Gosick the Novel Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 232
  • ISBN: 978-1-4278-0569-0
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Left to Right
  • Series: Gosick the Novel

Gosick the Novel Vol. #01

By Sakura Eries     May 30, 2008
Release Date: April 01, 2008

Gosick the Novel Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kazuki Sakuraba
Translated by:Andrew Cunningham
Adapted by:Laura Wyrick

What They Say
The year is 1924, the place, Sauville, a small European country neatly tucked beside the Alps... Kazuya Kujo has been studying abroad at the prestigious Saint Marguerite Academy, where urban legends and horror stories are all the rage. Most Kazuya ignores--but the story of the Queen Berry, a mysterious ghost ship, really gets to him. Of course, his brainy friend Victorique is much more intrigued by true stories, and she uses her unrivaled logic to solve mysteries even the town's famous detective can't. Ironically, it's Victorique's inquisitive nature that leads the duo to board a ship that matches the Queen Berry's description to a tee, a ship that might just hold the key to solving a sinister mystery... Kazuki Sakuraba's modern twist on Holmes and Watson--pairing Victorique, a wizened young girl with doll-like looks and her eager-to-please sidekick Kazuya--make this international bestseller a must-read murder mystery.

The Review
The predominant colors of the cover design are gold, black, and purple. Victorique is featured on the front cover in a black and white dress dripping with lace and frills with a matching headpiece. She calmly looks over her shoulder with her trademark white pipe in her hand. Above her is the title logo in purple Gothic calligraphy, quite fitting for such a Goth Lolita looking character. Victorique and the title logo are placed against a gold leather-grain patterned background and framed by lavender double lined edging decorated with curlicues. The Tokyopop label, rendered in shades of purple, is placed unobtrusively to the top left, and the author's name is placed to the lower left.

On the back is the same gold leather-grain background with more lavender edging and a lot more curlicues. A white horizontal bar with the Tokyopop label in black runs along the very top. It is followed by the story summary in white font against a faint purple panel. Tokyopop's Pop Fiction icon is placed to the very bottom left in shades of purple.

Regarding materials, the card stock used for the cover feels a little thin as do the pages. However, Tokyopop has added a decorative touch to the pages within by decorating page corners and chapter headers with curlicues. The three opening illustrations, which were originally rendered in color, are reprinted by Tokyopop in black-and-white and come out extremely dark.

For two of the three illustrations, Tokyopop has overlain the corresponding text from the novel on top of the pictures; unfortunately, they used plain boring font for that purpose, and it looks rather jarring against the illustrations. Reproduction of the 10 black-and-white illustrations interspersed within the chapters is fairly crisp, however. Extras include a three-page preview of Gosick Volume 2.

As mentioned above, artwork consists of three drawings originally rendered in color and ten black-and-white illustrations. All of the pictures are single page drawings except for one 2-page spread. Most of the drawings depict a single scene and the rest are collages showing different perspectives of a single event. Takeda has a clean drawing style and uses a mix of crosshatching and tone work for the black-and-white drawings. Character designs are about average with large round faces and large round eyes for the teenage characters and narrower eyes for most of the adults. She puts in a lot of details into Victorique fluffy, frilly dress (lots of lace, ribbons, bows, and buttons) while Kazuya's suits and the adults' eveningwear are much simpler. Backgrounds, whether seaside backdrops or garish interiors, are also carefully detailed. The one exception is a shadowed drawing that is meant to be scary, and for that picture Takeda distorts the perspective to make it more ominous.

I was somewhat disappointed with the translation of this light novel. It was sloppy with numerous misplaced and dangling modifiers, a couple of verb tense and punctuation errors, and a number of misused words that were probably typos that passed the spellcheck test. For instance, "soldier" was twice misspelled as "solider." Not to mention, translator Andrew Cunningham's name was misspelled "Adrew." America's grammar is poor enough as it is without printed material setting a bad example.

Grammar aside, the dialogue is satisfactorily translated. In particular, Victorique's eccentric personality comes through with her peculiar figures of speech and rather immature outbursts. However, the flow of some of the setting descriptions, especially that of the St. Marguerite library, dragged a bit although this may be more of an artifact of the original Japanese text than a shortcoming of the translation.

The year is 1924, and 15-year-old Kazuya Kujo has been studying abroad at the prestigious St. Marguerite Academy in the tiny European country of Sauville. Despite Kazuya's efforts to make friends, none of his European, aristocratic classmates are interested in interacting with the youngest son of a Japanese soldier. As a result, he winds up spending most of his time with Victorique, the other misfit at school.

