Bento Bako Weekly: Library Wars 4 & Saiunkoku 2
It’s Valentine’s Day, and though I’d like to say I planned things this way, today we’ll be looking at two romance manga. The truth is, the thought didn’t even cross my mind until I sat down to write this weekend and realized this would be going up on that Monday. I got my gift this Saturday – a big, fat, fluffy ferret of my very own. His name is Pippin, and he’s just as mischievous as the hobbit he’s named after. Well, enough about the new love of my life, let’s start talking about handsome men and the lovely ladies who love them.
Title: Library Wars: Love & War
Author: Kiiro Yumi, original concept by Hiro Arikawa
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 4 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Hakusensha in Japan, March 1, 2011, by Viz Media
Genre: Romance, comedy, drama
Volume 3 ended badly for Iku Kasahara and General Inamine. As they were leaving the funeral, they were threatened and captured by an MBC support group. Inamine was forced along, while Iku voluntarily went along in order to protect Inamine. The group wants all the records the Library Forces just removed from the museum. Major Genda steps into action immediately, choosing not to rely on the police force and instead do things his own way. His own way means buying the building the group is using so it becomes property of the Library Forces, which basically gives them free reign to go in and do what they need to do to rescue their General. Meanwhile, Iku is doing her best to take care of the invalid General, and even attempts to feed information to the Library Forces when the kidnappers allow her to speak on the phone. In her own style, she manages to tell her friends at the base exactly where she is, and they set off to storm the place. Dojo, concerned for Iku’s safety and feeling guilty about not allowing her to come on the official mission, leads the way. Even though he’s worried, he has faith in Iku, a soldier that he himself trained, and faith in her undaunted courage. Memories of the day he first met Iku flood his mind, and we learn the totally-obvious-since-day-one secret: Dojo is Iku’s mysterious prince who saved her and her book from the MBC at a small bookstore. Of course, his desire to save Iku at that time caused some problems, leading him to be nearly unrecognizable to Iku today. There was a huge scandal because he abused his power to save Iku, and Dojo decided he was too impulsive and too passionate to perform his job properly. He forced himself to change, losing the passion he once had, but then Iku showed up with those same “flaws,” and made him question himself once again. After a gallant rescue by Dojo, Iku feels her feelings for him start to shift. A rather amusing drunken celebration follows, and Iku, passed out drunk, lets some of her feelings unconsciously slip in front of Dojo. The triumph is soon followed by a troublesome visit by Iku’s parents, who have come to see if their daughter is safe working at the library. The entire gang works together to keep Iku’s occupation as a combatant secret, so her parents will think she is working as a clerk. Iku’s mother is obsessed with girls behaving like girls, and has never liked Iku’s more tomboy-like qualities. It’s not that she’s simply worried about her daughter; she wants Iku to be her interpretation of a girl, instead of being herself. Iku’s dad, while he usually backs up her mom, seems to be catching onto his daughter’s secret, and, more importantly, he’s picking up on the relationship between Iku and Dojo. The final chapter switches focus to Komaki, as he watches over Iku in his own way while her parents visit. Komaki’s personal creed is to never tell a lie, so in order to assist Iku’s cover up, he simply tries to stay out of the way as much as possible. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy…. A cute bonus manga has Iku watching over a small puppy that wandered into the library. Her day humorously reflects the dog’s day as first the puppy, and then Iku end up lost and found again by Dojo.
It’s great getting to see the Library Forces doing their thing. I’d like to see more, but again, this manga is first a romance story. The other elements did seem a bit stronger in this volume, though, which is nice. The rescue mission is an excellent look at how the Library Forces run missions, with everyone doing their part to make the operation go smoothly. We finally get to see why Dojo is the way he is now, what made him change from the person Iku first fell for to the person she can no longer understand. The characters joke about how her “prince” was sitting right in front of her while she spoke passionately about him at her interview, but really, aside from her obvious obliviousness, he’s a completely different person now. It’s no wonder she doesn’t recognize him. Iku is having a clear effect on Dojo, however, so I suspect we may see more of the old Dojo slipping through more often. She’s even beginning to fall for him as she begins to understand him more, though it’s conflicting with the romantic visions of her prince in her head. Dojo, too, is showing some feelings for his underling, and there is almost a kiss in this volume. The camaraderie between Iku and her squad is strong here as we view the way they support her as she deals with her parents’ visit. Dojo, initially a little annoyed that Iku can’t deal with her parents, realizes that Iku’s real issue is being unable to be herself in front of her parents. Her mother is exceptionally caught up in her idea of what a girl should be, and chastised Iku throughout her life whenever she went outside the “norm.” During their visit, there’s a lot of “Girls shouldn’t be doing these sorts of things” comments from her mother. Her father’s typical response is “Don’t be so hard on your mother, she’s just worried about you.” However, this time he seems to be backing off. There are hints that he is aware of what Iku’s really doing, and he seems to be OK with it, especially after seeing the support she has from her teammates, and the faith his daughter has in her commanding officer, Dojo. The volume ends without a clear conclusion to their visit, but I get the feeling that either Iku’s father will support the cover up for the sake of her mother and keep his mouth shut, or he’ll stand up for Iku and convince her mother to support their daughter’s choice.
