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FLCL 2 Light Novel Review

Marquis de Carabas - Communist Irony
^Maybe I should put more effort into finding actual pictures in the novels, but I figure pictures of the characters from the corresponding chapters works.

FLCL 3’ll be coming up eventually. Hope you enjoy the review. Discuss if you want ^_^

Title: フルクリ / FLCL; “Marquis de Carabas” and “Full Swing”
Volume: 2 (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

“Plunge deeper into the demented dreamscape of a high school nothing turned mutant warrior in this volume of FLCL” (From the back of the book) ← First, I’d like to point out that other than Mamimi, the entire child cast is in 6th grade, ie. elementary school.

“A Lolita complex is merely an adult admiring a child – a grown-up metamorphosis.” “I like Diet Coke. This is grown up.” – FLCL Director/Producer/Creator Tsurumaki Kazuya ; this is what makes the afterword worth reading.

“…it felt good. It was the same feeling he got when he’d ridden on the speeding Vespa – the time when his brain had been empty. Maybe this is how Haruko always feels.”

“Marquis de Carabas”

Up until this point, FLCL really centers around Naota (even if Fire Starter’s about Mamimi), but “Marquis de Carabas” starts off with Ninamori Eri: class president, special girl – or not. She’s in conflict over being special due to “other people” and not by herself. Added into the mix, her father becomes the subject of a scandal, bringing her more unwanted attention and tying her more to the adults in her life she wants to be independent from. She gets caught up with Naota (via vehicular accident, as usual) and an interesting relationship is formed. To end it all, Ninamori gets through her social, self-contained plight via giant robot warfare and moves on with the play “Marquis de Carabas”. Naota is left confused; Haruko has a glint in her eye.

“Full Swing”

“If you don’t swing, nothing with happen. Takkun, you think you’re special, don’t you? That’s why you don’t swing. If you swing, people will know you’re not special.”

This chapter is about Naota. Even though most of the other chapters follow Naota around, “Fooly Cooly” is an introduction, “Fire Starter” is about Mamimi, “Marquis de Carabas” is about Ninamori, and now “Full Swing” is about Naota. In “Full Swing” Naota’s feelings sort of come to an uncomfortable peak. His resentment for following in the shadow of his brother Tasuku, his relationship with Haruko strained, his relationship with Mamimi strained, his relationship with his father strained, all connected in one place about to explode. We’re also introduced to Commander Amarao and the military/government. Naota explodes, in more ways than one, and is forced to “take action” – swing – if you will.

Overall:

A great number two of three. A second in any series usually suffers for being in the middle, with the introductions over and no incredible climax to carry it, but I think FLCL handles this fairly well. I liked “Marquis de Carabas” because it moved a little farther away from Naota and focuses more on another character: Ninamori Eri. It sort of strengthens the child v. adult dynamic by making it more generalized; Naota’s not the only one at odds with his irresponsible parents. Ninamori’s also a great “politician”. “Full Swing” takes up the slack as the end of a middle by throwing a bunch of new questions into the mix – the government, and someone who knows Haruhara Haruko – a man with incredible eyebrows. You can’t not love Amarao at first sight…

Of course like FLCL 1, FLCL 2 suffers from the same “short book, but normal price” syndrome, but again I don’t think the price is too high for the value of the book. The added internal dialogue that the light novel offers over is refreshing to those who have already seen the anime, and so it’s generally easier to follow; even though it still keeps its confusing charm well enough.

I recommend reading the afterword. May your heads stay empty my friends – good day.

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December 6, 2009 at 2:39 am Leave a comment

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

Welcome to the N.H.K Light Novel Review

Welcome to the NHK Novel Cover

Reviewed by: Kafkafuura

I figured that this would be a good title to start with, given that the title is going to be reprinted soon, in December 2009 hopefully. I haven’t seen a specific date, but it’ll be what I’m giving people for Christmas. Currently if you don’t have the book and you can’t wait, you can find it on amazon from $60 or $140 depending on how new you want it. If you’re interested in what happened to the author afterwards, (because the book leaves you hanging), I believe he now writes regularly for Faust in Japan.

