March 30, 2009
So, the main thing about this volume is WHY ARE SHURI AND SARASA NOT LIVING IN JAPAN?! I understand the whole “spreading the culture” thing, but… they fought to get it to where it is today, then promptly left the country on a trip and stayed out. What?!
The best story was probably the first, about Shuri and Sarasa. It takes place immediately after the final battles, and shows some of the demons the two of them wrestle with. Shuri is particularly depressed after the battles concludes, and both of them still have a certain degree of mistrust between them, though they also still love each other quite passionately. While working out their issues, they go to China and help to sort out the political situation there. All in a day’s work, but it was amazing to see the two of them working as a team again. They’re both such good characters, and have changed so much over the course of the story.
Most of the middle of the volume is filled with shorter stories, dealing with the lives of the owls, tying up some loose ends for most of the characters, one about Tamon winning the Genbu sword, and one dealing with the life of the captain of the guard in Kyoto.
There’s another long story at the end about Hayato, set ten or so years in the future and with the Japanese government in upheval again. I was a little less impressed with this story because it didn’t really surprise me in any way. It was kind of a nice, non-fanservice-y ten years later chapter, though. Usually every character in the series shows up for those, but this one doesn’t really have that weakness.
The last story has Shuri and Sarasa set in modern times. It was subtle, and I loved it. That was a fine way to leave things for the series.
This series does not disappoint in any way, shape, or form. Aside from the awesome plot and strong character development, it just has so many twists and turns that leave the reader completely stumped and wowed along the way. Asagi is probably the best example of this. He was just a dark horse all the way through, and I’ve never seen another character used as well as he was. The romance was amazing, and even aside from that, this was one of the only series with a romance I was interested in that had an amazing plot, to boot. Usually one suffers in favor of the other in cases like this. Plus, Tamura is still one of my favorite artists ever, and while it seems her art is not to everyone’s liking, I think the series looks quite amazing.
It was worth every penny and all the trouble I took tracking it down. What a wonderful series.
March 25, 2009
This volume was supplement stories in the strictest sense of the word. I was sort of expecting the side stories to wrap things up with Shuri and Sarasa first, then move on to some of the other characters. The bulk of this volume is actually a story about how the rebellion started and how the four swords came to be stolen and scattered. It was a fantastic story with roots that affected all the major characters, including setting up some weird and disturbing connections. It was also a fantastic, epic, and tragic love story, much like the main Basara story. But it was, unfortunately, not what I wanted to read about, so I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I should have.
Aside from that story (the last one in the volume), we also get a lengthy story that wraps up things for Hijiri and Nachi. Actually, most of it deals with how the two of them came to meet, and it involves a lengthy ride on a huge boat when they were both kids and absolutely hated each other. Hijiri also got to meet a mermaid as a young boy, an event which comes back to him as an adult. I’ll be honest, I loved both of these characters, and I love stories involving mermaids, so it was hard for me not to like this story. Especially since Hijiri and Nachi originally hated each other. By all rights, they probably should since they’re such different types of person. But their friendship is probably one of the deepest in the series.
The third story is a short story, only a few pages, about why Asagi hates Shuri. It’s kind of funny, even though Yumi Tamura said that was unintentional. Asagi’s kind of a funny guy, though.
There’s also some silly stuff in the back, including some 4-panel gag strips that are absolutely golden and another one of those “what if?” stories, this time with Sarasa replacing her brother at a music competition because there is something wrong with his foot. Seeing Asagi, Shuri, and Ageha performing on stage is certainly worth the price of admission in this volume.
Also, this volume has the worst cover in the series. No question. The illustration style is just weird-looking compared to all the other covers.
March 23, 2009
Oh, Ageha. Kagero and Ageha’s scene in this volume was just heartbreaking. It made me tear up a bit, which has been surprisingly infrequent in this volume. But Ageha gets one of the best scenes of all, and if anyone has earned a tear-worthy scene, it’s him. He even got to lead Tatara out to safety in the end, which was a wonderful way to wrap up that castle scene.
Asagi’s final scene in the castle was also wonderful. Just… seeing his friends come for him was great. I actually liked his scene better than the final scene between Tatara and the Red King.
Which… well, ended up more or less like it needed to. I was sort of expecting a final clash between them, but after what happened in the last battle, and after the two of them led each other through the castle, and after all this talk about the people needing a member of the royal family’s head as a sacrifice… well, it went where it needed to. The Red King and Tatara turned back into Shuri and Sarasa. The narrative being interrupted at the end was a nice touch, and it drove me crazy a little since the scene was interrupted and didn’t really wrap up definitively, but the ending was there all the same. It was a nice one.
The rest of the volume is filled with short stories of various lengths that answer some questions that were left open. King Ukon and his advisor get a brief story, but Ageha’s early life gets one lengthy story and Ginko and Asagi get the other longer story. Ginko and Asagi… ugh. Asagi makes a sarcastic comment at the very end of the main story that I disregarded, but… Jesus, he was right. That’s harsh.
