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Despite the unsettling news that Okuni has brought about the Mibu plans for Kyo's real body, the group is optimistic: now that the Four Emperors are back together, it seems nothing can stand in their way! But the reunion doesn't last long: the way to the Onmyo Shrine, where the body is held, could be through any of the four doors that Kyo and his companions soon encounter. They draw lots, and continue as four separate parties. Beyond one door, Hotaru has an unsettling meeting with a special person from his half-forgotten past, while beyond another, Yuya finds out a number of Akari's own secrets - including the nature of the destructive skills that made her such a valuble member of the Four Emperors - as they face several increasingly deadly sets of opponents.

Yukimura fans should note that he actually has a scene in this volume - the first in quite a while - as he and Saizo have an emotionally-charged encounter with their ex-companion Shindara. (And there's also a funny "extra" cartoon that tackles the issue of Yukimura's near-complete absence from the last several volumes.)

Samurai Deeper Kyo, vol. 23 (review)

This volume is, for me, the first part of the saga to be hauled out of what I've been calling "the Black Hole." Obviously, we have vols. 1-22 in English in Tokyopop's official translated tankoubon editions. You can also find scanlations and translations for the last 8 or so volumes, as well as some bits of vols. 21 and 22, at sanada' s www.hana-mi.net. But there's a considerable chunk of material inbetween that I've never seen in any form. (There is one bit of vol. 23 at hana-mi.net, but it was the action scene with Akari facing off against Santera, and it didn't make an awful lot of sense without the visuals.) So I'm terribly excited to have completely new SDK stuff to read!

So the Four Emperors get to strut their stuff. This is a lot of fun for the more bloodthirsty among us, and it's also the source of considerable black humor. Like Legolas and Gimli at Helm's Deep, the Four like to compete with regard to how many opponents they can kill. However, I doubt that Tolkien's doughty duo would even consider the type of wheeling and dealing that the Four pull during the competition. As Hotaru comments laconically, when Akira proposes teaming up with him, "You snake." Soon it's two teams of two ... or really, Hotaru and Akira vs. a magically supercharged Bontenmaru ("Killing is such a chore!" Akari complains before enchanting him). Nevertheless, Akira loses: Akari has rigged the whole thing by charging her teammates percentages of their kills in exchange for her healing and other services rendered. "So that's how Akira got so twisted," whispers Okuni to Yuya.

The most interesting thing about all this - to me, anyway - is Kyo's reaction during all this. He sits down against a wall and lights his pipe, watching and smiling. When the remaining party members ask anxiously whether they shouldn't be helping the Four, he tells them to sit and watch too: "You're about to see something special ... with the four of them together, their power is infinite." He's proud of them! He forged this team: their success is his. And that's something to remember in considering Kyo's treatment of the newer members of the party: Benitora, Sasuke, and Yuya. If Kyo condescends to let you be one of his companions he considers that you're not only capable of keeping up, but that you'll learn something from the experience, and do him credit in the end.

fmanalyst had some comments that relate directly to this, about the fact that when the lots are drawn, and Yuya ends up as part of a two-person team with Akari, Kyo doesn't seem very worried about Yuya's safety - despite the fact that Akari is definitely put out when she finds she's not going to be traveling with the light of her life, Kyo. I was thinking mainly that Kyo was trusting to Akari's skills and her knowledge of the Mibu to protect Yuya, but fmanalyst suggested that, among other things, Kyo felt that it was time for Akari - who showed up only in vol. 22 - to get to know Yuya. As she noted, Muramasa believed that Yuya influences the group to stick together and exceed their limits. So this works in very well with the idea that Kyo intends to have his companions grow and develop.

Hotaru's meeting with Yuan was one of the best parts, IMO, but I know that my reactions are shaped by what I've read in the later material. I'm not going to spoil things for those who are following only the Tokyopop versions, except to note that Yuan's memory here is accurate, and Hotaru's is (not too surprisingly) faulty. (I'm still puzzled by Yuan and the whirligigs. Maybe he likes to set them going and then track them by the sound and air currents, and snatch/kick them out of the air? That would be good training for him, since he keeps his eyes blindfolded all the time.)

It's not too surprising that Akari manages to hit the right tough-love note with Santera - after all, she helped raise Akira, as Kamijiyo-sensei reminds us on the cover painting. Everyone's reaction to Santera throughout her life seems to have been either the contempt shown to her by Tokito and the berserkers, or a combination of terror and "poor little thing!" Akari is probably the first person who ever expected Santera to be able to control herself.

Some oddities: why is Mekira's attack name in (apparently) French? (And does it mean "House of Wax," more or less, which would be a nice bit of black humour ... .) And why, in the Yukimura scene, does everyone look all vertically stretched out - especially Yukimura and Shindara?

Other favorite little bits: Akari and Okuni's little cat spat in the background of the early scenes; Hotaru and the caterpillar; Akari's late-adolescent sulking over being sent along with Yuya (especially when she starts chewing on her sleeve), her fantasy of how Kyo will react if she finds his body (once again, her hapless companions are dragooned into supporting roles ... I especially like the put-upon-looking Sasuke bee), and her refusal to acknowledge the Mibu samurai who challenge them because she's too busy telling Yuya some hot gossip; the Mibu Samurai who's ranting at Akari for being a perverted crossdresser yet still can't help blurting out "You're still kinda cute!"; and Santera's prissy freak-out when she realizes that she's been hugging >gasp!< a man.

