The Shôjo-Sunjeong Alphabet: H

December 2, 2009

“H” is for…

And a special josei supplement:

What are some of your favorite shôjo and sunjeong titles that start with the letter “H”?

Compare and contrast

December 2, 2009

Did you like Fuyumi Soryo’s ES: Eternal Sabbath (Del Rey)? I sure did. I was drawn in by its guarded, complex characters, philosophical digressions, astute science fiction, and Soryo’s attractive, versatile work as an illustrator.

If you liked it, and if you’re game for a somewhat dumber version with hotter guys, may I recommend Night Head Genesis (Del Rey)? It’s based on a story by George Iida that has apparently seen a lot of adaptations and has been translated into a comic by the prolific You Higuri. Here’s the breakdown:

In ES, a pair of powerful clones is created in a secret facility to explore human psychic potential. They escape via horrific violence. In Night Head Genesis (which I’ll call NHG from this point forward), a pair of powerfully psychic brothers have been locked away to keep them from inadvertently hurting the people around them. When they reach maximum early-adult hotness, they escape from captivity and try and blend into the crowd.

In ES, the clones have a tense, pseudo-brother/rival relationship. In NHG, the hot brothers are suspiciously close in that way that siblings or male best friends in Higuri manga often are.

In ES, the clones cross paths with a brilliant researcher with some emotional issues that she buries under professional detachment. In NHG, the clones run across a brilliant researcher who is not inclined to bury her emotional issues even a little.

The ES scientist is the heroine of the piece and adapts well to mysterious circumstances or is at least inclined to examine them carefully. The NHG scientist is just kind of a supporting cougar who, extensive scientific training aside, kind of freaks out a lot.

In ES, the clones are tracked by one of the few people to survive their escape who suspects they’ll cause some big disaster. In NHG, the brothers are dogged by a shifty psychic who has a vision that they’ll be either directly or indirectly responsible for some big disaster.

In ES, one of the clones makes average people do awful things and the other is willing to use his abilities in self-serving though not malicious ways. In NHG, the shifty psychic manipulates and provokes, and the brothers are entirely benign unless the older one loses his temper.

ES was serialized in Kodansha’s Weekly Morning, which publishes a wide variety of great stories in different styles. NHG was published in Kodansha’s defunct Magazine Z, which was apparently very otaku-friendly and trafficked in popular franchises like, one presumes, NHG.

Both ES and NHG are seinen titles done by creators probably better known for their shôjo work. That sort of category crossover is always worth a look. Both creators have done series about the Borgia family. Higuri’s, Cantarella, is ongoing in Akita Shoten’s Princess Gold and being published in English by Go! Comi. Soryo’s, Cesare, is ongoing in Morning and has yet to be licensed. (Someone should rectify that.)

Now, if you asked me which one you should read, I would heartily favor ES, because it’s just plain better on almost every level save for eye candy. But if there’s room in your life for two series like this, and if you have a fondness for Higuri’s brand of sleek shamelessness, then you could do worse than to give NHG a look. I’ve read at least a bit of everything of Higuri’s that has been published in English, and she always adds at least some value to the experience. I can’t say I’m particularly fond of her full-on shônen-ai and yaoi, but when those elements are peripheral, even a tease, they usually make me smile.

(This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher. And okay, it isn’t even so much a review as a compare-and-contrast of the ways that a very similar story can be repurposed for different demographics. And I might just be writing it to remind you that ES is pretty great. Sue me.)