The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Vol. 5

By Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo. Released in Japan as “Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.

So when does one choose to end a cash cow? Particularly if the cash cow is a spinoff of an even bigger cash cow whose author seems to have dwindled down to 2 books a decade? Well, the answer is that you don’t – you need to keep the audience interested in these characters for as long as you possibly can, and if the main Suzumiya Haruhi series is on hiatus while its author deals with trying to wrap yup the monster he’s created, and the manga has to end as it can’t make up new Main Storyline stuff – well then, you keep the spinoffs going for as long as they are able.

nagato5

(For the record, I have generally assumed that when dealing with spinoff titles like these, the main plot is being created by the artist, with the writer only signing off on suggestions and censoring plots he wants to handle himself. Thus I assume that Puyo is in charge of both this and the Haruhi-chan manga, but I could be wrong.)

This volume really reads like the author was intending to wrap it up here. Yuki and her AU counterpart have a talk in her mind, after which she’s back to normal with no memories of what happened before… which is a bit of a pain to Kyon and Ryouko. Luckily it’s summer vacation and Haruhi returns to drag everyone through a series of fun activities. You can see Puyo starting to wrap things up. Haruhi reveals how things changed for her 3 years prior, and shows how she developed in a different, slightly more sedate direction due to Kyon’s unthinking response. There’s a sense she';s moving on from him here. Likewise, Kyon manages to resolve the awkwardness he feels around Nagato, and we finally get to the big confession…

…except there are fireworks, so she doesn’t hear him. And he immediately pulls back, noting that it’s OK if he said it, and now they can go back to their happy carefree days. We then move on to a slight homework arc, and return to the school for the 2nd half of the year, which features Haruhi trying to figure out how to inveigle herself into the culture festival despite not going to that school, and the return of a very familiar face.

Yes, if you write a spinoff featuring the most popular Haruhi character in a starring role, it makes sense to bring in the big breakout character of the last few years as well. So Sasaki’s back. What will her return mean for the relationship between Yuki and Kyon? Probably not a lot, to be honest. But it will at least keep it dragged out for another couple of volumes, which is all Kadokawa asks, really.

I really do enjoy this title. I wish the art rose above mediocre, but given the popularity of Attack on Titan, mediocre art is not a big setback anymore. Puyo specializes in quiet, introspective emotional moments, and the humor here is gentle and mild – it’s probably to contrast with the Haruhi-chan 4-koma he also writes. But I simply can never get out of my head the fact that this is a cash grab for a large anime franchise, and the addition of Sasaki and pullback from an obvious ending do nothing to assuage my worries in that regard. As always, recommended for Haruhi fans.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Vol. 4

By Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo. Released in Japan as “Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.

This volume of Nagato Yuki-chan is pretty much impossible to review without spoiling the major plot twist that happens in the first chapter, be warned.

So, when we last left Yuki, she was about to be hit by a car, ending our cute little AU spinoff before it really began. Luckily, it doesn’t do major physical damage. That said, there’s something… odd about Yuki after the accident, which Ryouko, being the perfect best friend and oneesama, figures out right off the bat. Yuki seems more serious, speaks more precisely, isn’t a giant goofball, and acts more like another Nagato Yuki that readers may be far more familiar with. Yes, that’s right, this series that is an AU spinoff of a movie where Kyon crossed over into a world where Yuki was a shy adorable human is now crossing back over with the canon and dealing with a very different Nagato.

Tanigawa_YukiChanV4_TP

Please note that nowhere in the actual text does it say this. Indeed, there’s very little ‘explanation’ given at all. Yuki has an alternate personality due to the accident, which acts much like Nagato from the main Haruhi series, and everything resolves at the end of the volume with a similar lack of explanation – her mind re-orients itself and Nagato essentially says goodbye. Indeed, some may argue it’s not the canon Nagato due to the amount of emotions shown by this version – ranging from embarrassment at her stomach growling to a full-on body blush when Ryouko suggests that she may be in love with Kyon. But then again, Nagato in canon is an alien whose emotional growth is deliberately stunted by her masters. Here, she’s in a real human body and has no such tethers. So dealing with these feelings makes sense.

More to the point, Ryouko and Kyon’s reactions to this new Nagato are pitch perfect (Haruhi and Koizumi are conveniently absent for tests, so this book is pretty much just Kyon, Nagato and Ryouko). They’re both worried about what’s happened to Yuki, but both instinctively realize – even if Kyon’s much better at expressing it – that this Nagato is also her own person and shouldn’t just be treated as a clone or as if she’s “taken over” Yuki’s body. (Ryouko worries even more than usual here – also, great meta-joke about her saying she’ll just stab Kyon to relieve her stress.) There is a lack of conflict here that in most series would serve to make things rather boring – but this is the light and fluffy Suzumiya Haruhi spinoff, so it makes sense that there’s no accusations or attempts to return Yuki to her head – just calm acceptance, patience, and watching Nagato grow as a character of her own – to the point that she also falls head over heels for Kyon.

