AsoIku Novels

AsoIku book five quick take

Every school festival should include clever little robots, sinister secret agents, heavily-armed maids, crazed cat-ear lovers, surprisingly-capable friendly strangers, and several dozen flying catgirls.

Lots of little bits of character development, mostly in the supporting cast. Jens, Muttley, 6-chan, Sada-yan, Kuune, Chaika, and Director Kawasaki all get some very interesting moments, and Team Ichika is building up into a major mystery. Jack shows up but doesn’t do much; in fact, Aoi’s old handler Endo has more of a part than she does.

There’s no obvious organized opposition in this volume, just the inevitable consequences of having A Real Live Alien at a high school festival. Plenty of build-up for the next one, though.

AsoIku book 6 quick notes


A lot happens in this one, ending with the arrival of the Christmas Tree. Excellent character development for Itokazu-sensei and Antonia, plenty of action (including a sadly-offscreen ass-kicking as Maya takes on Jens and her assistoroids), and a new villain who’s so nasty you want to take Jens into your arms, pat her on the head, and tell her it’ll be okay. Should there be a second season someday, I don’t think they can use the bulk of books five and six, but they’ll need to at least use major elements from them in a recap episode or two, to clear up the continuity a bit and introduce Nirumea.

And now I really have to go back over the previous books to clear up a few sections. After that, I think I need to read his first novel, just to be a bit less in the dark about the rather significant contribution by both Team Ichika and Team Kantoku. Ichika and her gang are definitely the core of the Shureio novel, but they have some sort of shared history with, and feel quite comfortable working alongside, wacky-pervert film-director Kawasaki and his associates.

[Spoilers, ho!]


The Catian's other secret weapon...

[Update: I just noticed that the artist faithfully reproduced some details described in the book. For instance, take a good look at the ship identified in the picture as #3. It’s a faithful replica of a well-known US aircraft carrier, scaled down for assistoroids.]

In the contest to win over humanity, the cheerful, good-hearted, gorgeous alien catgirls have a significant advantage over the secretive, militaristic, manipulative Dogs, whose presence on Earth is still known only to a few well-placed military organizations and government agents.

I’m referring, of course, to assistoroids. Before I started reading the books, I found a picture of the Space Elevator Escort Squadron, but at a casual glance, it didn’t seem to be a real part of the books. No, it’s real.

Book seven opens with the aftermath of the arrival of the Christmas Tree, with every available navy streaming to its location with the goal of controlling access to Earth’s newest and most valuable resource. The Catians had originally planned to station a squadron of their own crew at the bottom to protect its neutrality, but Kio persuaded them to let the assistoroids handle the job in their own unique way. They were dubious at first, but after a month of watching the sailors of half a dozen countries melt under the sheer cuteness of the tiny cat-robot navy patrolling the sea in its whimsical vessels, they were glad that they listened. The initial tension of the multi-nation standoff is rapidly changing into a tourist attraction, and nobody wants to be the first one to open fire on an assistoroid.

Also, Manami is almost ready to throw her hat into the ring.

And it turns out that First Officer Melwin is as young as she appears. She’s just that good.

Kittens have claws...

…and other discoveries. [Updated (again)]

Finally reached the scene in book 7 where Kio and Aoi discover that Chaika has three kids.

It begins with Kio, Eris, and Aoi walking through the Catian ship. They’ve just dropped 6-chan off at an assistoroid maintenance depot (long story), and are looking out over a park, when out of nowhere, a cobalt-blue-haired three-year-old catgirl comes zipping out of the park and runs into Kio. She falls down and starts crying, and as they’re calming her down, her teacher catches up. She’s about to lead the girl back to her pre-school group, when little Raama notices that Kio and Aoi don’t have cat ears or tails.

She’s fascinated, and attaches herself to Kio so firmly that they have to accompany her back to the school, where the other children are still in the middle of their nap. In baskets, four or five kittens per. As soon as Raama is back in the basket she snuck out of, she falls asleep, and Kio and the gang are led to another room where the grateful teachers serve them tea. To Kio’s surprise, one of the teachers is the first male Catian he’s seen, who mentions that there are thirty females for every male. Also, Aoi notices something odd in the school, and Eris confirms that they’re scratching posts; until age 4-5, little Catians have claws.

They have a pleasant chat with the teachers, and miss their chance to escape before all of the kids wake up. Naturally, they all respond the same way Raama did, swarming Kio and Aoi, even flipping up Aoi’s skirt to confirm her lack of a tail. They’re rescued when Eris, the teachers, and the assistoroids roll in balls of yarn for them to play with.

