Okina Kamino, the author of the Asobi ni Iku Yo! novels, has released the full text of his first novel online. It apparently has mechs and magic in an Okinawan setting, as well as an earlier version of the character Ichika who crossed over into AsoIku. I don’t know if it’s any good, but a non-DRMed ebook is a lot easier to work with for someone whose Japanese is not fluent, and this one is just clean HTML (er, make that “slightly crufty HTML”) with furigana.
[note that when I say “his”, I’m relying on Wikipedia’s gender identification. “Okina Kamino” is a pseudonym, and while Okina is usually a feminine name, in this case it’s written in katakana, and the author is apparently the only native Okinawan light novelist.]
While I’m linking, the illustrator for the AsoIku novels posted some character portraits on his blog, including a school-swimsuit shot of the captain and doctor in which they shatter the Rushuna barrier (amusing, but not as pleasing to the eye as the Chaika/Melwin picture).
[Update: I sanitized the HTML so I could preserve the supplied furigana when importing into my scripts, and was a bit surprised not to find anyone named “Ichika” anywhere in the book. Searching for cat ears located the character, but she must be called something else.]
[6/4 minor update to 4.1 (Jens)]
I've been keeping detailed scene-by-scene notes on this book, largely to check my comprehension (it's harder to read than Kino), but I thought it would be amusing to post them to allow a better look at how the series was adapted for anime, and to fuel speculation on possible future animation. The numbers will not be useful for anyone who doesn't have my copy of the marked-up text file, though; I did some cleanup on the version I downloaded, to clarify section and scene breaks compared to my print copy.
Warning! This is not only chock full of spoilers, it's also quite long. And there are pictures.
In the second AsoIku novel, chapter two opens with Aoi dreaming. The first part of her dream features her oldest memory, of sitting on her father’s lap watching a movie and laughing together. She was very young, and this is almost all she remembers of him. It’s also one of the few happy moments in her life.
They’re watching an old black-and-white film, based on a television show that was a big hit before he was born, a comedy period piece. The lead actor, who later was known for a role as a long-faced, hard-boiled (すっかり渋い) detective, sang and danced, making funny moves and gestures. Without understanding much else, that was enough to amuse her.
The movie could have been shot in black-and-white as an artistic choice, but the wording suggests that both the original TV show and the movie were B/W, so no later than the mid-Sixties. Since the book was written in 2004 and set in 200A, and Aoi is sixteen, that works even if Dad was in his late twenties at the time.
I crossed my fingers and hoped that a “big hit” TV comedy would have a video or DVD release, and Amazon Japan allowed me to come up with a short list (rant about the difficulty of setting up the search left for another time…). Of those, exactly one early-Sixties title was a B/W period comedy, with a B/W movie adaptation, and a search for the first actor in the cast turned up a hard-boiled detective role. He even has a long face.
[The exact identity of the film isn’t critical to the story; what’s important is that after a miserable youth being trained to become a cold-blooded killing machine, one night she saw this film again on a hotel TV, and remembered, and cried. So, her interest in movies is at least in part a way to connect with her father, and if she hadn’t seen it again by chance, she might never have become a movie maniac, met Kio, and broken away from her old life.]
[prologue through chapter 6 (of 11) up now, catching up after being diverted by a fresh batch of naked catgirls...]
General note: the first book was adapted almost shot-for-shot into the first two episodes, with the notable addition of Aoi's opening action scene. Some minor characters were eliminated, consolidated, or set aside for later use, but almost everything else appears, in the exact same order.
This book forms the basis of episodes 3-5, but the order of some scenes were rearranged, some were omitted, and some new ones were created using material that was presented differently in the book. Many of the changes are improvements; for instance, there's no need to show great-aunt Ushi giving Kio and the Assistoroids a lesson in how to make yakiniku. Others were done simply to emphasize the harem comedy side of the story, such as having the catgirls use their bells to change clothes in front of Kio, giving him an eyeful. The small joke about two #17 Assistoroids is anime-only, and in any case, they got their numbers in book 1.
…at least for now. I’m still finishing up my notes on book 2 of Asobi ni Iku yo!, but I’m also enjoying book 3. I’m about halfway through chapter 6, and I’ve now had four pleasant surprises in the development of minor characters.
First, Ichika has a much larger role, and doesn’t just appear out of nowhere on the beach. She had an interesting scene in book 2, but she’s fleshed out a lot more here. Her home, her friend/ally Tabito, her work as a model-maker, a hint of her power as a sennin, the lack of any attempt to hide her ears and tail in public, and the reason she went out to the beach to check up on them in the first place, after she meets up with our second surprise development, Assistoroid #6.
