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[personal profile] oyceter
Disclaimer: I got a review copy of this from the author.

This is the first volume of the Tokyo Demons light novel series, which can also be read online. It's clearly part of a larger arc, but the volume has a complete plot and resolution. It's very much in the tradition of "teens with superpowers/mutant powers/psychic abilities/etc." where here, said teens are dropped in the middle of yakuza, gangs, and a secret organization with nefarious goals.

I feel like I should have had much more fun reading this than I actually did, given the premise. There are some cool bits, particularly re: Ayase, one of the POV characters, figuring out creative ways to use her powers (her body turns into a swarm of bugs), but one initial problem was just that the plot takes so long to kick in! Some elements are being set in place early on, but it felt like there were too many instances showing Ayase being withdrawn or Jo (the other POV character) being tough and street smart without anything actually happening. The plot finally gets a jump kick halfway through, with the teens disclosing their mutant powers and finding out about Nefarious Organization, but that's a long time to have various characters wandering around, not knowing what's going on, and mostly going through the same loop of not wanting people to find out about their powers or ... something, in Jo's case.

My main issue, though, was that I found it really difficult to connect with the characters. They seem interesting enough on paper—Ayase, the paranoid girl trying to hide her ability; Jo, the pickpocket smoker who tries to not care about anyone; Sachi, the nice guy who is trying to bring everyone together—but it doesn't quite gel in the execution. For example, I never really bought that Jo secretly cared about people while trying to maintain his tough demeanor. You see a lot of him waffling on getting involved, but he never seemed invested in any of the characters as people with personalities, with the possible exception of Mitsuko, who he wants to bone. I also completely don't buy Sachi as the heart of the gang. The emphasis is always on how much he wants to help and how he tries to get close to various people so he can, but to me, it felt like him repeatedly crossing boundaries and signals to get people to interact with him, which is creepy. Ayase probably gets the best character arc of the bunch, but it's really frustrating watching her get maneuvered into a potential romantic triangle.

I also wish there were more women. There are some in the organization fighting Nefarious Organization, but there isn't much interaction among the women. It's also frustrating that Ayase is so far the only girl teen mutant among a group of around five of them, and that she's already getting embroiled in aforementioned romantic triangle. Mitsuko shows up later and seems cool, but she also primarily interacts with the guys, and in a very sexualized manner at that. She's supposedly the sempai for a lot of girls in the school, and she helps out Ayase at one point, but most of that is background to her relationship with Jo and another supporting male character. One of the older women in Nice Organization is cool, and another mostly seems to be there due to her relationship with another one of the guys.

So, fun plot when it kicks in, but the characters all feel a bit too flat for me, and it could use a lot more women.

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 17th, 2013 05:43 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] liannesentar.livejournal.com
Thanks, oyceter! Valuable insight.

A lot of the stuff that frustrated you (Jo's lack of empathy, Sachi's boundary issues, Ayase's awkward sexual tension with two of the boys) are ongoing issues that we've been exploring in Book 2 and will be dealing with through Book 3, but this is a long damn series, and I know that's a big investment if you didn't like Book 1. We were also worried about the lack of female characters in Book 1, especially when Mitsuko is playing Sexy Love Interest to several boys without much about her own life. Most of the female characters (especially Detective Nakajima and Mitsuko) are Long Game types who are more complicated than, say, Miki or Kiyoshi and thus it will take a long time for them to show their true selves, and Shouri's entrance had to get pushed off to Book 2 when it was originally scheduled for Book 1...so women other than Ayase don't get much focus in Book 1. Even though our reliance on gang and Yakuza dynamics defaulted to a male-majority cast, the fact that Book 1 ended up such a sausage fest is still kinda embarrassing. We're trying to move away from that in Book 2.

The slow beginning is the most consistent criticism we're getting. I was always terrified that the huge cast with Japanese names was going to confuse Western readers, and just in general, the character politics throughout the rest of the series come pretty fast and hard, so a lot of those early chapters were just trying to hammer down characterizations and relationships before everything went to hell and the characters were thrown around by the plot. (That, and since Ayase was supposed to hit rock bottom by Chapter 4, I wanted to establish a strong baseline of her mental state before she went through stressful development.) That said, I agree that Chapters 1-4 are still just too damn slow. We'll at least slim them down for the Chromatic Press re-release.

Thank you for your review. :)

(no subject)

Fri, Apr. 19th, 2013 12:03 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] liannesentar.livejournal.com
Yeah, one of the best aspects of digital publishing is reprints/new editions are pretty simple. And since Tokyo Demons was an in-house project to test the publishing format before Chromatic Press applied a refined version to other people's work, the intent (and to a lesser extent, the format) of TD was a bit different from Chromatic's current model. We always wanted to do another edition once Chromatic was in full swing.

Thanks again for your detailed feedback. :)

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