Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! Light Novel Volume 1 Review

When the anime adaption of Konosuba first aired back in Winter of 2016 I was intrigued by the cast of characters and its setting but I wasn’t convinced that I’d really enjoy it. However, by the time I sat down to review the series, I’d fallen in love with it and hoped someone would license the light novels. Fast forward a year and now the first volume of the light novels has been released thanks to Yen Press, and I’m revisiting this wondrous world in text form to explain why you should give it a shot.

The series follows the adventures of Kazuma Satou, who wakes up in the afterlife having died saving the life of a girl. He meets with a goddess known as Aqua, who offers him three choices:

1. To be reborn as a human.
2. To live in heaven.
3. To be transported to a fantasy world where he’ll retain all his memories and can take one item with him, to help him live out his life to the fullest.

Kazuma chooses choice number three, but while considering the item he could bring with him he suddenly realises that perhaps the best thing to do is take Aqua herself! Surely a goddess would give him a much better shot at defeating the demon king that plagues this world? Well, little does he know that this is a terrible decision. Upon arrival in this new world, Kazuma makes his way to the adventurers’ guild, where he can register as an adventurer and take on quests. Sadly Kazuma’s dreams of being a mighty hero are quickly crushed when it’s revealed that, apart from Luck and Intelligence, his stats are terrible. On the other hand, all of Aqua’s stats are amazing apart from her Luck and Intelligence, which are simply dreadful.

Not to be deterred from his new life, Kazuma decides that he and Aqua should take on a quest that requires the two to kill five giant toads in three days. Unfortunately this doesn’t quite go to plan the first time around, so Aqua advertises for some new party members to help balance things out. This advertisement attracts the attention of Megumin, a powerful wizard who specialises in explosion magic. This all seems great at first but Megumin’s powerful image is soon shattered when it’s revealed that she can only fire off one blast of explosion magic per day! Worse still, once she has unleashed her magic she becomes unable to move and an easy target to attack. When the team is then joined by a Crusader, Darkness, who’s unable to hit a single target and loves to be hit, it seems life is going from bad to worse for poor ol’ Kazuma. Will he ever make use of this useless party?

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this story sounds fairly generic and like something we’ve all read before, especially considering that it’s technically a ‘character is transported to a fantasy world’ plot. That said, there is some real charm to the Konosuba cast and the various situations they find themselves in. For example, back in Japan Kazuma was a high-school shut-in who loved nothing more than to spend his time playing video games, so he’s stumbling through this world thanks to his gaming knowledge – and it’s great fun to watch this unfold. It also means that the series can comfortably take jabs at common video game tropes and make you smile by doing so.

One of my favourite parodies comes thanks to the “Cabbage Quest”. When I reviewed Season One of the anime, this quest was one of my favourite moments in the series, and that also rings true for the light novel. The quest involves Kazuma and co. rounding up flying cabbages (for some reason all fruit and veg in this world appears to have the ability to move around) and our hero comments about how this is such a low level quest that you’d ultimately want to skip it in a game. Being an avid JRPG player, the whole quest brought a smile to my face and left me excited to see what other quests the team would take on next.

Perhaps what’s most important for Konosuba is that Kazuma is an utter failure. He’s not someone who’s been transported to this world and become rich and famous; no, he struggles to make ends meet every single day and has no special powers to speak of. Aqua, Megumin and Darkness all have the potential to be overpowered characters but thanks to their flawed personalities or skills they’ve also been firmly grounded. Despite how flawed they are, the party works well together and it’s hard to imagine Kazuma working with anyone but these three idiots (although he would have an easier life if he could at least ditch Aqua).

