Sunday, November 13, 2011

Something much more obscure than most of what I've reviewed lately: Kyoumei Suru Echo

Kigi Tatsumi's Kyoumei Suru Echo ("Resounding Echo") is another one-shot collection, from Tsubomi magazine. Half of this collection is pleasant but forgettable, while the other half is excellent.

In "Runner's High," Yuki stopped participating in track because she accidentally pushed Touko, the girl she likes, down a flight of stairs, causing Touko to injure her knee and drop out of track. Yuki runs into Touko, who tells her that she never blamed her and she's getting her knee fixed so she can compete again. Yuki decides to compete again also.

"Unbalance" is about the cool track team captain Asami, her secretly crushy friend Sato, who is the student council president, and Hibiki, the curmudgeonly student council member who unexpectedly melts at seeing Asami with long hair.

"Asymmetry," shows a typical evening at home for Hibiki, her twin sister, her mom, and her older sister Ritsuko.

The three part story titled "Lonesome Echo" is about Ritsuko. Ritsuko is a music teacher who has just started working at a new high school. She hems and haws when asked why she left the school she used to teach at, but no one pries too much. In the room that's meant to be her new office, she finds a student named Youko who's used to cutting class there. (Correction: Youko isn't exactly a student. See the comments for this post for more details.) Ritsuko and Youko become friends over their shared love of music. Ritsuko plays the piano and Youko plays the violin.

One day when they're chatting outside the school, a well put together but obviously sketchy woman appears and tells Ritsuko that she's "found" her, and to get into her car. Despite Youko's protests, Ritsuko leaves with the woman. Ritsuko doesn't show up at school for a few days, and returns saying that she was out sick, and oh, that creepy woman was just her former music teacher. The woman keeps picking Ritsuko up when she's done working. You can guess what's happening, right?

After finding out about Ritsuko's bruises, Youko confronts her and Ritsuko admits that she's in an abusive relationship with her former music teacher, who tracked her down after she tried to get away by switching schools. It's obvious that her fear of an "Ewww, lesbian! You shouldn't be a teacher!" reaction hasn't exactly helped her come forward to anyone about it. Because of her connection to the school chairman and general bad assery, Youko protects Ritsuko and helps her get her abusive lover arrested. The ending was kind of pat, but in this case, I really didn't mind.

First thing I liked about "Lonesome Echo": Youko. Great character, has more presence than anyone else in this book, and I quite like the interaction between her and Ritsuko. Second: I can count the stories I have consumed that deal with domestic violence well on one mangled hand. (Last Friends, you botched it. "Oh Michiru, I will selflessly kill myself, but my presence will continue to haunt this show because you can't stop romanticizing me even though I raped and beat you and terrorized your friends when they tried to protect you." Argh.) Not a whiff of exploitation or gratuitous lingering over the abuse, but no sugarcoating of what it does to the assaultee either. And Ritsuko's emotions felt real. Youko was a little superhuman, but likeable enough that it didn't bother me.

Like most people, I don't look for stories like "Lonesome Echo." (However well-done, I wouldn't want to read too many stories focusing on "Lonesome Echo"'s theme.) But it was still good.

Story: B+ for "Lonesome Echo," B- for "Runner's High," C+ for "Unbalance" and "Asymmetry."
Art: B
Overall: B


Erin said...

"Lonesome Echo" was my favorite story from the collection, too. I thought it was well-done, though I wouldn't have minded if it had gone on longer!
I'm sure you can guess which my least favorite story was. lol

One minor correction: Youko isn't a student. She's 19, and the chairman's granddaughter (on her mother's side). Her father is a famous musician who abused Youko's mother to death. (Some of this is hinted at in the story, like the TV announcement about Youko's father, and some of it is from the afterword.) So that shapes her response to Ritsuko's situation, though even so, you're right that she comes off as superhuman.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Erin- If I'm guessing correctly, it was my least favorite also. ^^;

Poor Youko. No wonder she was so eager to confront Ritsuko's girlfriend. And thanks for pointing that out! It figures that when I don't read the author's afterword, it's a lot more substantial than the usual, "Thanks for buying this book! Look at my character sketches, aren't they pretty? I like this type of character, etc."

I wouldn't have minded it going on longer either.