Thursday, June 22, 2017

Manga review : Shin Dorabase

Shin Dorabase

“A disappointing follow-up to a rather-okay series”

What is Shin Dorabase?

A sequel to the Doraemon spin-off series Dorabase, Shin Dorabase follows the story of Tamaemon, who has an affection towards Edogawa Dora’s and idolizes Kuroemon. Unlike the first series, which follows Kuroemon as a batter, this time, Tamaemon is a pitcher with his own magic ball.

So? How does it fare?

This is the follow-up review to an earlier review I created yesterday, to follow the original Dorabase review.

Unlike the original Dorabase series, Shin Dorabase is only collected to a 4 tankoubon volume, making it the shortest of any Doraemon spin-off manga ever released (Dorabase has 23 volumes, The Doraemons has 21 volumes, and The Doraemons’ Special has 12 volumes.), but the reason why it is only released in just short 4 volumes is justified by it’s content.

Shin Dorabase is just riddled with problem everwhere. It’s like when you open the first page, the problem became apparent at that moment too. I’ll just divide it into several section later.
Spoiler alerts abound, and of course, since there is no scanlations of this anywhere so I’m afraid I can only attach so much screenshots for this review.

First, let’s talk about plot. The plot here is simple, Tamaemon, the protagonist of the story, seeks to join Edogawa Dora’s but the now-coach of Edogawa Dora’s Hyoroemon declared that he failed the test for arriving late. Then, that fire of being rejected burns and now, Tamaemon wants to defeat Edogawa Dora’s in a game of baseball, which he declared is a fun sports every now and then, which I presume must have been his catchphrase. It was simple and as usual, easy to follow, so I’m giving this a-okay.

The story introduces us to Tamagawa Dora’s, which happens to share the same first name with Tamaemon, and it’s team. To be honest, other than Tamaemon, Monjyaemon (Or was that Mojyaemon? I don’t know), Jiroemon, and Gonzaemon, no one else gets a character development. They all treated just for the sake of being there. I guess the short volume count has something to do with it, yes?

Tamaemon’s rival is Doraem- pardon me, It's not Doraemel, but Noraemon. Doraemel made so much impact when he first appeared and I always thought he was the rival of Tamaemon, mainly due to his development and growth as a character. Even Hyoroemon declared that he and Tamaemon might be the two that shake up baseball once again. Of course, his unique demeanor, and the fact that he hides his hideous face beneath a handsome-looking mask is something to be intrigued for, and when he is unmasked, he goes unhinged but eventually calms down. In my opinion, he was the best character of the series, with Jiroemon coming close second. 

Jiroemon also had this charm of hiding his face beneath a potato-sack that had a hole for him to see with one eye. Jiroemon is so perceptive that he can tell whether or not a ball is ball or strike, and it’s his ability, which each character in this series are forced to have for some reason. However, the last volume just had to force him remove him potato-sack that makes him so memorable. The author had this strange habit of introducing a mysterious character with hidden face (Remember Aimond? That badass with a cool-looking sunglasses covering his eyes?) and forces them to remove it by the end of the series. For me, that was not a cool move, instead it just removes the air of mysteriousness that character has.

And of course, with Doraemel out of the picture, we are introduced to a proper rival to Tamaemon, Noraemon, which I thought to be a last-minute introduction to the series as I believed the author wanted to go forward with Doraemel. Why? Noraemon, unlike Doraemel, is handsome and more collected, much like Shiroemon. And with Tamaemon as fiery as a furnace, the tale of Tamaemon  vs Noraemon begins, and it all feels like Kuroemon vs Shiroemon all over again, which for me is kind of bland and flat-out exhausted. I don’t know why the author scrapped that Doraemel plan of being Tamaemon’s rival, but I think it’s mainly due to the publisher’s pressure or fan demands?
Why can I say that? I mentioned above that Hyoroemon declared that he and Tamaemon are bound to shake up Edogawa Dora’s. This is said by Hyoroemon, who is the coach of the Edogawa Dora’s and by the time volume 3 catches up, the only hint that Noraemon was going to appear was that bandage next to Tamaemon’s left eye.

