Seikai Novel Review (Partial)
So, about a week or so back, there was a post at Ambient Irony about the strange covers for the Seikai no Monshou and Seikai no Senki manga. At first I thought they may be the novel translations. Turns out I was wrong. Over the weekend I was in Borders grabbing the next Discworld volume when I decided to wander over to the manga section.
Now, this is truly abnormal for me. I've known some real nerd-core otaku, and while they're fun people to cross paths with from time to time, I certainly don't want to be thought of as one of their fellow travelers.
So, I'm in familiar yet uncomfortable territory, when what should my wandering eyes see? Volume one of the actual really-real Seikai novels.
I took it home.
It sat for a couple days while I read some Pratchett.
Blasting through over half of it in a couple hours last night has left me with a few impressions.
1) This is not very long for a novel, even if it is one part of several. It doesn't crack 190 pages of actual plot.
2) The characterization is different. It's hard to describe in words. I can't tell if the anime was dialed down, or if Tokyopop is dialing the novel translation up, but there is just more, what I can only describe as, "attitude" in the novels. I'll go into more detail on this in a bit.
3) The Abh don't take themselves as seriously in the novel as they do in the anime. So far, none of the genetic Abh that have been introduced are as eccentric as portrayed in the show. They are not stand-off'ish intorverts. I won't get far enough to see her until I grab the next volume, but I suspect Admiral Spoor is going to be the character least affected by the transition from novel to anime.
Now for the more detailed differences:
The novel is written so far entirely from inside Jinto's head, with the occasional narrative on Abh culture. The young man I've been reading is nothing like the "laugh, smile, put one hand behind your head, and sprout an over-sized sweat drop" anime cliche that was pasted over Jinto's character in the show. He never gets that stupid red-faced embarassed look. He thinks Lafiel is hot, catches an eye-full here and there, and isn't embarassed about it in the least. The conversation between he and Dorin on the space station is far more crass and familiar (even going so far as to joke about each others sexuality). He doesn't get overly wrapped up in the formality of his rank the way Anime Jinto does.
Lafiel is much more open and personable early on than the reserved and formal princess in the anime.
The scene of the kid stealing the bag in the space station? Never happened.
The conversation about Lafiel being a Daughter of Love happens onboard the Kalique, much earlier than in the anime (part of what I meant by her being more forthcoming with a complete stranger).
Black Abh! One of the engineers on the Gosroth is described as having ebony skin, but I'll be damned if a single one ever appears in the anime.
The only ship that's been described in detail so far is the Gosroth, and it reads nothing like what we saw in Crest. It's described as a "flattened-hexagon."
What is really making this a slower than normal read is the copious use of Baronh in the text. All the Baronh is written out phonetically, but only a few words are ever given a clear definition in the narrative. More often than not, you're using pure context. When even that is not enough, it's time to hit the glossary in the back. The only problem is that often, as should be the case in a military setting, people are referred to mostly by rank with the occasionally addition of surname. Anyone who plays a major role in the anime is easy to pick out, but quite frequently, random Abh names can be hard to discern from titles until you've begun memorizing a few ranks.
Looking back at this list, I'm beginning to see a pattern. Either the novel has been overly Westernized in translation, or it was beset by anime cliches in the transition between formats.
Characters actually banter back and forth! Joking with one another! Getting the joke! Riposting! Sarcasm! If the novels weren't like this in the original Japanese, I think I'd be dissapointed. It would make perfect sense for civilizations hundreds of years in the future and billions of miles away to not act like pent-up Japanese. This is what I meant by there seeming to be more "attitude" in the novel. Morioka put a lot of time into developing a unique future, and I can't see him destroying that by populating it with joshikousei and salary-men with perpetually bloody noses. I sincerely doubt the novels have been given the 4kids treatment.
If not overly Westernized, then it may unfortunately be the later.
There are a number of well defined anime archetypes for male and female characters. Rarely do producers and directors allow their characters to stray far from the herd.
Jinto just isn't lecher or loli-freak material, so he's been putzed down to the cliche "Gomen! Gomen!" young man embarressed for being a young man and just about everything else.
Lafiel would be repellent as a tsundere or prissy-princess, so she's been afflicted with Rei Ayanami Introvert Syndrome and the occasional case of curiousity about landers.
What I think we have here are two square pegs hammered to fit into round holes by anime producers that refuse to see any hole that isn't some variation on round.
That impression may change once the anti-matter mines start flying. I stopped just as the United Mankind Fleet was detected by the Gosroth. I'll pick it up again later tonight, I think.