Rasetsu 9

May 15, 2011

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2011 – 9 volumes

Yay! Here’s the ending to one of my underdog favorites of the last year or so. I was really looking forward to this.

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed. But that’s more because the ending didn’t have much to offer in the way of surprises. At its heart, it is a shoujo manga, and it can only really end one particular way. Very rarely do shoujo manga end with anything but the happy, optimal ending. Rasetsu is no exception, and the ending here more or less carries out the promises from the previous volumes. It’s nice, and I loved seeing the fight that all the characters put up (actually, the part where they all have to fight themselves in order to slay the demon is pretty great), but even so.

Of course, I may just be disappointed because of what happened to my favorite character. I had such high hopes for him, and he got a bogus role at the end. I’m sorry, favorite. I was placated by the awesome scene between he and Rasetsu at the very end, though. It was sentimental and a little over-wrought, and I may have only liked it because I liked that character so much, but I still liked it.

One thing that’s worth mentioning is… I liked what the characters say is the weapon that the demon used against Rasetsu in the interim between when he first found her and when he came to collect. It’s a small thing, but it is very interesting all the same.

Even though I was a little disappointed with the ending, I would still highly recommend this to any shoujo fan. The characters are great, the supernatural cases they handle are always interesting, and I love the romantic back-and-forth throughout the entire series. The way the pasts of all the characters is revealed slowly is also a huge plus, and the pacing is perfect. It starts slow, but a decent first volume turns into a highly addictive story by volume four or five, and I couldn’t wait for all the new volumes as they came out. It’s not the best of the best, and I’m sure it’s not the type of thing that will wind up on any list of classics, but it will always be one of my underdog heroes, like NORA: The Last Chronicles of Devildom, Record of a Fallen Vampire, and Law of Ueki.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rasetsu 8

February 17, 2011

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2011 – 9 volumes

Since I’ve been reading Yurara and wishing so hard it was as good as Rasetsu, it feels like the newest volume materialized in my hands by force of sheer will. Of course, if I truly had this power, I would also have volume 16 of From Eroica With Love, but I am happy enough with Rasetsu for the time being.

It surprises even me how much I love this series. I really did yank this out of the package and read it without even taking my coat off when it arrived at my house, which I never do for any book anymore. And it’s not like it’s overwhelmingly fantastic at plot, characters, art, or anything I can point to specifically. It just had really interesting one-shots that developed likable characters and a vaguely serious story, and now that we are reaching the conclusion, I am completely caught up.

As I’ve said before, I am a big fan of Kuryu, so all the dark hints that have been dropping about his past lately did have me hungry for more. That such a silly, charismatic, and skilled character that worked really well as a potential (if mostly unlikely) love interest could also be so sinister was very intriguing, and while I was pretty sure where all the dark foreboding was going, I still wanted to see it through to the end. We see what it is that gives Kuryu his power and what he sacrificed all those years ago to save Hiichiro. Again, it was fairly obvious where this was going… for some reason, I ruled this out earlier on in the story, but the hints kept coming. That doesn’t make what happens any less… interesting.

Actually, there’s a couple of great Kuryu flashbacks to when he first met both Yako and Rasetsu that are utterly terrifying. Easily my favorite moments in the series so far. And so understated, too.

Much to my disappointment, Yako and Rasetsu grow very close in this volume. There is still a curse, and there is still a final showdown with the demon suitor in the next volume, so perhaps Yako still isn’t Rasetsu’s true love. But Yako points out something interesting about the curse, and even with everything we learn in this volume… he’s right, it doesn’t make sense.

I always focus on Yako and Kuryu, and I never comment much on Rasetsu herself. I like her a lot. She’s a much stronger heroine than Yurara. Yurara is simply a high school student that solves supernatural problems in her spare time (sorta… Yako and Aoi sorta push her into it, and her spirit guardian kinda does the solving). Rasetsu has a demon curse hanging over her from age 16, but grows out from under its shadow to become the powerful exorcist that she is. And she solves crimes not only to do good, but also to hone her skill so that she can defeat the demon that is threatening her. She still gets scared, but always overcomes it, mostly by herself. She’s also got a really great personality, just a little sarcastic and the right amount of jaded for someone in her position.

Is it easy to see where all the pieces fall? Yeah. It’s also got pretty standard shoujo romantic moments. And the characters aren’t super-unique, just strong, and you grow to really like them as the series progresses. But all the same, it’s just the right mix of everything, and I can’t get enough. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough in this volume, and when I finished, the characters were all on the cusp of charging into the fight with Rasetsu’s demon, to be concluded in the final volume of the series.

