A Meiji Era Love Story: Tokyo Lastochika 1

This title is my first digital manga purchase from JManga and I’m glad to say that I’m pretty pleased overall with the whole process and the product.  If they continue to bring in unique and interesting titles such as these, I’ll be sure to continue being a regular customer.

I think this may be the first manga that I’ve read that’s completely set in the Meiji Era (that short Meiji arc in Tsubasa doesn’t really count) and which addresses the cultural upheaval that happened in Japan, most especially in a cosmopolitan area like Tokyo. Tokyo Lastochika chronicles the time when Japan moved from feudalism to Westernized industrialization and how it affected society at large as well the lives of two young people living during this time.

Hana TSUMURA is a young female who has decided to work as one of the live-in housemaids of the Arima family. Her mother had recently passed away, and left with few options, she leaves her younger brother in the care of a family friend. While bidding goodbye to her brother, a carriage rumbles by, almost running them both over. Hana’s face gets a minor scratch on her face and feels already out of sorts before she even reaches her new place of employ.

When she reaches the mansion, she realizes that the young man riding the carriage is none other than the Mitsuyuki ARIMA, the young master. He was speeding back in the hopes to catch his own father’s last moments, but by the time he arrived, the elder Arima had already expired.

From the opening chapter, there’s already the spark of chemistry between Hana and Mitsuyuki. He may look snooty, as rich young masters are generally portrayed, but he seems to always have a gentle look always ready for Hana. His interest in her slowly develops in the subsequent chapters; he’s concerned for her well-being and makes her feel valued, even with the difference in their social class and status.

Hana, in turn, is a terrific female main character. She may not have the status and upbringing of Mitsuyuki and the rest of the nobility, but she’s caring and forthright, two qualities which are not exactly compatible with each other. She has no problem speaking her mind or defending her dignity, even at the risk of losing her job.

Hana and Mitsuyuki’s relationship is not going to be free from obstacles — even in the first volume, there are numerous forces working against them being together, with some being easier to surmount than others. Yet it’s really lovely to read a story where you know you can feel hopeful that everything will end up all right in the end.

I love all of the little period details that Miyoshi included in this series, such as the increase in the number of cars on the roads, the new proliferation of department stores, and the construction of buildings such as the Ryounkaku. If I’m reading historical fiction, I expect  authors to do their homework since it’s the details that could make or break the story’s milieu.

If I may be allowed a quibble, the only area of improvement that I would suggest for JManga is to improve the English language adaptation. Some areas of the dialogue seemed to be translated verbatim from the Japanese-language instead of using the corresponding or closest English equivalent. It’s somewhat jarring to see the phrase “isn’t this an article that is blood circulating,” and wondering for a few moments what that’s supposed to mean. Oh, and somebody should correct the typo on the table of contents, since it’s showing that the chapter title is “The Spring of 1920” when it’s supposed to be “The Spring of 1910,” as it appears everywhere else.

Really looking forward to volume 2!