Also there are confusing goings-on in regards to the feline situation, but more on that later, because! It's Review Rednesday! So we now present our review of Forbidden Scrollery volume four! Spoilers ahead!
Okay, we're on part two of what...probably won't turn into a review-writing marathon, mostly because we have to go to bed. But if we're lucky, we'll have time to write more reviews tomorrow, because we have two more after this, and if tomorrow goes as planned, we'll actually have three!
So Forbidden Scrollery... Okay, as I said in the review I just wrote, we've covered a lot of miles of material between translating this volume and writing this review (seriously, the reason we have a review backlog is that all our deadlines were so close together that we've been working from sunup to sundown (just kidding, we don't get up before the sun if we can help it, but we've actually been working long past sundown, so it balances(?) out)), so it may be hard to remember stuff. Forbidden Scrollery is pretty episodic, too.
But oh! I have to take a detour, because Anime News Network started a manga guide thing where they reviewed a bunch of volume ones, and apparently all the reviewers hated this one! They were all, "It's not good storytelling," and I was all, "You're not good storytelling!" Because I'm sooooo mature. No, actually, I was like, "It's appropriate storytelling for what it is." And what it is, is a sidebar to a video game series. It is its own original story and ideally shouldn't need the other installments of the series to be understood, but it's part of a bigger thing, and that's why they didn't introduce the characters in a way that felt like you were meeting them for the first time. All the reviewers seemed to be like, "It expects you to know all the millions of characters!" and we were like, "No, it thinks you probably might, so it doesn't waste time explaining who they are." The only ones you really need to know are Reimu and Marisa, and it didn't long for us to figure out what their deal was--they're a mage and a priestess who fight youkai. It ain't rocket surgery.
Okay, enough of that. Let's talk about this volume! Like previous volumes, it seems very episodic, but each new story has little hints that may or may not be leading to a big climax. We start with the snakes. Apparently snakes have been biting people lately, and there's a rival priestess who comes along to "help." But the bigger problem is a dine-and-dash...er? We weren't sure what they call people who do that, so hopefully our editor was, or we were good enough at working around it. Anyway, this guy skips his tab and then vanishes in a puff of smoke. Meanwhile, Kosuzu is extra afraid of snakes, because she read an article about a snake in India that swallowed a person whole. And I'm pretty much telling the whole story in this paragraph, but the point of the manga is to enjoy the journey, right? Anyway, Mamizou puts those two things together and figures out... Maybe I shouldn't give it away. So I won't! But I will say that the snake priestess is kind of a fun character, and we're amused that she has a frog in her hair. And I was amused that she was like, "See? Our little shrines reminded the villagers to be virtuous, so the dine-and-dashing stopped!"
Next was a story that drove us nuts because Akyu was quoting this book that was...okay she was quoting a book that really exists, but it hasn't been translated into English...which is probably fine, because when we've resorted to extant translations of older works they've usually let us down...but there were parts in it that almost made no sense. Well, fortunately, she summed up the important things, so we were able to use her summation to figure out the rest of it, but man it was annoying, mainly because we constantly feel pressed for time, so whenever classical Japanese comes up, we're just like, "WHYYYYYY!?" There wasn't even that much of it.
But anyway, Kosuzu found a fortunetelling book with a ton of annotations, and they seemed like they might work, so she tried it, and mayhem ensued. Dun dun DUN! But this is the first chapter in this volume that hints at where the main story is going, because! the whole thing turned out to be a plot by some old fortuneteller to turn himself into a youkai. He wasn't going to hurt anybody; he just wanted to quit being human. I guess it was implied that youkai are more powerful? I don't get it, because Reimu and Marisa seem pretty darn powerful, and they've already pointed out that everyone in Gensokyo has some kind of super power. But whatever, it's what he wanted. Unfortunately for him, Reimu is of the opinion that people who turn into youkai are exactly the thing she's defending the human village against, which is why she doesn't destroy all the youkai she knows--they're less of a threat than these jinyou. And since it's been hinted that Kosuzu's relation to youma books may do something to her human status...