Having watched the first anime adaptation of Konosuba (and what has aired of Season Two) prior to reading the original light novel, it’s difficult not to compare the two works and judge how the novel holds up against the anime. Although this first volume is quite short (only 160 pages), it covers quite a lot of the story we’ve been given in the anime. This volume was adapted into about 5 or 6 episodes of the first season of anime (and that’s after they skipped a shorter arc in the book, which was briefly told later in the anime), but surprisingly the anime didn’t rush anything. In fact, compared to the light novel, the two tell the story in a similar manner. This is great because I love this world and I’d hate to recommend the book or the anime to someone and have them miss out on something that the other did. Although that said, I do think the anime handles the cabbage quest better, simply thanks to the whole sequence being animated.

Konosuba is by Natsume Akatsuki and for the most part is well written. The series was originally a web novel (although according to the afterword some sections have been rewritten) and, like the early works of Reki Kawahara and his Sword Art Online series, this is fairly obvious. It’s not that the writing is bad, it just doesn’t feel quite up to the standard of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? or Re:Zero, which are perhaps the best series I can compare Konosuba to. For example, a lot of words are repeated quite often instead of being substituted for something better. Ultimately though, Konosuba is a comedy and its writing doesn’t have to be perfect for the jokes to come off well. I have confidence that, in time, the writing will improve to the point of its roots no longer being noticeable.

The series has been illustrated by Kurone Mishima and the images scattered throughout the book are all really clean and well drawn. For such a short volume there is quite a lot of art on offer, including colour pages and a big character profile section at the start of the volume. Considering that at least three of the illustrations feature Megumin, who happens to be my favourite character, I was satisfied with the offerings. I think Mishima knows which scenes of the story are best to bring to life, such as when Aqua is eaten by a giant frog and only has her leg sticking out of its mouth…

Overall the first volume of Konosuba makes for a good read. It’s a short enough book that I finished it within a couple of sittings, but that also gives it an advantage against the other longer fantasy series on offer right now. The world and the cast are a fun combination and the comedy has translated well into English. While Konosuba has been one of my favourite anime series for a while, I think the light novel might also become a firm favourite. I’d definitely recommend it for fantasy or video game fans. You’ll find a lot to like here in our kooky collection of characters.

Title: Konosuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! Volume 1
Publisher: Yen Press
Genre: Comedy, Adventure, Fantasy
Author(s): Natsume Akatsuki (Author), Kurone Mishima (Illustrator)
Type: Light Novel
Original vintage: 2013
Format: Book (digital edition available)
Age rating: 13+
Length: 162 pages

Score: 8/10

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in A Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria Volume 1 Review


danmachi-on-the-side-sword-oratoria-volume-1Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
(henceforth referred to by its Japanese abbreviation DanMachi) is one of my favourite light novel series, so when a spin-off series was licensed in the form of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria (henceforth known as Sword Oratoria) I was excited. I love this universe and the chance to experience it from the perspective of different characters was a welcome one. However, has this first volume managed to live up to my love of the main series?

Sword Oratoria focuses on the famous adventurer Aiz Wallenstein as the main character, someone that readers of the main DanMachi series will be familiar with. Aiz belongs to one of the most powerful Familia in the city, Loki Familia. This first volume takes place during the same time frame as the first DanMachi volume and starts off with Loki Familia’s expedition down to the deepest depths of the dungeon. The dungeon is where all adventurers go to battle against monsters to earn a living. This is the journey that eventually led to Aiz saving Bell from a Minotaur, which had gotten away from her while she was hunting a pack of them. Her encounter with Bell is one that we know changed his life significantly, but seeing it from Aiz’s perspective is also quite interesting.

The furthest we’ve been in the dungeon with Bell thus far (as of Volume 6) is down to around the 20th floor, so being able to go much further in with the Loki Familia group is a welcome change of pace. Author Fujino Omori openly admits that Aiz is too powerful a character to frequently use in DanMachi (she’d instantly save the day for Bell just by clicking her fingers) so giving her a series all of her own works out very well. Sword Oratoria gives Aiz the chance to take on enemies that are more suited to her level and fighting abilities. It also gives Omori the chance to write more about Loki Familia and spend some time with the characters we’ve come to know through DanMachi itself (like Loki and Bete).

