Faust Volume 2

Posted by DiGiKerot in Novels at July 18, 2009 on 4:17 pm

You know, I’m kind of surprised that this actually got released.

This isn’t me being negative about the content, rather that the first volume came out in August last year and has since done an exceedingly good job of consuming shelf space at my local bookstores. As much as I’d like to think that was due to constant reordering to meet demand, I rather more pessimistically suspect that it’s more to do with them not being able to sell the stock they have. I’m also under the impression that much of the material presented in this second volume has been translated for quite some time, making me think that the original release schedule was a little more ambitious.

Then there’s the situation with rest of Del Reys novel line, which is that there really isn’t any clear indication as to what is actually going on. They’ve pretty much gone quiet on the Garden of Sinners front (last I heard is that it’d been given to a translator other than Paul Johnson, who’d done the chapter for Faust volume 1, though that was because the new translator spoke out rather than Del Rey saying anything). The Kouhei Kadono book Case of the Dragon Slayer, which had originally been announced as a February ’09 release, has disappeared from Del Reys online listings, but is either listed as being released in two weeks or two years time depending on which online store you look at. It’s a similar case for The Kubishime Romanticist, the second Zaregoto book. Even this volume of Faust pretty much just snuck up on us – if I wasn’t relatively proactive when it comes to checking new releases at some online stores, I’d have probably missed it.

Still, it is nice that it’s actually out, though I worry about this volumes sales potential even more than the first volumes – it doesn’t have Type Moon or Clamp attached to it in order generate interest. Indeed, it’s kind of disappointing that the top billing on the cover is Takeshi Obata – the illustrator of Death Note, who provided a few inconsequential illustrations for the Otsuichi story – rather than any of the authors, but I guess that’s what they need to do to try and get it to sell.

It’d be a shame if no-one buys this, though – aside from the fact that I’d rather like to see further volumes of Faust in the future, this volume felt a stronger than the first to me.

It helps a lot that the opening story, again by Bakemongatori author Nisioisin, leaves a far better impression that the xxxHolic tie-in story did from the first volume. Magical Girl Risuka is pretty much that standard light novel fare – a mystery novel. The twist here is that the protagonist is a ten-year-old jackass with a serious superiority complex who witnesses a number of deaths he wants to solve, not due to any sense of justice, but rather because he thinks that he could put the culprit to some kind of use in his world domination plans. Well, that and the fact that his sidekick is an equally young witch with a peculiar manner of speaking, and whose similarities with regular magical girl tropes aren’t quite as sweet as the genre usually leads you to expect.

Risuka is a good read, probably my favourite of the volume. It’s first chapter of part of an ongoing work (there’s three volumes of the series out in Japan right now), but it does a relatively good job of wrapping up what it needs to within it’s story. Whilst the protagonist isn’t exactly what I’d consider likeable, the characters are at least interesting. It does some pretty dark things with the principals behind the magical girl genre, and I’m pretty much for anything which subverts that particular genre.

If I have a complaint, it’s that it kind of has a habit of falling into the same kind of concept-explanation exposition issues that many of these stories do (and Kinoko Nasu is particularly guilty of). It introduces an unusual concept or power (in particular in Risuka’s case, it’s her Destiny Interference abilities) and proceeds to give an explanation that’s initially as clear as mud, and twice as dense. Most of the time, I suspect this is really just done to give the illusion that it’s something the author has thought really hard about giving consistent rules to, whereas in reality they are just trying to confuse you into thinking that they have so that you just except whatever they elect to throw at you. In this case, it does eventually make sense, but there’s a certain amount of pounding it into your head that I suspect most readers will have to perform to get it. It is, at least, something entirely inconsequential to the actual events that they are investigating.

The books second story is Jagdtiger by Kouhei Kadono. Jagdtiger ties back into Outlandos D’Amour from the first volume of Faust, in so much as it covers pretty much the same time period, only from the point of view of Koryo Kunio’s wife Mai. It also explicitly makes it clear that this is very definitely is set in the Boogiepop universe, something that only those who had read Boogiepop at Dawn would have been likely to pick-up from Outlandos D’Amour.