Oh, and I just have to talk about the number of teams appearing in this story.  The number was so low that the excitement of Tamaemon having so many rivals snuffs out by the time fourth volume kicks in. Kuromeon, back in the original series, has so much rival that we can anticipate whomever he’s going to face whenever a new volume kicks in, but this time, we can only assume that Tamaemon’s just going to face a random team each volume, before facing Edogawa Dora’s in the finale. Aside from King Fishers, which is the team that featured Doraemel, nothing else felt remarkable. Setagaya  Paamans (A reference to Perman), Sakuragaoka Espers (A reference to Esper Mami), and Bakuden Kigurumis, all of them just there for the sake of being there. And by the time the fourth volume kicks in, I was surprised to see them facing Edogawa Dora’s this early and was even shocked to see that it ends in that volume. The prospect of it having 10 more volumes are there, but I presumed that the popularity of the series just keeps falling as each chapter are published.

Well, that’s that, but what about the character design? Good heavens… All of them felt unoriginal and uncreative. Tamaemon is a mix of Chibiemon and Kuroemon, Sho (The only human character of Tamagawa Dora’s) felt like Ruru from the WABC, even Noraemon felt like he was Emoll but bar his perpetual smiler trait. Several felt original and creative, but most of them doesn’t. Who are those that original in terms of design? Of course, Jiroemon and Doraemel. There’s also Kiyoemon, a gigantic batter of the Edogawa Dora’s that felt new. But that’s it apparently.

I was surprised to see the magic balls being toned down here. After all, the pitcher is our main character. But, the welcome addition is that the batter also does not use that much different version of batting style, with Doraemel’s V batting the only distinct one. Even Noraemon, the rival to Tamaemon, only had a very long bat and just hits the ball with no ability whatsoever. That, in my opinion, is a welcome addition to the series, but of course, sets aside what a Dorabase truly is. In Dorabase, we learn that there can be so much absurd hitting styles and so many magic balls, but here, it just feels like another baseball manga, but with Dorabase rules.

Yes, the Dorabase rules still stands. The usage of 3 gadgets per game still here, but it was underutilized. The original Dorabase creatively utilized every gadget at disposal, but in here, it sometimes just mimics the original Dorabase, such as using big-light and Take-copter again, as well as Weather box, which had similar use to a Weather-spirit ring and etc. The only remarkable one was when Chokoemon uses an Anywhere Door to catch a what-would-be homerun, at the cost of being knocked out. 

So, there you have it. This series was riddled with so many problems that you can just ignore them all by speed-reading it and think nothing of critical thoughts, much like I did the first time reading it. Characters were unoriginal and dull, contents were lacking, and it was such a short adventure to be honest, and felt like it was rushed by the time it reached the ending. That inclusion of Noraemon also begs a question to be asked as well. Why didn’t the author just go with Doraemel’s direction? After all, by the time volume 3 kicks in, Doraemel’s character has been fleshed out and he was treated majestically, but dumped in favor of more cooler Noraemon.

I think only those who had purchased the original Dorabase manga and actually enjoys the content of it that can read this muddy series. This series contains so much reference to the original Dorabase that any reader without prior knowledge of the earlier series might just shook their head in confusion as to who is Kuroemon and the sort.

There was a similar series like this, titled Aoki Shinwa Mars, which is the follow-up to Kaze no Sylpheed. Aoki Shinwa Mars, unlike Shin Dorabase, does not made that much reference to Kaze no Sylpheed in it’s first volume, and began referencing them by the time volume 2 kicks in, after we have finally settled with the characters and the horse. That move was remarkable in my opinion. Settling the readers with the characters first before reintroducing characters from the past, and the characters here are mostly horses to be honest, and the only reference this series had with Kaze no Sylpheed was the titular horse of Sylpheed now being treated as a big-time horse and that’s it, with several characters from the past making a return here and there sparingly. That was a good manga to be honest.

The good : Doraemel. Lack of Magic balls and batting styles have it’s own charm.
The bad : Character don’t get developed that much. Noraemon’s inclusion felt unnecessary. Characters looks unoriginal. Lack of super baseballs might turn off some reader of original series. Shallow plot. Rushed ending. Short in volume count and did not get utilized to it’s fullest.

