|Reviews for Strange Fire|
| ninemil con'd chapter 11 . 10/27/2013
Koijima’s role in this chapter, and her willingness to trust in a child’s authority, when she is the adult in control of the class, is of course, something you will have to justify. In the initial moments of the scene, however, as Chikaru moves to heal the ailing Hazuki, I can well believe the Lulim senior’s seemingly calm reaction being compelling enough to get the job done. But with time to think and recollect, and without that calm nerve and determined tone from Chikaru, I’m sure the kendo teacher is only ending up with more and more questions. You’ve got me on suspension of disbelief thus far, but it’s gonna be interesting to see how you handle things in the next chapter. Would she even be allowed to let the armed classes to continue? She’d have to fudge her report to a pretty startling degree to avoid questions from her seniors, so what are her motivations for doing so?
At this point, Koijima is an enigma, particularly in light of her unprecedented admittance of failure to give required direction, something that would be unheard of in Japanese culture, where teachers responsible for even unthinkable acts, (such as excessive beatings that led to hospitalization, or the placement of spy cameras in female student toilets,) are seemingly untouchable in terms of reprimand. Why would someone in such a position, with kinds of salary that staff in an institute such as Astraea Hill, risk making such a confession to a student? While it makes her incredibly human, it also makes her somewhat difficult to place. Looking forward to seeing this one play out.
Snappy Yaya is, well, snappy Yaya. I feel guilty for doing so, but can’t help but draw parallels between the ‘don’t look away from me,’ line, and Yaya’s confrontation with Shion outside the Cathedral in Gravity’s earlier chapters, where Shion turning away from Yaya was the catalyst for her finally lashing out at the school President. I don’t know if it was an intentional nod, but it’s always cute when I find us on the same wavelength, since it reinforces my confidence in my own characterization. Props for making me feel better, when Yaya is one of the characters making my life a pain in the arse right now.
And since Tempest Yaya is a tempest, I’m not surprised that it took Kagome’s omniscient gaze to defuse the situation, since I’ve never easily managed to defuse Yaya myself when she’s backed herself into a corner in a moment of confrontation. Great stuff, more so for the nod to Kagome’s scene with Nagisa crying in the piano room in the anime, where once again, Kagome saw straight through to the truth of the matter, even though Nagisa herself was blind to it. As much as Yaya may hate her, Kaname really was hurting too, and I’m glad someone was there to point that out to the Nanto girl.
I’m impressed with Nagisa’s level of maturity throughout all this. While she isn’t a member of the Souma club, and hasn’t seen (most of) the things that the others have to give her the same point of reference, Nagisa really has come on leaps and bounds, hasn’t she? Her calm removal of Yaya, her wise words to a shell-shocked Tamao... This is not the Nagisa from the anime. This is a Nagisa very definitely capable of the maturely conducted relationship you portray between her and Shizuma now. Wonderful to see reasons outside their time together, from which you can reinforce the belief that they really can make that future together work.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Suzume CA production if we were discussing fundamental ethical questions one at a time, no... At the same time as highlighting the potential for one’s environment to influence their sexuality, you’re also waxing lyrical on the difference between taking comfort, and taking liberty... A very nice parallel discussion, that while perhaps jarring on the surface, complement each other beautifully. Sure, we’re back at Chikaru’s boobs, (not a bad place to be, let’s be fair... :p) but while relating Tamao’s attempts at self-consolation, (ever see the Cruise and Kidman film, Eyes Wide Shut? There’s a very relevant scene where a woman makes a pass at her family doctor, immediately after he informs her that her father has died – Freud was a sick fuck, but much of his theory is sound,) the scene harks back on some level to the same debate that trigger’s Kaname’s earlier rage. Tamao pushes her boundaries with Chikaru’s level of comfort in a subconscious effort to address her disquiet and insecurity following her loved one’s injury - is this action merely involuntary consequence? While Chikaru is her usual understanding self on the surface, should Tamao of known better? Could she have? We’re back at the question of whether we merely react to our surroundings, and to what degree we have control over our behaviour. Low level parallels, but an interesting chapter of debate, all the same.
I feel Chikaru’s pain here, I really do. How do you cope with feeling absolutely nothing when for the perceived future of your relationship, you feel that eventually you must do so? How long does one wait for such an occurrence to take place? I wonder whether another evening in Miyuki’s company would do her some good, since her nerve seems awfully close to breaking... Again, it’s going to be very interesting to see how you go about addressing the question of asexuality, without inferring triviality or glossing over the issue. You’ve navigated Kaname’s situation expertly, (as is little surprise,) so I have no doubts as to whether you’ll pull it off, but the manner of your mechanism for doing so interests me. What *will* be the final push for Chikaru? Will we even see one, or will it simply be a gradual thing, hinted at in the narrative?
All in all, another perfectly brilliant instalment. I’ve loved what you’ve been doing with Kaname, ever since you turned her on heel once that first dragon slapped her in the face. It seems that whenever Hazuki and Kaname fight now, great things are abound. I can’t wait till the Azuma girl is out of her hospital bed, and ready for more sparring :p
Looking forward to more :D
P.S. Christ – I’ve just looked at the fb meta around the time of release. I’d completely forgotten about asking you whether you’d seen Eyes Wide Shut then – and here I am making exactly the same recommendation again. At least I’m consistent, lol.
And as I said the first time – Kaname should have said it. God knows when she’ll ever get an opportunity to make the same confession again. Or to someone who might have appreciated it as much.
| ninemil chapter 11 . 10/27/2013
So... the nature of sexuality, and the conflict between self-image and reality, underpinned by one’s own level of self-awareness... You don’t mess about, do you author-sama?
To even bother to debate this, in contrast to the happy-clappy yuri illusion we’re fed elsewhere, marks the maturity of an author, and the manner with which it is handled, the ultimate benchmark of their ability and grasp of the broader social issues that sparked the segregation of the genre, imo. The fact that you outright threw the pro-rights propaganda rulebook to the wall and risked asking that otherwise frowned-upon question, ‘is being raped by the opposite sex enough to turn to you to your own,’ is enough to warrant the highest level of praise that I can offer, but the manner in which you went about setting that question up, elevates my appraisal above that still.