Ageha’s story is about a woman he met that he sort of took after, about the fortune he followed throughout the series, how he came to meet back up with Shuri, and how he got Kagero. It’s a good story, and very fitting. It certainly cleansed the palate after the Ginko story.
March 22, 2009
Holy crap, this is an epic wind-down. I figured there would be some sort of confrontation between Asagi, Tatara, the Red King, and King Ukon, but the epic showdown that takes place in the castle happens on many levels, and there’s even a bonus race-before-it-collapses element thrown in at the end.
Oh, Asagi. You poor boy. There’s a brief confrontation between he and Tatara, where both comptemplate dying on each others swords. Tatara wouldn’t even let the Red King interfere. But then Hiiragi steps in, and Asagi lays all his cards on the table, and it is wonderful. He’s just a fantastic character. There’s a brief showdown, then, between Asagi and Hiiragi, then Asagi winds up facing off against Ginko, who fights with words. She winds up dealing the most damage to Asagi in the end, but he is able to walk away, and she never will. I have to say I liked the face-off between Asagi and Tatara the best, because it worked on a couple different levels, but Ginko and Asagi’s confrontation was rewarding in its own way.
The Red King and Tatara seek out King Ukon. This confrontation isn’t actually all that satisfying. King Ukon isn’t actually a tyrant, just lazy and sort of cowardly. When he won’t take the fall for his country, the situation becomes one where… well, SOMEONE will have to fall in his place. The King of Japan’s head has to be on a platter, and with Ukon running away… well, that leaves only one choice.
Even Kikune gets to fight the evil Virtues. They make fun of her for being a girl, even though both Ranmaru and Umewaka really, really look like women. I was under the impression they were some sort of magical beings since they seemed to be able to appear and disappear and travel at will, but Kikune knows their limitations, and exploits them accordingly.
And Ageha is still fighting the good fight.
The end has a ton of bonus stuff, including two bonus stories. I loved the one that placed all the characters in a high school and threw in the twist about Sarasa subbing for Tatara trying to figure out who pushed him out a window. It’s an all-boy’s school, so she has to dodge bullets such as pissing contests in the single bathroom and Shuri sneaking up on her while she’s bathing. Underwear is the clue to the criminal’s identity, and Asagi eliminates himself, saying that the underwear is too ugly for him to wear.
The second short story is about the gaming habits of the cast. It’s a little scary how well some of the characters fit into the various scenarios. These were the types of things that I was missing that I enjoyed in the two shorter series I read by Tamura. She’s really good at drawing these gag chapters. I’m glad there are at least a few scattered throughout the volumes.
March 18, 2009
While the cover of this book does have a lovely portrait of Asagi, I have to say the effect is ruined with the advisor on the back cover picking his nose.
I… was actually kind of curious how the story continued on from here. I know the last… two or so volumes are supplemental stories, but after the last volume, I could not imagine the story carrying on another three volumes. Even after the stuff that’s set into motion after the battle in this volume, I can’t see that carrying on for two more volumes. Hmm.
My favorite part was certainly the beginning of the volume. As Shuri is struggling after the battle with Hiiragi, Tatara watches and thinks about all the terrible things he’s done, like burn her viliage, behead her brother, and striking out Ageha’s eye for no reason. Amidst this, Shuri lectures his army, who is dismayed that he has led them to their deaths. He tells them not to follow him like sheep, that he told them to come only if they wanted to, and that from then on, they were to think for themselves and the King of Japan was officially relinquishing the country to Tatara. It’s not really shown what Tatara thinks of this, but the implication is that Shuri is telling her to think for herself and not do what everyone else tells her to do, such as hate the Red King. It’s quite a powerful scene.
Immediately after, there’s another really nice scene with Asagi. Asagi wept after Shuri’s battle, apparently because of the outcome. He claims he would rather Shuri have died. Then he… receives a summons from the White King. He asks Sarasa to make a choice for him, and even though she seems to make the choice that would please him most, he goes off… and becomes the Blue King in Kyoto, betraying both armies.
Sigh. I can’t figure this out, though his intentions don’t seem to be the same as Ginko and Ukon’s, who seem to want him in order to hold the city under a King. He actually doesn’t seem to favor them at all, and gives Sarasa a rather passionate parting kiss. So… what he’s doing doesn’t make any sense. Again. I’d like to think his intentions aren’t evil though, since he no longer feels like a bad guy.
Asagi basically holds Kyoto hostage as king, and none of the residents are allowed to leave under threat of… torching the city, basically. Good thing Ageha is on the inside, working for the greater good. Ageha faces off against the Yarogumi, along with some allies, though this battle carries over into the next volume.
