Archive for November, 2009

FLCL 1 Light Novel Review

Fire Starter
^This image isn’t in the actual light novel, but it depicts a scene from it, of which there is a picture in the LN.

I’ll be posting on a much more often than once a month basis from now on, at least until I run out of books to review.

Title: フルクリ / FLCL; “Fooly Cooly” and “Fire Starter”
Volume: 1 (of 3)
Author: Enokido Yoji
Original Concept and Plot: Tsurumaki Kazuya
Illustrator: Tsurumaki Kazuya
Group: Gainax
Licensed by: TokyoPop
Translated by: Gemma Collinge / Laura Wyrick (Adapter)

Review By: Kafkafuura

The Akihabara district populace demanded, “Please, make it all GAINAX-weird so that the old men who follow subcultures, all the Shibuya teenagers, and the girls who read cute comics won’t get it.” I kept my end of the deal – but just this once. -Sato Hiroki (FLCL Producer)

Now, if you are of my generation, I’m apt to make the perhaps haphazard assumption that if you are into Japanese anime/manga sub-culture you’ve seen, or at the very least heard of FLCL, also known as “FooLy CooLy”. It’s known for being ridiculously confusing and nonsensical, with explosions, robots and great indy music – all part of the charm. It’s a cult classic, in other words.

First off, the FLCL light novels are a novelization of the 6 episode anime series, started a few months after its completion in 2000, not “source material”, but it was planned at the same time. This lends itself to a different sort of atmosphere: the FLCL light novels can be best described as: an explanation to “what the hell did I just see?”. But this doesn’t mean that it’s unsuitable if you haven’t seen the series, they’re perfectly enjoyable on their own; it also means that if you’ve seen the FLCL anime already the light novels give you the benefit of “knowing what you actually just saw.” (People who have seen will understand).

Now for the specific source material. What you actually want to know. FLCL Vol. 1 comprises of the first two arcs of FLCL: “Fooly Cooly” and “Fire Starter”. (Basic plot summary follows.)

“Fooly Cooly”:
Enter Nandaba Naota “cool sixth-grade junior high hero”, Samejima Mamimi “high school student and girlfriend to Naota’s brother”, and Haruhara Haruko “dangerous alien who rides a Vespa”. Can’t you already see the makings of a story? “Fooly Cooly” sets up the introduction, and has the scene that really defines FLCL in general, Naota – in an very awkward situation with his brother (who left for America)’s girlfriend is alerted to the sound of a raging enging whereupon this crazy woman attempts and eventually succeeds in whacking him on the head with a bass guitar that seems to have an engine in it. Naota eventually grows a horn, and at a critical moment, a robot and another robot’s arm come out of his head (emptied of its brains) and fight. The battle concludes and life returns to what Naota tells himself is normal.

“Fire Starter”:
“I can’t hardly tell anymore where the truth ends and the lies begin.”
The robot, Canti, becomes part of the family, Haruhara Haruko too. More horns start growing out of Naota’s head. Fires are sprouting up all over the place. Mamimi thinks Canti’s a god, and you’re introduced to a few of Naota’s classmates on the side, including the generic “class president” character (she’ll show up later). What is medical mechanica really all about? Naota finds the fire-starter, and robot warfare sprouts from his head again. Wha~T? Naota’s relationship with Mamimi develops. Confused? Good. Read!

Personal Opinion/Review:
I’m a fan of it. It targets a sort of niche, but light novels are a niche – it’s something to appreciate. It makes much more sense than the wild ride the anime throws at you, but it certainly doesn’t leave behind the craziness. So the story is great; the added internal dialogue and exposition helps explain a lot about the series and the world it’s set in in general. The translation is very good; the illustrations are done by the creator so they can’t be any more accurate; the length is good, great for bus-ride reading. The one thing I hear complaints about the most is the price tag. It’s short, 122 pages, but $9.99. There are three of them, so you’re going to be spending ~$30 if you want all of them. You might say it has a high price tag because they think they can hook fans regardless, but if you compare the book itself to other books, it’s really not that expensive. I see where the complaints are coming from, but I personally don’t see it as a problem. As a side note, if you like this kinda stuff – go find Cencoroll, it has a similar feel.