Let’s face it, if we’re completely honest about the current state of play, the concept that an environmental effect could be the root cause of a particular individual’s shift away from ‘vanilla’ sexual preferences, is a topic now pretty much banned by the pro-rights movement, (particularly the fiercely pro-feministic minorities that somehow seem to verge on militant, and vocally out-shout the rest.) Despite the self-doubt that Kaname exhibits here being something that almost everyone within the scene that I am close to has admitted to having experienced as well, (albeit, usually for very different reasons,) somehow the act of putting up walls that the opposing side of the political sexuality debate would be unable to tear down, became more important than helping the individuals within the scene as they come to terms with themselves. We can no longer ask, ‘Am I in a homosexual relationship because I was raped in the past?’ ‘Am I in a homosexual relationship because I was denied exposure to the opposite sex?’ ‘Am I in a homosexual relationship because the media is saturated with images of a particular gender?’ because the answer may very well be yes, and apparently no one wants to compromise the strength of the side by admitting that. As ridiculous as this reality of politically-correct self-moderation is, we really do seem to be shit-listing such debate for fear of appearing weak to our opposing numbers. Not only is this dangerous, it’s outright irresponsible, as we’d be fools to think that everyone in the scene actually belongs there, especially given how widely reported the sexuality debate now is. To see a fellow author approach the topic through the eyes of their cast is an extremely satisfying thing, more so to see them handle it so well.
So, is Kaname truly a homosexual? Now that we have a potential explanation for her callous treatment of Hikari, and her desensitization to the ordeal she puts the youngster through during the anime and the following indifference-regret-apology-cycle that the older girl exhibits afterward, is it that much of a leap to attribute Kaname’s sexual preferences to her horrific experience with her father’s boss? Psychologically, her rape does explain her willingness to put another human being through the same experience so trivially, but is it also the reason why she would enter into sexual relations with her own gender, in a society where that very same relationship is ultimately doomed to end when school finishes? Can we even answer that question definitively? Well no, of course we can’t, and it would have been entirely inappropriate of you to attempt to do so. Kaname is clearly telling herself that this is not the case, but the key aspect that you’ve highlighted here is the destructive affect that having such doubts without voicing them correctly can have, and the positive gains that can be had by trusting others and seeking counsel.
While not everyone is a Souma-packing baddass with access to lethal medieval weaponry, and a perfect environment within which to wield and misuse them, it is entirely possible to draw more realistic, self-destructive or socially detrimental parallels. You’ve afforded a potentially confused reader the opportunity to see themselves in your work, and offered them a positive example of how to go about resolving that confusion, when our own rights groups are actively working to suppress such avenues, for fear of weakening their own stance in the media. After the darkness and rage of the previous chapter, the process of healing here was beautifully, beautifully executed, and the closing moments of companionship and camaraderie between Kaname and Hazuki at the end, enough to warrant a of creative admiration. Seriously heart-warming stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a review, not a political message, but I must stress how rewarding it is to see a writer go out on a limb with sensible debate, when everyone else just wants to push either side of the argument into more and more polarized territory. I think sometimes the LGBT rights society forgets that it’s just as valid not to be gay, as it is to be so. Sexuality isn’t an absolute. Debate like this can only be a positive thing, to increase understanding and tolerance. Kudos to you.
So Kaname has gone out on a limb here. Okay, so every possible motivator for her to do so has played out in the process – guilt, consequence, etiquette - but in essence, she still had the option of walking away and simply locking those home truths back in their closet, rather than sharing and processing them when opportunity prompts her to do so. And to her absolute credit, and despite everything that Kaname has thrown at her in the past, Hazuki affords her the support Kaname needs, even going as far as opening up some of her own dark secrets as a point of relation. I know Chikaru is supposed to be the yuri-mom of Astraea Hill, but absolutely everyone in the scene needs a Hazuki Azuma for moments like these.
As I read the chapter, I found myself wondering whether, even with the level of intimacy and Souma connection between them, Tamao and Chikaru, would ever be able to share a level of understanding quite as compelling as the one that must stand between Kaname and Hazuki now. Kaname’s sexuality is a mark of who she is. Perhaps in many ways, at least within the source, it was the only real mark of who she is. To see her doubt something so fundamental to her, and then share that doubt with an individual with whom she’s been so at odds with in the past, can only be a testament to the bond that’s developed between them as they’ve travelled and fought together throughout the story. Sure, Tamao and Hazuki are lovers and friends to boot, but they’ve not had to overcome being enemies to get there... I’m reminded of an old adage regarding samurais at war understanding the man at their side or the opposite end of their blade better than the woman at home in their bed.
Hazuki quotes ‘someone has to do the dirty work’ in reference to their position as Guardians, when introducing Kaname to the term ‘yami.’ That they have each other now as a companion, to whom they may admit the things that they might not necessarily want to have to, to their lovers and partners, is a wonderful thing. I’m reminded of how awkward Hazuki’s discussions of her aggression toward Eve were with Tamao, and came imagine how much easier that same conversation might have been in this new air between her and Kaname. Kaname, who ultimately, has to be able to understand those dark reaches better than someone as balanced as this Tamao...
This gives us two strong women, standing side by side, supporting each other, while they go about the things that their role demands that others could not. While I know that the vast majority of readers come to our works for the shipping, I sometimes find the friendships and hurdles overcome by friendship the more compelling aspects of the narrative. This is one of those moments – the day the pride slipped away, and Kaname Kenjō dared expose herself enough to use the ‘f’ word. Great stuff, author-sama.
As an aside of this process, it’s also becoming increasingly obvious just how much Hazuki and Kaname have in common. From their heavily disrupted and uncomfortable childhoods, to their self-conflict over similar points of contention, volatile emotions and shadowy secrets, I find myself wondering to what degree coincidence is actually involved in them both holding the same type of Souma. I know the story has told us why that is the case, (or seems to, in reference to who ‘gave’ them their Souma source,) but the parallels running between the characters are just too numerous. Is it wrong of me to want to link their Souma with their backgrounds and upbringings? Perhaps there’s some obscure universal mechanism at work here that we can’t see, that defines the outcome of a person’s life, and by proxy, which kind of Souma they could carry, if ever given the chance to? Perhaps I’m just overthinking it, lol, but both seem damned and divine in very similar, yet startlingly different ways :p I’m glad they’re the good guys now, put it that way.
Either way, I do seriously hope that one day, perhaps after we’ve caught back up with the end of the established canon, we’ll get to see Kaname ask Hazuki about that night in the Garden, to see how they both react in reversed positions. It would be nice to see Kaname given the chance to repay the support she was given here, and have her not fail to do so. To actually be human enough not to make light of it for show, as is often the case so far in the story.
