Faust Anthology #1, Doraemon, witches, and hikikomori, OH MY!

Light Novels might not be as popular as manga in the U.S. but the manga companies keep trying to license them which is fine by me. The latest attempt is one of the more intriguing affairs. Del Rey has decided to try localizing Kodansha’s literary magazine Faust. This is a collection of short stories by famous young authors including light novel authors and visual novel authors. There is also short manga by famous manga-ka and some equally short essays. The American release of Faust takes selected stories from the Japanese version and adds some new articles for an American audience. It’s an unexpected but welcome choice from Del Rey.

xxxHOLiC: AnotherHOLiC

This is just a chapter from the novel. It is a stand alone story about Watanuki’s attempt to help a woman who seems to be sabotaging her own life and free her from the supernatural entity that is haunting her. It was an interesting variation on the standard xxxHOLiC formula while sticking true to the general themes and style of the original. I can easily see why they adapted it into a story for the anime. This was very clearly from the author of Zaregoto but I did not feel the need to punch everyone in the story squarely in the face which is a plus. I assume that CLAMP otaku already have the hardcover on pre-order but it proved itself entertaining enough that non-CLAMP fans can enjoy it.

This story was a relief after my reading Zaregoto. I don’t think NISIOISIN shines as much here as he does in Death Note: Another Note, but it is still a good read for the most part. He still has these odds times of awkward dialogue mixed with repetition that really don’t feel purposeful but that seems to tapper off as the story starts moving. I found the woman they are trying to help very fascinating. She was so extreme but her initially thinking is very relatable. The story takes some twists and turns which lead to a conclusion about humans in general. I am not familiar with HOLiC but I still enjoyed this story. Though it does seem to hinge a bit on knowing the prior relationship between Watanuki and Yuko.

Outlandos d’Amour

Outlandos d’Amour had me intrigued if for nothing else it is named after a Police album. That already gives it points. The story follows a man who works for a shadowy organization where he researches situations for them using his strange powers. At the same time he is trying to deal with his marriage to an equally unusual woman. The story seemed like a pilot for a longer series. It does not end on a cliff hanger but the author merely touches upon many aspects of the world he creates. The story made me very interested in Setsuko Amamiya despite the fact that she hardly appears in the story. If this were a longer series I am sure we would see more of her. With my general love of the Boogiepop series and my enjoyment of this story I am looking forward to Del Rey’s release of The Case of the Dragon Slayer.

This story has an off kilter feeling that kept me interested in what was happening all around. The way it weaves in our own world and the world that these characters live in is done with matter-of-factness. Kunio’s strange ability is certainly not common but at the same time the way he comes to terms with it makes it seem like any other affliction. I also found it interesting that there wasn’t a struggle between good and evil within him. He was really struggling with being idle or not. It certainly seems like it could spread out and become a longer story, but at the same time it had a emotional conclusion.

Drill a Hole in My Brain

From the moment this story started I felt like it was trying really hard to shock me. This kind of approach does nothing except annoy me greatly. The sexual imagery was so overwhelming that if there was an underlying meaning to it all it was completely obliterated. Some of the more interesting aspects, like the love story (which it the back of the book boasts as the main plot line) and the tower that looks surprisingly like the missing piece of Hide’s head are not fully explored.

Many of the reviews I read of the Faust anthology seem really impressed with Drill a Hole in My Brain which could not be further from my opinion of the story. I wasn’t disturbed by the imagery but the in-your-face prose did not make me want to think about the story. I am not so much of a prude that I can’t take a little dirty talk in my literature but I don’t like adult material for the sake of just being adult. I know some people consider something like taking a cross and submerging it in urine as high art. I support people trying art like that but it does not mean I personally enjoy it.

F-Sensei’s Pocket

I was completely captivated by the beginning description of Kozue Matsuda’s porch that gathered all kind of things because wind was so strong on the hill. The friendship that grows as this story goes along is quiet well done. With the added fun of all these wild inventions just falling into you lap, it was certainly the most light-hearted story of the bunch. I didn’t find the Doraemon references distracting or hindering to the story. In fact, considering how popular Doraemon is the need to explain who she is talking about at the on set of the story was rather odd.

This was my favorite story in the anthology. Two girls who are both outsiders in their class inadvertently bond over being ignored by their classmates. One day fantastic objects from the Doraemon manga start appearing on Matsuda’s porch. The rest of the story is how these two misfits use their newly gained powers. It’s a cute story of two girls and how they react to dreams coming true. I’m sure thousands of children (and not too few adults) have always dreamed what they would do if they had access to the fantastic toys of Doraemon. It then takes that dream and speculates on how it would “realistically” turn out. But besides the wish fulfillment aspect of the story I like the girls and I found their relationship oddly realistic and slightly complex for such a seemingly simple story. It was a story that filled me with a warm happy feeling.

