Betrayal Knows My Name 2

Hotaru Odagiri – Yen Press – 2011 – 9+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 3-4

Guess what happens in this volume? Come on! Give up?

Betrayal! Oh, there’s such a big betrayal!

I was waiting for this. I began to be suspicious when the character just kept showing up uninvited everywhere. There’s no reason for that type of character to appear after the story has begun, so I knew he was hanging around for a reason. There was no surprise, but I was awarded with the major sadness that accompanies the switch.

I also like that a major part of the story seems to be that the characters have to sit around and obsess over each other in “forbidden” relationships. It’s not really romance. They all stop just a hair short of being romantic relationships. But seriously. Why else would there be an entire volume of Hotsuma and Shuusei getting through a “difficult time” together and coming to so many “conclusions” about their partnership? I mean, the story didn’t come right out and say it, and I assume that’s because Asuka isn’t a BL magazine, but it’s really hard for me to believe those two aren’t supposed to be a couple after this volume. There’s plenty of “hints” between Tsukumo and Tooko, the brother/sister pair, as well, but that’s less glaringly obvious than the Hotsuma and Shuusei relationship.

Anyway. Volume one is all about the disappearances and “Sleeping Beauty” cases that the crew has been investigating in relation to possible opast attacks. Meanwhile, Yuki tries to get closer to Shuusei and Hotsuma. Hotsuma is especially difficult to get close to, since he’s hot-headed and is carrying resentment towards Yuki from their past lives. Hotsuma is also having trouble in his partnership with Shuusei, and we learn through several flashbacks that during Hotsuma’s difficult childhood, Shuusei was the one that helped him through the difficult times. After working things out with Yuki, Shuusei disappears, and Hotsuma and Yuki wind up wandering into the middle of an opast trap in order to save him and the victims of the disappearances. It is here that Yuki and the rest of the Zweilt finally meet Reiga, the one that betrayed the Giou clan to side with the opasts.

Oh, Reiga. You are now my favorite character. It definitely doesn’t hurt that he got one of the coolest fights yet, between himself and Takashiro.

The second volume in the omnibus mostly just deals with the fallout from the major betrayal, plus some more of Hotsuma and Shuusei sitting around and talking with each other about themselves. You know. Their real feelings for one another. At this point, these scenes just made me laugh. I knew that the fangirls were being baited. I’m just not sure why. There’s also lots of scenes where the characters talk about how much they like Yuki. Several characters admit they love him. But it’s clearly not the same as the love they share with their partners. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Luka. He was sadly under-utilized in this volume, but he’s also one of my favorites, so I’ll probably complain about that every time. I just can’t help myself when it comes to dark, brooding demons.

Towards the end, Yuki finally gets to visit Takashiro’s mansion, and he meets yet another zweilt pair. This pair is the best yet. One is a bespectacled rookie that drives despite having a terrible sense of direction, and the other is a very temperamental shogi pro. Yuki misunderstands their relationship as master/servant at first. Everything that the shogi pro does is hilarious. While the beginning of this omnibus had me thinking there might be a few too many characters floating around at the moment, these are the only two new one’s we’ve seen since volume one, and they’re a welcome addition.

As convoluted as the plot and characters sound (I know I’m not doing a good job of summarizing), it’s hard to deny that this is exactly the type of series I like to read. It’s still hard for me to shake the X vibes I picked up after reading the first omnibus, but that’s not really a bad thing. UraBoku is a whole lot different in just about every way (plot, characters, relationships, et cetera, though it’s hard not to think of Fuma when Reiga first appears), and reading it while thinking of X reminds me that this type of series requires patience. The characters and relationships are interesting, and the fights are fun to read, mostly because Odagiri really knows how to draw. Her art is pretty, and she puts a lot of work into detail and composition, especially during the fight scenes. It’s hard to deny that that is a big part of why I like this series so much. She’s also good at character and clothing designs, so there’s something to look at even when the characters aren’t fighting.

While I think that this series is probably a little too complex for casual readers, that the characters are a smidge on the shallow side, and a little talky to boot, it’s hard to deny that it can be a serious guilty pleasure for the right crowd. Again, it’s a shame it comes out so infrequently, since the details of the complex plot slip away from me in the big gaps, but the omnibus treatment is great since reading the story in big chunks is the way to go for something this complex. I love the action, I love the characters, and I love the pretty art. What can I say?