Highlight moment : Tamagawa Dora’s training in uninhabited island.

Final score : 1.5 out of 5. There are just so much problem here and this series is only good for those who is yearning for the follow-up to Dorabase.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Manga Review : Dorabase


“A fairly tame and exciting ride, yet it somewhat uninspiring late on”

What is Dorabase?

The story follows Kuroemon and his exploits in the newly-ruled baseball in the Japan of the 22nd century, where the use of Doraemon’s special gadget is available up to 3 times every match and the gadget is decided at random during the beginning of the game. Kuroemon seeks glory with his team, Edogawa Dora’s, as they are yet to have a single victory. 
And, what do I think of it?

It is marketed as the spin-off from the Doraemons’s original manga, much like The Doraemons, where it featured 6 different Doraemons to work with Doraemon on their adventure, and the genre of this manga is now sports where it featured my favourite sport, Baseball. And with the addition of special rules where the usage of gadget is allowed up to 3 times per match and the inclusion of magic-balls and special moves, it becomes more and more exciting. Is there anyway that they can screw this great setting?

It's take on baseball matches are unique.
Dorabase spawned a sequel, titled Shin Dorabase. I am going to review both of them separately in different post, with the original Dorabase the first one reviewed and the Shin Dorabase the second one in order not to cause much confusion. Here we go.

Before beginning, i wanted to include many scanned pages from my collection, but i lacked the device to do so, and even if i did, it is translated into my language. And also, finding them in internet are also hard.

Dorabase was great when it lasted. It endured a 11-year long, 23 volume publication, beginning at 2000 and ending at 2011. I read it with much love since I loved the series upon picking it up at 2006 when I was still a boy and loved reading it to this day. Unfortunately, as I matured up, I found more and more faulty everytime I re-read it.

As I stated before, the setting was great, in the future where Doraemon came from, and where Baseball has been reinvented to allow the usage of gadgets and all, but the most suprising one is the inclusion of Magic Balls and special moves. For example, Shiroemon, the rival of our protagonist, Kuroemon, has a W-ball where the ball shapes like the word W when it was thrown, before developing it’s variety. And of course, to counter this, Kuroemon created a special move to hit that ball, a Daikon-Slicing Full moon strike (I know it’s hilarious), where he jump and hits the ball like he is hitting a fruit with a sword, hence the name Daikon-Slicing. Was that move allowed? I don’t care. It was cool. Moreover, the gadgets usage were cool when it was used. Can you imagine stopping a fine home-run using a Bamboo-Copter? Or using the Forgetting Flower to make a pitcher forget how to pitch, it was really creative and interesting whenever this kind of thing happened.

So, there is nothing wrong with the settings right? What about the characters?
Unfortunately, this is where the problem begin to spread. First we are treated with Edogawa Dora’s, which consists of Kuroemon the captain and protagonist of the series which you can learn about him
by reading the series, Hiroshi the pitcher and the only human in the playing team of Edogawa Dora’s, Hyoroemon, Gurimeon who later left, Chibiemon who replaces Guriemon, Pakuemon, Toraemon, Aimond who is an American, Suzuemon, Pyokoemon, Mikeemon, and Mika-chan who is the manager of the Edogawa Dora’s. There is nothing wrong with the characters of the Edogawa Dora’s as everyone, excluding Mika-chan, received their own character development moment. Next is the Whiters where we are also treated with another 9 member, but only three receive development, which is the aforementioned Shiroemon, Komatsugawa, and Hirai. Then we later had Dora-Ichiro of the Boso Turtles, Pokoemon of the Yamadera Bear’s, Emoll of the Akane Flyers and many more. For a sports manga, to be inhabited by a lot of character is no surprise, but this one is too much, to the point the manga get overcrowded and still introduces more character, and they all are treated as “Just another Kuroemon enemy that he needed to overcome” or the sort.

Kuroemon, standing as the protagonist of the series, is the most developed and fleshed out character in the series. He has the drive to lead his team to glory, his background for why he wants to be the best, and his growth to be a mature player. Shiroemon stands as the close second here. And lastly, it was Monta, which we'll get into later.

