Written by Hideyuki Kikuchi, Illustrated by Jun Suemi, Translated by Eugen Woodbury
DMP, 496 pp
Rating: YA (16 +)
The third volume of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s vampire opus continues! This time around we get a double dose of the story as DMP collects volumes three and four of the Japanese release under a single cover, turning the book into a true monster that’s nearly 500 pages in length! Setsura, Mephisto and the allies continue to wage their war with the invading Chinese vampires as alliances shift and new players enter the field of battle that is Shinjuku.
Kikuchi continues to weave and interesting story and even expands upon Princess and her companions’ history here and there. In the first volume of the series he linked her to the near mythical Daji of ancient China. Here he ties her and companions into Indian myth and more. In addition he ramps up the the subplot that started back in the first volume. Toss in a new member of Princess’ entourage and a lengthy out of nowhere subplot involving a dreaming clam, introduce a new faction and you’ve got one busy and odd book. Perhaps a bit too busy and odd as several cracks begin to appear within the story itself. On several occasions Kikuchi introduces new horrors whose only purpose seems to be to introduce a new ability, item or such that coincidentally proves vital to the main plot later on. On one hand this does help populate the city and make it feel like a living, breathing place full of things and characters with their own agendas. On the other hand, instead of being elegant and clever they often feel forced and awkward to the point that you have no choice but to roll your eyes at it.
The cast expands in several directions as Kikuchi introduces a new group into the already volatile mix, namely the JDSF. They not only add complications for our already existing cast, but they also open up the plot a bit and give us a look at how Japan and the rest of the world view and deal with the Demon City. It’s something I’ve been curious about since I started reading the series, and while he’s touched upon the subject before, this is a bit more than throwaway lines and brief mentions of things like tourists and smuggling. Perhaps the most interesting expansion to the book’s cast comes in the form of Galeen Nuvemberg, an ancient witch who was briefly mentioned in the previous two volumes. She takes a more active roll in events with this volume and is one of the few women I’ve come across in a Kikuchi novel who doesn’t seem to fall into the role of victim or villain. Admittedly she’s also described as an eighty year old woman, but it’s still nice to see a woman that’s not helpless plot device or sex crazed maniac.
I’m still enjoying the series but it’s starting to feel like it’s being padded out a bit. Some of the new twists work and make perfect sense, like the introduction of the JSDF to the story, but then you have the other weird bits of forced coincidences that are just groan inducing. Still, there’s no way you can read this and not get the sense that Kikuchi isn’t having fun and, quite frankly, it’s kind of infectious. Despite my complaints I still really enjoyed the book and I’m really curious as to how it’ll wrap up.
Yashakiden: The Demon Princess, Vol. 3 is available now at Emanga.com. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.
by Kaoru Tada
DMP, 360 pp.
Rating: Teens (13 +)
Jumping ahead several volumes from my first look at the series and it seems that.. not much has changed. Kotoko is still head over heels in love with Naoki who’s still cold and rude towards her more often than not. I’d like to say that this time around things are different, but it really feels like more of the same.
I didn’t get a chance to read volumes two or three so I was kind of expecting some major changes in the characters and the story, but there really isn’t a whole lot new or different. Sure, Kotoko and Naoki are a bit older and in college rather than high school, and there are a few new supporting characters, but otherwise it feels awfully familiar. On top of that some of the characters are starting to get on my nerves. I did find all the crazy hijinks and Kotoko’s various attempts to win over Naoki, but when I stopped reading it and started to think about it it was a little sad. Kotoko’s been carrying a torch for Naoki for years now and the fact that he’s almost always this cold, stand offish and rude guy doesn’t really do much to show why anyone would want to waste their time on him. In the course of the volume a new suitor for Kotoko pops up and I found myself rooting for them to hit it off so she’d stop chasing after Naoki and be with someone who offers her more than backhanded complements. Admittedly that may be a bit harsh as Naoki and Kotoko do share several genuinely touching moments and there is a certain playfulness to their verbal sparring, but on the whole they seem like they’d be far better suited as close friends than anything romantic. I suppose it’s a bit silly to bring this up since it’s a romantic comedy, but everything has it’s limits and this is stretching my suspension of disbelief rather thin, especially when one considers the fact that this is only volume four out of twenty three! I get that one person trying to win over someone else is a classic trop of this genre, but twenty three volumes at 300 pages a piece..? Yikes.
Kaoru Tada’s artwork feels a bit more stable and solid here than it did in the first volume. I didn’t notice as many odd instances of anatomy and there was nary a cluttered or unclear panel to be found. She even throws in a few action-y moments via a tennis tournament and dramatic bike ride, and each was clear, easy to follow and entertaining. Also, whatever Tada was doing with the hair in the first volume is still present and it’s still a really lovely effect.
Despite my criticisms about the story, I did enjoy it as I was reading it, plus there are signs that Naoki’s slowly thawing towards Kotoko, which just makes his attitude all the more obnoxious. It’ll be interesting to see if DMP is able to publish the series to it’s completion, and whether or not the two get together before the end or not.
Itazura na Kiss, Vol. 4 is available now at Emanga.com. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.