Being the same author as the main series, Omori has the ability to freely overlap the Sword Oratoria and DanMachi plotlines. Thankfully the overlapping is kept to a minimum for this volume, which I feel is important because it allows a new story to develop. Aiz and Bell interact a lot more going forward in DanMachi, so one of my main concerns for Sword Oratoria is that portraying the same scenes as DanMachi could begin to feel redundant beyond being from Aiz’s prospective. Running Sword Oratoria alongside the main series also means that nothing of importance can happen that could impact on the main storyline, at least not until it catches up with the timeline of the latest volume.

I think Sword Oratoria is important to the DanMachi series as far as newcomers are concerned. While not everything is explained in as much detail as it was in the main series, stuff like Familia, levels, stats and the world are explained in enough detail that even if you’ve never watched the anime, or read the original books, you’ll still be able to slip into Sword Oratoria quite comfortably. It’s not just a good starting point, though, as veterans of the DanMachi series will find a lot to love here too. Omori has very obviously set out with the goal of exploring Aiz as a character and leaves various hints throughout the plot that Aiz wasn’t always the quiet, often emotionless girl we’ve come to know. Couple this idea with some impressive battles and we’ve matched the quality of DanMachi at its best – although I will confess that I do miss our usual dungeon exploring with Bell.

Omori has written Sword Oratoria from a third person perspective with the occasional jump to first person if Aiz has anything on her mind (which, admittedly, is rare), and his usual style of writing shines through in his detailed explanations of the world around the characters. This series has a new illustrator named Kiyotaka Haimura (he also provided illustrations for A Certain Magical Index) and the art on offer is really good. One of my favourite pieces is a two page spread dedicated to Aiz delivering the final blow to a high level monster, but the opening colour pages also depict this same battle with other members of Loki Familia and looks pretty cool in its own right.

While I have some concerns about the future of Sword Oratoria and the overlap and consistency it requires with the main series, I’m equally really excited by getting to spend some real time with Aiz. I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed my time with the first volume as much as I do DanMachi itself but I’d still highly recommend it to other fans of the series and newcomers alike. This is definitely a series to keep an eye on.

Title: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in A Dungeon? On The Side: Sword Oratoria Volume 1
Publisher: Yen Press
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Comedy Romance
Author(s): Fujino Omori (author), Kiyotaka Haimura (illustrator)
Type: Light Novel
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Book (digital edition available)
Age rating: Teen
Length: 240 pages

Score: 9/10

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Volume 6 Review

is-it-wrong-to-try-to-pick-up-girls-in-a-dungeon-volume-6The first five volumes of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in A Dungeon? (or Japanese abbreviation DanMachi as I’ll be referring to it now) have proved to be a fascinating read full of wonderful adventures. That said, I’ve been eager for a brand new adventure; something uncharted and full of surprises – in other words, something the anime didn’t adapt. Thankfully that’s what Volume 6 of the light novel series is here to do and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

This volume is set just a few days after the end of Volume 5, with Bell taking a few days off from exploring the dungeon to recover from the battle with the 18th floor boss. As tales of his adventure spread throughout Orario, it’s not long before our hero is the centre of attention, but not every adventurer is happy with the ‘Little Rookie’. As Bell, Lilly and Welf celebrate their safe return from the 18th floor battle, Bell has a run-in with members of Apollo Familia, which leads to all kinds of trouble! Conflicts between Familia are never a good thing but this time Bell’s rash judgement could cost him everything he holds dear.

What started out as a simple bar-fight quickly escalates as god Apollo, who has taken an interest in Bell, declares that he won’t forgive Hestia Familia for the harm caused to one of his own. He informs Hestia that the only way to gain forgiveness is for Bell to join his Familia instead! After a swift refusal from Bell and Hestia, Apollo sets a plan into motion to force Bell to join him – including the kidnapping of Lilly and the destruction of Bell’s home!