Well, anyway, Reimu vanquishes the guy. I feel like I had something to say about the fortuneteller's master... Maybe it was that we assumed it must be a woman, because so far all the characters in this thing have been women...only they haven't because the one guy in the earlier chapter was a guy, and the fortuneteller was a guy... I don't know.
The next chapter also has some minor reveals. First, we find out that Kosuzu's (only?) friend Akyu is destined to have a short life. This was revealed through a discussion of the differences between Sakuya and Iwanaga, so that was fun. Athena's theory is that Akyu's short life is to make sure she never gets dementia, because can you imagine if someone like her got dementia? (She's the ninth(?) generation of the "Akyu" persona, who is reincarnated and remembers everything she's experienced. She also has a photographic memory, so she remembers everything she's read. And! it's her job to observe and record everything that happens in Gensokyo.) Apparently, based on the authors' comments, this will factor into the main story as well. But she doesn't want to talk about it, and almost as soon as it's brought up, she changes the subject to urban legends and the fact that they've all been coming true in Gensokyo. Apparently that in and of itself wasn't much cause for concern, because it doesn't come up again in the next chapter and they don't really work to resolve it; it just kind of goes away. Maybe it will come up later?
But the main thing is that Kosuzu thinks this is the perfect time to try Kokkuri-san! We think that's exactly the wrong time to try Kokkuri-san, because for crying out loud, even when you don't really believe it, the point is that Kokkuri possesses one of the people moving the thingie, so when you know it's going to work that way, it seems like the absolute worst time to do it. Well, fortunately for Kosuzu, her father once found a Ouija board, so she gets to use that instead, and with that one, the spirit doesn't possess a person, but the wooden thingie. I still just think it's a bad idea all around. We've always been of the opinion that just because a spirit comes along, A)that doesn't mean they really know the answers to your questions, and B)even if they do, how do you know they're going to be your friend and tell you the truth and not cause any other spirit-related problems?
I think the important thing in this chapter is that it introduces Rinnosuke, and that's important because WHAT! there's actually a male character in this franchise? I don't believe it!! He was a pretty funny character, and fortunately his lengthy explanations weren't too hard to translate. ...Probably because they cut away from most of them. "Um...my parents will get worried if I don't get home soon..."
The not-joking important part of this chapter is Kosuzu's question. She wanted to know if she could go "to the other side." We're hoping that "the other side" will have a similar ring to it as Dr. Facilier's friends "from the other side" in The Princess and the Frog, because that was the other side she meant. Put that together with the whole jinyou thing, and...well, you see where it's going.
Finally, there's a chapter where kappa tricked Kosuzu into mass-producing a youma book. This is where they had some explanations of print on demand that had us going, "Enough with the explanations!" And I feel like I had more to say about print on demand at the time, but I've forgotten it. Maybe something about how...huh, maybe we should have written a translation note about this. See, movable print wasn't really a thing in Japanese printing, and if you know about the Japanese writing system, I think it will be pretty obvious why. And that's why Kosuzu says they can make the book cheapest if they have the wooden printing blocks--each of those would have a whole page--as opposed to if she were to do it using movable print. I think my favorite part of that chapter was when the kappa leader confronted Mamizou about her terrible disguise. Mamizou hadn't even bothered to hide her tanuki tail.
And I think that does it. Four more cute stories. I will admit that if you're looking for a deep story, this probably isn't what you want, but it's a cute series if you don't mind the more light-hearted, episodic style of storytelling. We enjoy it despite the esoteric Japanese folklore stuff we keep having to look up.
Aww, that was a cute volume!
Anyway, we have just one new release this week, but it's a super good one! It's the finale to Wake Up Sleeping Beauty! You guys, that series is so good!
And tune in next week, for our review of Hatsu*Haru 2! Another really great series! I highly recommend it!
Today I'm thankful for finishing our work quota, not having to translate an episode of anime this week, not having to translate credits anymore for a while, the hope that someday soon we can get caught up on our review writing (we're now officially four reviews behind!), and seeing that our feline friends haven't quite given us up as vile betrayers yet.