Unlike Kazuya, Victorique is a European daughter of an aristocrat. However, the diminutive blonde girl is somewhat of an eccentric. Though she has a desk in the classroom, she never goes to class but instead spends her days reading in the conservatory located at the very top of the school's enormous library. And despite her angelic appearance, she has an irritable personality, smokes a pipe, and has seemingly no human contact except with Kazuya and Grevil de Blois, the local police detective.

Even so, her visits with Kazuya and Grevil aren't so much about socializing as they are about staving off boredom, and the things that keep the highly intellectual girl most effectively occupied are the unsolved mysteries that Grevil presents to her to solve.

One day Victorique provides Grevil with the solution to the murder of Roxanne, an incredibly famous fortuneteller. Grevil takes all the credit for solving the mystery and is rewarded with the murdered woman's yacht. When Kazuya protests that the reward rightfully belongs to Victorique, the detective placates Kazuya by offering to take Victorique and Kazuya for an overnight cruise.

The following weekend, the two teenagers head for the coast for the promised excursion. However, their pleasant trip takes on a dramatically different tenor when Victorique discovers within the yacht a mysterious invitation to a dinner entitled, "Evening at the Bottom of the Box." Intrigued, Victorique and Kazuya follow the instructions on the invitation, which leads them to a banquet aboard an unusual ship. An air of mystery surrounds this ship and those aboard, but will Victorique and Kazuya survive long enough to get to the bottom of it?

This is the first of a light novel series originally published in 2003 which inspired a manga series of the same name. As far as the story goes, I would deem it "light" as a mystery, but that's not to say that it's not entertaining. The presentation of Roxanne's murder was reminiscent of the Encyclopedia Brown "mystery" stories that I read in elementary school, and I guessed correctly about a number of the goings-on aboard the Queen Berry on my own before getting to Victorique's explanations. However, there were several things that I couldn't figure out and that kept me well engaged with the story. In particular, I was constantly guessing about the identity of the speaker of the flashbacks interspersed throughout the chapters and was quite surprised when that character was revealed.

Regarding pacing, the story gets off to a slow start. The 59-page first chapter, the longest, is a bit heavy as it describes the school setting and introduces Kazuya and Victorique. The descriptions of St. Marguerite School and its library are especially sluggish. After that, the events that take Kazuya and Victorique to the Queen Berry come in quick succession. Most mysteries require coincidence and possession of just the right tidbits of information for the story to flow properly, but the timing of the events that allow Kazuya and Victorique make it to the banquet is so fortuitous it might as well have been prearranged by Victorique. However, once the Queen Berry sets sail and people start getting killed off, the story settles into a good rhythm.

At first glance, Victorique seems like a Goth Lolita version of Sherlock Holmes. However, she is a much more extreme personality than the iconic detective. Whereas Sherlock runs all over London and interacts with various personalities to solve his cases, Victorique is very much the princess trapped in an ivory tower. Confined to the library conservatory, she is only able to solve cases by listening to Grevil's accounts of events and drawing from the knowledge she has absorbed from constantly reading in the library. The amount of information in her brain is leaps and bounds above that of an average human's, yet for all her book learning, she is socially inept. As a result, her behavior vacillates between that of a cranky old woman and a spoiled brat.

Kazuya, the Asian exchange student struggling with his own issues of weakness and inadequacy, is not exactly the equivalent of a Watson either. However, he is a main character readers can relate to as the outsider trying to fit in at school and as the most normal person aboard the Queen Berry.

Regarding his interactions with Victorique, it can hardly be called warm, fuzzy friendship for the majority of the story. Victorique is quite disdainful of her fellow student. Although her biting remarks are borderline verbal abuse, Kazuya owes a huge debt to Victorique, and as such he feels beholden to stay with her even if he'd rather not. However, Victorique's rude manner turns out to be a protective front to keep others at a distance, and once inexplicable events start happening aboard the ship, the two teenagers draw closer in a way that the author makes it very believable.

In short, Gosick is a quick read with the kind of quirky characters you'd find in anime or manga. It includes elements of mayhem, murder, and mystery, but it's not a heavy hitting plot by any means. If they can make it through the first chapter, it's a story that middle schoolers should enjoy. I was unable to find a rating on the copy that I was given. However, Tokyopop's popfiction series is targeting teenagers so I am assuming that the 13+ rating will apply. Given the violent ends met by several characters in the story, it is an appropriate one.


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