After Bell and Hestia are chased through the streets of Orario and reach the realisation that Apollo will stop at nothing to obtain Bell, Hestia agrees for the two Familia to face one another in a war game to settle things once and for all. Outnumbered and with their back to a wall, can Hestia Familia really make it through this crisis or will Bell soon be the newest recruit of Apollo Familia?

For a volume that never once sees Bell set foot inside the dungeon, it’s certainly full of action and excitement. The first couple of chapters set up the overall arc while also tying up loose ends from the previous volume (including confirmation that Bell, thankfully, hasn’t levelled up again) but also offers the chance for some fine character development. Apollo decides to host a meeting of the gods but bends the rules so that every god can bring one member of their Familia to the party. It’s entertainment for the gods and an excuse for them to show off, but for mere humans like Bell it’s perhaps the most nervous he’s ever been! Fortunately he’s not alone in his awkwardness and it’s not long before he stumbles across Aiz, who is also feeling out of place. With some interference from Hermes, the two get the chance to dance together (as depicted on the front cover) and it is the most adorable scene I have had the chance to witness from this series.

This is a volume that focuses on Bell and Lilly more than anyone else, so I’m glad that author Fujino Omori still found some time to fit in development between Bell and Aiz. Their relationship hasn’t really progressed since previous installments but I think it’s safe to call them friends now –  and reading through their interactions is always satisfying. Bell is still terribly shy and awkward around her, while Aiz is as quiet and clueless as ever, but that actually works remarkably well for the two. If anything, I haven’t found myself wishing that they’d get over their shyness as I usually would be with other characters at this point.

I won’t say too much concerning the war game as we’re fairly far through the book when it takes place but I do want to mention how well written all of the action scenes are. It’s not the first time Bell has fought against other adventurers – as there is always someone looking to pick on our hero – but it is the first time that the battle has been notably significant to the plot. I was surprised that the action held up as well as it did, given that there are no monsters to fight, but Omori has done wonders to capture the readers’ imaginations.  

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Omori’s writing has improved a great deal from where he first started with Volume 1. I blasted through this volume in a couple of sittings, which is unusual for me with anything that isn’t a manga, and that’s purely because of how easy it was to become completely engrossed in the story. I’ve commented in the past that DanMachi is likely my favourite light novel series and I think I finally understand why it is. DanMachi always feels like I’m right in the middle of the action with Bell. Even while he was dancing with Aiz I could feel just how embarrassed the poor kid was! None of the other fantasy genre light novels I’ve read or am currently reading draw me in quite this much and the fact that DanMachi does is purely down to Omori’s abilities to create these scenes and characters.

The illustrations for this volume were also handled very well by Suzuhito Yasuda, as they usually are, but were more interesting to look over than the previous volume. My favourite image on offer is definitely that of the front cover, but there were also some nicely drawn shots of Welf that I’m fond of. Overall it seems as though Yasuda’s art is improving volume by  volume and he’s starting to have a good handle on the scenes that really deserve depicting.

It’s amazing that, for a series set around exploring a dungeon, a volume in which we never once set foot in the dungeon could be so engrossing! It’s also refreshing to read a story that the anime didn’t cover (hopefully in a Season 2 though?). Considering that we were offered some solid character development for all of Hestia Familia I can definitely say that I’m satisfied with what I’ve read. My excitement for the next volume is already building and if you’re someone like me who has loved Bell’s adventure up until now, then Volume 6 is definitely both worth your time and a fine example of the series at its best.

Title: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Publisher: Yen Press
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Action, Comedy
Author(s): Fujino Omori (Author), Suzuhito Yasuda (Illustrator)
Type: Light Novel
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Book (digital edition available)
Length: 272 pages

Score: 9/10

Re:Zero #1Review

Re-Zero Light novel 1If you asked me which anime was being talked about the most from the Spring/Summer 2016 season then I’d answer without a doubt with Re:Zero. For better or worse the series has captured viewers and held them on the edge of their seats. Today I’m here to review the first volume in the original light novel series and find out if it holds my attention the same way as the anime does.