Kuroemon and Shiroemon are the most fleshed-out character in this series.

And of course, tournaments are pivotal in the sports manga right? Unfortunately again for Dorabase, while they delivered in the first and second tournament, they totally ruined it in the third and the fourth tournament.  Tournaments are much like plots here so I think we’re going to cover it by the end of reviewing each tournament.

First, we are treated with the First Big-Dome Cup and coincidentally, Edogawa Dora’s first tournament run after their first ever victory. Knowing that his team won’t last in such a big tournament, Kuroemon developed a very interesting training regime, where he shipwrecks his team into an uninhabited island for a month with nothing but baseball equipment and seeks to survive using them. It was cool on paper and great upon realization, as it leads for some great bonding moments with the team and great training regime, and of course, Edogawa Dora’s grew into a competent team after this.The first tournament was really great and exciting, as we are treated with the introduction of Pokoemon, Dora Ichiro, and later Shiroemon. Pokoemon and Dora Ichiro are, unlike any other rivals later, never treated as just another Kuroemon rival and received their character development later in the story, while Shiroemon receives his in this tournament, which makes Shiroemon more affectionate and symphatetic for some reason.

Dorabase also nailed with the Kabutomushi cup, or the second tournament, as they are finally glorious in this tournament, defeating Akane Flyers, who beaten Shiroemon’s Arakawa   Whiter’s early in the cup. When Edogawa Dora’s defeated Akane Flyers against all odds, where Emoll uses all tactics in his disposal to defeat Edogawa Dora’s yet it fails spectacularly in his face, Edogawa Dora’s celebration were phenomenal and glorious, while Emoll’s defeat felt heavy.

Emoll, at this time, was treated as a central character of the cup, as he places himself as a bet with his owner, where if he won the cup, he’ll be allowed to play baseball whenever he likes, but should he lose, he’ll succeed his owner’s as a CEO of his corporation. And much like other sports manga, upon losing, his owner realizes that Emoll had a fantastic potential as a baseball player and allowed him to do so. I liked Emoll’s owner, which was given before to Dora Ichiro, where he blantantly declared that he was “Made to make hits”. This raised questions later in the series as the robot-emons are treated more like a human and even produced blood and gained higher sentience. So where was that owner-robot relationship from earlier? Are all of them escaped from the facility? This was a plothole for me, to be honest.

Then we are treated with the third cup, where it serves as nothing but the introduction to Edogawa Dora’s second team.  Edogawa Dora’s only played one game, and it is against Arakawa Whiter’s again, the second game they had with them. Of course, Dora’s lost the game as they are forced to play with the second team, and the first team returned to action late in the 6-7 innings. Oh, the game’s here are played for 7 innings only, as opposed to the normally 9 innings. I guess I just don’t know the rules of sandlot baseball…

After this, and a couple more random games, which I treat as a spin-off, yet it introduced Retsu, who were treated as a star in one of this encounter, yet get left out late in the series. Then we enter WABC, an international tournament, common trope in a sports manga, and introduced one of the most memorable character in the form of King Sadaharu, a parody of a real-life player of the same name with the same record and batting-style as the real-life player. Sadaharu here is a motivated man who is strict, yet has a calm demeanor and prefers to use actions rather than words, unless it is for motivation purpose, which he does a bit rare. Sadaharu leaves the management of the international team to Kuroemon as he deemed Kuroemon as their captain, and selects his team not because of their popularity, but their apparent ability, which was remarkable. What Sadaharu lack was his backstory for explaining his passion for the baseball which has endured this far. 

For the tournament, it was Hiroshi’s moment of character development, which he was lacking in the story earlier, where he had his arm broken and was unable to contemplate of not able to going to the tournament. His moment felt clich├ęd and weak, but his resolve was great to be honest. It also serves as Suzuemon’s launching pod, as he was one of the most underrated character in the Edogawa Dora’s.  Aside from that, it launched Aimond into superstardom as he, playing for the USA team, was selected as the tournament’s MVP for his apparent ability to hit a constant home-run whenever he is playing. He was portrayed as a jerk first, yet it all reverts upon his return to Edogawa Dora’s.