As for Akari's "falsies" ... sanada and I have already had an extended discussion about whether Akari would need to use shamanic magic to keep them nice and fresh and bouncy ... Manga! Because real life just isn't weird enough ... !

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
fmanalyst
Jul. 26th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)
I loved the little cherubs in Akari's fantasy! And I continue to be fascinated by Yuya's position in the group. She's not beautiful. She's not powerful. But she's important. She means something to them, and she connects them. She has an indomitable spirit. I think she's my favorite female character in a shonen fighting manga.
chomiji
Jul. 27th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)

A lot of people feel that way, I think, especially by the end of the series. She manages to be optimistic without being gooey. It's very typical of her that in the last volume, almost immediately after her complete fit of outrage over the fact that Akari's cross-dressing has fooled her, she's asking curiously about Akari's background and listening to the answers with real interest and sympathy.

Something else I just remembered: way back, like vol. 16 or 17, when Kyo fights Hotaru, and Hotaru knocks him out, Yuya fearlessly interposes herself to defend Kyo. But she isn't pleading for Kyo's life. She's telling Hotaru that killing Kyo would be bad for Hotaru - that he would be crossing a line he should not cross in killing someone who he remembered as a friend. And her argument has its effect: Hotaru gets very, very disturbed, and it's likely that this is what set him on the path to remembering his Four Emperors days, and thus leads him to admit defeat.

meganbmoore
Jul. 26th, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
"This volume is, for me, the first part of the saga to be hauled out of what I've been calling "the Black Hole." "

A very good name for it...so odd to go from vol 21(when I started looking for future events) to volume 29. Course, my LJ may still be ringing from my reading vol 29...

" "So that's how Akira got so twisted," whispers Okuni to Yuya."

Really, ever since learning about and reading a bit of Akari, I've thought that "Akari helped raise him" is really all you need to know about how Akira OR Hotaru turned out the way they did (Hotaru was still rather young at the time, too)

"I was thinking mainly that Kyo was trusting to Akari's skills and her knowledge of the Mibu to protect Yuya"

I also rather doubt he trusts anyone else to keep their paws off Yuya, and (not knowing much of what happens between here and v29) he probably figures that far away from him is the safest place for her.

*wants her copy*
chomiji
Jul. 27th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)

But you know, Akari really can be sympathetic and kind, although she's a little rough-and-ready about it. Did I tell you about the Four Emperors-days episode where she celebrates Akira's birthday? (I wonder when we're going to actually see that - I saw a couple of pages of French scan with it somewhere.) After all, she had a hideous childhood too, so it's not exactly like she was well prepared for being a foster mother - but she tried!   XD

Good point about Kyo's "my woman" protectiveness - although Akira has been pretty courtly and hands-off in his interest, and Bon has contented himself with peeking ... and Lord knows if womanizing is even in Hotaru's repertoire, despite the numerous fanfictions ... (although come to think of it, everyone pairs him with one of the guys, usually Kyo or Akira).

meganbmoore
Jul. 28th, 2007 12:41 am (UTC)
Nope, hadn't heard of that ep. Sounds fun, though.

Akira is courtly while everyone is around...last time they were alone together, he DID ask Yuya to run off with him, after all...

Hotaru probably gets paired with everyone in existance because there really haven't been any hints as to his sexuality, while everyone else is either blatant or heavily implied.
chomiji
Jul. 29th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)

I'm a firm believer that if Hotaru trusted anyone enough to get that close to him, hed be game for just about anything as long as it felt good. He is so unsocialized that he has no preconceptions about any of this. (BTW, telophase just mainlined most of the series and I'm tying to get a discussion going on her LJ - she made a post for it - if you want to give your 2 cents.)

ipperne
Jul. 27th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
Well, the art of vol 23 was not new to me, but most of the text was^^
Actually I'd really like to know something; in the frame where Akari has this little Kyo-fantasy(the one with the Sasuke-bee), is there any text? My copy only has odd holes where it looks like there should have been some text and my french scas have text in those holes...




chomiji
Jul. 29th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC)

Yes, there's text!

In the space between the Akira-chibi and the Tora-chibi, it says "Thank you, Akari" and between the Hotaru-chibi and the Bon-chibi, it says "Will you ... marry me? "

ipperne
Jul. 29th, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
That is so unfair!
*off to poke translator/editor/whoever forgot the text*
But I'm not that surprised anyway, they ruined the little joke with Yuan in the back of the book too...
*wonders if she should go and get the english copy*
chomiji
Jul. 31st, 2007 11:04 pm (UTC)

Wait a red-hot minute - what joke with Yuan in the back of the book????

ipperne
Aug. 1st, 2007 06:08 am (UTC)
well, this one:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
it's printed in the back of the book with a translation that makes absolutely no sense which is sad because it's actually a very funny joke.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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