After their escape, they hang around the park for a while, and see the kids being led home by assistoroids, with only a few parents able to get away from work to pick them up in person. Kio is surprised by how young the parents look, and asks if all Catians marry so young. Eris explains that usually they settle down and start raising kids around age 40-50, and then realizes she’s never told him that their lifespan is 200-300.

Then Chaika shows up, and (re)introduces Raama as her youngest. Even Eris is surprised.

Other notable moments:

  • Eris' girlfriend Seshimi is working at the repair depot, and as they greet each other with a big hug, their tails entwine.
  • There are currently ~30,000 Catians on the ship; it's standing-room-only, almost, as additional staff are preparing for the second stage of relations with Earth.
  • Eris says the ship normally has 20,000, which conflicts with the 3,000 claimed in book 2.
  • I'll have to go back and check, but I don't think the ship was originally 10 kilometers in diameter. It was always a classic flying saucer shape, but I think the author must have forgotten that he originally had it park in the air above Naha...
  • The total number on board is around 1.5 million, but the vast majority are in cold sleep (冷凍睡眠状態にして), stored in imaginary space (虚数空間に格納して).
  • Kuune mentions the crowding when Eris asks where Kio and Aoi will be staying for this short visit, and ever-so-casually announces that they'll be sharing Eris' room, of course.
  • The official excuse for the trip is for Kio to get a genetic checkup to make sure he's back to normal, and for Aoi to give a lecture on Earth weapons and combat. Unofficially, Kuune is also trying to move things along in the romance department.
  • So far, the most significant thing that Jens has done this book is take out the trash. This is not a euphemism.
  • Little sister Ryunnu still doesn't know that Jens is on Earth, and is out exploring Tokyo. No mention of Nirumea, or any hint of impending doom.
  • Kuune isn't the only one pushing things; Eris' parents just shuttled in from 300 light-years out, and are looking forward to interviewing their daughter's bride (嫁御殿) and groom (婿殿), before Eris finds out they're on the ship...
  • Dad is tall, blonde, and slender, Mom is a short, voluptuous redhead. He's a computer systems engineer, she's an archaeologist. (I originally had him as a geneticist, due to an error in the transcription. The printed book has denshi, which somehow ended up as idenshi in the unofficial ebook; I just found updated versions of several of the books, which I'll need to download at some point)
  • Okay, the big threat this book is the ship overheating due to a small accident in the assistoroid maintenance depot (not involving 6-chan), leading all the catgirls to convert their skinsuits into string-bikini mode. Poor Kio is having enough trouble finding a safe place to look with Eris and Seshimi around, but when he gets a look at Kuune...
  • A slightly-jealous Aoi, who isn't really having a problem with the heat yet, uses her emergency suit for the sole purpose of putting it into string-bikini mode.
  • Alone among the bridge crew, Melwin insists on keeping her suit in its normal configuration, stoically ignoring the heat.
  • When they finally get things back under control, she's found babbling recipes for cold noodles and shaved ice, and how they could be used to cool down the bridge, leading Doctor Dyureru to shout, "Get a stretcher! Mel's broken!".
  • (rather loosely)
    Eris: "Mom!! Did you actually read my letter?! I meant isosceles triangle, not equilateral!"
    Mom (re-reading letter): "Oh, dear, have I done it again?"
    Dad: "Well, you cant blame her; there was that time at school..."
    Eris: "Not helping!"

AsoIku 8, random notes

Just finished chapter 3, and things are heating up. Kio has persuaded the others that it’s time to go on the offensive, and stop just reacting to their opponent’s machinations. And it’s time for a permanent embassy. Also, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so chocolates are being acquired and/or assembled for delivery, especially by Sara, who has a lot of assistoroids to bake for.

Jens is settling into her exile, working as a waitress at Colonel’s coffee shop in Tokyo. The neighbors have long since become accustomed to the local Dogs and their assistoroid, and accept Jens without hesitation.

Ryunnu is horrified to discover that she’s one of the bad guys. She’s a very good analyst, and her research programs managed to assemble scattered facts that revealed some very unpleasant truths about their actions on Earth. The alliance of three outlaw races hasn’t just been illicitly engaged in mining and trade, they’ve been deliberately interfering in international relations to keep Earth divided and controllable. She thinks of her race as honorable, proud, and noble, and wishes she could talk things over with her big sister. She settles for Muttley, swearing him to secrecy.