To be honest, WABC had a problem here and there. Of course, introducing a one-off characters here is not the problem as it is an apparent trope in an international tournament. The problem here lies with the ruling. It was stated at first that you can only use one gadget for the tournament and only once that time, but on the final, Japan and America uses 3 of them. Second, it treated several characters like a joke, like the newly introduced Kinuemon and Maji, who apparently has a good RBI yet does nothing notable, and Retsu deserves a mention, as he registered almost no hit at all during the tournament except during the Cuban game. Only Oreemon and Dora Ichiro, as well as Aimond, benefitted from the tournament, as Oreemon, the newly introduced character, makes several good hits and runs, while Dora Ichiro’s batting average was recognized here, while Aimond’s potent hitting ability is finally recognized internationally.

And of course, the fourth tournament Edogawa Dora’s entered was also a disaster. The Japan Baseball Tournament, as called by Sadaharu, the organizer of the tournament, yeah he did this tournament. So, was he that rich or something? I don’t know, as there is no sponsors being mentioned in the tournament. He even offered the winning team a stadium. Do you know how much it is to build one?

Moving on from that, Aimond’s ability to hit balls in this tournament were left for dead. He was hot after his exploits in the WABC, yet in this tournament, he is treated as a joke, failing to register a single hit, even to a lowly pitcher for some reason, and nobody bats an eye, except the readers I guess.

This tournament for some reason introduced two more characters, four more if we add Pokoemon’s sibling. They are Monta of the Yamaoku Yamadera, who is definitely the best character in the Dorabase series yet he appears very late, and Iriemon of the Iriomote Mangrove. Iriemon is treated as another Kuroemon’s rival, while Monta here has a defining moment that makes him who he is. He gets the best development out of all the characters in the series and later receives his flashback backstory for explaining his apparent suspension from entering any baseball tournament. Also, unlike any other player, being a pitcher, he uses only a straight ball and is unwilling to change the ball, even when facing someone who is very potent at hitting a straight ball. That conviction was really great and of course, was backed by his backstory. That made him the best character in the series for me.

Edogawa Dora’s second team also returned here as the Great Dora’s, who uses a Dragon Ball-style training regime, where they entered the tournament using a uniform that has it’s material changed into a lead. And of course, they were strong, but also treated as another Kuroemon’s rival, save for Bubuta, who had a major development moment here. At first, they cheated by intentionally making Edogawa Dora’s disqualified by trapping them inside a cage, but that doesn’t stop the Edogawa Dora’s from battling them. Their tactics was apparently the best in the series.  First, they use intentional tactics on Aimond and Kuroemon, the best batter in the team. Intentional walks are perceived in the series as a cowardly tactic, yet it’s usage is widespread in a professional tournament, preventing players with high RBI or batting average from hitting a homerun. Their coach also employs a tactic which makes Bubuta, the pitcher, less exhausted, by predicting the balls that will cause an easy out for the batter. Their tactics were, while perceived as cowardly, were great and practical.

That was the last tournament, before moving on to an all-star match, featuring many select individuals that participated in the tournament earlier, introducing  YET ANOTHER character in the form of Mister Shigeo, who has no background or story whatsoever and is perceived as the shining sun of the japanese baseball for some reason, and a rival to King Sadaharu. I have no idea why he’s here and why not use Doranosuke instead? The Great Dora’s coach which I mentioned earlier in tactic but forgot to mention in name.

And in this match, Hiroshi is finally being put against Kuroemon and has come far in developing his pitching, where he grow from using Fork balls, to powerful straight ball. Just great. Then, Monta and Kuroemon’s face off happened here for some reason, instead of their team going at it. That’s why Kuroemon’s victory against Monta here felt rushed. In my opinion, this match was made just for the sake of Hiroshi and Monta squaring-off against Kuroemon.

