Sunday, October 11, 2015

Book Review: Tokyo Demons volume 2

"Alright Helen, what's your excuse for not having this review up on time?" Well, it was one I was having some trouble with this review which is never a good sign. Plus, I'm trying to cut back on caffeine but had a soda at work Friday and spent literally nine hours trying not to bounce off of the goddamn walls, made focusing on writing a little hard! And with the fall anime round-up coming up on Monday it's been a little chaotic around here.....

Tokyo Demons: Add A Little Chaos by Lianne Sentar, illustrated by Rem

Picking up where the first book left off, the teens of Fukuhashi High School are really in trouble now. Both the gifted and normal kids have been caught up in the fight between a shadowy organization called Core and the Church who want to stop Core from doing their human experimentations, murders, and general underworld skeevy activities. Ayase is ready to take the fight to Core but Jo is more hesitant, especially as he tries to figure out what his role in this is (the fact that everyone they know is getting involved is surprisingly not helping). So it's time to wake up, skip school, and save Tokyo all over again.

While I am still a bit sad that there isn't an audio book version of this book it might be for the best since, even in paperback form, this book is enormous. It might remind me a little bit of Japanese light novels but light it ain't! Of course it's not very much like a serialized light novel anyway, tonally or even stylistically. I keep wanting to say "this is more like American YA" but technically it's Canadian. Regardless, it feels very Western to the point where I've wondered what the point was in putting it in Japan. Having read enough light novels I could never mistake this as a story set in Japan by a Japanese writer, the narration style, use of tone, and even how the characters think is all wildly different. It's not a bad thing but it does make me wonder, why set this in Tokyo at all? What does Tokyo offer that no other location could? So far I don't have any answer, even if it's in the title itself.

Moving beyond that, I did like the book and thought it was an exceptionally strong considering it's the middle book in a trilogy. It didn't fall prey to the "don't advance the story too far or we'll run out of material for the ending" idea for sure!  The characters change a lot, character relationships develop quite a bit (more romantically than platonically but considering how much of the teenaged cast has a crush on each other I understand), and the tension was palpable. In fact, the tone of the book was so gripping that I think it actually made me a little agitated in real life! I read The Martian immediately after this book which is another tense story, even more in some ways since it's literally about a fight for survival, but I noticed that despite that I felt less tense (and, swear-y) myself compared to when I was reading Tokyo Demons. There are lots of little things in life that can affect your mood but this is one of the rare times I would actually blame a book which does make me slightly worried about reading the third volume on a monthly basis.

There's no question about if I'll continue with the third book however, I am completely hooked on this series so I'm really excited to see where it goes. So far the story has perfectly balanced high stakes with believable victories and losses for our cast. 
I didn't feel the writer's hand manipulating the story and think "oh that only went badly because the story needed to put the characters in a bad place," the story seemed to come together naturally. This whole story, is held together by it's characters which is impressive considering not only the craziness of the story but also the size of the cast. I do feel like there might be too many factions at this point admittedly, and I wasn't fond of how each chapter started out with a flashback to another character's backstory. If a character's backstory is that important it needs to be in the story proper and some of these stories did need to pop up even earlier than they did and a few felt irrelevant. I know that Sentar is trying to remind us that this story is even bigger than what we see but I just don't think that this was the best way to do it.

  To focus on our leads for a moment, it's nice to see that while Joe, the male lead, is still holding back and rightfully suspicious of everyone,  it's quiet Ayase who has bloomed under pressure and has gained not only bad-ass fighting skills but confidence despite clearly still having a ways to go character growth wise. Everyone is still broken to some degree but by now I can see how the pieces will fit back together and that's a great cliffhanger to end on, again it feels like a victory that the characters have made it this far but really highlights just how fragile the entire situation is.

Tokyo Demons can be found both in print through the Sparkler Monthly store or for free online through their magazine.