Koijima’s role in this chapter, and her willingness to trust in a child’s authority, when she is the adult in control of the class, is of course, something you will have to justify. In the initial moments of the scene, however, as Chikaru moves to heal the ailing Hazuki, I can well believe the Lulim senior’s seemingly calm reaction being compelling enough to get the job done. But with time to think and recollect, and without that calm nerve and determined tone from Chikaru, I’m sure the
| ninemil chapter 13 . 10/27/2013
And just as I was mentioning the recent absence of the staple Miatorian cast members, ‘oh hai there, Miyuki!’ And wow, did you really just say that dear? O_0
Great to see a nod to the Kaori arc, even if it’s just to pop in briefly and see how things are doing for our stray traveller and her host. Her arrival was such an emotional matter for everyone present at the Hanazono vacation home at the time - it’s nice to see how things are panning out for both of them as more time passes. And since Kaori also has perhaps the most in common with Hazuki in terms of their prior experiences, it’s also interesting to see Kaori’s relative progress for the sake of drawing parallels and making comparisons.
Tamao’s words at their initial meeting seem to have carried some weight with Kaori, given they’re now corresponding, or perhaps Kaori is simply reaching out the people that she might have otherwise done normally in her own world? Either way, Tamao’s suggestion is a certainly a therapeutic one, if perhaps a little prone to keeping Kaori trapped in the past. I’m not sure Miyuki’s attempts at maintaining her 姉さん role are as well advised, however. There’s always been something inherently unhealthy about the way Miyuki ends up making herself indispensible to the people she cares about, and some of what’s going here seems to replicate that pattern of behaviour.
Does she really need to be reading Kaori’s memoirs? A woman with the same face, voice and name as Kaori’s lost lover, reading about their most intimate moments? In a house, where they’re largely alone together? Er, yeah. I smell massive emotional fuck up due. Given how unsettled, how absolutely livid, distraught and angry Kaori was on arrival, there’s no way she’s well enough adjusted yet to keep the correct barriers up around non-alt, alt-Miyuki. How Miyuki would handle any potential emotional venting that Kaori needs to work through is anyone’s guess - as well as whether she’s even qualified enough to cope with it. Sure, she is the one surviving an arranged marriage, (although fate may have dealt her a merciful hand with that one in the end, the build up would certainly have been no less harrowing than one might have expected,) but even then – she’s still only a year or two older than the rest of the cast. She’s short on life experience, particularly in the personal relationship department, and Kaori will be one massive emotional fuck up right now if Hazuki is anything to go by. And it wasn’t that long ago that Miyuki was still hung up on Shizuma, with her own feelings for Kaori ignited and frazzled not much before that…
Miyuki just seems to be skirting misfortune with good intention here. Much better, perhaps, for someone impartial to take the 姉さん mantle, even if it would mean visiting Miyuki’s home to fulfil the role. Just a shame Hazuki and Kaori got off to such a rocky start, since there’s so much potential for bonding there. Different types of people, I guess, but still.
It is nice to see Kaori something close to happy, tho. Perhaps she’ll end up regretting that fire and fury she threw at our original Souma traveller during the row at the holiday home?
That Kaori has open internet access via Miyuki’s place piques my curiosity, btw. What do you think would be the first thing you’d spit into Google upon landing in a parallel dimension? :p
I won’t dwell on the sequences with Ren, given the detail to which we’ve discussed them before, prior to release. I will reiterate just how effective the Souma descriptive content is, however, and highlight the level of emotional gravity for Hazuki, and how well that comes across, presumably even for someone that hasn’t read the Koihime shorts, and doesn’t know the other setting. If there was ever a kick up the arse to prompt someone to read those, this is it. Here is someone that means *a metric shit tonne* to Hazuki. If you care anything for understanding Hazuki and her history, now is the time to go and read it.
I’m still left with some curiosities after these scenes tho. For one, the hints of a change in Ren’s Souma, and whether it might be different in nature to the change in her clothing, weapon and voice. While we’ve touched on this elsewhere and I won’t risk the spoilerage, (oi hai, Ren!) I do still wonder if there are aspects of these details that you’ve omitted, to hold back things for me. The narrative does use the word, ‘re-ignited,’ so perhaps it’s the same thing that we’ve discussed, but… There’s the thing about having been in Eve’s presence, and I… and, well, spoilers. But still. Curiosity is there. You’ve certainly piqued my interest, particularly if this is related to what I think it is. I only hope it can be fixed.
But then who am I kidding, this is Ren. Course it can be. You couldn’t harm Ren, ffs
Oh wait. Then there’s the end of the chapter, isn’t there. Doh. (Yeah, discussing that without spoilers is difficult too… Ah well.)
Either way, she’s a beautifully constructed character, and with all the work you put into Ren in the Koihime cross, I simply can’t wait to see more of her, no matter how fleeting in appearance that might be. I loved the straight man – funny man dichotomy between Kizuna and Remon btw, and the slow, creeping realization that Ren’s steel was not a plaything. It adds to her foreboding, and the awe associated with being in the presence of the great Ryofu Hōsen.
I do wonder for those two. As they’ve aged, Remon seems increasingly less like her peer, and more akin to the 姉さん template. She’s constantly having to counter-balance her companion, and at times such as this one, even seems tired with, and perhaps a little irritated by Kizuna’s constant hedonism and fickle excitability. There’s always been fanbase speculation regarding whether or not these two will grow up into a serious couple, the way, say, Hitomi and Mizuho have done, and I can’t help but feel the answer to that question is likely a no. Remon seems just too different too Kizuna now. And her demeanour’s almost like she’s aching for a change of scene.