Re:Zero tells the story of a fairly average teenager, Subaru Natsuki. One day Subaru is magically transported from his local convenience store to a fantasy world. There’s no one in sight to inform him why he’s been brought there.  Surrounded by unfamiliar sights and sounds, just what has Subaru gotten himself into? Filled with determination to work out why he’s been summoned to this place (and to live his life like you would in a video game), Subaru sets out to explore this brave new world.

Okay, I know this all sounds very generic but stick with me. I promise by the end of this review it won’t feel quite as familiar as those fantasy stories you’re used to.

It’s not long before Subaru gets himself into a spot of bother with three thugs. Just when things begin to look their worst, he’s saved by a silver-haired girl, who introduces herself as Satella. Satella uses ice magic and has a spirit familiar named Puck, who introduces himself as Satella’s father and is quick to mention that he works from 9 am till 5 pm. It turns out that Satella has had something very important stolen from her and was in the process of searching for it when she encountered Subaru. As thanks for saving his life, Subaru agrees to help her find the thief and reclaim the item.

It’s not long before Subaru and Satella work out where the thief intends to sell off the stolen item, but when the two arrive at the tavern/storehouse they find that everyone inside has been murdered. Stumbling upon this gruesome scene ultimately leads to the deaths of Subaru and Stella as well by the hand of the killer (who was still lurking in the darkened tavern). In his dying moments Subaru wishes that he could have protected Satella and spent just a little longer in this world.

Unsurprisingly the story doesn’t end with the deaths of our protagonists. It turns out that Subaru has some kind of special ability that allows him to return from death, which he’s dubbed “Return by Death” as upon dying it sends him back to a designated point in time. Perhaps with this ability he can prevent the deaths of himself and Satella, while also helping her retrieve her stolen item.

Return by Death is an interesting ability and author Tappei Nagatsuki handles it rather well. You would think that reliving the same day multiple times over would become boring, especially in book form where there isn’t much to distract you from the fact you’re rereading the same situations over and over, but that’s simply not true here. The first time Subaru experiences the day over again, some things are very similar but they’re also different just enough to keep it interesting. However, as the plot progresses we get the chance to see a new plot line where instead of travelling with Satella, Subaru ends up becoming close to Felt (the thief) and comes face-to-face with the one who killed everyone at the end of his first ‘life’.

Nagatsuki has written Re:Zero from a third person perspective, which works very well for the drama and character interactions. I’d say it’s a shame that we’re not inside Subaru’s head but as he has a tendency to voice all of his thoughts aloud there wouldn’t be a notable benefit to writing the story from his perspective. I found this to be an interesting style of writing because it’s not one that I’ve personally stumbled across in my light novel collection (although when a good portion of my collection has been written by Reki Kawahara perhaps that explains some of it).

Re:Zero started life like a lot of popular light novels, in that it was originally a web novel that was later edited and published as a series. Some of the exchanges between characters go on too long and there is a bit of awkward wording here and there, which has no doubt resulted from the original web novel being rough around the edges compared to a professionally published book. That said, I think Nagatsuki has a good handle on how to write this story and future volumes will likely solve all of the problems in Volume 1.

Illustrations for the series have been provided by Shinichirou Otsuka, who currently doesn’t appear to have worked on anything beyond Re:Zero (at the very least I couldn’t find mention of anything online). Either this is the first (now major) work Otsuka’s produced art for, or the internet just cannot provide me with answers! Regardless, what we have on show for the first volume of Re:Zero looks very nice and character designs are suitably detailed. Volume 1 opens with various colour pages that showcase the characters which, I have to say, look a lot better than the fan-service- laden images we’d usually have for other series. It’s sad that none of the action scenes have been drawn in favour of a picture of each of the main characters, but hopefully future volumes can deliver. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of Otsuka’s work.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the writing and the story, so let’s talk about the characters now. It’s worth saying that Subaru is not going to win any awards for being a likable member of the cast. He’s annoying, doesn’t know when to stop talking, and more often than not I wanted to punch him. Having said that, Subaru has a good heart and his determination to do his best (despite really not having any redeeming qualities) is perhaps what keeps him from being a total waste of space. In a way it’s actually refreshing that Subaru wasn’t made to be a likable character. There are far too many series that try their hardest to make a lead that you’ll be rooting for from the start and I appreciate the fact Re:Zero hasn’t fallen into that cliché.