Title: NHKにようこそ!/ Welcome to the NHK
Author: 滝本竜彦/ Takimoto Tatsuhiko
Illustrator: 安倍吉俊/ Abe Yoshitobe
Licensed by: TokyoPop
Translated by: Lindsey Akashi / Laura Wyrick (? “Adapter”)
[It’s bothering me but the cover illustrator is not credited at all in the English Edition. D:<]

Alright. Welcome to the NHK. This is a fantastic book, and the first real book to spur me into Japanese literature, because that’s what it is. Literature. – Now, after an attempt at banishing my inner fan I will continue.

The first thing I tell anyone when I tell anyone about this book, is that it is not the manga, nor the anime, thank god. Now I know that a good amount of people like the Welcome to the NHK manga and anime, but perhaps by misfortune I read this book first, and everything else afterwards was a disappointment. So please if you have experienced NHK in one of its other forms, hold your judgement and just read.

This is what the cover of the Japanese second edition of the book says in Engrish on the cover:

The existence of the evil organization of “NHK”, I happened to find it.All the reasons why I dropped out from the university, being unemployed and “Hikkikomori” – homicidal young person – are due to NHK’s conspiracy. I’ll keep fighting till the day I will up at the vice organization.But one day, an assassin from a religious group, show up to kill me. She is a neat and beautiful girl, Misaki-chan, with a parasol.Who is she? What can save our future contaminated with eroticism, violence and drug? Love, courage, or friendship? This is an ultimate non-stop Hikikomori Action NOVEL!

In a way that makes more sense, I would say Welcome to the NHK is about Satou Tatsuhiro and how his stagnant puddle of a life gets a rock thrown into it in the form of Nakahara Misaki, and a plunger pulled in the form of his allowance being withdrawn. It is a plot designed for character development, and it succeeds. It makes incredible use of “dark humor”. It’s wonderfully hilarious, and then you think about it for a moment, and it hits you how sad and true it feels, and then you laugh again. It is also an insight into the “culture of the Japanese youth”. I think a lot of people who talk loosely about the demographic situation in Japan would do to read this, and I also think a lot of random organizations would ban it. That means it’s good.

Satou is a hikikomori, someone who has withdrawn from social life for various reasons. Satou has gotten to the breaking point, he is into drugs to pass the time, creates the NHK to move the fault away from himself, flutters on through lolicon-ism, religion, and strives to create an h-game with his friend as if it were the holy grail. You may have taken the Kafuka Fuura approach, “there’s no way someone like that could be near me!” to hikikomori before, but as I’m sure nearly everyone that has gone to college and dealt with the social, academic, economic stress… or is a writer – can identify with Satou. Part of that is because it’s really well written. Takimoto Tatsuhiko was a hikikomori when he wrote Welcome to the NHK and really put part of himself into it. Part of that is because the plot is realistic; no matter how ridiculous it gets, it has that real feel to it. The end has a lot to do with it – the writer himself by the end of the second afterward, is still a hikikomori after all.

The other characters are believable as well, I might have met them before. Misaki-chan is a normal girl, therefore she has social problems. Yamazaki is the guy that should be happy because he has money when you don’t, but has “thrown away his life” to run in random directions, running with a bomb not knowing where to ignite it. It reverberates. If I could have my way I’d assign it for high school reading, say “this is what you’re getting yourself into.”

As for the translation, I know I’ve heard people say they hate TokyoPop translations or this and that, but the translation for this particular light novel is excellent. It doesn’t over-localize things, it doesn’t try to change Takimoto’s writing style, and it has a decent but not overblown endnotes section for explaining references. It uses terms that won’t upset people with knowledge of Japanese culture etc., but still won’t leave other people in the dark.

As a recap, Welcome to the NHK is not quite an “ultimate non-stop Hikikomori Action NOVEL!” – it’s better. It’s hilarious, has spectacular character development, and is real. It’s one of the better shorter (light) novels I’ve ever read.

October 1, 2009 at 8:46 am 7 comments


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!

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