I’m not sure what the fallout from all this will be – whether Yuki will have memories of the time she spent as Nagato (it seems unlikely from what little we see) or whether Kyon will be able to deal with a love confession that wasn’t really – but I will admit that this volume really is a major step forward by Puyo, and the best in the series. Which is still light and frothy, but now deals with its characters on a level equal to its source.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Vol. 3

By Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo. Released in Japan as “Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press.

A Quick Guide to writing manga AUs for the otaku fan, by Sean Gaffney.

I’m assisted today by Puyo, author of the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, a spinoff of the Disappearance movie filtered through the sensibilities of Puyo’s Haruhi-chan gag manga. With that in mind, let’s examine a volume of this series closely, keeping an eye out for handy tips.

yuki-chan3

The first thing to learn is that you have to know your audience. In this case, the audience are fans of the Haruhi franchise who read Kadokawa Shoten’s Young Ace magazine. They’re a built-in fanbase, and know the source material inside and out. This has its uses. You don’t have to delve so hard into character introductions, as everyone reading it knows who you’re writing about. And it means that your character interaction can be subtler. Take a look at page 27, which features Mikuru. Her dialogue, “I’m not very assertive, though, so I appreciate it when people can push me into doing things” is a redemptive reading for the original series’ Haruhi. This Mikuru is free to admit that she’s not simply being bullied and assaulted by a girl she can’t say no to, but is grateful for the assertiveness training.

In fact, this is another of the main bonuses to franchises like these, especially ones based on a light novel with a first-person narrator. Due to the viewpoint, the reader’s observations and biases are linked with the main character, as you rarely see scenes outside his purview. Even a straight manga adaptation, such as Haruhi’s, is forced by its source material into this narrow path. But in Nagato Yuki, the viewpoint is third person, which means we have the opportunity to see people in perspectives other than Kyon’s. This is particularly helpful in regards to Haruhi and Ryoko (or, as I like to call them, OTP), Both these characters change when they’re around each other. Ryoko, normally forced to be the perfect oneesama around Kyon and Yuki, lets out her childish immaturity near Haruhi. Likewise, the genki Haruhi is forced into the straight man role around Ryoko, and shows a genuine concern for her. Both characters benefit immensely from this.

The key in writing these sorts of AUs is to deviate from canon an acceptable amount, but not too much. In this case, the material is benefited by the movie itself, which gave us the shy, emotional Nagato used for this adaptation. Certain other AU adaptations, which I won’t name but rhyme with Bevamgelion, have taken their characters and made them 100% different from the original in almost every way, leading the reader to wonder why they simply didn’t create a new character? (The answer, as I’m sure you all know by now, is MONEY. Use your franchise well and use it wisely.) Nagato Yuki here is considerably different from the canon, to be sure, but the movie helped build a bridge, and there are enough signs of the original (Yuki’s explanations being incomprehensible, her reaching out for the stars) that it works.

Even Kyon, who has been poorly developed so far, gets a bit to do here, as his conversation with Ryoko shows that he seems more aware of Yuki’s affection than his canon counterpart, and is simply taking things slow. (As for Koizumi, well, he gets nothing. The others even acknowledge in the story how useless he is. We’ll be discussing this next month when we talk about the Kyon and Koizumi collection.)

In terms of things NOT to do – get back here, Puyo, and take your medicine – the artist’s art still needs work. His shading is too simplistic, especially in regards to hair. This means when you have Haruhi, Tsuruya, and Ryoko all standing near each other, they can be difficult to distinguish. I shouldn’t have to identify a person only by their hairband or eyebrows. There’s also quite a bit of fanservice here, but the artist wisely put it all in one eight-page chapter, along with the interstitials. And really, compared to some other Kadokawa titles I’ve seen, this is pretty tame. The readers of this book are the “D’aaaaawww, look at them being adorable!” crowd, they don’t need lots of nipples.

I apologize to the class for the cliffhanger ending, but Puyo assures us there’s a good reason for it, and reassures us that Yuki is not in fact killed by a car. That would make the rest of the series quite short. In the meantime, your homework is to compare and contrast this franchise to Evangelion – whoops, sorry, Bevamgelion – and Alice in the Country of Hearts, paying particular attention to which audience subset each separate spinoff title aims for. We’ll see you back here in May, and we’ll have a lot more to talk about with Yuki then. Dismissed!