Sabikui Bisco, Vol. 4

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

This review really cannot happen without spoiling the end of the book, so beware if you do not want to be spoiled, though I will try not to exactly spoil. Throughout most of this volume, this has the feel of a “makework” volume in the series, as events happen but it lacks the striking imagery of previous books, which was one of the major reasons we read it. It also is not as gay, which is the other reason we read it, mostly as Bisco and Milo spend most of the book separated from each other, and there’s only one or two moments, such as brief princess carry, or Milo staring in what is clearly jealousy at one point, that makes you realize the writer knows what they’re doing. But it’s all right. It’s got some really cool fight scenes, Bisco is funny at times, we have a new waif who needs to be guided/rescued, and we get a little more development of the post-apocalyptic works with a slave race. OK, that last part is questionable.

We open with a teenager escaping from what appears to be a maximum security prison, only to be caught almost immediately, and their rescue/medical treatment by Bisco and Milo, and we then backtrack to see why they’re in a prison in the first place. They arrive at what is supposed to be a mushroom keeper’s village only to find it nearly deserted, covered in sakura flowers. The tribe have been arrested and thrown into a maximum security prison by the warden, who is very big on justice in a “Shonen Cop Gone Bad” sort of way. Shishi is part of a tribe called the Benibishi, an artificially engineered plant-based species designed as slaves. All the Benibishi are ALSO in the prison, and Shishi’s father, their King, is due to be executed. Now Bisco and Milo have to get into the prison and try to resolve things… except that they’re promptly arrested and thrown in there anyway.

Starting off with the one really great part of the book. The third volume ended, to the surprise of most readers, with Pawoo marrying Bisco, and she’s come along in this book as well. Then, a third of the way through the book, the prison warden grabs her and simply throws her out of the book and back to her home town. We never see her again. It’s jaw-droppingly funny given the novels’ BL tendencies. Well, that’s the good out of the way. Shishi is briefly presented as trans, but it’s unclear if that’s gender-based or just has to do with the idea of “prince”, and the book uses female pronouns for Shishi throughout. The Benibishi all are jailed because there is a worry that they will go mad with revenge and try to kill those who wronged them. Their plant nature means they run the risk of getting caught up in murderous rage, and the King warns Bisco and Milo about it, so they help his daughter calm down and not choose violence.

And then comes the ending, which is like the author giving you a nice warm hug and then stabbing you in the back. Now, I will grant you there’s certainly a plot for Book 5 now, and I wonder if the only reason this happened is the author ran out of things to do in this series. But man, Shishi’s actions in the last three pages or so leave SUCH a bad taste in my mouth that I can’t really recommend this anymore. A merely okay volume of the series till the ending brings it down to bad.

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.