Seriously, it can’t come fast enough.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rasetsu 7

December 20, 2010

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2010 – 9 volumes

I think this just ended in Japan, but I’m not sure if there are nine or ten volumes. Either way, I am happy that it didn’t go on for too long. There’s not a whole lot to the plot, so stretching out the “who will she fall for? when will the demon come?” idea for too much longer wasn’t going to work for me.

But it is pretty perfect the way it is. I keep saying it, but it’s true that every volume of this series I pick up makes me like it more and more. It is a simple story, and it boils down to a pretty basic romantic triangle, but even so. It’s got some fun supernatural pieces, and I do like the looming deadline aspect of it, where Rasetsu will be spirited away on the off chance she doesn’t seal the deal with one of the two male leads.

And while there’s still chapters that deal with a lot of romantic wavering, I also like that other plot points also drive the story forward. In this volume, we learn about the boss and Kuryu. I had forgotten there was more of a mysterious past to Kuryu that we were not privy to. It ties quite neatly to the boss, but leaves us with even more unanswered questions. Dire ones. I am very much looking for explanations, since the conclusion that I came to, and the one that Kuryu volunteers himself, is just not possible. Plus… what? The boss would never keep him close. And yet there is something clearly wrong with Kuryu.

Even with this mystery, I’m still rooting for him over Yako. What can I say? He’s the dangerous, mysterious one. He’s not even in the running, according to Rasetsu, who is still stuck on Yako. Yako keeps wavering, and almost gives in, but seems to have strengthened his resolve for more tragic reasons as of the end of this volume. Things still heavily favor him as of right now, which displeases me, but I still feel like rooting for the unlikely candidate in a shoujo manga for once. This manga even makes Kuryu seem less unlikely than he ought to.

I like this so much, I’ve finally gone back for the prequel series, Yurara. I picked up the first couple volumes recently, but want to get ahold of the last three before I start it. I’m hoping for another solid, supernaturally-themed romance with decent characters. Hopefully I’ll be compelled to read all the volumes together if I like it as much as I do Rasetsu. I definitely want to pick up Night of the Beasts, too.

Rasetsu 6

September 14, 2010

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2010 – 9 volumes

Every volume makes me like this series a little more. It’s a romance, of course, but not the typical high school variety since Rasetsu doesn’t attend school and both Yako and Kuryu are older men. There is the usual shoujo vibe between Yako and Rasetsu, the latter wearing her heart on her sleeve and the former not knowing his own feelings, but that’s fine since things stay interesting with plenty of ghost slaying and the weirdness of Kuryu.

As I’ve said before, my preference for the romantic lead is Kuryu. He is explored in much more detail in this volume, and it’s easy to see that there’s a far more sinister cast to him than there is any of the others. He is completely devoted to Rasetsu, though, so his… “darker” energies are always channeled towards helping her. What we find out about him in the first half of the volume is important, but it only leads to more questions about his nature. After all that, too, I would almost guess that Kuryu is some sort of demon himself, or at least has the same energies as one, which would be interesting indeed. Even more so if he is the demon after Rasetsu, since falling in love with him would lead to its own set of interesting problems.

Rasetsu is trying the whole volume to give up on Yako, who has flat-out rejected her, but she doesn’t quite fall all the way for Kuryu quite yet. She never rejects him, and listens again and again to his feelings, and it looks like she may begin considering his feelings… but given the last chapter, which goes back to the series’ Yurara roots and makes Yako a more viable match, I think Kuryu’s not out of the woods yet.

It is interesting to see a story that gives the rival love interest a fair chance like this. Usually the love interest is set in stone, and not even the most convincing side story ever makes it seem like the heroine is wavering.

Plus, did I mention that they hunt ghosts? It’s become mostly secondary at this point, but the horrible ghosts after Yako in the second half make for a wonderful fight, and we see an excellent display of Kuryu’s awesome and apparently insanely strong power when he slays some demon centipedes in the first half of the book.

Rasetsu’s got a little bit of everything good in it, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite shoujo series. It’s a solid read everytime, and each passing volume means I like the characters more and become more involved in their struggles. I’d heard it ended recently too, so I’m very much looking forward to more of Kuryu’s secrets and seeing how Rasetsu escapes the demon.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rasetsu 5

July 5, 2010

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2010 – 8 volumes

I get sucked in every time I pick up a volume of this series. It has a really unique flavor to it, which I think is a combination of its creepy atmosphere, unusual character abilities, the completely detached way the characters deal with clients, and the strangely upbeat and quirky nature of Rasetsu herself.

The detachment from clients is only something I picked up on recently. The series is still mostly episodic, with Rasetsu’s struggle to find her true love progressing just a bit in every chapter (a see-saw between Yako and Kuryu at this point), and in a series like this, usually the stories are all about the characters getting into the lives of their clients and learning all about their backstory and helping them through personal issues. Rasetsu isn’t like that at all, and the bulk of the story development involves trying to figure out what kind of spirit they’re trying to vanquish, then deciding on the best strategy to banish it. It’s a breath of fresh air.