Oh, I forgot to mention Drump, an American robot? Who is the owner of the Devil King’s who appeared in the volume 4. He was the villain here, who seeks at nothing but gathering the best players for his friend, but he lost to the Edogawa Dora’s. Drump’s moment came in the WABC, along with Aimond and there, it was explained why he was very ruthless on winning that tournament.

There’s also Ronaemon, and Randy, and at this point, I am really lazy in explaining who they are.

So there you have it, characters were abundant here and apparently, overcrowding the series. There’s so much, yet instead of utilizing them all accordingly in each tournament, the author opted to introduce more and more character, and had trouble giving them time to appear. When it should have been an established character in here, someone else instead popped out. I know that makes the series more exciting as Kuroemon gets more enemy, yet it populates the series too much with characters that made little sensed whatsoever. I don’t mind the secondary characters necessary for filling up the team, but the problem lies when the main focus of the team doesn’t get developed.

Overabundance of characters plays a huge part in making the series looks bad.

Plots were okay in terms of pacing. It’s neither slow or fast, and easy to understand, but there are one or two plotholes that you are bound to find upon reading this manga. For example is that robot-treatment and Aimond’s backstory, among other things.

I don’t know whether this is only in my country or not, but the usage of baseball terms were bad here. First, they mentioned Intentional walks, then 20 volumes later, it was called “Kicking upstairs”, what is ‘Kicking upstairs?’ Then, instead of using Flyouts, it is called ‘Fine play’ here. Sayonara Home-run is acceptable as it is the japanese equivalent of a Walk-off Home-run. Also, I love how the author gradually learns baseball terms and using terms such as Passed balls when it was never mentioned early in the series, as well as Wild-pitches, and Pinch-hitter.

Another problem that lies in this series is that how overpowered a named pitcher is. Emoll, Shiroemon, Drump, Pokoemon, and Monta are a great batter in addition of being a great pitcher, whilst Kuroemon cannot really pitch that well and Dora Ichiro can pitch, but his ball is not that good as he let several runners advance during the WABC. So, being a pitcher means you can be a good batter here while being a good batter doesn’t necessarily mean you can pitch well? I don’t know.

Well, there you have it, this is a good manga series to be read, at first, but once re-reading it again, the problem becomes much more apparent, such as how abundant the character is, how there is so many plotholes in the series, and how the tournament failed to deliver. There are some good here and there, but due to the faulty at hand offered by the series, it failed to deliver big time. However, considering it publishes for up to 23 volumes, I guess it is a good seriesback then.

I’m not saying it’s a necessarily bad series, but it is definitely not a good one to be honest.

Any sports-genre loving fan are welcome to read this, due to the competitive sport being played, but casual fans can also read this series as the unique nature of each match draws in interested reader. The lovers of Doraemon series can also look forward to reading this as the gadgets here are utilized wonderfully, but Doraemon only appears twice in this series, both early and late, and as an icing in the cake, he was the one who coined the name Edogawa Dora’s .

It was too bad Yamaoku Yamadera didn’t get to play with Edogawa Dora’s.

The good : Matches played in a unique nature. Monta and Shiroemon are memorable. Surely  keeps you entertained long-term.
The bad : Overabundance of characters. Too many plotholes. Some matches don’t even make any sense. Most of the cast here don’t get developed that well.
Highlight moment : When Edogawa Dora’s won Kabutomushi Cup. Edogawa Dora’s vs the Great Dora’s.

Final Score : 2.5 out of 5. It could have been so much more.

Note : Pictures are taken from the, all of them. Like i said before, i wanted to but i couldn't include my own scanned pages.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Light Novel Review : Sugar Dark

Sugar Dark

“A piece of unique yet well-written literature that can easily captivate the reader with it’s content.”

What is Sugar Dark?

The story follows a boy named Muoru who has been falsely arrested and sent to a cemetery to perform forced labor. There, he calls himself the "grave keeper" and meets a beautiful girl named Meria. Muoru becomes fascinated with Meria as he spends his days digging a hole containing the undead monster named "The Dark." (From Baka-Tsuki)

And is it that good?

