AsoIku book 14, finished

[actually, finished over the 4th of July weekend, but I’ve been distracted recently]

When we left off, the Pope was talking movies with Kio, and Eris was talking harem membership with Manami. With Kio put at ease, the Pope spends the rest of the flight politely grilling him for details on how he met the Catians. All offscreen, so we’re left guessing just how much detail is involved.

Meanwhile, Eris is still wearing down Manami’s resistance, bringing up the whole “Kio gave up on her because he thought Jack was the name of a boyfriend”, and quoting a proverb: 焼け棒杭に火が付く (“Wood half-burned is easily kindled”). Unable to flee, Manami resorts to obvious lies, insisting that the Valentine’s chocolates were store-bought, not hand-made, with her voice getting louder and her face getting redder. Overwhelmed, Yun-fa hides by climbing back into her sports bag and zipping it shut from the inside.

[Side note: Manami uses 出来合い (dekiai = readymade) to describe the chocolate, but it turns out that this word has a second meaning: “common-law wife”. Coincidence, I’m sure.]

The long, long flight finally ends, with the Pope literally kissing the ground and Manami feeling like doing so as thanks for getting away from Eris patiently steering the subject back to the harem no matter how hard she had tried. In the end, Manami had agreed that she wouldn’t leave, but insisted that she’d never join the harem because “I’d never get a confession from Kio… ohshit”. Eris, true to her nature, pounces on that line. With the last of her willpower, Manami gets Eris to agree that Kio has to bring it up, and nobody gets to “help”.

Now back to Jens and Ryunnu. Tokyo is not quite under martial law due to the influx of terrorists and other violent protestors, but most people are staying off the streets. Jens heads out for an unspecified meeting that ends her involvement in this novel, while Ryunnu sits at her computer and does her best to take over Nirumea’s computer network and eliminate all of her online resources.

Meanwhile, our favorite teenage goth-loli cyborg MI6 agent has teamed up with Jack, who springs into action for the first time since book 1. They bust in on a high-class hotel suite and discover that their targets, the radicalized animal-rights group Noah’s 11th Grandchild, who had recently staged a flashy-but-inept protest as a diversion to cover the arrival of their real operatives, has managed to assemble their secret weapon and escape to parts unknown. Their secret weapon is a pair of 分子振動砲 (molecule+vibration+cannon), able to wipe out a big chunk of Tokyo. They call Aoi to alert her that the bad guys are on the loose, and she heads out.

Antonia and her maids run a shell game on the press corps, allowing them to round up all of the heavily-armed terrorists embedded as cameramen and reporters. They’d set up a large number of phony locations for the big meeting, while the actual location was quietly arranged by someone with no public connection to the group: Ichika.

The bad guys have been tracked down to the sewers, and when she reaches the scene, Aoi is surprised to discover that another team got there first: a squad of three Unatan powered suits, sold by Antonia to the JSDF. They take out the first cannon and mop up the minions while Aoi goes after the second. She slices it into tiny harmless bits with a special weapon provided by the Catians, a two-meter-long vibrating katana with a one-meter hilt. Somehow she even manages to cut gyakukesa with this monster, despite its ridiculous size.

With the terrorists disarmed, the meeting proceeds, and Kuune chats up the Pope. They get in one brief exchange on-screen, and then we cut to the epilogue. To no one’s surprise, the Pope gives a big thumbs-up to the alien catgirl invasion, and diplomacy proceeds to the next level. Also, Aoi welcomes Manami to the harem (pending a confession from Kio, of course).

I’ve left out a lot of little things from this one, but that’s because they’re just random details. Ichika teasing Jens about a boy who’s sweet on her. Kuune teasing Melwin about not finding a boyfriend during the exchange program. Aoi’s sexy former combat teacher who now runs the alien-relations agency, who in the text strongly resembles Kuune in looks, attitude, and bustline, but in the picture is just a hot milf with A-class zettai ryouiki. Ichika’s apprentices at the studio, who are also earthborn catgirls and catboys (with the girls in army gear and the boys dressed goth-loli). The cyborg goth-loli MI6 agent quoting Anne of Green Gables after she takes out a group of terrorists. Etc.

The action had a rushed, inevitable feel to it. There was no real feeling of threat or menace, and Nirumea, still on the loose even after losing the cyberwar with Ryunnu, has been reduced to a joke of a villain. And what’s the main focus of book 15, which I’d have to either scan and OCR myself or try to read raw? Aoi’s half-alien little sister returns to try to marry Aoi.

I think it’s time to take a break from this series.

What’s next? Tentatively, I’m OCRing one of the few series that I have decent scans of (1000x1600 PNG is adequate for a page of Japanese text; the more common 800x1200 JPG is not), for two reasons. First, the proofreading process forces me to improve my kanji recognition without the crutches provided by my scripts. Second, it’s Miniskirt Space Pirates.

I spent several hours this weekend tweaking my copy of FineReader Pro for best results and proofing the prologue, which taught me something interesting about how Abbyy handles vertical Japanese text: they rotate the page and treat it as rows of left-to-right horizontal text with rotated characters. This explains some of the more surprising recognition errors, such as the way “一” is sometimes recognized as “I”, and why it has difficulty figuring out the difference between full-size and small vowels, often inserting gratuitous font-size changes instead. These problems would be less common with a higher-resolution source, but running the books through my Lego DIY book scanner would add as much time as it would save.

Oh, and how does book one start? With the staged duel between Marika and Kane.