Love it or hate it, this is a book that's likely to get you right in the gut.
Writer/Artist: Hiroki Kusumoto
Translator: Sachiko Sato
Adaptation: Sachiko Sato
What They Say:
In a time of war, Oliver finds himself as an adjutant professor at school. When Mikhail, another teacher, arrives, the once somber and bleak campus becomes filled with new life. Soon the classroom meant to house classes on the imperial order begins to emit children's laughter!
What We Say:
This book has DMP's standard large trim size and full color dust jacket. The paper and print quality are both very nice, with sharp lines and dark blacks. There are even two color pages included, which is out of the norm for DMP's June releases but still welcome.
The art here is stunning and accomplished, showing off the full range of Kusumoto's techniques. While the majority of the book showcases her lush, detailed style, one story in particular uses a simpler, starker style that relies heavily on large areas of flat blacks and negative space. The character designs are extremely varied and distinct. Her backgrounds, when used, have an incredible amount of detail, and she really excels at emotional expression. The art isn't necessarily pretty, but it's extremely well done nonetheless.
All sound effects are subtitled on the page in a font similar to the original. The translation flows smoothly without any notable rough spots.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Anthology manga, for obvious reasons, tends to be a mixed bag. With stories taken from different points in Kusumoto's career and with no unifying theme or style, this is even more so than most. "Wild Butterfly" is the story of a man denied the military life in a nationalistic society at war. Instead, Oliver has taken a job as a teaching assistant to the government assigned instructor. But Sir Michael, despite his stellar military record and frankly terrifying demeanor is nothing at all like Oliver or the children had anticipated, and Oliver finds himself torn between the genuine fondness he's developing for Michael and his duty to turn him in for unconventional thinking.
"Senyoden: Legend of the Demon Oracle" is the story of a man unfairly put to death for fortelling the death of the former Emperor. Warped by bitterness and hate, after death he was transformed into a demon who tells the fortunes of unsuspecting travelers, and then eats the ones who have unfavorable fortunes. The progression of the demon's legend in this story is interesting, but it wasn't a particularly easy story to read.
In "The Strange Tale of Shiramine," Japanese history, time travel, and strange family histories collide in an unexpected way. "Fangs" is a dark and striking story of love, obsession, and need, with one of the most visually striking panels in the entire book. And finally, "Tomuraishi: Protector of the Dead" is the story of a man who's duty it is to protect the peaceful sleep of the dead.
I won't lie - on my first read, I didn't like this book at all. The emotions it envoked were not positive ones, primarily because the stories are rather less than happy. But it stuck with me for weeks, and when I went back to read it again I liked it better. Not because it was any happier, but because I realized that those were exactly the emotions that Kusumoto was trying to evoke. These aren't happy stories, that wrap things up in nice, neat packages with a shiny bow on top. They're dark, emotional, sometimes horrifying...and very powerful.
This isn't a book for everyone, and it certainly isn't flawless. In fact, despite being printed under the June label, most of the stories aren't BL at all, although the characters are primarily male. If what you want is a fluffy romance with a happy ending, you're not going to find it here, but if you're looking for a different kind of anthology, or if you like horror stories at all, this is certainly worth checking out.