Skirting the language issue once more, exactly how is it that Ryofu Hōsen speaks Japanese? Let alone *modern* Japanese? :p
I note that it was Tamao who was the first to offer explanation for the feeling that Chikaru put her finger on for them. With Hazuki’s disengaged one-liner treatment of the subject, I couldn’t help but feel you were stressing their Souma talents to a degree - Chikaru’s definitely more articulate with her perception, but it’s Tamao that manages to tie reason and cause to it. In the mean time, Hazuki passes the matter off as an opportunity for jokey comments – while that might just be typical Hazuki, I couldn’t help but giggle at the after-impression it left. Hazuki, the ‘dumb brut in the corner.’ Sensitive enough to catch that something was wrong, but not smart enough in the ways of the Force to understand it, hence making light of the situation to cover herself, lol :p I’m drawing parallels that almost certainly aren’t there, but it did remind me somewhat of a line about ‘dumb bruts’ from Troy
I’ll skip commentary on the whole Sei matter, for obvious reasons, aside from to grin rather evilly at the way you dropped it. No one can say Suzume CA is lacking teeth and ruthless nature, despite the fluffly threesomes and green-lovey-dovey-magic shit :p (You know I’m teasing, but still – that was an evil way to drop a plot hook, lol )
Which brings me to Kaname… Oh, Kaname.
heh, I am thankful you held this one back from me, not only because I’d have seen almost everything else in the chapter otherwise, but also because of the portent the scene carries, and the speculation that affords me. What *will* Kaname do in a situation like this. Especially knowing just how dangerous she is now, following the incident with Hazuki’s neck. Jeez, it’s almost like Lilith tipped the scales on the previous issue to ensure Kaname would have reason to stay her own hand, and avoid doing something stupid when the blonde-fairy with the designer shades turned up. (Is Lilith prepared to work that far in advance to ensure she can still get laid by her plaything of choice without having to nudge the book, I wonder? :p)
This really is one of those moments where life can go totally either way, isn’t it.
Now, given we’ve had our fair share of nasty guys and counter-examples in recent updates, and knowing the kind of author you are, I’m going out on a limb with the concept that he’s not actually here as part of the Noriyuki problem, but as potentially part of the solution, witting or otherwise. I just wonder how dirty hands are going to get here, though, because something tells me a guy turning up who looks like a yakuza suit is not necessarily going to be playing on the level.
Just what are you up to, authorさん?
And why has none of the passersby noticed Kaname is running faster than the average gold medal athlete? :p
Keep it coming, Rain. Got good vibes from this one. A left-turn is afoot!
| ninemil con'd chapter 12 . 10/27/2013
See, while the singing and silliness from the karaoke was fan-service of the best kind, what transpires in the final section is anything but. So many authors in our part of the bookshelf reach for adult content to do little but score easy points with the readership, or to fulfil demographic expectations, but here, you feature a higher level of intimacy between two characters, and use it to raise meaningful questions that stretch far beyond the scope of the cast and limitations of the settings.
When I went there, taking the risk of including that lemon between Nagisa and Shizuma after the end of the Ball-night argument, was about being able to believably represent the emotional solace that comes from sexual-fulfilment with your partner of choice. When I went there with Yaya and Tsubomi, it was about realistically instilling the sense of devastation that comes with a self-triggered homophobic reaction. I could only really pull either off by going lemon to do so. Here, with you, we’re back at the nature-vs-nuture theme that’s featured so heavily in your resent instalments, and once again, your presentation is flawless.
Sure, things are a little awkward and flushed in the cheeks as the clothing comes off, but in pushing closer toward the lemon end of the spectrum, the sequence opens up the possibility for Chikaru to ask *entirely authentic* questions about the nature of homosexual stimulus and attraction. She’s soul-searching once more, and doing so in a manner that juxtapositions the reader into being able to ask along with her, without feeling any lesser for wanting to do so. Why does it feel different for a lesbian? And by proxy, why doesn’t it feel different for a heterosexual woman in the same situation? And what does it mean if it does feel different for the heterosexual woman, but perhaps not to the same degree? What if it does, and that person doesn’t self-identify as a lesbian? Who can claim to answer that question with any authority at all, anyway? The lesbian? The heterosexual? The psychologist? The scientist? The question you present, and all of these questions that spur off it on the same train of thought are good questions to ask, and you’re once again providing an opportunity to ask big things without preaching some bullshit moral, or politically-motivated answer. This is not the work of an author on either side of the debate with an angle - you’re simply showing that it’s okay to ask these questions, and more so, not to know the answers, or not be able to explain, even if you think you’re the kind of person that should be able to.
Once again, for your depth beyond the genre’s stereotypical aspirations, you have my respect.
But the praise doesn’t stop there. I also love how you close this scene. Most authors, having gone lemon, or into lemon-bordering territory, would simply close off with further fade-to-black intimacy for the audience’s sake. But instead, you drop further insightful character development, and do so in a way that demonstrates your increasing familiarity with the source setting and its language.
It’s rewarding to think, given what Hazuki has gone through, that she is finally beginning to gain some peace with her self-identity. The use of the differing self-reference nouns to represent her change of character is great, authentic, (given the incredible over-use of 僕 in popular youth culture and boyishness,) and rooted firmly in the source material.
I still feel a little sad for Chikaru, despite the positive end to the scene, in that she never really seems to get enough time to explore her doubt when she’s with the other two. Something always seems to come up, and she’s back being ママ Chikaru, or the caring-other-half. She gets her moment of doubt, looking for reassurance and insight, but it never lingers - it’s always over so soon. Bless. With both Hazuki and Tamao now having fallen foul of skirting the boundaries, you have to feel for the poor Minamoto girl.
Annnnyway. Another excellent instalment, and very much one that sets the bar for others to follow. As varied as the content might have been in tone and style, once again, each differing element presents at their best. You’re proving over and over, to be as flexible in your writing as you are consistent.
Keep it coming, authorさん
P.S. The choice of songs? Fucking rocking :p
| ninemil chapter 12 . 10/27/2013
While you repeatedly stress my explanations and conveyance are still at viable levels, I’ll reiterate my apologies for making less sense than usual. I’ve managed the morning without meds so far, but while my brain is certainly at its usual level of functional, my attention span is being constantly nagged at by my chest, so you’ll have to bear with me if I lose track of myself. I must stress tho – it is great to finally return to your world(s) for more :p
So when we left #11, my biggest question mark fell over the conduct of Kojima先生, and her acceptance of Chikaru’s direction, despite Kojima先生 being the supervising adult who would take responsibility for the accident in the eyes of the faculty. Thankfully, you’ve not left us waiting long before shedding some illumination on the subject, and while I can’t remember the exact words I used on fackbook, the narrative solution certainly gets the job done.
