Yoko Nakajima, a typical, obedient Japanese high school student, has a fairly ordinary life--that is until Keiki, a unicorn in the guise of a young blond-haired boy, tells her that she is his master and must return to their kingdom, but when the boy mysteriously vanishes, Yoko is left alone on a quest for survival and self-discovery.
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Grade 9–11—Yoko is an ordinary high school girl with nightmares when a golden-haired young man tells her she's in dream-foreshadowed danger. Soon the teen is flying on the back of a huge bird to a kingdom in another world, where she'll eventually learn that she is destined for a throne. The prominence of a jewel and a sword (as well as purification by water) connects this tale to Japanese tradition. Chinese tradition contributes cosmography and the Mandate of Heaven. Anime tradition guarantees lots of bloody monster-killing by the reluctant (and imperfect) Yoko. This otherworld seems thinly realized, with confusing politics; however, violent action and odd creatures abound. The real-world frame plays a small role, though the fantasy of not really belonging to one's parents is key. Yoko leaves behind her conservative, sexist upbringing, putting on men's clothes and developing muscles, acknowledging the demonic within, and learning to assert herself. Yet, she fears trusting anyone and judges the absence of religion as the reason for people's selfishness. A cynical blue monkey, the heroine's amoral self, regularly suggests suicide. The reading level is not difficult, but names (Keiki, Kaiko, Kyokai, Kou, etc.) are tricky without a guide. Pacing is uneven: stretches of inaction drag on and anticlimax replaces a final confrontation with the forces of evil—but six more volumes are planned. Anime fans will be encouraged by the occasional manga-style black-and-white illustration, and the strong female protagonist will attract others to a fantasy with identity and self-acceptance at its core.—Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI
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