Not that its particularly relevant – it doesn’t really even matter if you’ve read Outlandos, as it simply means that you won’t know what’s really up with Kunio. The only fact you need to know is that there is something up with Kunio, which this story adequately puts across. Really, though, I’ll just echo what I thought of the previous work – it’s fairly dry, but at the same time it’s bizarrely charming. Whilst, like Risuka, it does do the whole fruity-concept thing in regards to it’s central character, it’s at least entirely clear here. It’s free of issues of confusing bull-poopie.

The books third story is Where the Wind Blows by Otsuichi. As with Jagdtiger, it relates to his story from the previous volume. Also as with Jagdtiger, it doesn’t really matter – whilst it shares the same lead character, it doesn’t assume any prior knowledge, nor is it even clear when it takes place in relation to F-Sensei’s Pocket. It’s rather less whimsical a yarn than F-Sensei was, dealing with somewhat darker material (whilst still related to the random items the heroine has blown onto her veranda, I don’t really want to spoil what it is that causes the issues this time), as well as being generally less humorous, and presented with a less hyperactive narration. Thematically, it’s rather different to F-Sensei too, lacking that juxtaposition between modern high-school drama and 70s cheese. It does retain the tinge of melancholy, though.

Not that the story is particularly any worse for it. Well, OK, it is a little worse for it, in so much as I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did F-Sensei, but that isn’t to say that it’s not an entirely sound story that’s thoroughly pleasant to read. It’s interesting, and kept me wondering exactly where it was going throughout, though the ultimate conclusion isn’t particularly out there (which, to be fair, is probably a good thing for this story).

This volumes dead weight is provided by Yuya Sato, in the form of Gray-Coloured Diet Cola. Actually, I should clarify – it’s an excerpt from Grey-Coloured Diet Cola, which is precisely why it’s dead weight. It’s not like I don’t have any time or can’t relate to a story about a disillusioned student living out in the middle of nowhere, but rather it’s hard for me to get particularly excited about a small part of a book that I’ll never get the opportunity to read the entirety of. It’s hard to have any reaction other than just shrugging and moving on. It’s something that I’d probably be interested in reading if the full work was to be released, but it’s hard to get engrossed when you know it’s not really going to go anywhere. At least with the previous volumes xxxHolic story, and Garden of Sinners chapter, we knew going in that not only did the excerpts provide something relatively self contained, but also that the full books were going to be published at some point (though, as I mentioned, it’s no longer clear in the case of GoS). That’s not the case here.

Which takes us to the last of the longer prose titles, ECCO by Welcome to the NHK author Tatsuhiko Takimoto. The story starts by presenting itself as a Matrix-esque story questioning the validity of reality, before suddenly having a complete change of pace, location and narrator by jumping into the slightly more usual grounds of being a story about a slightly unpleasant outcast highschooler with a superiority complex, and his chirpy, upbeat, cute and entirely pleasant class-rep who happens to have a dark secret. The interest value of this story is really ends up being in the wondering precisely how it’s going to link back into the weirdness of how it started. Ultimately, though, I do kind of think that the way it does tie back in ultimately ended up being a little bit of a cop-out, something of an avoidance of coming up with something that felt more conclusive. I do wonder if Tatsuhiko simply couldn’t come up with a good way to end his cute and charming janky high-school mismatch drama and simply tagged on an opening and ending harking back to his delusional NHK conspiracy rantings in the hope that it’d work itself out in the end. I honestly think the story would have worked well enough without it. What’s left is still worth reading, though.

After that, as with the first volume, we move onto the shorter things – including a second, equally not-really-working-in-English edition of Yabai de Show – that aren’t massively worth going into other than mentioning that there’s an interesting interview with the Faust editor talking to Andrew Cunningham and the guy who is translating MegaTokyo for the Japanese edition of Faust, and another interview with a number of the authors represented in this volume regarding the US edition of Faust.

There’s no colour pages this time around, but the back of the book still presents some artwork and one longer manga work, Iron Man Military Unit by Q-Ko-Chan author Ueda Hajime. Not as interesting as the Nisioisin/Yun Kouga story from the first book, but the art is at least cute.

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