Kojima is a strange beast here. Delightfully eccentric, whilst still sitting closely enough to each of the stereotypes she might be referred back to, for the eccentricity to maintain its believability. Part child of the Shintō/Buddhist social culture, part child of the era of American intervention, and perhaps part the product of an old skool western D&D otaku mind :p Each of the three facets compliments the others perfectly, tho, so as she spits out those initial words of understanding and her following responses, she slides comfortably down a dialogue pathway paved by Japan’s socially-ingrained religious beliefs, Americanised educational social interaction, and western pop-culture references.
It works, I think, because to a degree, it’s so similar to the style of exposition scene that featured in so many of the Japanese/Chinese-influenced 80’s mysticism fantasy flicks that I grew up on. Super-hero school kids have a deep and meaningful with their unable-to-unsee, wanting-to-understand classroom teacher, and everything works out fine because the teacher secretly reads superhero comics in rest period, so knows the memes… Which works so well for us, the reader, because we also know the memes, and can laugh along with, and relate to, the teacher’s process of trying to rationalize the unbelievable by referencing it to their own pool of personal and social beliefs.
As I said on fackbook, it works because it plays the stereotypes, without falling foul of being stereotypical. You’ll only ever be able to play this narrative card once with outsider awareness of the Coven’s powers, but on this occasion as you have played it, it’s landed to the fullest of effects. A very competent deflection, if I might say so, on a plot point that might otherwise have presented a problem. You’ve very much made the mechanic your own, too, pulling in Japanese cultural and religious myths that are so ingrained, so under-written into day-to-day life and habit, that it’s completely believable that Kojima先生 would reach for them, even if you, as the reader, aren’t religious yourself. And while the stand-up double-act from Hazuki and Kaname might have been a little jarring without Chikaru’s narrative self-reference glance toward Hazuki, the humour is pitched perfectly, and timed with your usual uncanny excellence. I couldn’t stop myself from chuckling out loud at Hazuki’s reaction to the Bodhisattva line, for example :p
Speaking of which, I loved the feel-good factor to the refreshed dynamic between these two. Definitely a much needed pay-off to the darkness that’s overshadowed recent plot points concerning their individual backgrounds and struggles. I know I’m very much a Kaname fanboy when it comes to your work, but the enhanced camaraderie presents a much needed counter-balance to the topics you’ve touched, imo. Not that Kaname and Hazuki won’t have their differences again, and I’m sure they will, but it’s nice to see both gaining something from last chapter’s disclosure, given everything that led up to it. Trust was required and given. It’s only right that the narrative should reward that, even if in real life, the universe often disagrees.
I’m glad that Koijima先生 mentions Naoko, and more so that Chikaru then questions how many other people have made similar observations. You didn’t make a massive point of it, but I’m thankful for the acknowledgement that not everything is going to go unnoticed. It adds to the Eve’s aura during her period of time in each book, but also nods to the fact that Japanese culture is very much one where you neighbours know *everything* that goes on behind closed doors. It just wouldn’t have made sense for a goddess to walk amongst the cast, without someone other than the headline few making reference to it.
I remember you raising concerns about how much of your own culture had bled into Koijima’s construction, and whether you’d overdone it with the Americanisms. I’m not sure to what degree I offered reassurance in the call after #12 dropped, but I’ll reiterate here that you’ve pitched her fine, imo. She does come off a little brash for the high society surroundings, (I do struggle a little to visualize her as a woman, given the way she talks – perhaps I need to illustrate her to help fix it mentally?) but that’s her point of difference, rather than being a flaw, (I do look forward to her and Ren crossing paths, for example, as I can’t imagine Koijima holding her tongue, and she’s bound to pick up on Ren’s oddities, beyond Ren being from the great enemy across the sea.) You have to remember that Japan is an occupied nation, however, and that no matter how hard the country may want to cling to its traditions, the culture of the occupying nation is bound to bleed in. Baseball is the leading social sport, MTV is one of the headline TV channels, and the high street is loaded with US brands… Koijima先生 is a believable mix of that reality, and while I’m sure she might be shunned somewhat by her faculty peers for her differences and break from tradition, I doubt her position even allows her to mix with those that might take issue with her self-styling often, spending as much time squirreled away in the sports complex as she must. All in all, Koijima’s the perfect candidate to be, ‘that bit different.’ And I love her for it.
So yeah, while this plot point was one area I was genuinely confused as to how you’d make it work, in typical Suzume style, you’ve breezed it without even breaking a sweat. Pretty impressive work there, my friend I feared a much, much higher reading on the suspension of disbelief meter.
I can’t entirely put my finger on why, but as I started the next portion of the chapter, I distinctly remember feeling something of a headspace burp, as though the narrative car I was travelling in had just ran over a pot hole on the way to the next junction. I think it might have been the bold text following the line break, (the presentation of which, of course, makes complete sense in terms of the story and the lead-in line,) although even something of the paragraph structure and written style seemed to alter too, (shorter, snappier paragraphs, for example,) which came across as a bit of a mental slap. I remember there being a substantial time lapse during the construction of this one tho. Might that have been the cause? Either way, until the scene got going, I must confess to feeling more aware of the fact that I was reading text than I was before.
Which brings us onto the karaoke. lol god, you totally turned this one on its head, didn’t you, reminding us just how sneaky the Shadow Empress is, and how much game-face there is to proceedings on the Hill. There was so much to love in this sequence before the switch – from the one-upmanship between Hazuki and Kaname, the nod to the better years of the Kenjō-Kiyashiki pairing that got them so far up the Spica social-tree while Kaname very clearly reaffirmed her right to idol status, to the impromptu Tamao-Hazuki foxtrot, and that awesome Kaname-Hazuki baddass bro-fist at the end. Lashings of sickly sweet fan-service, admittedly, but god was it delicious
After which, sneaky-Chikaru was being sneaky-Chikaru again :p Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing this one feature. Grandiose events are everything in Strawberry Panic, and it’ll be great to see a major production feature in your canon run, given the existence of the Étoile-sen in each of the original sources pretty much dictates that one must occur. But of course, grandiose events in Strawberry Panic also come with the staple undercurrent-storyline that accompanies them, be it Mokoto’s evil schemes in the novels, or the love-triangle resolution in the anime. One way or another, something else is always going on behind the well-to-do proceedings and smiles. I wonder, will Yamiberry be following suit, and what will your dark undercurrent be? :p
As an aside, perhaps it’s me, but Amane looks so totally overshadowed in terms of politic clout alongside Hikari, despite being the Étoile- Aînée. There she is inwardly bricking it over the concept of being in an opera, (even if it is a ‘light’ opera :p) when Hikari’s enthusiastic affirmation and giggles instantly seems to decide the matter, and rail-road any chance for discontent from her fellow Étoile partner :p Under the thumb, much, Aname? :p
So then, to finish we’re in bed with Chikaru and Hazuki. Now there’s a lot of good shit in this chapter, but for me, it’s this final section that stands out way above the rest, (I was gonna include the phrase ‘hands above the rest’ there, but figured that’d make it a little too easy for you, given the content :p) Joking aside, (and while I’d be lying if I said that the appearance of Chikaru’s breasts in any context didn’t make for a highlight, I really do want to be serious about this,) scenes like this one are a perfect example to other authors who publish in the genre, why one should include intimacy, and how to go about doing it.
