Sabikui Bisco, Vol. 3

By Shinji Cobkubo and K Akagishi. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jake Humphrey.

Sabikui Bisco, as I noted on Twitter while reading this volume, bases itself around two aesthetics: “cool” and “gay”. Both of these aesthetics are present and correct in this third volume, which wraps up the story arc the author had in mind on creation, though it’s clear there are more volumes coming. Now, it may come as a surprise that I am saying that this volume of Sabikui Bisco is really gay, given that, over the course of the book, Bisco marries a woman and the book ends with the two of them going off on their honeymoon. And yes, that does happen. But it’s irrelevant. Bisco and Milo is still THE pairing in this book, and even the flashbacks to the memories of the villain falling in love with another woman have Bisco and Milo laid over the two of them. It’s ridiculous, but that’s part of this series’ charm. It runs on ridiculousness. Ah, I suppose that’s a third aesthetic.

We open with our heroes celebrating, complete with quasi-religious ceremonies. Unfortunately, we then get the arrival of this book’s Big Bad, Apollo. He’s determined to return Japan to the way it was in 2028, and to do so he has particles that will convert anything – building, animals, people – into cities. Now some folks are belching out tiny buildings, telephone poles and power lines. To make matters worse… or possibly better… Tirol ends up being possessed by an an aspect of the villain who is on our heroes’ side, and tries to explain what’s going on. What follows is a series of extended battles against the encroaching citification of everything. But in order to get to that point, as I said above, Bisco and Pawoo are going to have to get married. Because the villain runs on etiquette, and it would be rude to interrupt a wedding procession, even if it’s heading off to defeat you.

Again, this book runs on cool as much as gay, and the cool in this book is very cool. The sheer imagery of the cities popping out all over people is stunning, and it will be amazing if it’s ever animated. That said, there are a few issues I had with this book. About 2/3 of the way through, most of the major characters except for Milo and Bisco get killed off one by one, and I’ve read enough shonen manga to know that there was inevitably going to be a resurrection at some point. Not to spoil, but yep. Sabikui Bisco is a shonen manga in light novel form, and that sometimes means it has the bad aspects of shonen manga as well. And the fact that this book runs almost entirely on aesthetic means that there’s not an awful lot of depth to it. We are never really going to see a different, more shaded side to Bisco or Milo. They’re who they are. And while I was asking for more Tirol in future books, “possessed the entire time” was not what I meant.

Still, this book doesn’t really need to be good in the way other light novels need to be, it needs to be good in the way that One Piece or Fairy Tail are good. In that respect it passes with flying colors.

Sabikui Bisco, Vol. 2

By Shinji Cobkubo and K Akagishi. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jake Humphrey.

Last time I had asked myself how the first volume, which was excellent but felt very much complete in one volume, would become a long-running series. The answer, at least judging from this second volume, is to do more of the same. More mushrooms, more relationships that end up in betrayal and then reverse betrayal, more of Bisco and Milo being as gay as possible, and more love interests who could also function as family who are there to reassure the macho Dengeki Bunko reader that it doesn’t have to be TOO gay if they don’t want. Fortunately for all concerned, there’s one other thing which is the same as last volume: it’s just as good. This is a rollicking action piece, with lots of violence, some death, and a lot of fun dialogue. Plus it gets a move on faster than the first volume. Of course, there’s also the problem that Bisco and Milo accidentally release the man who will become the book’s main villain, but let’s face it, he was gonna get out of there soon anyway.

Now that Bisco is both a wanted criminal and very famous, he not only has to watch out as he and Mlo travel the land, but he also has to deal with a score of two-bit hoodlums pretending to be him in order to shake down others. While dealing with one of these idiots, they end up headed towards the Six Towers of Izumo, where they hope to find an answer to Bisco’s immortality. What they do end up finding is the old man who they rescued from the earlier two-bit hoods has literally cut out Bisco’s stomach, because liver and lights turns out to be a lot more religious and magical in this particular city. Teaming up with Raskeni, a grim but determined doctor, as well as her apprentice, teenage Amli, they try to figure out how to stop Kelshinka, get Bisco’s stomach back, and also perhaps stop the entire city from turning into a tower of death and destruction.

The best part of the book is probably Amli, who is a bundle of sunshine and joy, but who also has a bit of a tragic core that comes out more and more as we get further into the book. She also fills the role that Pawoo played in the first book, which is to say she gets a massive crush on Bisco, though she’s not sure if she wants him as a big brother or as a romantic partner. That said, she has a ways to go to get to the level of Milo, whose love for Bisco, and vice versa, is becoming a literal religious experience. If you told me that this author read Reborn, Gintama, Kuroko’s Basketball, and no other Jump manga, I would not be the least bit surprised. Oh yes, and there are an awful lot of fights, mostly involving mushrooms, and an awful lot of death and gore, also mostly involving mushrooms. It can get very dark. But fear not, it’s Shonen Jump. Sort of.

If you wanted exactly what the first book did, only more of it, great news. This series does not disappoint.

Sabikui Bisco, Vol. 1

By Shinji Cobkubo and K Akagishi. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jake Humphrey.

I admit that I was a little wary of this title. It got a HUGE amount of buzz when it first came out and when it was first licensed, which is all very well and good, but the last two times that happened it was The Detective Is Already Dead (which I bounced off of hard) and Osamake (which people stopped demanding the license of once they actually knew the plot). Not to mention that, let’s face it, this does not feel like a Dengeki Bunko light novel, it feels like a shonen manga. Even after I finished the book, I wanted to see what Jump or Magazine title it was novelizing. But no, it’s a real live light novel. It’s just loud, and boisterous, and action-packed, and stars two guys who feel like they could definitely be popular Shonen Jump characters. And, of course, there is one other reason why it reminded me of some of the more popular titles like, say, Reborn or Haikyu!: the two male leads are about as gay as you can possibly be without actually saying it.

Sometime in the future, and try not to be too shocked by this, a huge disaster has leveled Tokyo and left the other prefectures around it in an arid, desert state. What’s worse, people can get infected with rust, which spreads and eventually kills. Rumor has it this is all caused by the Mushroom Keepers, who have control over mushrooms and have gone underground after being accused of destroying the world. Our hero, Bisco, insists that in fact the mushrooms are what can save people! Now he must team up with a naive yet determined panda… erm, doctor named Milo (there’s a big cookie naming theme going on here, in case you didn’t get it) and try to get a cure for the rust before it kills off Bisco’s old mentor and Milo’s sister. This is not being helped by the many people trying to kill Bisco… including Milo’s sister.

This is definitely one of those “gets better as it goes along” books. It starts slow, and I tweeted after about a third of it that I thought it was trying too hard. But around about the time when the pink-haired mercenary who’s also been following them around spouts off every single cliched line in the world in one paragraph, I began to feel its vibe, and the last half flies along. It’s helped by its two leads. Milo bonds with Bisco immediately, and though Bisco takes longer to get used to Milo’s concentrated niceness, by about halfway in they’re both sacrificing their lives for the other. Milo even literally confesses “I love you” to Bisco. I suspect it may have made the editors uncomfortable, as Milo will occasionally try to tell Bisco how hot his sister is and how big her breasts are. It would be sad if it weren’t so funny – the tacked-on feel of it makes it hilarious.

There is one other big problem with this book – it’s a perfect one-shot. Which is an issue, as there’s currently 8 volumes and counting. Contest winner, I expect. In any case, that’s for future Sean to worry about – this volume, for once, actually deserves its hype.