~illustrated by Rem
I can no longer recall exactly how I first became aware of Tokyo Demons, but I now consider it to be an extremely fortunate accident. Recently I came across some very enthusiastic support for the series and was convinced to give it a try sooner rather than later. Tokyo Demons, Book 1: You're Never Alone, written by Lianne Sentar with illustrations by Rem, began serialization online in 2011 before being revised, finalized, and collected as a novel in 2012. Written in the tradition of Japanese light novels, You're Never Alone is part of much larger project which has expanded to include dramatized audio books (produced and directed by Rebecca Scoble, who also works closely with Sentar editing the novels), comics, short stories, games, and more. Tokyo Demons has since become one of the flagship titles for the newly established Chromatic Press. Plans have already been made for two sequel series, Tokyo Ghosts and Tokyo Angels.
For many students, and even some teachers, Fukuhashi is their high school of last chance. Roaming its hallways and dormitories are underachievers, juvenile delinquents, stoners, other outsiders, and teens from broken homes or with no families at all. Ayase, a first-year at Fukuhashi, has been trying to hide a part of herself for most of her life. If she's not careful, her body will break apart into a swarm of insects. Understandably, it's something she would like to keep a secret. But then Sachi, an over-eager and over-friendly classmate, drags her and two other students--the athletic Kiyoshi and his chain-smoking roommate Jo--to a club after the first day of school. Like Ayase, Jo isn't particularly interested in getting close to most other people either, unless it's to steal their wallet. But when Kiyoshi and Ayase accidentally interrupt a drug deal and Sachi and Jo are caught up in the fiasco, too, suddenly the four students are attracting much more attention and trouble than any of them wanted.
Despite all of the strangeness and unfortunate incidents surrounding the characters at the beginning of You're Never Alone, it took a few chapters for the story to really hook me. But once it did, I was a goner. After reading only the first book of Tokyo Demons, I already get the sense that the scope of the story is huge. It's a complex entanglement of powerful international organizations, people with phenomenal supernatural abilities, yakuza, street gangs, and police investigations. And that's just what's going on on the surface and doesn't even touch on the story's underlying themes. Now that I've finished the novel and know the characters better, I have a much better appreciation for those slower early chapters than I did while I was first reading them. They are needed and necessary to set the stage and introduce the characters and conflicts. It's a slow build with a natural progression that suddenly explodes into a flurry of action.
The entirety of You're Never Alone takes place over the course of a few weeks, but a lot happens within that short period of time. The story alternates between Ayase and Jo's perspectives. Since the two are involved with different groups of people this allows readers a wider understanding of the unfolding events while at the same time maintaining a sense of grounding and focus. This is particularly helpful since there are so many characters important to Tokyo Demons, each with their own troubled past and role to play. I love the characters in Tokyo Demons. It is clear that a tremendous amount of thought and care has been put into them and their stories. I was particularly impressed by how their talents and abilities, whether they are supernatural or not, are an integral part of what makes them who they are as people, affecting their behaviors, personalities, and relationships. I am looking forward to the completion of the next volume of Tokyo Demons a great deal. I haven't been this excited about a series in a very long time.
May not be available in a library...