Mamami, who wasn’t on the ship last book to meet little Raama, gets a shock as she meets Chaika’s oldest daughter Seruka, a quite tall, gray-clad, short-haired (lit: ベリーショート), reserved catgirl about Eris’ age, who seems a bit embarrassed by her mother. Her reaction to mention of her father suggests that he’s a bit of a character as well.

The way to Seruka’s heart is to show her your wood. Apparently she spent her childhood on a forest planet that Chaika used to be stationed on, and has found artificial wood a poor substitute. She practically snuggles the wooden posts in Kio’s house.

Seruka is helping with the embassy move (from the Wikipedia entry, I gather she becomes the security chief there), and has an assistoroid with her who shows that Earth culture is definitely having an impact on the ship. Last book, the only custom models were seen at the repair depot, with the rest being standard models that varied only by color.

Seruka’s wears a beret, a leather jacket, and an eyepatch. When instructed to gather data on the layout, contents, and wiring of Kio’s house, he pulls out a recording device (which looks suspiciously like an old 8mm film camera) and begins moving around in a crouch. When Sada-yan asks him why, he answers “low-angle is the man’s angle” (lit: ろーあんぐるはおとこのかくどだ)

His name? Snake.

AsoIku book 8, finished

Sada-yan gets all the girls. Chiba-chan and Kin-chan get some maid-time as well, but Sada-yan is The Man.

And they did what with the space elevator?

And gosh, where-o-where did that third box of chocolates come from in Kio’s bookbag? Is it finally time for a third confession?

Also, the Americans-as-bad-guys thing is getting old. Yes, the villains have been pulling their strings for a very long time, and it’s the country they draw most of their local resources from, but it feels like there’s a bit of authorial axe-grinding mixed in. Given the post-war history of Okinawa, I can understand it, but I find it more distracting than perhaps the Japanese audience does.

If I were assembling a second season of the anime, so far I’d have two episodes to hit the highlights of books 5 and 6 as a recap and new-villain introduction, three for the mix of fun and non-enemy-driven crisis in book 7, and two or three for book 8, leaving room for some filler before the big action-packed finale. What I don’t know yet is if book 10 can be that finale.

Book 9 is side stories, one of which was already used (quite well) as episode 9 of the first series. From a casual skim of the pictures and contents, book 10 has major conflict, but I don’t know if it will make a satisfying finale, and a lot of the things they changed or skipped for the anime will make it hard to adapt. Director Kawasaki has a significant role, and Jens-in-exile is a much more sympathetic character (which will take a lot of work; anime Jens is about as warm and cuddly as a hacksaw). And then there’s The Ichika Problem; she’s hooked into the story any number of ways, and the OVA’s casual revelation that no one is surprised she’s a catgirl is problematic. They definitely shouldn’t bring in the Shureio crew at this late date, but they still have to explain how she’s connected to all the players, and spend some screen time getting the other Catians familiar with her (pleasepleaseplease use the drinking party with Chaika).

For good filler, I want Aoi’s family history, which I only know about through the Wikipedia entry. Unfortunately, that would bring in a good chunk of books 12 and 13; to make it work, they may need two episodes, and I’m not sure they can fit it into the continuity. That might also make a good OVA, if they never get another season.

Am I still enjoying the books? Yes, but their serial nature is a bit annoying sometimes. If I could read them at full speed, the developments among the supporting cast wouldn’t seem so agonizingly slow, but as it is, they tend to show up for one or two scenes, have an interesting moment, and then vanish again without resolving any of the open questions. For instance, I have a real problem with Ryunnu still not knowing that Jens is on Earth. Not only are they both running around in Tokyo, but Ryunnu has been hacking around behind her boss’s back to find out what’s really going on, and Muttley is now her assistant and confidant. I know this all comes to a head in book 10, but a lot of their actions are driven by their connection as sisters, and it’s been months.

…and now book 9 is nothing but side stories. Good ones, I expect, but still, it will drag things out for me. Grumble.

AsoIku book 9, struggling

[Update: Momiji’s opening action scene from episode 1 was also adapted from book 9, but more loosely. More on that after I finish it.]

This book takes place at two different points in the timeline, identified as “winter break” and “after spring break”. Book 8 ended with Valentine’s Day, so the first part is flashback. The framing story is Ichika sitting at home on New Years Eve, playing mahjongg with Ichika, Ichika, and Ichika. I get the impression that the other three are from parallel universes.

Chapter 1 is an end-of-year party at Kio’s house, featuring the first real appearance by his parents. (Dad had previously shown up just long enough to offer Eris a beer in book 1).