See, while the singing and silliness from the karaoke was fan-service of the best ki
| yurimylove chapter 16 . 9/26/2013
Without question, the Hazuki-Sei conversation over wine and menma is the absolute highlight of this wonderful chapter for me. The battle scene reminded me of the first part in the Red Cliff movie I watched, where Zhao Yun rescued Liu Bei's infant son from Cao Cao's soldiers in an awesome fight. I really enjoyed all your paragraphs in the yamihime world and characters, as always. When I read that Rinrin is now a "tall, wiry woman" I couldn't help but LOLed. I'm very curious to hear more about what might have happened between her and Bachou. And I'm also very happy that the two black-haired beauties finally get to meet each other face-to-face.
Even after a dozen-plus years of maturing, Sei still hasn't forgetten to flirt with Hazuki. Gotta love that. "And you're every bit as lovely as you were then, which baffles me greatly..." SO FUNNY! Right now I'm slightly worried that Hazuki's confession regarding her "threesome" relationship might have given Sei ideas. Nah just kidding XD Overall it was a wonderful and very fulfilling scene for me as a reader.
When their evening of intimate conversation was finally over, and remembering that this chapter is titled "Closure", I had assumed that this would be the last we heard from Sei. And I would have been willing - begrudgingly and sadly - to accept it because it really was a very nice "closure" between Hazuki and Sei. However, later down the chapter I found that Bachou, Aisha and Sei have just met Aya. I couldn't contain my excitement because at that moment I knew for certain that you have BIG plans for her still. I eagerly look forward to them!
| Emperor Of Lemurs chapter 12 . 9/23/2013
And now a breather chapter to wash away all the angst. And like all breather chapters in this verse, lots of Lulim and Kizuna/Remon stuff. Whee, Karaoke! Which I'm sure was inspired/influenced at least partly by Nine, considering the French song.
It did seem to come out of left field though... at least until Chikaru revealed that it was actually an evil plan to cast people for her play. The girl could be a full blown magnificent bastard/bitch if she ever went dark side.
Especially since she seemed to choose her actors based on potential inter-cast drama as anything else. Yaya and HIkari as young lovers? Momomi as Kanami's trusted lieutenant? Amane as someone called upon to fight Kaname? Amane in a comic role in general? Chikaru is a troll.
I was delighted to see her so flustered at the beginning of the chapter though. Hazuki and Kaname's chill, laid-back approach to the whole supernatural thing while Chikaru tried to keep things appropriately serious and reverent was one of my favorite parts of this. Not surprising; Chikaru still sees Eve as a wise older sister / angel, while Kaname and Hazuki have firsthand experience with the goddesses being immature and even ditzy.
This chapter on the whole felt a lot more "Strawberry Panic" than the last few have, what with the tea, Lulim clubs, singing and dancing, and all the non-Souma characters (Hikari, Amane, etc) making appearances. To tell the truth I usually like the Yami-flavored chapters better, but this one was a welcome relief after SO MUCH ANGST.
Seriously, even the fanservice scene was more lighthearted in this.
And on the fanservice scene, I did like it. Chikaru takes the initiative this time, and Hazuki is simply in heaven from the whole experience. Chikaru also seems more comfortable overall. I'm guessing this is because its Hazuki, who she once accidentally had astral lesbian sex with. She also is far more in control of the situation this time (quite literally the one on top) and, because this whole thing started via her reassuring Hazuki about her singing, she even gets to be in her normal role of comfort giver.
Hazuki's level of comfort is also non-trivial; making a joke about wanting to fondle and kiss and lick is a far cry from the original Hazuki who felt ashamed for just looking.
I'm always interested in the differences between the Hazuki/Chikaru interactions and the Tamao/Chikaru interactions. With Hazuki, its a slow, leisurely exploration of boundaries where Chikaru feels reassured. With Tamao, its a spontaneous, sensual pushing of boundaries with the feeling that both girls are throwing caution to the winds and making it up as they go. Hazuki keeps Chikaru feeling safe, Tamao leaps into the unknown with Chikaru and allows her to discover new things about herself.
Threesomes are awesome like that.
Hazuki finally sets Chikaru straight (or not straight, bad yuri pun) about her fears of leading her lovers on; they won't get mad because they understand her and lover her. Hazuki is also finally exasperated by the whole "our intimate yuri groping time is nothing sexual!" bit, which I was happy to see. Honestly, Chikaru sometimes channels the sillier aspects of "romantic two girl friendship" while in full denial of the actual yuriness of the whole thing, and I'm glad she finally got called out on it. In a way that both showed how silly she is and reassured her that her lovers still loved her and are willing to take it slow.
For as wise as she is, Chikaru seems to have a hard time realizing that physical and emotional intimacy aren't mutual exclusives or even separate. Perhaps this explains her humorous attempts to "make sense" of the whole sex thing ("Why do you like my breasts so much, Hazuki-chan?") . The poor girl doesn't seem to realize that shes not so much asexual as a normal teenage girl who's nervous about sex.
She would benefit from a few cheesy romance novels, I think. They would make her more self aware concerning her "I'm curious about this sex thing but I'm unsure and I don't want to lead my girlfriends on and I'm afraid of disappointing them and I keep undressing in front of them and enjoying it when they look but I don't know if I can go further" and so on and so forth.
No Chikaru, you aren't an ordinary teenage girl learning about relationships and sexuality, confused by your new feelings and more used to being wise and in charge than inexperienced and vulnerable. It clearly has nothing to do with that, and everything to do with the magical green energy you got from a fertility goddess making you asexual. That makes perfect sense.
Sarcasm is fun.
