Faust Anthology Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Greg Hackmann
Review Date: Thursday, September 24, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My advice for people who liked the first volume of Faust is simple: it's a dollar more expensive; the color pages are gone; buy it anyway. 

What They Say
A brilliant anthology featuring manga-inspired fiction from todays best writers with artwork from top manga creators, including

ECCO, by Tatsuhiko Takimoto (illustrated by D.K): Is life nothing but a cruel joke? One young rebel decides to find out.
Jagdtiger, by Kouhei Kadono (illustrated by Ueda Hajime): She's a combat-ready synthetic human with a dangerous flaw: a heart.
Where the Wind Blows, by Otsuichi (illustrated by Takeshi Obata): A newspaper from the future carries a very disturbing story for one particular woman: She will die by the hand of the man she loves.
Magical Girl Risuka, by NISIOISIN (illustrated by Kinu Nishimura): She's a beautiful witch with magical powers that could change the world. And he's the boy who will give her a reason to do it.
Gray-Colored Diet Coke by Yûya Sat': He's nineteen, surrounded by morons, and desperate to escape his crummy part-time job. His best friend's plan worked great, but surely suicide can't be the only way out.

The Review!
I'll start with the bad news up front.  With the second volume of Faust, Del Rey has decided to increase the MSRP from $17 to $18, while also excising the color pages from Volume 2's manga section.  In that sense, people who pick up Faust Volume 2 are getting somewhat worse value for their money than with Volume 1.

That said, Faust continues to justify every penny of its MSRP.  As with Volume 1, not every story compiled here is an equal success: there are some clear winners and clear losers among the ten prose stories, two interviews, and five manga chapters collected among this volume's 420 pages, though not to the extent that any stand out as badly as "The Garden of Sinners: A View from Above" or quite as well as "Drill Hole in My Brain".

Surprisingly, one of the volume's better stories comes in the form of "Magical Girl Risuka".  Reading the title alone was enough to prematurely make me fear that it wouldn't be any good, Nisioisin's authorship notwithstanding.  (As a general rule, I try to avoid magical girl series that aren't called "Revolutionary Girl Utena", especially the ones targeted at Faust's otaku demographic.)  The story's cloying set-up phase, introducing the schoolgirl  Kizutaka as she teams up with her magical friend Risuka to investigate a group "suicide" that she witnessed at the train station, yields to some surprisingly interesting territory when the plot takes a mahor thematic shift about halfway through.  It's an unexpected twist that well justifies the bits of the story that I felt were, up until that point, just otaku-pandering fluff; sure, the new direction is arguably just another form of pandering to a different audience, but at least it's one that's closer to my own sensibilities.

Otsuichi's "Where the Wind Blows" is one of the other winners in this collection.  Otsuichi also penned the stand-out "F-Sensei's Pocket" from last volume, and you can see some basic similarities between the two plots -- the most obvious being that both involve teenaged girls who recover logically impossible things from a breeze going through their bedroom windows, where the objects in "Wind" are whisked in from years in the future.  "Wind" is by far the darker and less fanciful of the two stories: narrator Kozue Matsuda spends a large chunk of the story trying to prevent her own predestinated murder, as described by a newspaper clipping that arrives in the wind.  I also felt that it was somewhat a weaker work than "F-Sensei" overall, mainly because the plot could've used a little more focus; nevertheless, it has a strong finish, which makes up for some of these shortcomings.

The volume's last stand-out bit of fiction is Kozy Watanabe's "H People: A Convenient Woman", a surreal indictment of how some hikikimori can be warped by dating sim video games.  It's a beautifully written work, albeit fleetingly short -- and it's one of a series, which I really hope means that we'll see more installments of "H People" in the future.

Unfortunately, just like last time, not everything that's collected here completely worked for me.  One of the chief offenders is the second episode of "Yabai de Show"; again, it's not that the short is badly written, so much that the apparent humor is literally lost in translation.  I was also disappointed with Yuya Sato's novel excerpt "Gray-Colored Diet Coke", which promises to be a brooding look at adolescence life under a stagnating Japanese economy but mostly doesn't go anywhere.  Likewise, Ueda Hajime's "Iron Man Military Unit", this volume's sole full-length manga entry, is hurt by pacing that bogs down too much in the middle (though I liked many of the watercolor-style artistic touches).

In Summary:

Obviously, there's quite a bit of material left in Faust Vol. #2 that I didn't cover here; besides the six sections that I talked about, there are eleven more that I didn't cover, all of which are perfectly entertaining (if not as memorable as the latter six, for better or for worse).  In spite of the $1 price bump, I can't imagine that anyone who liked Volume 1 of Faust would want to skip the second volume over; a few hiccups aside, it's another solidly entertaining collection of works that's worth the purchase price and then some.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: A+
Age Rating: 16 and Up
Released By: Del Rey
MSRP: 17.95
Pages: 432
ISBN: 978-0345503572
Size: B6
Orientation: Left to Right
Series: Faust Anthology