About Sean Gaffney

Sean Gaffney has been reading manga since 1996, writing fanfiction in the manga and anime world since 1996, but only decided to start a manga blog in 2009. No one is quite sure why, as talking endlessly is one of his favorite things. He’s also written guest posts at Erica Friedman’s Okazu. His favorite manga things to discuss are shoujo with cheerful yet oblivious heroines, defending angry tsundere girls, and pretending he doesn’t ship. His favorite non-manga things to discuss are classic cartoons from the 1930s to 1960s, William Shakespeare (and other Elizabethan/Jacobean playwrights), and Frank Zappa. But really, he’ll happily talk about anything, even if he has to Google it first to pretend he knows all about it. He lives in Connecticut.

Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me

By Genji Kamiyama. Released in Japan as “Hirunehime ~ Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari ~” by Kadokawa Shoten. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Yota Okutani.

We’ve been getting a lot of these sorts of books lately, the novelization of a popular animated film. Well, for some definition of popular – your name sort of hovers above everything else. But we’ve also gotten The Boy and the Beast, and we’re getting Fireworks: Long Title Here in the summer. And now we have Napping Princess, a book that adapts the film of the same name that came out in 2017. It’s a quick, breezy read with a likeable lead heroine and a few very interesting plot twists about two-thirds of the way through. It does, however, suffer from a problem that I really didn’t notice with the other books of this type. This sort of book is meant to enhance or add to the experience for those who saw the movie, and also make those who haven’t seen the movie want to see it. The problem is that after finishing Napping Princess, I’m left with the opinion that the movie is probably better. Which is an issue given I’ve never seen the movie.

The book starts out as a fairy tale, set in a magical kingdom that builds cars. There’s a wishy-washy king, an evil Grand Vizier, and a princess locked in a tower who can do magic. In fact, that’s why she’s locked in the tower. On the other side of things, we’re also in slightly futuristic Japan, where our heroine is Kokone, who lives with her mechanic dad in the middle of nowhere and gets by on imagination and pluck. She also likes to sleep, and dreams that she’s the princess from the fantasy kingdom. These two worlds start interacting together when her father is arrested, supposedly for data theft from Japan’s largest car manufacturer, which her dad worked for years ago. Is this all a setup? What does it have to do with her late mother? And why is it that Kokone has this magical ability to mesh the fantasy world and the real world when she dreams?

To be fair, we never get a good answer to that last question. “Magical realism” is what we’re supposed to think, I suspect. As I said, the plot is fairly straightforward, being a chase sequence for an extended stretch. Our villain ends up being so lame that the author has to put in a narrative jibe noting how much of a cliched villain he’s become – I was expecting to see some sort of story about how he and Kokone’s dad used to be friends back in the day, but no, he doesn’t even get that. The most interesting part of the book was the way the fantasy world overlaid on the real one, as both Kokone and the reader realize about the same time that the casting is somewhat different than expected. (The reader may pick this up a bit earlier, frankly, as the romantic tendencies between the princess and Peach (yes, it’s lampshaded) make little sense if Kokone is the princess.) As with most dead moms in anime, I wish we’d seen more of Kokone’s mother.

As a novelization, this book works very well. Every time it had a major set piece, I kept thinking “I’d like to see this animated”. As a novel, though, I’m not sure it works as well. Still, it’s not actually bad – just slight. It would make a good summer beach read.

A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 13

By Kazuma Kamachi and Motoi Fuyukawa. Released in Japan as “Toaru Kagaku no Railgun” by ASCII Media Works, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Nan Rymer, Adapted by Maggie Danger.

I’ve talked before about how the Railgun manga is far more tied into its parent than most other spinoffs I’ve seen. For one thing, it actually feels like it’s written by Kamachi. Most spinoffs tend to have the original writer simply give approval to stories that the artist has come up with themselves (the Nagato Yuki spinoff is a good example), but events in this book and the previous one are interconnected with Index’s 15th novel. Not only that, they enhance the novel itself – the last book saw Frenda get the character development she never got in Index for obvious reasons, and allowed someone to actually grieve for her. And the use of Scavenger, the spinoff Dark Side group that’s appeared in both Railgun and the Accelerator spinoff, allows us to expand on the purpose of these dark Side groups: they’re broken kids who’ve been screwed over by authority, but not necessarily evil.