I understand that "Next time on Evangelion" reference you made to me now. SO MANY EVA REFERENCES.
| MissGardenia chapter 16 . 9/23/2013
...sorry, the only thing I can really think to comment on would be "I want to see grown up Shuri now..."
| Emperor Of Lemurs chapter 11 . 9/22/2013
Good god I am behind on reading this. Its been so long since I read it I forgot how much I liked it!
In the first section we see that Chikaru has magical healing powers. Which is cool, as it means that Hazuki and Kaname aren't the only ones that have superpowers now. Also Kojima-sensei gets to witness said superpowers. Your giving your OC an opportunity for more screentime has not gone unnoticed!
Then we get the scene in the waiting room, in which several characters get to voice thier opinions of Old Kaname to New Kaname. Very interesting comparisons, overall, though Kaname was a bit too numb at the time to really react to them. Still though, the fact that she was numb at all shows her character development; Old Kaname certainly wouldn't have gotten angst and introspective.
Kaname and Hazuki then have a heartwarming interaction by Hazuki's hospital bed. I liked that them discussing their similarities (sexuality, dark sides, etc) made Kaname feel more confident and better about herself; this is something I find that talking to friends in real life causes. Indeed, Kaname eventually tells Hazuki her secret, calls her a friend, and gives her a hug. Horray for the power of friendship!
Also Kaname is now even more horrified at what she did to Hikari. Indeed, even when others forgive you, it is often hard to forgive yourself. Actually, maybe demure, shy Hikari is a stronger person than we thought; certainly Kaname would still have a lot more self hatred and internalized anger if she hadn't been forgiven. And, surprisingly, Momomi also helps to make her feel better, getting one of her few pet the dog moments ever.
But what I liked best about this chapter was the Chikaru and Tamao interactions because of FANSERVICE I mean character depth. Tamao is appropriately shell shocked from all the crap that's happened over the past few days (Kaori is here from another universe! Hazuki almost killed Eve the once! Hazuki still has some feelings for Eve! Hazuki almost died!) and you did a good job of portraying that. The poor girl feels Hazuki slipping away from her, and trying to pull Chikaru closer as a response to this is perfectly believable. Also sensual in its own way, as soaring, extreme emotions and seeking comfort are certainly a part of romance.
Call me crazy, but I think Chikaru was also doing the same thing subconsciously. Undressing in front of Tamao, turning to face her without covering up, letting Tamao touch her like that... the girl is clearly scared as well, and is pushing her boundaries far past her comfort zone in order to pull Tamao closer to her.
Not that she allows herself to realize this. She has to be in the role of caregiver and shoulder to cry on, especially in situations like this, and there is no room for personal vulnerability in this (at least she believes so). Ironic, as showing vulnerability would probably make her closer to her girlfriends, which they all want.
Having said all that, Chikaru's trying too hard and worrying too much have become a source of humor for me. She snuggles with her lovers, constantly flirts, is emotionally intimate with them, keeps finding excuses to show herself off in front of them and have them feel her up... and then insists (sincerely, even) that her motivations are platonic, that the touching is platonic, and that the whole relationship is platonic. And then admits to herself that she enjoyed it and tries to figure out is said enjoyment was "real" or not. At this point, it seems her problem is not so much asexuality as it is being so afraid of asexuality that she can't relax and go with the flow. Experimenting is necessary for a sexual relationship, yet Chikaru is so concerned with not leading her lovers on that she doesn't allow herself to experiment!
Irony indeed, Chikaru.
And lets face it, they'll all end up together in the end because, THIS GENRE.
Other laughs: Hazuki telepathically feeling Tamao's groping of Chikaru, and the subtle bashing of that "Aname loses her memory" episode from the source material. That episode was really dumb.
Glad I'm reading this again. Looking forward to reading the next chapters soon! Because I didn't read this for so long, theres 5 more waiting for me now!
| aguslay chapter 16 . 9/22/2013
Ohhh i was really hoping to read something about Chikaru's desition about her sexual desire... But it was a great chapter, so ill be waiting a new update (wishing to be soon) hehe.
| World of Dragons Productions chapter 16 . 9/21/2013
There is a lot going on in this chapter, so I may not pose my thoughts on everything here, but here goes.
Obviously there's a lot going on here that needs to be answered and there are some things have left me rather disturbed, especially the portent that Chou'uun has ceased to exist and now that there may be more to Hazuki then we thought. Though it seems odd that Lilith seemed to talk about doing something to Hazuki to minimize an unknown threat, then threatens Eve not to hurt her feelings again. But my brain's tired, so I'll leave that alone for now.
Unto the scene with Changban... Oh, I remember back in the days when me and my brother would chop people apart in Dynasty Warriors, I would call this battle 'Chang Bang Run', if only because I made the Wei forces go out with a BANG...! Ok, lame jokes aside.
I don't have much to say except for the male. He is the problem I have with most male protagonists in anime nowadays; they're all either spineless wimps or mindless horndogs and his very existence, coupled with the fact that he banged Ryuubi and probably some of the other female characters, makes me want to punch him into the horizon and father Ryuuzen myself so he may actual be worth a damn in this iteration of the Romance of The Three Kingdoms...
I couldn't help thinking of how characters in my stories would react to him either; Eddward would be all "Good lord, man! Is NOTHING sacred to you?!", while Eddy would watch his attempts at getting the other females with amusement and gloat "Good effort, but you're too rough and obvious. You gotta be smoooooth, like me"... Promptly before the master popped him over the head.
Anyway, reaction over. I'm sad to see that war had indeed broken out between the characters of this series, I figured this series didn't take THAT direction. This is also brings up the fact that the forces of Shu will be betrayed by Wu and then Kan'U will... Or sweet CHRIST I don't wanna talk about that... Moving on,
It's good to see that Hazuki finally got to seek advice, but the problem remains that something happened to our mask wearing badass and we may never know what.
That said, keep writing and I'll keep reading.
| DrYuriMom chapter 15 . 9/21/2013
My life has been beyond challenging of late, and reading your chapters is a major undertaking for me akin to parsing a major new research study. It takes an hour or two, and leaves me drained for hours afterwards. Hence the delay getting to this. I see the next chapter is a 15k word monster, so it may be a while for me to get there. In the meantime, hear goes for this one!