This is a part 1/3
I’ll review the other books soon enough.

Comments? I’m not going to attempt an indepth discussion of possible meanings and stuff, that’s not a review; but feel free to discuss what you think.


November 11, 2009 at 2:43 am Leave a comment

Wait….You’re Still There?

Well, I guess you are.

I wanted to apologize for the extremely long absence of myself from the blog.

I want to state clearly that the blog is not dead. It merely has gone through another one of its probably by now famous absent periods.

I’ve been really busy, so I hope I can update the blog more now in the future.

Also, I would really appreciate it if the co-authors on this site would post more. If I could see you posting regularly and producing good posts, I will make it so your posts do not need approval before hand.

This blog is a tad bit too much for JUST ME to do. So I hope you all will continue to volunteer your time to help, or to just read. Reading is very important and very helpful. lol

Till next time,


November 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm 8 comments

Under the Leopard’s Mask

Guin Saga v1 cover

Reviewed by nolwenn961

From prolific writer Kaoru Kurimoto comes her most notable work, “The Guin Saga,” a work that is said to be the mother of light novels. As a forerunner to a kind of fiction that quickly gained popularity in Japan, I was excited about picking up this book and seeing what it had to offer.

“The Guin Saga Book One: The Leopard Mask” isn’t just a fantasy story. There’s another dimension to it, a sort of underlying mystery about who Guin is and how he came to have a leopard mask on him. This is something that’s addressed only occasionally in the first book, but I expect the themes of memory and identity to be dealt with in later volumes. The main focus is the twins of Parros and Guin’s encounter with them. The way that Guin looks out for the children is heroic as it’s supposed to be, and sometimes it borders on the fatherly.

Overall, not a lot happens in this first novel, but that’s as expected because this is just the first volume of a series that spans over a hundred volumes. Most of the action takes places in two scenes when the trio is in the Roodwood and when they are captured and taken to Stafolos Keep. So much of this novel is spent on exposition, resulting in lavish, sometimes tiring descriptions about the twins of Parros and their beauty. You might forget that Guin exists, remembering him occasionally only because the story is named after him. On the other hand, the descriptions are very vivid, making the scenes easy to picture to even the most unimaginative reader.

To my surprise, there are illustrations included in this novel, but you shouldn’t expect anything that looks like manga by today’s standards; this novel was originally published in 1979. Even the cover is atypical. The cover is a painting that looks realistic, serving as a further reminder that this novel is slightly different from the light novels that were later published. It would fit in more on a bookshelf among mainstream fantasy in America. There’s even a map.

“The Guin Saga” got me very excited and revived my interest in mainstream fantasy which had been previously squelched almost immediately after partially reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” I couldn’t help but root for Guin and everything he did which I found rather surprising considering that Guin himself is a hero, and I fancy myself as an aficionado of anti-heroes. The bottom line is, if you like Guin, then you’ll like this story. If you don’t like Guin, then maybe you’ll enjoy his antagonists more, but you probably won’t get much enjoyment out of this book. This is a heroic fantasy, and the good guys seem to always prevail at the end of the day.

One thing that I would very much have liked to see in this book is an afterword or a postscript, something that will place me the author’s mind. The last page of the novel succeeds in wrapping up the volume while at the same time sets us up to expect much more adventures for the characters in the coming volumes. However, like many light novels, a lot of the books will never reach English speaking audiences. With only five out of one hundred twenty-six volumes translated into English, “The Guin Saga” will probably remain as hidden as Guin’s face under the leopard mask.

November 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

Welcome To Ranobe Cafe!

This marks the english speaking world's first dedicated light novel blog, bringing you news and views from the english perspective on light novels. We are more than just a blog about light novels though, we also stand in awe of the many other literary works crossing over to the West from Japan. So expect to also see articles that dabble from time to time in Cell Phone Novels and Japanese Sci-Fi works, to mention a few.

So come all you light novel enthusiasts! Come one and all! We may be a niche, and may represent one of the smallest markets in these economically troubled times, but we are also one of the most dedicated! So let us come together and support the industry we love and hold so dearly!