When the assistoroids were introduced in episode 2 of the anime, one of them behaved slightly differently from the rest, in what seemed to be a small bit of visual comedy. That wasn’t mentioned in the matching scene in book 1, but in book 3, it’s revealed that #6 is definitely different from the others. When house-sitting Chaika orders them to take a break from their work, the rest do normal things, but he goes off exploring the neighborhood on his own. He’s just normal enough to pass all the usual diagnostics, so neither Eris nor Chaika has realized that they have a unique individual on their hands. He ends up playing games in the park with Ichika and a group of small children, and comes home with a resin model of himself that she made for him. As the kids head home for lunch, we finally learn her name, as they call out a happy bye-bye to Ichika and 6-chan.
The third surprise is in the scenes between Jens and her new assistant Muttley, assigned to her in the epilogue of book 2 after her failure on Antonia’s ship. She had asked for a full squad of reinforcements, and she got him instead. Their relationship is different, and in particular, he’s a much better tactician, spending a merry day slaughtering her in various wargame scenarios before relaxing in front of the TV to watch anime.
The most recent surprise (and I suspect not the last) is who else showed up on the beach: campy film director Kawasaki, who came to Okinawa looking for Manami and Aoi, to show them the rough cut of his latest movie, featuring them. The sight of a crazed pervert running across the beach leads Maya to order the maids to open fire (while Manami frantically tries to intervene in time), but he evades their hail of bullets with the grace of a ballerina, and when Maya orders the maids to shoot again, he not only evades, but ends up behind her, admiring the fine muscle tone of her buttocks and thighs.
Maya loses it at this point and fires wildly, until Antonia rebukes her for putting everyone in danger. After that, things settle down, and Kawasaki gleefully pulls out a portable DVD player to show off his movie, to the admiration of the film-club members. But a bit later, talking alone with Manami, he drops the act and gives her some serious advice about fully enjoying this too-brief time in her life. When others start to join them, he camps back up and heads off into the sunset.
The morning after all the excitement, the film-club beach trip comes to an end, with Antonia’s maids frantically pestering their chief Maya with questions and problems. Most are trivial, but they’re driving her nuts because her assistant Sara is nowhere to be found. Their biggest problem:
Translated, “Maya-sama, could you please go into the tent and wake [Kawasaki] Kantoku-san? He’s talking dirty in his sleep, and his crotch is…”.
Where’s Sara? On cloud nine. Something to do with the assistoroids calling her “Mommy” after she came to their rescue inside Unaa-tan…
[I’ve finished the book, and I think I’m going to start book 4 rather than writing up book 3 right now. Book 3 covered the same timespan as episodes 6-8, but some significant differences are starting to appear, and I want to reach the point where the anime ended. Book 4 covers the attack on the Catian mothership, including Kio’s command decision, but does not include the arrival of the Christmas Tree; that shows up at the end of book 6. Other material was rearranged and compressed as well; for instance, Manami hasn’t thrown her hat into the ring yet, so only Aoi and Eris are openly competing for Kio’s affections right now. (that is, we haven’t been shown that Manami wants to compete)]
[Book four finished; I think I’ll go back and review for a few days to clear up some rough spots, then spend the holiday weekend reading book five]
“Splendid villain! Very exuberant!”
―Uncle Max, from Zot
“As evil plans go, it doesn’t suck.”
—Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, from Angel
In the anime version of AsoIku, Jens is a terrific villain. Smart, tough, competent, dedicated, and ruthless. At first, she has a bit of a chip on her shoulder about pathetic humans, but then, the only ones she’s really spent time with are pretty slimy. She’s the sole member of her race currently on Earth, and she runs the whole operation with her aide Muttley: smuggling alien technology, manipulating governments, planning covert operations, and leading full-scale military assaults. She’s good at it, and once she starts taking them seriously, Our Heroes need brains, skill, guts, and luck to overcome her.
Her motives make sense. Her actions make sense. Her final plan is brilliant and vicious, meticulously planned and expertly carried out, and if it had succeeded, it would have accomplished exactly what she wanted. She’s head and shoulders (and bust…) above the usual Bad Guy in anime.
In the books, Jens and Muttley play catch with an idiot ball.
But first, a cast picture, and a spoiler warning…
If you are blessed with the opportunity to make a sequel, please include the following scene from book 5, chapter 4:
Chaika is house-sitting while Kio and the gang are off at the school festival's opening parade. Ichika comes over to hang out with her pal 6-chan, but he and all the other assistoroids are helping with the festival, and won't be back until late. Easy-going Ichika pulls out a bag from the local convenience store and suggests they share the contents. Which includes beer...
When the gang gets home, they find two dead-drunk loli catgirls surrounded by empty beer cans and snack wrappers, singing "That's The Way" by KC & The Sunshine Band. Blues-style.