The Betrayal Knows My Name 1

Hotaru Odagiri – Yen Press – 2011 – 9+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 1-2

Mmm. This series has one of the best titles. Makes you want to read it, right?

I’ll admit that I picked up this book knowing that I would more-or-less like it. It’s got pretty art, something to do with demons, and has a lot in common with X. It’s hard for me not to like a series like that. I loved this volume, in fact. Reading through it, though, part of me wondered if there was a huge bias on my part. There were some problems I spotted, but they just didn’t bother me. The fast pace and interesting characters seemed to negate the bad points. But I’ll talk my way through it here, and try to be as diplomatic as possible.

But seriously. I loved this book. It pains me to see that it’s only coming out twice a year. Thank goodness it’s an omnibus.

The story starts with an orphan boy named Yuki trying to make friends with a gloomy, rude boy in his class. Now, I read the omnibus edition of Little Butterfly at the same time I was reading this, and the openings to these stories are so similar it’s a little scary. They both even star chipper guys named Yuki. Other than the orphan thing, the premise is identical. Betrayal is, of course, not a romance though, and it takes a much different path.

Turns out Yuki is part of a family with… special powers. These family members are fighting an ancient war with a race of demons, and their powers are so special that they cannot be lost to death. They are reincarnated with their powers so that they can fight anew. The powers are usually channeled through some sort of weapon, but can also be things like, say, setting people on fire with your voice or whatever. Yuki can’t fight, but he has the power to heal wounds from demons and offer a boost to people with power. After some messiness with the gloomy boy in his class and a demon, Yuki is no longer an orphan, and moves in with his new family and learns more about demons and the powers these family members possess.

Also, Yuki seems to be in a contract with some sort of smoking hot and insanely powerful demon betrayer that only has eyes for Yuki and is extremely over-protective of him. Because this series ran in Asuka magazine, their relationship is not romantic. But it’s there, for anyone who wants to see it.

I love it. I love that Yuki isn’t powerful on his own, and I love that he is paired with a demon because I love demons unconditionally. I like the way this whole demon war thing is being set up, and I think it’s interesting that the characters seem to retain memories of their past lives. Yuki hasn’t recovered his yet. I also like that the reincarnated warriors fight in pairs, and that all of them seem to be interesting people, with their own strengths and weaknesses. There’s a few too many characters being introduced at once, but that the fighters are limited to three pairs and a leader so far is reasonable. I’m also very much looking forward to whatever secret role Yuki really fulfills in this family, and I am dying to know the demon Luca’s backstory.

There are some flags, though again, I think the strengths completely override them. The powers are… a little ill-defined at this point. We are told what they are, but we don’t really see them in play very much. Luca’s powers aren’t explained, and he fights more than anybody. It’s unclear why the family powers are tied to “weapons” that must be kept in “rings.” Except for Yuki.

Any story about teenagers with powers is a little suspect to me, honestly, and the premise of this series is a little generic. I like this story a lot, but the powers aren’t really a big enough part of the story to really let me defend them. Odagiri’s not really building a consistent world yet, where these powers can live and make sense. Maybe that’ll happen later, but her strengths lie in the characters she writes, so more time dedicated to developing the world is a bit of a double-edged sword if it neglects the characters.

There are a lot of similarities to X. Both series ran in Asuka, and this has very, very pretty art. Maybe I’m drawing unfair comparisons, because there are a whole lot of series like X. But X has two main characters with a relationship that’s… open to interpretation, to some extent. Both feature teenagers with different special powers. Both are fairly dark series. And both feature “barriers” that can leave the urban landscape looking unscarred after a battle. I picked all this out after not having read X in about six years and enjoying Betrayal immensely on its on credit. I hate calling it out on these points, because I don’t really think it’s an X clone. Still, though.

Having said all that, I like it for what it is. It’s a crowd-pleaser, and anyone looking for modern shoujo fantasy will probably eat it up. The characters are easy to like and the story moves fast enough that it’s easy to forgive its flaws and look forward to what happens next. Plus, though I made Luca the demon sound generic, he’s by far the most entertaining part of the story, and I am dying to see him in action some more. The release schedule is pretty excruciating, but considering the fact that it’s been running in Japan since 2005 and only has 9 volumes, the slow schedule here is probably for the best.

This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.


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