The Garden of Sinners: A View From Above

I am going to state upfront that I am going to be a prejudiced reviewer here. I really love Type-Moon’s work so anything they do will probably get a higher score than normal just because they are the people who created Saber. Also seeing the Garden of Sinners movie helped a good deal in filling in holes for me. This story involves Mikiya Kokuto investigating a series of bizarre suicides where seemingly unrelated girls have been jumping to their deaths. I enjoyed the story but it was short and quick to jump from plot point to plot point. Shiki’s abilities are not as fleshed out or as interestingly presented as in the movie. In the interview in the back Nasu begs people not to read the original short version and read the longer version in the later edition. I wonder if we got the original shorter version. Well I am surely going to buy novel when it comes out so I will compare them when I get it.

This story was a little lack luster. It went much too fast with plot and ideas just blowing by. There were a lot of supernatural and mysterious elements that I wanted to get deeper into and have more of a overall explanation; instead they seemed ready to give me the ending. I was also really looking forward to Takeuchi’s illustrations but all we got was the small shot shown above. Hardly anything to cheer about especially along side the other stories that had atleast one full page of art.

Essays

I always like little insights of what do Japanese people think about Japanese social phenomenons and what do Japanese otaku think about otaku matters. The theme of these essays seems to be hikikomori. I feel that it’s a fascinating topic that’s a hot topic in the otaku community. I am curious if later volumes will continue to have essays with a shared theme or will we get a greater variety from one volume to the next. I was super happy to see the interview with Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi. It was like the tailor picked the interview to appeal to me which I know is surely not the case but I appreciate it none the less. I hope they will interview other authors in later editions.

For the most part the essay’s really didn’t resonate with me. I felt there were some distinctly Japanese issues being addressed that I am not fully understanding of. I know about hikikomoris but truly seeing why they have become prevalent in Japanese society is a littler harder to explain and probably too large of an issue for me to grasp in such a short format. The interview with Nasu and Takeuchi was contrastly better than the actual story seen here. I did find the bonus essay about importing comics made elsewhere in world into Japan interesting because of all the problems in the past.

Manga

The manga section was quite a highlight. It is wonderful to witness the blurring lines of illustration and sequential art with fine art. Each piece had a little bit of magic and wonder in it. I equally loved take’s sweet “one day only” love story and the whimsy of VOFAN’s dance with light. Though take’s style in this piece threw me a bit since it doesn’t echo his Zaregoto art nor the cover of Faust which is his, too. However, I was glad of it. While I wouldn’t say buy this book for the illustrations they are certainly a wonderful bonus.

These manga are to normal manga what short stories are to full novels. They are quick little shorts that would mostly not be fit for full stories. But they are strikingly visual and tell a interesting story in the amount of time they have. It’s a great little section for manga artists to be experimental so I look forward to see who contributes in future volumes. It’s a good chance to see a different side of established manga-ka as well as a good place to take a chance on less known artists. I myself wonder if the manga written by NISIOISIN is somehow related to the Zaregoto series. I feel like it could be prequel or it might just have similar themes.

Okay, what is up with these footnotes? Most of the time they did not do their job. If I don’t know a reference in an essay, the footnote should help me understand its meaning in the context. Instead, many went like this: a famous person is mentioned in the essay, the footnote says famous Japanese musician. I think it would have made things a lot clearer to say more to why this is significant to the point at hand. Tell me what music the musician was famous for or why they are so famous for it. Other than that I felt the anthology had an overall even feel with a seemingly common theme of doing things that are taboo or being out of the ordinary. As with anything like this, one will always find something to like and dislike, but I found more to enjoy than to complain about. Certainly a brighter spot on the Del Rey light novel line.

Top 5 Anime Witches
5. Sheryl Nome (Macross Frontier) Sorry. My bad. Anime WITCHES.
5. Nanaka Nakatomi (Magic User’s Club)
4. Nodoka Miyazaki (Negima!: Magister Negi Magi)
3. Rin Tosaka (Fate/Stay Night)
2. Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun (Slayers)
1. Yuko Ichihara (xxxHolic)

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5 thoughts on “Faust Anthology #1, Doraemon, witches, and hikikomori, OH MY!

  1. Lothos says:

    Sounds like a cool collection of stories. I’ve not had a whole lot of experience with the light novels, but the few I’ve read I enjoyed.

    The essays section sounds interesting too. The whole hikikomori phenomenon is something I really haven’t been able to get a grasp of. I understand the mental impairment of those who suffer from it, but I guess what I find so hard to fathom is the general social acceptance of it as a semi-normal, or at least not unheard of thing, and how the families of these sufferers basically enable them to continue living that way. The thing I suppose I can’t wrap my head around is simply the many years of tradition and past stigmas involving such matters.

    A book I read a few months ago called Tokyo Tribes touched on the hikikomori subject in one of its chapters and the author (an American born half Japanese half Jew who lived in Japan later on in life) tried to provide some explanation for the general “keep it a secret at all costs” sort of approach the families have, but it still was just such a foreign concept to me.

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