Monday, March 9, 2009

Kamichama Karin Chu (manga, vol. 1) by Koge-Donbo

(Note: Most of this post - everything but the read-alikes and watch-alikes - was written before my big move.)

This series is the sequel to Kamichama Karin, a series I haven't read. Fortunately, this volume begins with a one-page explanation of the characters and events in Kamichama Karin, so I wasn't completely lost. My explanation of the events of this volume is very detailed and gives almost everything away, so don't read that if that's not your thing - at the very end, I've included a list of read-alikes and watch-alikes.

In Kamichama Karin (according to that summary), Karin and several others have rings that allow them to transform into gods and goddesses. There's apparently some battling, in the midst of which it's revealed that Karin and Kazune (a boy with one of the rings) used to be husband and wife long ago and that Himeka (Kazune's cousin) was their daughter. Everything ends peacefully, although Kazune goes to England in order to discover more about the secrets of the rings.

This volume begins with Karin's teacher yelling at her for sleeping in class and bringing a teen magazine (with teen idol Jin Kuga on the cover - this turns out to be important later on) to class. Karin leaves school early to go pick up Kazune. Although Karin and Kazune aren't actually dating, they live together and blush a lot around each other. Kazune is tired after his flight and goes right to sleep when he gets home, and Karin's asleep not long after that. In her dreams, Karin gets a message from someone who wants her help and wants her to find "the three noble gods," giving her cryptic clues to help her out. When Karin wakes up, she and Kazune have been joined by three kittens and a tiny boy who calls Karin "Mommy" and Kazune "Daddy." The boy gives them each rings - Kazune's ring transforms him into Uranus, one of the three noble gods, while Karin's ring doesn't seem to do anything. The boy, Suzune, also gives Karin a clock that can control time.

The Chronos Clock comes in handy when they try to get to the second noble god, who turns out to be the idol Jin Kuga. They're not successful at first, so Karin turns back time and tries again - it turns out that Jin is perfectly happy to meet Karin, since he has dreamed about her before (he calls her his goddess). Of course, Jin becomes a new student at Karin and Kazune's school (yep, ready-made romantic rivalry). However, Suzune informs them all that the noble gods have to get along in order to help his mommy and daddy (future Karin and Kazune) by beating the "seeds of chaos in this era" (no idea what that means).

Karin is thrilled to hear that she and Kazune have a child in the future, but she's not so happy when Suzune later tells her that his daddy left with a lady he (Suzune) didn't know and hasn't been back for a long time. Although there's lots of ways Suzune's tearful statement could be taken ("a long time" means different things to a kid than to an adult, and the lady could be anybody Suzune doesn't know), Karin automatically assumes that future Kazune is having an affair. Karin hasn't even finished freaking out before Jin swoops in and steals her away to one of his photo shoots, where he does his very best to steal Karin away from Kazune.

Of course, Kazune shows up, and he and Jin start fighting, which prompts Karin to go into goddess mode and hit them with a "love attack" (they're stuck together for a while, at least until the author decides to let them be unstuck). At this point, Karin finally asks Jin to help them and offers him his ring, which transforms him into Hades. Later on, the three of them look for the last of the three noble gods, who they decide must be Nishikiori (aka Micchi), who just got back from England. Before she goes with Kazune and Jin to see Micchi, Karin meets a mysterious girl who gives her the Chronos Clock she forgot, not realizing that the girl has put a dark jewel inside it. When Karin tries to use the clock, she, Kazune, Suzune, and Jin become even younger than they already are, making it difficult to get to Micchi (they're too small to go on the amusement park rides he goes on, too small to swim in the part of the pool he swims in, etc.). Eventually, Kazune senses something off about Karin's clock and uses his and Karin's power to break the jewel inside of it, turning the whole group back to normal. Karin asks Micchi to help them, and Micchi accepts his ring and transforms into Neptune.

After the main story, there's an additional story that's maybe a third as long - I think it takes place right after the events of Kamichama Karin. Kazune informs Karin that he's thinking of going to England, and he doesn't plan to go with her. Karin is depressed, but gets over it because he says he's going to England to investigate. However, then Micchi comes along and tells her that Kazune plans to study abroad in England and will be gone longer than she realized. When Karin confronts Kazune, he's cold and closed-mouthed about it. Micchi tells him that he might steal Karin away from him, and Kazune tells him to do what he wants. However, Karin later overhears Kazune and Micchi talking - apparently, Kazune's determined to go to England because he wants to protect the people he cares about, so Karin decides to forgive him and let him go. That's when it becomes clear that it's all been a big misunderstanding, and it's actually Himeka who's studying abroad in order to find out more about her father (the person Kazune used to be, or is a clone of) - Kazune, on the other hand, is just leaving for a short while and then coming back. He's not as indifferent to Micchi's threat of stealing Karin as he seemed, however, and makes Micchi go with him.

Overall, I found this series to be a little too complex and fast-paced for my tastes. I thought the three noble gods were gathered up awfully quickly, and a lot of the tensions and conflicts in the main story and short story seemed to mainly result from Big Misunderstandings or lack of communication. Karin doesn't take the time to think things through - if she had, it might've occurred to her that she doesn't have many details about her and Kazune's future selves and that what she does know has mainly come from a little kid, so she shouldn't assume anything. However, thinking about things would slow down the pacing, something I think the author wants to avoid at all costs.