Touma wasn’t in Index 15, and readers of Railgun who always dread his spotlight-stealing appearances will be grateful to know he’s not in this volume either. This puts the focus on Mikoto, who is in heroic good guy mode here, even though she’s missing the rest of her core team. (I assume that Kuroko and Saten are helping Uiharu recover from her broken collarbone.) Misaki steps in admirably, though, and the two are almost getting along, thoguh that thought may make Mikoto ill. (It’s notable that the only time Mikoto really gets (offscreen) pissed off is when Seike mistakes her for a guy. Femininity is always a touch point for her.) One of the best things in this volume is seeing Leader, the cold-mask-wearing Scavenger girl, constantly trying to outthink Mikoto as she assumes that she’ll die going against a SECOND Level Five, only to finally be one over by Mikoto’s innate niceness.

As for the main plotline involving Kuriba, it continues to get into the nature of existence in the Indexverse, adn how that’s a fluid, individual and personal thing. Her doppelganger is rampaging as she knows that she does not, in fact, have a soul. This doesn’t seem to bother Mikoto, but once it’s clarified that living with that knowledge is agony and torture, she’s willing to help end her pain. And, as with almost every Railgun plotline since the beginnign that hasn’t involved Touma, this all turns out to be the result of scientific experimentation gone amoral. I’m not sure how I feel about Misaki solving the problem by memory erasure, but then she’s always been a morally ambiguous girl herself – she’s never going to be the innocent sweetie pie Mikoto has at her core.

So we wrap up the Indian Poker arc here, and I assume the next volume will start a new one. 14 isn’t out in Japan yet, so expect another long wait. In the meantime, for Index fans who always liked Railgun better, this is a perfect volume for you – Mikoto really shines!

The Magic in This Other World Is Too Far Behind!, Vol. 3

By Gamei Hitsuji and himesuz. Released in Japan by Overlap. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hikoki.

I didn’t mention it in my review of the previous volume, but a large chunk of that book was taken up with the journey of the actual hero, Reiji, and his adventures trying to destroy the demons. Given that the basic premise of this book is that we leave the hero by the wayside and follow his secretly more powerful best friend, it’s impressive that the author it not only coming back to the hero occasionally but also treating him seriously. Reiji wants to help this world, despite the fact that he’s not from it and that everyone not in his party seems to be a cynical bastard of some sort. Admittedly, the more I see of Mizuki, his wannabe girlfriend and the third member of the “from another world” party, the more I think that she’s going to be turned to evil pretty easily, but hey. That said, the bulk of this book still follows Suimei as he arrives at a new city, buys a house, and meets yet another young girl.

If you look at the girl on the cover, you might be thinking that the author is starting to come up with heroines by ticking a fetish box. And, based on the afterword, you might not be too wrong. Liliana is a young girl with many dark secrets who works for the city’s military police and is a bit shunned by the general populace, who are terrified of a) her magic and b) her general demeanor. Neither of those bother Suimei, and he also sees her playing with cute kittens, so he knows she’s good at heart. But it may take more than one book to help her, as the city has more problems than just a goth-loli with a bad rep. Nobles around the city are being attacked and falling into a coma – though oddly, all the nobles attacked seem to be stereotypical “evil noble” types. And worse, there’s a different summoned hero in this town, and the oracle has told Lefille to join him… and he also wants to add Felmenia, the heroine from the first book who has caught up with Suimei. Is he a hero? Or just amassing a harem?

There are a few more things in this volume that I wasn’t too fond of compared to previous ones. As I noted, Felmenia has caught up, which means we have three heroines in one book. That means the standard jealousy ensues, though it’s low-key for now. The reason it’s low-key is that Lefille is still in her little girl body, which is mostly mined for comedy, but even the author admits readers are asking for him to fix her soon. And sadly the author’s worldbuilding discussions of magic tend to come out at the worst possible times – in this particular case at the climax of the book, which leaves a reader wanting to skip to the point where they can read something other than magic history. That said, we’re only halfway through what I expect is a two-book arc, so things may turn around. Too Far Behind! is adding a few more generic harem fantasy tropes, but is still good enough that you should enjoy it.