The Red King and Tatara have a temporary truce, though there is still a lot of hate for him in Tatara’s army. They all assume that the pair will ally temporarily to retake Kyoto, then fight to the death. They don’t really get any alone time, and towards the end, Sarasa just decides to run off and see what Asagi is up to. I guess that’s one way of doing it.
I can’t imagine the stuff with Asagi taking that much time, though. Maybe King Ukon and Ginko will be dealt with, then maybe a lot of time will be spent on Sarasa and Shuri and their aftermath? I think I would like that a lot, actually.
March 15, 2009
Okay. Taro’s story really does truly end at the beginning of this volume, but Ageha picks up his slack and tries to get word out about what it is that he’s found. It’s… sort of big, and sort of involves Tatara and the Red King falling directly into a massive trap. Tatara starts to guess that something’s not right, but it does take a warning from an entire owl family to clear out the battlefield and foil Hagiwara’s plot. And even then, Kikune has to do something extremely brave in order to save as many people as possible. But… apparently Shuri was aware of all this? Huh? And he knows all about Ageha and the Ape of Kyoto? Shuri’s some sort of mind-reader, I think.
There’s another really excellent Asagi scene, but it doesn’t quite compare with the one a few volumes ago. Asagi seems to be getting more and more depressed, and it’s always nice to see Tatara is able to pull him out of it in the end. My suspicions have mostly evaporated, since he seems about 100% on Tatara’s side. He and Tatara taking a stand against a bunch of soldiers while each had the other’s back was really great. And he seems to be appreciating everything he has in life. He’s showing all the signs of a good guy at this point. Ginko, on the other hand… well. She’s a great architect. Or something.
The entire last quarter of this volume is awesome, because it reveals Shuri’s intentions, and they are clever and everything that I could have hoped for from him. He explains his plans for the monarchy and the royal family, and then he faces off against Hiiragi. During this fight, we see flashbacks to almost every single instance of character development he’s had throughout the series… and then he reaches his goal. But not without horrible things happening. Tatara watches. It looks like the two of them are still going to face off, and it should go down next volume. But everything you could possibly want in Shuri, everything that’s been built up over the course of the entire series, is played out at the end of this volume. He is truly the king of kings.
Notably, Asagi takes what happens harder than Sarasa does. That only makes me like him more.
March 13, 2009
I had forgotten to mention this before, but I loved reading the essays in the backs of the volumes of this series. The books don’t have much in the way of footnotes, but we were treated to the pleasant and informative essays that helped explain any cultural mysteries that popped up. If I’m not mistaken, these were all written by Gerard Jones, who did the adaptation through volume 17. They are editor’s notes though, so the writer could also be Ian Robertson or P. Duffield. The editor for the series through those volumes, Patricia Duffield, wrote them. They are sorely missed once they stop appearing. Not that Basara is indecipherable without them, but they did add to my reading experience, at least.
I’m not sure if we got to see his face at the end of last volume, but I’m still impressed it took so long to unveil King Ukon. He’s actually sort of a lame villian, ruling more out of habit than with any vested interest in being a tyrant.
In this volume, Tatara and the Red King, now King of Japan, prepare to go to war with each other. I still have no idea what it is Shuri has in mind, but he manages to fire up everyone in Kyoto and get them all behind his war effort. He even gets most people to grudgingly hand over most or all of their wealth.
Also, I like that he is so happily taking a bath just before his war. As much as it confused me, the scenes where he was addressing the crowd in Kyoto were pretty amazing just because he really knows all the right things to say to get people to follow him. His kingly qualities show. But again… why the war after all this change he’s gone through? Will he really let a grudge against Tatara stand? But he says that she’s the only one he would ever consider marrying! Hmm. I flew through these volumes because I wanted to see the Sarasa/Shuri reunion SO BAD. They haven’t really been together since volume 15, but the reunion should be spectacular after all this time and character development.
Shima is still around, despite being soundly rejected by Shuri several times. I like that Shima is here, because it raises the possibility that perhaps the rift between Shuri and Sarasa is too big, which… you know, would be understandable given all the murdering and such. But her presence is puzzling since she isn’t really a threat to their relationship. Perhaps she just serves to show that Shuri still loves Sarasa… though what he wants to do with that love remains to be seen. Is love enough? Hmm.
The war starts off with some nice tricks traded between Shuri and Sarasa. Nothing heavy as of yet. Tatara kicks things off by basically telling Ginko off as a threat. I think she’s still a threat even without Tatara trusting her, but we’ll see.
And my mistake. Taro’s story wraps up in this volume with a message that both Shuri and Sarasa desperately need to get before they go too far into the attack. Apparently there is a bigger conspiracy afoot, though one wonders how it’s so big that it could unseat both a king and a resistance movement that’s captured the entirety of the country.
I was also quite pleased by Shuri’s elephants. What a fine thing to use in battle.