Satella, Puck, and Felt are all interesting characters whom I grew immensely fond of. Satella has a cold manner but inside she has a good heart. There is obviously more to her than what we see in this volume, and having watched the anime I know just where her story is going. Puck and Felt don’t get quite as much time in the spotlight as Satella but when they are present they, too, shine and leave me wanting to know more about them. It’s a good cast which is only going to grow to become even better as the story progresses.

For those of you who are watching the anime (as I am) it’s worth noting that the light novel handles itself better than the anime adaptation does in certain ways. To begin with, the light novel doesn’t spend as much time on how Subaru was in Japan one minute and then the fantasy world the next. Rather than dealing with his shock and surprise we’re dumped into the scene about 20 minutes after, where things have calmed down and Subaru calmly explains what happened to him. I found this a much better way of starting the story because it’s refreshing to not have the protagonist overreacting to every little thing in a fantasy world. Overall the light novel also has a much better handle on the flow of the plot due to the anime studio creating certain inconsistencies in the story. For example, in one anime scene Puck knows Subaru’s name despite not yet having met him in that life. Subaru is also a lot more tolerable in the light novel than I found him in the anime, which has got to count for something.

Overall Re:Zero Volume 1 makes for a good read and handles the ‘transported to a fantasy world’ idea in an interesting way that, hopefully, won’t become stale anytime soon. Subaru might not be the most likable character but his future in this world seems like it’ll make for an interesting story. I’m a huge fan of the anime and reliving the story through the light novels is something I’m very much enjoying.

Score: 7/10

Light Novel Quick Information
Title: Re:Zero
Original vintage: 2014
Author: Tappei Nagatsuki
Illustrator: Shinichirou Otsuka
Published by: Yen On
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Age rating: 13 +
Material length: 231 Pages

An interview with Mariko Hihara

Mariko Hihara is an experienced Japanese author who has written over fifty novels, primarily in the boys’ love/yaoi and fantasy genres, as well as scripts for several manga. She has been quick to adapt to the potential of self-publishing her work for the English-speaking market outside Japan through channels such as the Kindle Store and iBooks.

All images copyright Hihara Mariko

Anime UK News was lucky enough to be able to interview Hihara-sensei to talk about her experiences as a creator.

AUKN: When did you first start creating stories and manga?

I read the Handbook for Comics (Ishinomori Shotaro No Mangaka Nyumon) by Shotaro Ishinomori, a famous manga writer, when I was in elementary school. From then on I started creating manga.

AUKN: What made you first decide to publish your work in English?

In 2010 I read a news article on a website which said that Amazon’s self-publishing platform had launched in the US, but it was not available in Japan. So I decided to publish my books in English through Amazon.com.

AUKN: UK manga fans have traditionally purchased manga in book form, usually imported from North America. However, the market is changing rapidly and digital manga is becoming much more popular which makes it possible to reach a wider audience. Are there any challenges you have encountered with publishing your work on platforms such as Amazon? Would you recommend it to other authors?

Five years ago it was very difficult to create digital comics. But now there are many free tools to make digital books on the web, such as Amazon’s Kindle Comic Creator. So any authors can easily self-publish now.

AUKN: As fans, we often want to let writers know how we feel about a story we have read. With traditional distribution it’s difficult to be sure that our feedback will ever reach the creators. If a fan wants to comment on your work, how would you prefer they contacted you? Through social media? By leaving a review on Amazon?

