Rose Guns Days Season 1, Vol. 1

Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Soichiro. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Gangan Joker. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Fans of Ryukishi07’s work know that he is very fond of moments of what can best be termed ‘shonen drama’, which features all the characters being as cool as possible. The difficulty is that he’s rarely able to take full advantage of that, as his stories have involved murder mysteries and psychological horror first and foremost, so the cool moments have had to be undercut. Now, with his first series that isn’t a mystery and isn’t part of the When They Cry style, he can allow himself to open the throttle and just do a straight up action adventure which consists, seemingly, of nothing *but* cool people being cool. The result is highly variable, but it certainly has style.


The premise of this book is that, due to a natural disaster during WWII, Japan has been taken over by America and China, with the Japanese still living in cities second-class citizens who mostly join yakuza groups in order to avoid starvation. Our hero, Leo, is a former soldier who’s arrived back in Japan after a long exile. He finds himself saving the madam of a high-class brothel, Primavera, and after a few more adventures she takes him on as a bodyguard. The rest of the book is about Primavera’s attempts to avoid getting taken over by the mob, and various fighting sequences. Oh yes, and like Tezuka’s ‘star system’, Ryukishi is reusing characters again – Meryl will remind many people of Satoko/Lambdadelta, and Stella might be a lot taller and bustier than Rika will ever be, but she makes it clear when she starts rubbing heads and pitying people where her origins really lie.

It’s refreshing reading a Ryukishi07 book where you don’t have to pay close attention to try to figure out little bits of the mystery, a la Umineko. Rose Guns Days is very straightforward, sometimes to a fault. Yen Press decided not to omnibus this series, so we only have the one normal volume to go on, and so we haven’t quite hit the ‘character depth’ point of the series yet. Leo and Rose particularly suffer from this – Leo is cool and smug, and can back up that smugness with his fists, but his tragic past that was hinted at in the visual novel hasn’t shown up here yet. As for Rose, what a girl as innocent as her is doing as the head of a group o prostitutes is baffling, given she’s so shiny and pure it’s possible she can be seen from space. Soichiro’s art also doesn’t help – this time around the character designs for the VN were by the manga artist, rather than Ryukishi07 himself, but that means that the manga itself tends to get stuck in a lot of ‘default sprite expression’ poses.

I suspect this is the sort of series where we won’t really have a feel of how it’s going to go till a few books in. Still, if you like fistfights and cool posing, and enjoy Ryukishi’s writing with the ‘irony’ filter turned off, Rose Guns Days is a lot of fun.

Kagerou Daze II: A Headphone Actor

By Jin (Shinzen no Teki-P) and Sidu. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On.

I had talked a bit last time about trying to balance a series based on something else – be it a game, visual novel, or in this case a series of music videos – between fans who already had a grasp of the story and new readers who didn’t really know what was going on. After reading this second volume, I feel it safe to say that the Kagerou Daze series is very much biased in favor of the former. I was confused after the first novel, and so decided to spoil myself a bit on what’s actually going on. (Those who know me will be surprised I waited that long.) It definitely helped, and I was able to make a few connections I might not have, but it’s still a fact that the Kagerou Daze light novels will appeal most to hardcore Kagerou Daze fans.


Honestly, I think the biggest problem I have with the second book is the story order. After the last volume ends on a vague cliffhanger, we get 120 pages of what appears at first to be a completely different story, involving a grumpy, introverted girl and the guy that she can’t really admit she likes making a homebrew video game for the school festival. It’s only when Kido and Kano show up to play and Kido uses her “out of sight, out of mind” cheat that we realize this is actually taking place a year or two before the first book. This is helped further when we see Shintaro, the supposed hero, show up… and he’s a horrible jerk, even worse than the histrionic but basically harmless shut in we’re used to. We now want to see what led to him shutting himself away.

The most interesting parts of the book are Ayano, Shintaro’s scarf-wearing not-girlfriend who appears to have no self-worth at all, and of course Takane Enomoto, who actually does turn out to have been in the first book after all. This is what I was talking about when I said that it felt like this book came out in the wrong order. I think it would have a much stronger, more devastating ending if the amusement park fluff had come first and then we’d seen Ene’s backstory. After 3/4 of a book where nothing really happens, there’s a series of horrible events starting with Haruka’s collapse that take the reader down a well-earned path of ‘what the hell? No seriously, what the hell???’.

Aside from the devastating bits, there really isn’t much happening here beyond character development, but that is what these novels are for. They’re taking the characters from the music videos and showing us what their hopes, dreams, and motivations are. And, of course, spelling out what’s hard to say in a video. The “Headphone Actor” in the original video was Takane, but in the novel it appears to be Haruka as well, and I have a sneaking suspicion his fate is going to be as dark as hers is. I’m still pretty confused, but I’ll definitely be reading the third volume early next year.

Strike the Blood, Vol. 1

By Gakuto Mikumo and Manyako. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen Press.

The author of Strike the Blood has been doing this sort of thing for a while. He started off with a series called Asura Cryin’ that spawned two anime series, and another, Dantalion no Shoka, that also was made into an anime. And indeed Strike the Blood has met the same fate. This is not particularly surprising after reading the first novel – it’s a book that seems tailor made to be turned into a manga and anime. The heavy supernatural element, cool hero and heroine with vampiric powers and big honking magic spear respectively, cute younger sisters who are more than they seem, aloof best friends who secretly are in love, and even a genki younger sister with a secret to hide. Everything you read here will make you think of how it will play out on the the screen. Which is a problem in some ways.


To be fair to the book, it handles everything well, as you’d expect from a seasoned writer with a large number of books under his belt. The hero and heroine are both very likeable, and while they have a few standard anime traits, they’re both subdued enough so that you don’t really get irritated by it. Yukina in particular is intriguing – she seems like your standard tsundere who would get mad at the hero constantly, but this is warring with her aloof, stoic, and overly serious personality, making her far more interesting. She also makes a fairly fast judgement about Kojou, the vampire she’s been sent to watch/deal with, realizing that he’s really not out to rule the world, but just to have a normal high school life. Indeed, Kojou just gaining his immortal vampire powers a few months ago is the backstory here, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about it later on.

This being a light novel, there’s some fanservice, but it’s the kind that actually flows out of the text and the genre (there is a harem element here). I could have done without the standard ‘note what color her panties are’ gag, though, especially as, also typical with recent light novels, our heroine is about 3-4 years younger than she should be. The hero does suffer some physical and psychological abuse from girls thinking he’s a pervert (he’s not), but if this bothers you, remind me why you read Japanese light novels or manga at all?

So in the end I read a solid novel with decent characterization and good action scenes, yet still came away from it feeling unsatisfied. And I think the reason is that it all felt far too calculated. There is not one thing in this first volume that I didn’t guess or suspect would happen, not one honest element of surprise. I’ve been reading a lot of unoriginal light novels lately, but most of those have at least been allowed to have ambition or a purpose to their prose, a sense that the author has something he needs to share with you. With Strike the Blood that purpose seems to be ‘here’s my new series, go buy the manga and anime as well’, and that saddens me. I’m hoping a second volume will prove me wrong.