I Saved Too Many Girls And Caused The Apocalypse, Vol. 3

By Namekojirushi and Nao Watanuki. Released in Japan as “Ore ga Heroine o Tasukesugite Sekai ga Little Mokushiroku!?” by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Lensenmayer.

I had made much in my review of the first volume of this being a parody of the harem genre, and also talked about the humor in it. Book 3 is sadly lacking in good humor (R is barely in it), and the parody aspect is also starting to slip a little too, as we meet our hero’s female counterpart and find that she’s luring him to the dark side. Not that he’s turning evil or anything. But Hibiki also gets caught up in stories, as the heroine, and one of her friends – OK, if we’re being honest, her only friend – was injured because of that and is now in a coma. So ‘the dark side’ in this case means the darkness of the soul, where you wind up pushing everyone away because you don’t want to see them get hurt. And she infects Rekka with this mindset, which is a problem, because the entire premise of the series is therefore at risk.

Fortunately, despite this volume being far more serious than the previous two, it holds up pretty well. The situations are still cliched, but having only one heroine to worry about much of the time streamlines things a bit, even as we still have to solve multiple promises. (Arguably the fox girl is a second heroine, despite Rekka’s cluelessness, but I’ll worry about that if she ever comes back). Rekka manages to overcomes his self-doubt, pushed along by a lack of confidence (something R lampshades, as she is wont to do). And the old heroines all get something to do. The scenes with Satsuki and Harissa are quite good, as thanks to Rekka pushing her away Satsuki has her own crisis of conscience. She’s known him the longest, after all. But Harissa is the ‘purest’ of the girls in terms of her love for Rekka, so she’s able to teach the valuable lesson this time, at least once she wakes up.

The big drawback to this volume, unfortunately, are its heroines. Hibiki is meant to be a female mirror of Rekka, and also show what he could be if he went down the wrong path. As such, she’s a bit of a mess, starting off strong but eventually just hanging off the villain’s arm waiting to be rescued. Also, it feels weird to have one tsundere a mere volume after the classic example of Tsumiki. Hibiki’s crush on Rekka simply doesn’t feel earned, not the way the other girls’ do. As for the other ‘heroines’ here, the fox girl is cute but basically frets constantly the entire book, and Meifa is a living reward who doesn’t even get to speak at the end of the book. I realize that it’s hard to create strong characters every time, but given the premise the author has made for himself, it’s something he’s going to have to muscle up and do.

So I’m a bit annoyed, but in the end turning more serious did not break the series, and there were several cool fight scenes. It looks as if Rekka has remembered the core to his series, which is ‘solve one girl’s problems using another girl’s talents’, and given Vol. 4 is back to three girls on the cover, he should be fine.

(Oh yes, and don’t use alien races as a metaphor for racism if your magic solution is “turn everyone white”. Just… don’t do that.)

Kitaro: The Great Tanuki War

By Shigeru Mizuki. Released in Japan as “Gegege no Kitaro” by (among others) Kodansha, serialized in various magazines. Released in North America by Drawn & Quarterly. Translated by Zack Davisson.

The large majority of this book is made up of the title story, the first really huge epic tale we’ve seen from this collection of Kitaro stories by Drawn & Quarterly. And it’s a real pip, showing off the best qualities of Kitaro in the 1960s. He’s far more heroic here than he’s been in the past two books, but it’s a pretty thankless task, especially when he’s going up against shifty Japanese politicians. Honestly, you’d think he’d be used to dealing with them given that he’s best friends with Nezumi Otoko, who is in peak form here, always siding with whatever appears to be the winning side, and showing no moral qualms about throwing humanity under the bus. There’s also a larger role for Itta Momen, a yokai made up of flying cloth that I thought was meant to be toilet paper for the longest time.

The villains in this story are the titular Tanuki, who have featured in many Japanese folktales, though not usually as yokai per se. These are The 800 Tanuki of Shikoku, who are here to reclaim earth and take over. They’ve got many and varied ways of doing this, each of which seems to set a higher bar of “how on Earth will Japan get out of this one”? What’s worse, they really do a number on Kitaro, taking him out several times via various fatal traps – and I mean literally fatal, by the end of this story Kitaro has to regenerate from a baby for a month or so. It’s very much in the classic serial vein, which unfortunately means that the ending reads like “OK, wrap it up in this chapter” – it’s very sudden. But the grotesque ideas and imagery are pure Mizuki, and really stand out in this epic story, which also borrows from kaiju-style tales.