The term gravekeeper here means something else. When one usually hear about the gravekeeper, one immediately concludes that it is someone who guards a grave, hence the name. However, in this book, a gravekeeper is something much more deeper and painful. And it was a girl called Meria, who is the gravekeeper, not Muoru. Arai Enji, the author, mentioned in the foreword that he [I presume he’s a guy] was fascinated with the term of gravekeeper ever since started writing light novels and continues to use gravekeeper as a basis until he eventually writes Sugar Dark, and proceeds to twist it around into something new. Sugar Dark then proceeds to win a grand prize award back in 2008 or 2009 thanks to it’s unique nature, which allows it to be published later.

I was thankful to come across this book when I was browsing the website NanoDesu translation, as that time, I was interested with the “Light Novels”. You know light novels, right? A novel originated from Japan which is unique for it’s use of manga/anime illustrations accompanying it. Sugar Dark was written by Enji Arai and illustrated by Mebae, who is not a popular illustrator himself.

So where is the uniqueness of Sugar Dark?

If asked where is the uniqueness of Sugar Dark, then it has to come from it’s unique style of writing. The author makes a heavy usage of metaphorical similiarity in the book, allowing for an easier understand as well as interesting choice of wording found on the book. The book also makes a numerous reference to the modern-era japanese despite not really being set on a modern-day japanese, which was interesting.

Since I don’t understand Japanese, especially it’s written form, the translation from NanoDesu helped me to understand it well enough and while Baka-Tsuki had trouble keeping it in-check with the source material, it still gives footnotes of something which is hard to translate and as a result, creating a unique feel to Sugar Dark. Big shout-out to NanoDesu Translation, especially those who work on this light novel, great job in making Sugar Dark a beautifully-translated light novel.

The story focuses on Muoru and how he was forced to keep digging the graveyard by the antagonist after being falsely accused of murder. Murou, at first, is portrayed as a submissive man who does nothing but whatever he was told by his jailor, but his meeting with Meria, the female heroine of the story, changes his principle and allowed him to mature into someone stronger, who manages to courageously confront the antagonist, as well as having the supporting character help him.

There are four named characters in the story, which is the aforementioned Muoru, Meria Mass Grave [Yes, it was stylized like that according to the translator], Crow or Karasu, and Daribedor. The author describes all of them with distinction and heavily, allowing the reader to better imagine the character and easily as well. The accompanying illustration also helps out the character, though it arrives far bit too late. The accompanying character illustration of Daribedor is notable for being almost on the last bit of second chapter, making me unable to really comprehend how Daribedor is actually envisioned by the writer. The rest of the characters and their illustration are okay, with them appearing near when they were introduced, it’s just Daribedor who had this problem.

Speaking of illustration, it is fair to say that Mebae, the illustrator, keeps his illustration in check and his illustrations were decent at that. When one reads Sugar Dark, it was a bit gore-ish as there are numerous instance of monster ripping apart someone, and Arai making an accurate description of how that person’s inside is being teared out. However, Mebae does not make his illustration that much gore-ish and allows it to intrigue me and much of the wider audience who does not really favor gore.
Returning to characters, all of them are fleshed out accordingly. As the story reached it's eventual climax, we knew exactly how each of them behaves and their personality, as well as their appearance. By the time the story ends, I know how no-nonsense Muoru was, how cute and affable Meria was despite her initial cold behavior, how cunning and assisting Karasu was, and how polite yet deceiving Daribedor was. It was wonderful. There are several unnamed characters appearing, as well as those who are named yet does not really appear in the story, and I choose to ignore them.

The pacing of the story was also great. There are only 3 chapters, or holes as being written in the story, but each of them are accompanied by sub-chapters that makes it easy to sometimes stop the read, or to mark the sub-chapters. And each page does not have a wall of text with them, instead, there are a huge line-space in between each paragraph to make it easier to understand and easy to read.
The plot itself was remarkable. Muoru, who was falsely accused of murder, was forced to dig holes to bury monsters that Meria defeated. The way of Meria defeating the monster itself was not something common, and it was painful reading it.  The story focuses on how Muoru initially tries to escape from his imprisonment, then it changes into one where Muoru resolves to release Meria from her fate, which is worse than death. Crow himself was intrigued by Muoru and proceeds to help him out. The difference between Crow and Meria is that since Meria is a gravekeeper, Meria cannot adhere to the sunlight, whereas Crow does not really like the night and as a result, both character never interacted with each other until the story reached climax, with Muoru acting as a stand-in for the two characters.
Of course, the way the story was build-up to the climax was great and there were no plot-holes on it. Everything was told from the first to start, with accurate description being made to any terms on the story, such as the gravekeeper term itself, which in this story, stands for someone who has to endure an everlasting pain of killing a monstrous being spawning in the grave. The reason why the monsters appear? Well, they gather for something bigger, which Muoru later faced in the story’s climax.

