The hardest part of this job is figuring out when a series thatlooks like a dud is just a late bloomer. I didn’t get winner’s vibesfrom the first couple of volumes of Kurohime; the whole thingseemed like a one-note joke. But then by some happy set of accidents Iread later volumes, where there was not only a story and a theme but(gasp!) character development and (shock!) heart ‘n soul.Lo and behold, the dud blossomed into a delight—something I confirmedfor myself when I cashed in some soda bottles and filled the gaps in mycollection.
Now here we are at lucky volume thirteen, after ourheroine has been booted back through time and send sailinghead-over-D-cups through plot convolutions that would’ve reduced mostany other series to laughable irrelevance. What keeps this particularbook’s boat afloat is how everything that happens plugs directly backinto its major themes, Love and Forgiveness. Mushy to be sure, but hey,I like this kind of mushy—the sort where big things are atstake, and everyone involved has to make hard choices, and you still go "Awww!" It’s the sort of popcorn entertainment that I don’t mind getting stuck between my teeth.
As of #13, Kurohime’s been sent back in time to pre-emptivelyprotect her future lover-to-be, Zero, from a fate worse than death.Tinkering with time is never a smart idea—those paradoxes’ll killya—and so Kurohime has to tread very lightly lest she give away thegame and disrupt her own existence. But in the process she’s made a fewdiscoveries, like the fact that Zero had a younger brother, Ray, aroundwhich his own fate revolves quite ominously. The cost of this wisdom issteep: she and the boys are betrayed, captured and packed off to agiant prison loaded with wall-to-wall evil of both the living andnot-quite-dead varieties.
With no witch-guns, no help from theoutside, and no way to get out short of dying horribly, Kurohime andher few friends have to improvise skin-of-the-teeth (and maybeflesh-of-the-gums) survival tactics. What they’re not counting on is amost unexpected source of help from beyond the grave—no, not the ghostof Elvis, but someone a little closer to home. Like so many of theplot-climaxing twists in this series, it’s unexpectedly touching and servesto advance Kurohime that much further as a character. Not that thishasn’t already happened, mind you. She’s still got that haughty,I’m-the-queen touch to her personality (which is always fun to watch,let’s face it), but it’s tempered by her new understanding of what lovereally is.
The last fourth of the book dives into a differentplotline: Kurohime and Company head for a village where afortune-telling girl named Himiko might be able to provide some cluesabout their respective fates. Problem is, there’s signs the girl’s afraud—or at the very least is being milked ruthlessly by her mother,who values value money over truth (and the love of her own daughter toboot). Sadly, the conclusion for this episode isn’t as credible—itinvokes one of those moments where a person’s motivations turns on adime for the convenience of the plot.
What started as a fanservice-oriented fantasy has taken steps into newterritory and made good on that promise. I’m probably always going tobe of the opinion that Kurohime could have been played straightfrom the git-go, but the contrast between its earlier and later volumesmirrors the changes in its main character, too. And I’d bet that was bydesign.
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