I’m a little disappointed the romance isn’t moving faster, though to be fair that might be a little bit of sour grapes since the story is still moving towards Yako and not Kuryu. Rasetsu’s personal life is both sweet and urgent, since she has the demon-imposed deadline, but for all that, the only fun thing is seeing Kuryu shake things up and play with both Rasetsu and Yako.

Interesting things happen with the boss of the firm, as in we see more of his powers and learn a little more of his backstory, and the supernatural elements also seem to go a little further and darker this volume. I also love the artwork, especially the character design on Rasetsu.

I still love this series, and while it’s not extraordinary, it’s one of those mid-level series that are addictive because they do everything well and not because they do something better than others. Rasetsu’s a fun read.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rasetsu 4

February 3, 2010

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2010 – 7+ volumes

Every volume of this series that I read brings me just a little bit closer to going back for Yurara.  There’s not much incentive to reading the prequel, since I do not like Yako and most of what I like about this series is Rasetsu herself and the rest of the characters.  But I find myself pretty pleased with every volume that I read, and I look forward to the new ones.  There are still some things I don’t like about it (it’s very episodic, and while I like the stories, it feels like it would be much better if it carved out just a bit more story to tell alongside the romances and Rasetsu’s situation), but what would be huge detractions in other series are just part of Rasetsu’s charm.

I was sweating some of the early chapters in this volume.  As we started to get hints of last volume, Rasetsu is leaning towards Yako.  I rarely find myself in a situation where I’m not rooting for the main couple, since they are usually the best and most sympathetic characters.  But… Yako is very standoffish and not nearly as charming as Kuryu, plus Kuryu is clearly taken by her.  I wonder if we are supposed to know nice things about Yako that carry over from Yurara, but as it stands, he’s not the real winner between the two men in Rasetsu’s life.  Kuryu is funny and very considerate, plus he’s got the best powers.  It’s hard to see him get tossed aside in Rasetsu’s world in favor of Yako.  But the calculating part of my brain says shoujo heroines almost always go for their first crush, and is Yako really going to come back from a series where he seems to have had his heart broken and not wind up with a happy ending?  Bah.  The scales balance out at the end of the volume, and I sincerely hope they are tipped in Kuryu’s favor after what happened on the last page, but things have also been set up to tip them back towards Yako.  I am enjoying this way too much and am far too girly at heart.

The stories in this volume differ a little from the usual assignments.  Most of them contain a lot of character development and backstory.  One develops the romance between Yako and Rasetsu, one sees an increase in Yako’s power, one shows us Kuryu’s past, and another deals with Rasetsu’s demon putting in an appearance.  There is only one real client, but his story feeds directly into the story of Kuryu’s past.

Great stuff.  It’s still not quite A list, but I’m enjoying it immensely as a supernatural-tinged romance.  I’m definitely on board til the end at this point.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rasetsu 3

October 30, 2009

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2009 – 7+ volumes

Here’s another very Halloween-appropriate manga, but this one is less overt horror than it is just a supernatural-tinged shoujo story.  It’s pretty good though, and it does have a lot of evil spirits, so, you know… Halloween.

Anyway, I’m still really impressed with how much I like this series.  I always go into each volume expecting to be completely bored, but then I’m always entertained.  There is an ongoing plot in Rasetsu (the fact she has to find a boyfriend before the demon comes for her), but for the most part, it is composed of these one-shot stories about ghostbusting.  Each one also manages to build the characters a little more.

Kuryu is my favorite character by far.  Not only is he still a little mysterious, he’s also on top when it comes to romantic interests, even with the age difference between he and Rasetsu.  I think it helps that he tends to support her without letting her know, and drops subtle hints about his feelings that are normally misunderstood (quite hilariously, in this volume).  Yako is in front in the boyfriend contest, since Rasetsu seems to have latched onto him, but he’s got a lot of the usual jerk act going on, so I like him a little less.  Maybe he was a nicer guy in Yurara, though.

The hauntings are still pretty creepy, with the horrible ghosts completely engulfing their victims and going completely unnoticed in some cases.  Rasetsu’s mom is a victim in this story, and there is another character who is haunted by what appears to be the ghost of his dead girlfriend.  They aren’t nearly as scary or malevolent as some of the past stories, but they are a bit more sad this time around.  We also get a chapter dedicated to Aoi, a character who has yet to play any sort of role.  Maybe he’ll be important later.  Maybe he’ll even be Rasetsu’s boyfriend.

We get another crossover character from Yurara, who relates the story of Yako and the ghost from that series for the benefit of those who didn’t read the series.  I’m not quite a big enough fan of Rasetsu to go back for Yurara just yet, but I do think I will purchase future volumes of this series.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.