The genre was initially… Well, how do I describe it… At first, I thought it was going to be a dark-themed action as there is a reference on a monster. However, it turns out to be a drama story, which satisfies me a lot, between Muoru and Meria with a lot of supernatural and fantasy spices, before it transpires finally into a romance between them. Thank you a lot for not blessing me with an action-oriented story though, as I thought this was going to be it.

If I am being told to spoil one or two event, then I want to mention two thing. First is how Muoru asked Crow to fetch him a big construction-helmet, which he initially used for his digging labors, before the curious Meria asked him what was that helm for. Muoru answered by putting the helm to Meria and as Meria struggled to keep the helmet fit, as the helmet was too big for her head, Muoru proceeds to kiss the helmet holding her head and I was really surprised but pleased reading the chapter. Well, it was hinted that Muoru has already fell in love to Meria ever since he met her, but this strengthen all that claim and he even mentioned it in his mind that he “loves this girl”.

And another is how he and Meria had a last meeting before Muoru’s biggest task to confront the last monstrous being. Meria, who is implying that Muoru is tryong to leave her behind, hugs her from behind. Muoru, overwhelmed with feeling, faces her and embraces her. It was really heartwarming and cute, until he snaps Meria’s neck. My god, that time when I was reading, I was surprised. But it was necessary for the story to proceed. Read the rest if you are interested though, as I will only limit myself to two spoiler right now. The story was too good.

And it was around 300 pages or so, making it a good read for those interested in a longer story. It is a one-shot light novel as well. While the author mentioned that he is planning to write the sequel for it, it has never come out and I presume this is the only novel in the series. Sugar Dark would also be adapted into manga series, which I later plan to read. If this series would be adapted into an anime series, a 12-episode one would be better to accompany it’s unique nature of the story, as well as to adapt it faithfully to the end. One-shot novels are never great when it is adapted into a 24-episode anime. Even sometimes 12-episode anime were too much for a 200-long light novels, with Chuunibyo the prime example for it. It is, however, something to be talk about in another review.

All in all, Sugar Dark is a great piece of light novel with unique nature. It’s uniqueness is it’s core strength for why it is so interesting to read. The plot can be fairly easy to understood by almost all-reader and the accompanying artwork is decent. With this being the sole release of the series, i can say that upon finishing the series, one will not really need a continuation, though a continuation will not be rejected by those who want it.

Those who enjoyed supernatural story should really pick this one up, as it is the central theme of the story. There is no action inside this story, however, and the battle I mentioned earlier… Well, you understand how the gravekeepers ‘battle’ them monsters upon reading Sugar Dark. For me, it was an audacious pick, since I am not really that down with supernatural stories, and I myself assume that the story was going to be action at first, which left me dumbfounded upon knowing that this was not the case and immediately felt I was blessed reading this. I was left with a smile that stretchered from ear to ear upon finishing this to be honest.

The good : Beautiful story with unique plot. Characters were unique. Interesting Theme.
The bad : Illustrations were, while being decent, not that remarkable. Background are not really focused here.
Highlight scene : Those two scenes I mentioned earler.

Final Score : 4 out of 5. Again, not more and not less. Looking forward for the author’s next work.

To be honest, I can easily see why it won the grand-prize award upon finishing it… It took me 2 months to finish reading Sugar Dark, as I read it only during my spare time in college and sparingly at home.

Note : This is the first time I reviewed a light novels, as I am a bit new to the light novel world to be honest. But, be prepared for a lot of light-novel related entry in the future.