Hmmm, I am left to wonder how much the solution with Birth?Hazuki was something you came up with more recently. If so, that is quite literally the most elegant retcon I have ever seen. ;-)
I will say that, based on what happened in alt!Kaori's world, namely bringly alt!Miyuki back from the dead sans memory of alt!Kaori, that it seems a stretch to say that Lillith couldn't bring back Chou'un even if Eve couldn't. Then again, you allude to strange circumstances that even Eve doesn't understand, so I'll assume there's more to it than the obvious. There's also the part about it not being 'her' Chou'un. Anyway, I'm not in a stage of my life where I can risk further annoying the Great Maker by further conjecturing... :p
I have nothing to say about the Tamao-Lillith discussion other than my mouth was as dry as Tamao's by the section break...
Way to dodge the nature vs nurture issue, Susume-sensei. I'll respect your deft avoidance of the core of the issue by not editorializing (again) here... ;-)
Poor Chikaru. that's a tough position to be left in...
So we finally understand the issue Lillith has with Momomi. Makes sense, actually.
And just when I thought my mouth couldn't get any drier than it was with Tamao, we reach Kaname's boon. While it is some of the best writing I have seen, I will admit I am trying desperately now to connect this Kaname to the Kaname of autumn 2006 in Astraea (Ep 25-26 of SP!). I realize there has been a lot of growing happening between then and now, but it's still only been one year. The fact that I had to forcefully remind myself that I was suspending this disbelief says a lot about your story, though. It ultimately doesn't matter because I LIKE what you're doing with her. Still, she really has come a long way in a very short time...
Am I allowed to feel maternal over the Goddess of life?
| shanejayell chapter 16 . 9/21/2013
Posted MOST of my thoughts on FB, but will try to clarify here.
I get that Hazuki is sensitive after Eve's screwing about last chapter, but she did kind of overreact to Tamao. At least in my opinion. Tho Tamao was a bit tactless too.
You write GREAT battle scenes, by the way. I loved the whole two rescues and bit. Also, I was... kinda disturbed to see you introducing the game version of Koihime. If Kazuto is anything like this in the game version, I hope he dies a horrid death. *lol* WHAT a ass.
Nice references to your earlier Koihime fics too. You MIGHT wanna add a note that this crosses over a bit, too. The Sei/Hazuki conversation was very smile inducing, and made me d'awww a lot. Uhm... did Aisha and SEi put on a demonstration for Hazuki, or did I read something into it you didn't intend?
The three final scenes have left me with a LOT of questions. Probably as intended. Eve and Lilith explained away if Hazuki changed history, but the later bit implies that They are in fact VERY worried about what happened. Now we have to see why. *lol* I'm also wondering who the mysterious old man is...
Anyway, good update!
| Drinkie chapter 16 . 9/21/2013
Wow four years? congrats on the series lasting this long then again with so many people including myself enjoying it i guess you can call us all your own personal Souma providing you with fuel to actually plan and write each chapter eh Suzume-sama?
On a side note the chat on the hill between Chou'un and Hazuki becomes twice as fun to read while listening to Conect by ClariS
| yurimylove chapter 15 . 9/3/2013
I love chapter 16! And no, it's not a typo, because I meant to say 16 - despite it probably hasn't been written yet, for I just KNOW that a chapter chock-full of Chou'un goodness can't be anything but great XD
Okay, joking aside, I really do love this chapter. First of all I like the "happy endings", if I may call them that, to Hazuki's birth parents and her tragic other-self. I also found the interaction between Lilith and Tamao really cute and funny. Chikaru and Eve's conversation about the nature of sexuality is very insightful, even enlightening, to me. I guess we'll find out about her decision next chapter? Though if I had to venture a guess, I'd have to say she will decline Eve's offer, as is. And Kaname, not only do I agree whole-heartedly that "she's got balls", but I think she's also very smart. You really don't want to cross a goddess without some plans to make amends. And finally, nice setup for Kaori and Ryofu, as I imagine there will be closure for their arcs in the next chapter or two?
Now I do want to provide a more in-depth personal comment regarding Eve, as along with Hazuki and Lilith, I absolutely love and adore Eve. By no means does this imply, however, that I believe Eve is a perfect little angel who could do no wrong. Far from it, I acknowledge that she is unquestionably a flawed character, and she has committed her share of misdeeds, even some at the comic-level. So I guess for Eve, "to err is divine". But if one must pass judgment on her, then I think it's only fair that we take the good with the bad. For all the pains and heartaches caused by her irresponsible behavior and sudden disappearances, how many lives have also been saved and enriched by her gentle love and selfless deeds? Not to mention that, without her visit there would be NO world-travelling Hazuki to rescue a princess from evil assassins, to free an innocent girl from her abusive guardian, to rid a tribe from its oppressive demon, to guide a starship to a brave new world, and in the end save creation itself.
So no, I don't love Eve because she is a prefect being who committed no sin, I love her because she has come to realize her flaws, and is trying her hardest to right her wrongs. Not that it was always successful, mind you, as we can see she managed to make a mess of things with Hazuki - yet again. I did say try...
But then who among us can hold our head high and claim that we've never made a mistake when it comes to matters of the heart? I got that she had initially believed it was what Hazuki desired, before finally realizing she was actually attempting to assuage her own regrets. There is no question that, this was the "wrong" way for her to find closure. But my question is, what could she have done instead? Would it have been "right" if she had tried this before Hazuki was in any relationship? Well the answer is still no, because she would then just be "leading her on", since in the end she is incapable of any romantic relationship with a human, as already firmly established. No matter how much they might have been mutually in love, she could never have provided a fulfilling relationship for Hazuki.
So in short, there is no "right" way for her to find closure. The moment she developed feelings for Hazuki was the moment a tragedy was set in motion, for there is no way in the universe for them to consummate their love. If she's unable to somehow rid herself of these feelings, then I guess the only "noble" or "honorable" thing for her to do, is to carry her regrets for an eternity. For people who find life difficult due to their "taboo relationship" - be it incest, homosexual, interracial, or whatever kind society has judged to be, now imagine if the entire cosmos has conspired to make it taboo for you to fall in love with ANY SINGLE human being. Of course Eve must be punished, HOW DARE she fall in love with a mortal! For such a tragic character, my heart is filled with nothing but sympathy, hence I remain resolutely in love with her still. The day I started hating Eve would be the day I turn my back on all of Yamibo, and I don't see that day coming. Ever.
As usual, I look forward to the next chapter of this wonderful story!