We are encouraged by any kinds of feedback from our fans. But please never leave negative reviews on Amazon if possible, I beg you!

AUKN: Will you be producing more English-translated work in future for your fans around the world?

Yesss!

AUKN: Is there anything that the English-speaking fan community can do to help Japanese creators?

Help with our English translations is always appreciated. If we make any grammar mistakes, please let us know!

AUKN: Have you discovered anything unexpected – for example, countries where your stories were more popular than you thought they would be?

We have discovered that American and British fans have different tastes.

AUKN: English translations of short stories and novels are still relatively rare, even though they are steadily becoming more popular. Since you have experience of writing novels and creating manga scripts, would you be able to tell us a little about the differences between creating a story as a novel and as a manga?

When I create a novel I prefer to describe the psychology of the characters. With manga, I would emphasise the visuals and the way the characters move.

All images copyright Hihara Mariko

AUKN: You have also published some of your work in English on the iTunes store. How has the experience differed between publishing on Amazon’s Kindle and the iTunes ebook service?

Apple and Amazon have their own censorship criteria. So some of our titles were pulled from the Kindle store but not from iTunes, and vice versa.

AUKN: The UK is a popular setting for manga, with titles as diverse in theme as Kaoru Mori’s Emma and Kouta Hirano’s Hellsing basing their stories here, and the Victorian era seems especially popular. What is it about the setting that inspired you to choose it for your My Beloved Werewolf series?

I love novels set in the Victorian Age, such as the works of Dickens and George MacDonald. I also love Sherlock Holmes. So I used the Victorian era as the setting for my series.

AUKN: Do you hope that this series will be particularly popular with British readers?

Yesss!

All images copyright Hihara Mariko

AUKN: Yaoi/BL is an increasingly popular genre here in the west, with more new titles getting published every month. What do you think it is about BL stories that make them so popular across the world?

This is a very difficult question. Research on why BL is read in America has been inconclusive and it still hasn’t even been properly studied in Japan, so this is my personal opinion.

I think that obstacles fan the flames of love. In the past, there were many hindrances such as social class, wealth and so on. But there are fewer of these obstacles nowadays, so many people – especially girls who like romance – love yaoi/BL.

All images copyright Hihara Mariko

AUKN: If our readers could only buy one of your books, which would you recommend they try first?

I recommend Longing for Spring. It’s a historical romance with a Japanese noble boy and a Japanese-American set in the post-WWII period. It’s like Downton Abbey.

AUKN: Aside from your own work, what are your favourite manga or anime series? Do you have any particular inspirations?

I love Osamu Tezuka’s work. He created many manga with stories about shapeshifting such as Big X, The Vampires, Princess Knight and Rainbow Parakeet. And I love the anime series Sailor Moon. So I have been inspired by those titles.

AUKN: Finally – please tell us more about your work! If a future fan is reading this interview, how would you encourage them to take a look at your manga on Amazon?

We hope that people who love romance, fantasy and adventure will read and enjoy our manga. On top of that, we hope that manga fans will come to Japan and participate in Comic Market! There are many places that manga fans should try to visit in Japan. For example, there are museums dedicated to local creators (Ghibli Museum, Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum, Shotaro Ishinomori Memorial Museum and many more, such as those listed on this Japanese website) and also regions which manga have used as their settings.

All images copyright Hihara Mariko


Roppongi Night Clinic volume 1
Longing for Spring
Passion Under the Full Moon (My Beloved Werewolf volume 1)
Roll Over Dickens (My Beloved Werewolf volume 2)
A Boy from the East (My Beloved Werewolf volume 3)
Sunny, with occasional dogs (My Beloved Werewolf volume 4)

Mariko Hihara on Facebook
Official Website

All images used in this interview are copyrighted. They have been reproduced with the creator’s permission.


If you enjoyed this article, please also check our interview with Kotoyo Noguchi, a Japanese illustrator involved in self-publishing for the English-speaking audience.