Natsumi Itsuki – Tokyopop – 2011 – 11 volumes
I think of all the Tokyopop series that have ended prematurely, missing the last volume of Alice in the Country of Hearts and the entire last 2/3rds of this series break my heart the most. This series is AMAZING, and I know it’s on its way to all sorts of mind-bending places. I love just about everything about it, and modern shoujo fantasy like this is hard to come by in English. Reading this book has mostly convinced me to suck it up and try to make my way through the Japanese volumes, because I really, really want to know what happens. I doubt anyone will bother to license-rescue this.
The most interesting thing going on right now is, of course, romance related, because I am a shoujo junky. K2 finds out more and more about human rituals dealing with love, and an older woman has appeared that is more than happy to school him in such things. Shinobu’s sister Sophie starts snooping around in Shinobu’s private life and finds K2. And then decides to seduce him. She is basically the only person that knows, since K2 is completely oblivious as to what’s going on and she is careful to keep it from everyone else. Meanwhile, Rina is wrestling with the beginnings of love for K2. Then Mika drops a bombshell at the very end of the book that makes me want to read the rest more than anything. I NEED to know how that ends.
Meanwhile, in the world of exploring the demons, Red Dragon makes an appearance and has an interesting talk with Mika about the nature of growing old and what it means to be a demon. Mika also reveals the three ways in which a demon can die, and why death is a blessing that old demons see as lucky, as demons are less and less likely to die the older they are. The mechanics of demon life become clearer and clearer in every volume, and it’s one of the most interesting things about this series.
Also interesting is the sickness humans catch from demons that reverse-ages them until they turn into infants and disappear. This is illustrated in the story by Mona, Rina’s twin. We haven’t heard very much about this illness other than it’s scary and that the sisters are dealing with it together, but in this volume we begin to see just how many regrets Mona has, and that she’d give anything to be an adult for one day. I’m thinking this is probably going someplace terrible later, and again, I would love to know more about it.
But really, what a wonderfully bizarre fantasy series. It has such an original flavor, and goes pretty far out there without alienating the reader. Reading the first four volumes is worth it, but it’s a shame that the rest will never see the light of day.
Natsumi Itsuki – Tokyopop – 2010 – 11 volumes
Man, Tokyopop has been putting out some really terrific, low-profile stuff recently. It seems like every new series I pick up from them lately has been a pretty solid hit. The second volume of this series was exposition, and the first was too weird to be believed, but this develops the story enough to put all the stuff that came before into perspective and really sets things up for a spectacular story.
Last volume almost made me think that it would discard all the intricate setup from volume one in favor of a more traditional shoujo romance. I’m happy that it didn’t, but it’s still maintaining some of those elements. Mona is still obviously developing a crush on K2, and he’s got a childlike affection for Mona as well.
But a lot of other stuff happens this volume that sets up a lot of interesting future stuff. Mona and Rina, along with the demons, go and meet up with a young boy who also serves as a chain for a demon. The boy’s backstory is heartbreaking, and his relationship with his demon is sweet and very beneficial.
We also learn about Shinobu’s family, or “family” as the case may be. His family controls SMIC, and appear to be rather ruthless. The story seems to be setting up a conflict along the lines of “All the demons we’ve met so far have great relationships with humans, yet coming into contact with unchained demons kills others,” and SMIC seems to be prepared to eradicate all of them. Mika claims demons can’t be killed save by other demons, though. I’m curious to see how this will work out, particularly since Mona is at the center and hates killing.
Also, Mika is plenty creepy. He’s apparently a lower-level demon, yet he commands respect. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be the one that was a level higher than K2. He’s helpful, but very, very creepy.
Natsumi Itsuki – Tokyopop – 2010 – 11 volumes
I won’t lie. I kind of hate sci-fi themes, and I’m really hard on them here (which is part of the reason I’m disappointed that the only work we’ve seen from Keiko Takemiya in English are all sci-fi related). Jyu-Oh-Sei was only marginally sci-fi themed, with more of a survivalist fantasy vibe, but because it started in a space colony and the goal was to get off the planet, there was a small corner of my heart that couldn’t forgive it. Otherwise, it was pretty amazing, exactly the type of thing I love to read.
This, though. This takes place on Earth. There is a unicorn within the first ten pages, then a disease that reverse ages you into an infant. SOLD.
Also, I love demon themes unconditionally. Even if they aren’t really demons, which is the case initially here.
The virus is caused by “supernatural influence” or something like that, and the unknown creatures that carry it are called… “intelligence,” I think? It changes over to “demon” pretty quickly. The prologue deals with a young married couple and, primarily, the young wife, who “tames” one of these creatures. Then we flash forward to a pair of 15-year-old twins and their caretaker, a distant relative named Shinobu, a gifted scientist who is only 21 years old. One of the twins, Mona, is suffering from the reverse-aging disease.
Basically, the only way to stop it is to catch and tame one of these demons. Luckily, they were raised by one, and he happens by in order to help them catch a fresh demon for the task.
It is a little melodramatic, has pretty art, and is full-blown shoujo fantasy. I LOVE it, but I can see how it can be a little too… fluffy, maybe, for some. Granted, a lot of the pull right now is the ridiculous disease and the demons, who turn into beautiful rock stars based on the desires of the girls that touch them first. But the demon hierarchy looks like it could be interesting, and there are some politics at work behind the scenes that may indicate that Shinobu doesn’t have the girls’ best interests at heart.
It’s also fairly densely plotted, with a lot of exposition. I’m glad that the first two volumes were released together, because I’d like to read at least that much to see where the plot is going past the initial setup here. So far, it’s very interesting, and I couldn’t be more pleased.