Cuteness is also something the author focuses on pretty single-mindedly. When the mysterious girl pops up, it's so sudden that it took me a bit to figure out what had happened and what she was doing - despite the potential importance of this girl to the overall series plot, she only gets two pages, while 16 or 17 pages are devoted to the group's troubles while they're stuck in little kid bodies. The art style also reflects the author's obsession with cuteness: if I remember right, Karin and Kazune are each 14 years old, but their character designs make them look much younger.

Koge-Donbo's art style is one of the reasons why I pretty much stopped reading her works (I've read a lot of Di Gi Charat and all of Pita-Ten). It's not that I dislike her character designs - I think they can be pretty cute, and I love the way her characters look when they're super-deformed. When romance enters her stories, however, the childlike appearance of the characters really turns me off. It's just weird seeing Karin and Kazune kiss. I did a search online and found out that Micchi's age in Kamichama Karin Chu is 15, only a year older than the others, but he's proportioned much more like an adult - in the short story, when he grabs Karin and threatens to take her for himself, he looks like a 20-something wrapping himself around a girl who looks like she could be anywhere from 7 to 10 years old. At least Karin and Kazune look like they're the same age.

Anyway, I did just say that I now normally avoid Koge-Donbo's works. I kind of got this volume by accident - I saw it in my library's catalog, no image included, and just put myself on hold for it because it was a new title. Overall, this volume of Kamichama Karin Chu wasn't my kind of thing. As far as extras go, there's a 2-page humorous comic starring Micchi, Jin, and Kazune as kittens who are found and taken in by Karin, three pages of fan art from Japanese fans, and two pages of translator's notes. Although some of the gods are explained a little in these pages, there's no explanation for why some of the gods' names used in the book are Roman while others are Greek. For instance, there's Aphrodite (Greek), Hades (Greek), Neptune (Roman), and Uranus (Roman). The apparent inconsistency bothered me a little (if I'm wrong and there really isn't any inconsistency, feel free to say so).

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Negima! (manga) by Ken Akamatsu; Negima! (anime TV series) - There are apparently lots more than just one anime version - I didn't feel like sorting it all out, so you'll have to visit Anime News Network if you'd like to find out more. Anyway, Negi Springfield is a 10-year-old wizard from Wales who has to complete a certain task before he can officially become a Magister Magi. His task is to become an English teacher at Mahora Academy in Japan, something that is not nearly as easy as it sounds - each of the 31 girls in his class (who are all approximately 4 years older than him) complicate and enrich his life in different ways. This series has comedy, romance (sometimes a bit uncomfortable, when you think of the various ages of the characters), fantasy, and even a bit of horror. Those who'd like another story with young romance, time manipulation (there's a whole story arc in which Negi has go backwards in time a lot), and magic might want to try this.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura (manga) by CLAMP; Cardcaptor Sakura (anime TV series, plus a few movies) - [Note: if you plan on getting the anime, make sure you're getting Cardcaptor Sakura and not Cardcaptors - Cardcaptors is an extremely edited version of Cardcaptor Sakura that barely resembles the original.] After Sakura accidentally opens a book containing dozens of magical Clow Cards, she works to get them all back, with the help and encouragement of her best friend Tomoyo and Kero, the cards' guardian. Those who'd like another series that has both its cute and serious moments (heavy on the cute and sweet) might want to try this. In addition, one character, Syaoran, often acts a lot like Kazune.
  • Gakuen Alice (manga) by Tachibana Higuchi - When Mikan's best friend leaves to attend the mysterious and elite Alice Academy, Mikan goes after her and tries to become a student at the academy herself. Alice Academy turns out to be a special school for children with amazing abilities (like flying, telekinesis, etc.). Once Mikan manages to prove that she belongs at the school, she becomes a student. Unfortunately, students are allowed little contact with the outside world, and there are other secrets the school and its teachers are hiding. Those who'd like another cute/serious series (heavier on the cute, at least in the volumes I've read) might enjoy this.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew (manga) by Reiko Yoshida (story) and Mia Ikumi (art) - Although there's an anime based on this series, I haven't listed it because my only experience is with the manga, and I have no idea how similar the two are. Anyway, Ichigo is out on a date with her crush when something happens and her DNA is somehow merged with the DNA of an almost extinct wildcat. Four other girls also get their DNA merged with the DNA of other nearly-extinct animals. Soon the girls learn that it is their mission to protect the planet from aliens who use animals as their weapons. Those who'd like another cute series with romance and a bit of world-threatening action might want to try this.
  • Oh. My. Gods. (book) by Tera Lynn Childs - All Phoebe wants is to attend USC with her best friends, but, in order to do that, she has to keep her grades up and train hard so that she can get a track scholarship. Then her mother throws a wrench in all her plans by announcing that she's marrying a mysterious stranger and moving them all to Greece. Phoebe now has to attend the super-exclusive Academy where her new stepfather is the headmaster and all the other students are the descendants of Greek gods. Those who'd like another story that references mythology and includes a bit of romance might want to try this.

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