  • Mom isn't quite as bad as Sara when it comes to assistoroids.
  • They return the ridiculous rent Kuune paid for use of their house as the embassy. Kio hadn't known about it, and was shocked at the amount.
  • Mom gives it back to Eris in the form of a bank account in the name Eris Kakazu. Kio and Dad exchange uneasy glances, recognizing Mom's not-so-subtle matchmaking.
  • Uncle Yuuichi and Itokazu-sensei are dating (thanks to the events of book 6), but currently keeping it a secret.
  • Sara's been busy making formal new-year outfits for all of the assistoroids. She enlisted Ichika's aid, but this apparently happened before the other three Ichikas showed up.
  • Timing issue: before they show up, Kio and Eris talk about having already met her parents. Also, when Aoi shows up, her thoughts seem to match up with that, and later Kio reflects on having been to space three times (first time to save the ship, second time to get his genemods reversed, third time for book 7). The problem is, book 6 ended on Christmas Day, and then I'm pretty sure book 7 was nearly a month later, based on the amount of time the various world navies had to get used to the sight of the assistoroid patrols at the space elevator. Oops?

Chapter 1.5 is a collection of secret documents and conversations covering the government reactions to events from the initial reception of messages from the Catians through the end of the year. Lots of stilted official-style writing and vocabulary, so I’m sure I missed some things in here.

Chapter 2 is the last remaining major item that was used in the anime, Lawry’s visit to Earth. This is something I want to read carefully. As adapted for the anime, it fleshed out the Catians and Eris nicely. Also, while it seems to be a standalone piece, there may be a significant bit of foreshadowing for the conflict in book 10.

Momiji in action

For some time now, I’ve been wondering if the opening action scene in episode 1 was taken from somewhere in the novels. Yesterday morning, I found its origin in chapter 3 of book 9.

The day before Lawry arrives on Earth, Aoi finds the key to a post-office box that was used to contact her back in the bad old days when she was a secret agent. She goes to the post office intending to just drop it off, but before she has a chance to say anything, the employee has gone off to retrieve her box. Inside, she finds a variety of messages related to her former career, none of which matter to her at all, and one foreign letter, in English (yes, this is how it’s printed in the book…):

Hello momiji.
Do you remember me?
I am "Burning rose".
Woman into whom life changes thanks to you.
…wish to express our gratitude to you by us.…
I want to meet one of these days if it is good.
Let's meet by you in the Yogi park on February xx day if this letter is read.

It returns if not coming…………

The date? Tomorrow. In flashbacks, Aoi remembers a certain night mission, from a time before she met Kio. It’s basically the same battle at sea against smugglers, up to the point where she’s disposed of the crew and is alone in the cargo hold. In the anime, she heads up to the bridge and confronts the last survivor, and the scene ends when he blows up the ship to kill them both.

In this version, while down in the hold, she’s attacked by a powerful pyrokinetic, Burning Rose, a former CIA agent turned mercenary. There’s no contraband in the crates; the whole thing was a setup to take her out, and Rose has the upper hand. It’s a deathmatch, both of them armored from head to toe and heavily armed, and in the end, Aoi seems to be the only survivor, pulled out of the sea by her support ship. Yeah, the ship still blew up, but it was more of a side-effect of their fight than a deliberate act.

Aoi remembers the soulless fighting machine she was back then, and wonders if she’s still strong enough to take on an enemy from her past. She hides her concern from her assistoroids, afraid more of what Rose’s powers could do to them than for herself, and cheerfully gives them permission to spend the day with Lawry. She carefully checks out the rendezvous point in advance, then prepares her weapons and heads out.

It’s a very public place, and she’s not sure what the trap will be, but when she gets there, all she finds is a lovely young American woman sitting on a bench, casually reading a book for newlyweds. Scanning the area for threats and not finding them, Aoi calls out, “Where are you, Burning Rose?”. The young woman on the bench stands up in surprise and asks, “Are you Calamity Momiji?”. (yup, the kanji 悪縁紅葉 (“Evil-Destiny Momiji”) is given the furigana reading カラミティ・モミジ)

Rose is honestly thrilled to see Aoi, and embraces her so quickly that she forgets about her weapons. Rose is so happy that she’s practically babbling as she talks about trying to find a good way to reach Aoi to thank her. Why? Because after her half-dead body washed up onto a nearby island and she was nursed back to health by the Intern who found her, she discovered that her powers were gone.

She could be a normal woman, escaping the lonely and dangerous life of an esper. She feels like she’s been born again, and hopes that Aoi’s new life is going well, too. And then she runs off to greet her husband (a certain Intern), leaving a bemused Aoi waving as the happy newlyweds walk away.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”