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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/28/2008 Archived Entry: "Novel review: Little Darling"

Little Darling
By Matsuri Kouzuki
Illustrations by Naduki Koujima
Published by the Juné Imprint of Digital Manga, Inc

Review by Ryes

Little Darling tries to achieve a lot and is very ambitious with its plot and character relationships. I feel that the novel could have been a success in the hands of a more competent author. A lot of the issues I find with this novel are completely subjective, so I hope this review doesn't come off as a discouragement for buying this book.

There are three realms: the realm of humans, Celestia (the realm of angels), and Hades (the realm of demons). Celestia and Hades work together to make sure that the human realm is balanced in terms of good and evil.

Kaie is a demon, but he's been working in the human world ever since his father kicked him out for having an attitude and refusing to be a woman. Kaie is very special in that when he turns 300 (which is just twenty years away), he can choose whether to live as a man or a woman for the rest of his life. Until then, he's a hermaphrodite. His father feels that Kaie is too cute and he'd be much better off becoming a woman, and his two friends agree. Kaie doesn't listen to anyone though. He seems to think there's something wrong with choosing to be female (his mother chose to be female!). He's set on becoming male and to seek approval and acknowledgment from his father, he works hard to earn higher positions in the human world.

The perfect opportunity comes when the Celestial King's son turns up missing. Kaie and his friends are dispatched to find the boy as soon as possible. When they do find him, they find out that the gates to heaven are closed so the boy, Daina, insists on staying at Kaie's house temporarily. While there, we find out that Kaie's not the only one with an unusual body. Daina's true form is not a little boy, but a full-grown man. He only returns to his true form at night/when he immerses himself in hot water.

Daina, after proving to Kaie that he really does have the equipment to satisfy Kaie, tells Kaie that he likes him and that he will make Kaie his celestial bride. Obviously Kaie has a problem with that, but he finds it harder and harder to resist Daina's hot bod.

I'm not going to comment too much on the art because it seems a lot of people like Naduki Koujima's style, and Juné definitely licensed one of her multi-volumed works. The way she draws faces is just not to my taste because the faces look too rounded and there's not much variety in terms of outfits or anything else.

The translation in this disappointed me a little, which is surprising because I thought the translations in the other novels were pretty good. The thing that stands out is the characters' ways of speech. Some of the slang is stale. For example, about two pages in, a character says, "A lost kid? Well, don't that just stick in the craw?" Why not just say, "A lost kid? How annoying!"? It's more succinct and I wouldn't have spent two minutes looking up that particular idiom. Making that kind of slang fit the character is also important.

I like character-driven stories and this book would've gone a lot better with me if I liked any of the characters—any at all. Kaie fails as a protagonist, and I think Kouzuki tries to gain sympathy for his character through his unusual situation but she didn't create an attractive personality. Kaie is extremely sensitive. He cannot brush off his friends' teases and takes everything too seriously. He's petulant and has the behavior of a five year old, despite having lived to be 280 years old already. It's not hard to piss him off because he takes offense easily and is constantly annoyed. Daina thinks Kaie is "cute" but I don't really see anything "cute" in Kaie. How can anyone relate to a guy who hates kids so much that he doesn't give a second thought to shoving them around? Daina wasn't even that obnoxious as a kid and Kaie is just a very bad choice for a temporary guardian. Characters who are written into circumstances like Kaie's, where he is constantly teased by his friends or his parents don't expect too much out of him, have had a variety of personalities. Some become tougher emotionally and some deal with it through bitter sarcasm, but however the character chooses to express that resentment of his circumstances, authors have managed to make the characters relatable. That just didn't happen with Kaie.

Daina's a whole 'nother annoyance. His head must not be right because he's chasing after Kaie, even though Kaie constantly pushes him away. His persistence is downright creepy. I get to wondering if he's a secret masochist or something for putting himself through it all.

There's a scene in the novel that just completely shook me up. A destroying angel shows up in Kaie's home because he was sent by one of the Celestial King's many wives to assassinate Daina. The situation is handled so flippantly and there's even some joking between the three of them. In the end, Daina sends the destroying angel away to kill all of his father's wives by offering the angel more money than the wives did and reassuring the destroying angel that he would still have a reputation and a job despite not killing Daina like he was asked. What...? Daina justifies it by saying he never believed in polygamy anyway. When he makes Kaie his bride, Kaie will be his only wife.

So those are the two twisted main characters. Their attraction to each other is another aspect of the story where I had a hard time suspending my disbelief. I have no idea what Daina sees in Kaie. The attraction is pretty much instant for him; it's like love at first sight. With Kaie, the attraction happens after he sees Daina's hot masculine body. That's really not convincing. Without the hot body, the only positive thing about Daina is his promises to make Kaie his one and only wife. Other than that, his behavior towards Kaie is creepy. He pretty much ignores Kaie's protestations and does whatever he wants. I don't see mutual respect between the two.

All in all, I think Little Darling could do with some improvements in art, characterizations, plot, and maybe the translation as well.

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