I was somewhat surprised by seeing the two-faced Japanese Prime Minister tell Kitaro that they will rely on him to save Japan just like Moshe Dayan saved Israel, till I realized that this was running in Shonen Magazine only two months or so after the Six Day War. You don’t think of Kitaro as referencing too many current events, but there are times it does, particularly when he gets involved in politics, as seen here. (Speaking of references, I was rather startled to see the Tanuki declare that they were going to have the Japanese woman serve them as maids – if only they’d been 30 years later they could have gone to a cafe instead!) The final two stories feel a bit like filler compared to the epic Tanuki war, but we do get to see a rare example of Nezumi Otoko coming out on top for once – it reminds me of the rare cartoons where Tom won over Jerry.

This is a very strong volume of Kitaro, though the reader should be prepared for bad things to happen to him – he spends some of the book as a literal puddle of liquid. As always, a must for fans of classic manga, as well as modern yokai readers who want to read something by the master.

Bluesteel Blasphemer, Vol. 1

By Ichirou Sakaki and Tera Akai. Released in Japan by Hobby Japan. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by James Rushton and Kevin Steinbach.

If you’ve grown tired of novels where our hero is either transported to another world or dies and is reincarnated in another world, well, this is another one of those. There’s so many that you really need to figure out what it is about this particular one that makes it worth reading over the other 87,326 series released this year alone. In the case of Bluesteel Blasphemer, the answer may be its pedigree. This is not a case of a newbie writer who was putting his fiction on the web and got discovered by a publisher. Ichirou Sakaki has written such things as Scrapped Princess, Chaika the Coffin Princess, and Outbreak Company, which does feature a princess. And now we have one of his newer series, Bluesteel Blasphemer, which does not have princesses – at least not yet – but has a mayor’s daughter, a sacrificial victim, and a Rei Ayanami expy, because god knows we don’t have enough of those.

Our hero is Yukinari, a young man who is rescued from modern-day Japan, where he was dying in a fire that killed his older sister, and reincarnated in a cool body (with a few tricks up its sleeve) by a young alchemist who seems very similar to his older sister, and Dasa, her younger sister and the Rei clone I mentioned above. After stuff happens, he and Dasa are on the run through the backwaters of the country, and run across Berta, a beautiful young orphan about to be sacrificed to appease the local erdgod, which is a nasty piece of work. It’s not clear whether the sacrifices work or not, and the mayor’s daughter Fiona, who’s in charge while her father is in ill health, has her doubts as well, but hey: it’s tradition. Unfortunately, Yukinari and Dasa proceed to massacre tradition, and now have to deal with his being the assumed local erdgod replacement – as well as the unfortunate arrival of the local Inquisition, here to enslave the village into their religion.

There are pluses and minuses to this series. The pluses are the plot and the writing, which are both excellent. You can tell the author is far more experienced, as there’s no long introductory sequence like most isekai. Instead, we get the feeling we’re starting with Book 2, which gets a bit confusing but pays off in the long run. The action sequences, of which there are many, work fine, and the plot twists happen at just the right moment. On the down side, well, the characters are not nearly as good as the book being written around them. Yuknari is fairly faceless, Dara is, as I said, another in a long line of snarky deadpan barely legals, and Berta’s desire to serve Yukinari as the new replacement erdgod is rather disturbing, as she seems to be confusing love and worship in her head. Fiona was probably the best character of the lot. (Honestly, as the author himself admits in the afterword, the harem aspect seems totally tacked on and uninspired). Also, the two older sisters who both die to inspire the heroes… bleah. I bet they both had that dead mom sidetail, didn’t they?

So it’s a decent, but not stellar, debut for this series. I’m willing to give it another volume to draw me in more. That said, I’m rather glad it’s only 4 volumes total.