanson said...


"Oldie but a meh-ie?" <- lol Yes.

Sheldor said...

Hahaha this review was so good, and scarily accurate!

"Oh my god, yuri!! I didn't know that such a wonderful genre existed! I need to see *everything* yuri!! Wheeeee!" - Say out of my head!!!

I watched Yamibou super early in my Yuri career and I was just so excited by the Yuri that I ignored all the series glaring flaws, even the incest didn’t register at the time. Still, Hazuki is totally badass and Yamibou is almost (almost) worth watching just for her. Her manly “HATSUMI” war cry is still as epic as ever!

Omg, why did I ever watch Touka Gettan--- well I know why but seriously WHY!?!? That was one of the worst anime experiences I’ve ever had.

Great review!

Katherine Hanson said...

scarily accurate = yay! ^_^

"Her manly “HATSUMI” war cry is still as epic as ever! " <- Yup, yup. (Noto always rocks, but I liked how she did a voice different from her usual "type" for this series.)

Ugh, yes. Touka Gettan almost made Yamibou look good! > <