Title: The Story of Saiunkoku
Author: Sai Yukino, with art by Kairi Yura
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 2 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2007 by Kadokawa Shoten in Japan, February 2011 (out now) by Viz Media
Genre: Period romance, comedy, drama, fantasy
When we last left off, Shurei had been brought into the Imperial Palace in order to convince the Emperor to properly govern his country. Believing him to be ignorant, possibly homosexual, and lazy, Shurei tutored him and cared for him, and eventually convinced him to start taking his role as Emperor seriously. For his part, Ryuki was warmed by Shurei’s passionate nature and drive to serve her country, which convinced him to get off his ass and start taking his duties seriously. Initially, Shurei didn’t think much of his quick progress, and failed to realize she was being fooled by a young man entirely capable of ruling, but who was pretending to be unfit to rule. That’s all about to change….
When Ryuki finally confesses the truth to Shurei, she naturally goes ballistic. Not simply because he has been lying to her, but because he was capable of ruling and instead chose not to do so. This hurts her more than being tricked by him. Not wanting Shurei to leave, Ryuki locks her up in her room. Unfortunately, this proves to be a terrible mistake. The assassination attempts on Shurei continue, and finally, Shurei turns up missing from her quarters. A plot has been brewing, with Advisor Sa at the center. Sa wants Prince Seien on the throne, and is willing to destroy Shurei and Ryuki to get what he wants. Seiran is furious, of course, and sets out to handle things on his own. It is now that we learn what was a lurking suspicion in the previous volume – Seiran is the missing Prince Seien. Ryuki immediately gets down to business to rescue Shurei, sending Shuei Ran to arrest Advisor Sa, just as a ransom note arrives demanding the Emperor come alone to the Department of Sages to ensure Shurei’s safe return. It is, of course, a trap, but Ryuki is much smarter and more capable than they realize. As Seiran confronts Sa, Ryuki sets off to rescue Shurei. The story jumps back and forth between the two men, as Sa reveals his desire to outwit and leap over his rival Advisor Sho, and Ryuki easily dispatches the men waiting for him. While things go smoothly for Ryuki, Seiran isn’t so lucky, as Sa drugs him and sets his men upon the young man, intent on putting Seiran on the throne. In the nick of time, a mysterious figure comes to rescue Seiran, but Sa, though injured, gets away. The infamous assassin Black Wolf is revealed, and his true identity is quite the surprise. Meanwhile, although she was rescued, Shurei isn’t out of the woods. A deadly poison is in her system, and even the Palace physician doesn’t know the antidote. But Sho does. However, he won’t hand it over until he gets what he wants – a promise from Ryuki to become an Emperor worthy of Sho’s support. You see, Sho is willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to ensure his chosen Emperor becomes a proper ruler. His reasons run deeper than simple selfishness or arrogance, however. After a few more revelations, and some heart-to-hearts between some of the characters, Shurei packs up to leave the Palace, content that her job there is done. But Ryuki has one more surprise for her…. A bonus manga, taking place before Shurei entered the Palace, chronicles the meeting of Shurei’s father, Shoka, and Ryuki when he was a small child.
Ryuki opens up in this volume, spilling some of his secret desires to Shuei Ran. We finally learn the truth behind his charade, and the reasoning behind many of his actions. He’s so hung up on his brother’s return, that he was refusing to become his replacement. Unfortunately, he fell in love with Shurei, and wanted to make her proud of him. Still, he clings to his dreams of his brother’s return, but Seiran is very clear that he will never return to the Palace in that capacity. He will only support Ryuki from the shadows. Advisor Sho is also revealed to be a slightly sinister sort of person. In order to make Ryuki a worthy Emperor, he used Shurei and Seiran (and others), ready to sacrifice them if necessary. He even used his dear friend and rival Advisor Sa, whom he drove to the desperate plots that led to his demise. In the beginning of volume 1, we were told the ancient mythology of Saiunkoku, about its rule by Eight Noble Sages, who shaped the land, and still live amongst the people. We see evidence of this in this volume, as one of these ancient Sages makes a brief and unexpected appearance, proving that they may do more than simply watch over the land; this one in particular is heavily involved in the shaping of the country. We learn a little bit about Koyu Ri this volume, specifically his past, when he was abandoned and taken in and raised by a noble. His feelings toward his benefactor mirrors those of the young servant girl Korin, who has been striving hard to support her own benefactor. Shurei continues her strong-willed and stubborn approach to everything; her reaction to Ryuki’s confession is amusing but stays true to her character. As mentioned, what’s more important to her is not that she was fooled by his act, but that he was perfectly capable of taking control of the country and helping his people, but chose not to exercise that power. Shurei can’t stand such blatant disregard for her fellow citizens. But when Ryuki explains his actions to her, she is understanding, and proud that he has decided to resume his proper duties. Ryuki, now revealed to be rather exceptional, still somehow manages to be rather naive when it comes to his feelings of love for Shurei. Luckily, Shuei Ran is ready to give him some advice. Another delightful volume of a series that has quickly become on of my favorites.
A copy of Library Wars volume 4 was provided by the publisher for review.