Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tail of the Moon (manga, vol. 2) by Rinko Ueda

At the start of this volume, readers get to find out a little about Usagi and Goemon's past (Goemon is the one who proposed to Usagi at the end of the previous volume). Young Goemon was told that he had to carry infant Usagi on his back until she spoke her first word, which is part of the reason why the two of them are so close now. However, Usagi is now in love with Hanzo and doesn't want to marry Goemon. She knows that Hanzo is in love with Princess Sara, so she enters a ninja skill contest in the hope of winning a love potion for him, so that he can be happy with the princess. Once Goemon hears her reason for entering the contest, he agrees to help her (she's so clumsy she'd have no chance of winning on her own), but Goemon's leg hurts too badly for him to do the final event, a race, for her. Usagi tries to do it on her own, but she's really bad at it.

Meanwhile, Hanzo is determined not to go chasing after Usagi, but he can't help but go after her when he hears from Mamezo that Usagi is doing fine and is going to marry Goemon. Hanzo finds Usagi while she's attempting the race and carries her on his back in order to help her finish it. After the race, Goemon kisses Usagi, causing Hanzo to run off. Usagi runs after him, but Goemon's bad leg won't let him follow. While following Hanzo, Usagi almost drowns to death, but Hanzo saves her.

Later, Hanzo finally agrees to consider marrying Usagi and having her bear his child - but only if she can qualify as a ninja by the end of this year (the same goes for Yuri, so don't get all excited - and no, Yuri hasn't actually qualified as a ninja yet, no matter what she's said). Goemon agrees to train them both. Not long after that, Goemon gets in trouble for trying to kill Sara, who is apparently an Oda assassin.

Goemon, Usagi, Yuri, and Mamezo all go to Hamamatsu (it's all very sudden, I know). Yuri pretty much falls out of the running for Hanzo's affections - she develops a huge crush on Goemon. Meanwhile, at Hamamatsu Castle, the group tries to convince Hanzou's father to let Princess Sara see him. However, Hanzou's father refuses (he even has Hanzou locked up until he promises to give up Sara). While trying to rescue Hanzou, everyone in the group ends up captured. It turns out that Sara was responsible for killing Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu's wife and son (I think Lord Ieyasu is Hanzou's father's lord, which explains the father's animosity).

Suddenly, Hanzo swoops in to rescue everyone. Princess Sara also shows up - she and Hanzou are allowed to be together, but only if Usagi stays at Hamamatsu Castle to act as an herbalist there. Hanzo is forced to admit that it's highly unlikely Usagi will ever qualify as a ninja, so he agrees to let her go, and Usagi agrees to stay (alone, unfortunately - none of her friends are allowed to stay with her). Usagi soon discovers that she's not the only herbalist at the castle. Yukimaru also makes medicines and is not happy to have competition. Things get worse when Hanzou's father's wife's condition worsens and Usagi says that the many medicines Yukimaru has been giving her are what's making her ill (too many medicines = medicines are likely to work against each other). Yukimaru plans to kill Usagi, but then she trips and almost dies on her own - Goemon saves her. Goemon offers to take Usagi home, but she refuses to go, since she now has a patient to care for. Later on, Usagi discovers something shocking - apparently, beautiful Yukimaru is not a girl, as Usagi had assumed, but rather a guy.

Wow, it feels like I just tried to describe an episode of a soap opera. Anyway, I still feel like Usagi's a little too stupid to be as attractive to all these guys as she is. I find it unbelievable how obsessed Goemon is with her, and it even looks like Hanzo's falling for her too (although he's the ultimate at hiding his feelings). The main thing Usagi has going for her is her sweetness and goodness. Still, she mostly comes across as a child to me, not the sort of person I could see a guy thinking of marrying.

Although it's sad for Usagi that she doesn't get to be around her friends as much while she's at the castle, I actually think it's the perfect place for her. I agree that it's unlikely she'll ever qualify as a ninja - it really would be best for her to concentrate on her skills as an herbalist. It's already an activity she enjoys, and it's something she's good at, so she'd finally be able to be useful to others. As a ninja, she's more of a burden than anything. She's the main reason everyone was captured, and she may have been given the love potion as a prize for the ninja skills contest, but she completed almost none of the contest on her own. I want her finally to be able to recognize her own skills and grow to be a competent person. I realize that I'm probably asking for more than this series will ever give - I doubt that Usagi is ever going to become anything but childlike. However, I don't think it's asking too much for her to become more than a dead weight.

I enjoyed the tiny amount of relationship development between Usagi and Hanzo - Hanzo seems to be coming out of his shell a little more. However, it's still frustrating that he's being so careful not to show too much favoratism. It's obvious that Usagi is special to him, since she's the only one he ever seems to worry about (although I guess that could just be taken as evidence of how completely incompetent Usagi is). I'm sure the scene where Hanzo is warming up a naked and nearly drowned Usagi with his body heat (he's also naked) will probably prompt quite a few fangirl squeals.

Overall, I felt pretty much the same about this volume as I did about the first - it had many of the same good and bad aspects.

There aren't many extras in this volume, just a two-page glossary of terms.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Kaze Hikaru (manga) by Taeko Watanabe - This story is set during the Bakumatsu period, which marked the end of the Tokugawa era and the beginning of the Meiji era. A young girl named Sei Tominaga disguises herself as a boy named Seizaburo Kamiya in order to join the Shinsengumi and eventually avenge the deaths of her father and brother. Those who'd like another historical manga with a decent amount of action and romance might want to try this title.
  • Fushigi Yuugi: Mysterious Play (manga) by Yuu Watase; Fushigi Yuugi: Mysterious Play (anime TV series) - Miaka is an ordinary middle school student (things are different in Japan, so Miaka is actually 15 years old, rather than 14 or younger) who wants nothing more than some tasty snacks and to be accepted into the same high school as her best friend (who, unfortunately for Miaka, has much better grades than she does - getting into the same high school is going to be tough). When she visits the National Library with her friend, she stumbles upon the book The Universe of the Four Gods and literally gets sucked into the story. She becomes the priestess of Suzaku, protected by her Celestial Warriors. If she can find all seven of her Celestial Warriors, she will be able to summon Suzaku and go home. Those who'd like another romantic story in which a stupid and sweet girl is the object of several guys' affections might want to try this title.

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