Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Vol. 1 by Puyo

I have never paid for manga before. Never really had the urge or the need to because every other time I tried to read manga with very few exceptions I found them unfulfilling. And this goes to comics in general, too. However, I can take a guess at why. For one, a lot of manga are long as hell, but are released in editions that are too short and too overpriced for their size. Sure, you can wait until they are released in a compendium editions, but those take some serious patience to wait for since they aren't really compendiums otherwise.

And I don't like reading manga on the internet. Yes, there are free fan translations readily available, but if I wanted to read a bunch of typos on possibly illegal sites then I'd be doing myself and the genre a bit of a disservice. I tried reading Suzuka and The World God Only Knows online before and while I suppose I could have kept doing so I didn't see how anyone other than me was benefiting from that. I'd rather pay for an official (and quality) translation than to just read something of questionable quality for free. Sure, the latter might be good for a quick fix, but it doesn't work for me long term. The artists aren't making any money from that and if they aren't making that money then those manga-inspired anime won't get made or distributed to the States. Of course, Suzuka and The World God Only Knows are already anime so those aren't great examples, but I think you still get my point. 

But all of this is more of a rant or a lecture than a prelude. So excuse me. Now let's get to business...

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is what I want to talk about and it stands as my first ever manga purchase. Since I have to wait until November ninth to get the final book (to date) in the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series, I decided to hit this rather odd spin-off since it was readily available on Kindle.

The first volume is 160 pages and while that may seem a decent novella length it's actually very short because this is manga we're talking about. You know, pictures and stuff, so that means it's really short. And there are only five volumes so even if each successive volume is fifty pages longer (they're not) I will still breeze through this series in no time. Oh, well. Might as well continue since I've already read the first one.

This series is heavily derived from the "alternate history" segment of the fourth book in the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. At least that is what we must assume because the story itself has yet to elaborate on why everything is different from the events of the light novels and also because no other explanation really makes sense.

In this world Nagato is a normal human being who happens to be a shy bookworm with a crush on Kyon. Kyon himself doesn't remember the world being reset and even has false memories of how he met Nagato (again, this is an assumption based on the material provided in the first volume of this manga). In this world Kyon is just a guy who joined the Literature Club and got Nagato a library card. 

It should also be stressed that Kyon himself is not the main character here. In the light novels and the anime he was the narrator and actually the main character even though the series is named for Haruhi Suzumiya. Here it's all about Nagato... and her constant companion Asakura Ryoko. In the "true" timeline of the novels (and anime) Ryoko went renegade and tried to kill Kyon twice before being destroyed both times by Nagato. In this world Ryoko is just a normal girl with a strong sense of loyalty for Nagato. It's certainly weird turning one of the most hated characters in the series into one of the most potentially likeable and I'm still not used to the idea. I mean, she was pretty awesome before she became a crazy bitch but she went crazy early on in the series, too.

Another big change is the absence of Haruhi Suzumiya. Yes, she's here in a few scenes, but they are cameos. And that's another thing I am curious about. When Kyon was given the choice of whether or not to accept the changed world in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, he was in the club room with these timeline variations of Nagato, Asahina, Koizumi, and Haruhi. So when he chose to accept this changed world (which he clearly didn't in the "true" timeline) what happened after that? How did they get from that point to where the first volume of the manga started? I mean, it doesn't make sense for Kyon to lose his memories unless the other Nagato from the "true" timeline erased his memories via proxy. And if so, why? If Nagato trusts Kyon enough to leave the decision to him then how can she erase his memories of the decision itself? Certainly something to ponder about. I doubt the manga will address the issue, but I will see, I guess. But again, if Kyon actually chose this alternate timeline over the real one then maybe Nagato assumed that it would be easier for Kyon to adjust to new world without having his memories. Tough to say since in the "true" timeline things didn't happen that way. 

And speaking about oddities...

Nagato sure does talk a lot for a shut-in bookworm. I mean, she talks more than I have just about ever seen her talk. I guess that is what happens when she becomes the main character as well as a normal human, but it is just odd. And I haven't seen her read a whole lot, either. 

Perhaps I just kind of miss the almost completely expressionless and compulsive reader Nagato who never seemed to blink. Let alone blush. 

I don't particularly like how Asahina Mikuru or Tsuraya are drawn up. It's tough to tell them apart. I have to rely on the dialog bubbles for that and since I am a newbie at this I have to sort of thing I just have to sit and pause until I can figure out who is talking. Just for a second or two, but still. It's it the same way with Nagato and Kyon at times. When Nagato and Kyon stand beside each other in the Santa suits and Nagato takes off her glasses it's kind of tough to tell them apart. Their hairstyles are similar once you take the color out of it. Black and white really doesn't help this manga. 

Puyo did the illustrations for this series and while I am not knocking him because he draw better than I can... I don't think he drew them the way they should have been drawn. I think Ito Noizi nailed it with her character drawings in the light novels and those drawings were ultimately what the anime relied on in terms of designs.

All of that being said, I suppose you can call me a fan of this manga. Or at least someone with a lukewarm interest. Not because of the artwork, but because of the scenario. I certainly prefer the light novel series to this variation, but there's something here worth checking out, I think. It's just not the philosophical sci-fi story anymore. Nope, this one is a romantic comedy. Definitely a change and not one I really prefer, but I'm willing to see where this goes. Again, it's an interesting scenario and a sneak-peak at what could have been had Tanigawa ended The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya differently. 

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