Yen Press is not a company known for putting out short-story anthologies. Part of me wonders if the reason they do so is because of the lackluster performance of books like this.
HIMEYUKA & ROZIONE'S STORY (Natsukashi Machi no Rozione), by Sumomo Yumeka. First published in 2005 and first published in North America in 2010.
Himeyuka was looking forward to living on her own until a weird little boy named Rozione shows up and makes her life a pain...at least, until she learns of his connection to her own past. Ayano is the heir to a Yakuza clan who hopes to distract herself from her arranged marriage by flirting with the cute boy at the local ramen stand. Shalala is a hapless half-witch hoping to increase her magic with the tears of a human boy, but things become complicated when she starts to fall for him. Finally, in a world where humanity only exists as the clones of a select few, two robot protectors come to terms with their own sense of humanity.
It's not every day I find a book from a major publisher that slipped so far under the radar that I didn't even know it existed (at least, not since Tokyopop shut down). So when I stumbled across this particular book during a RightStuf sale, my interest was piqued. Having read it now, I can see why it flew under the radar in the first place. There are some good ideas here, but they never quite come together enough to make any sort of real impact.
The strongest story in this collection is not the titular one, but the one about the Yazuka girl. While both the premise and twist are old-hat for seasoned shoujo readers, it was still incredibly adorable. Sadly, the other books in the collection simply can't hold a candle to it. The titular story is a hard one to like mostly because Himeyuka is a very snotty, grumpy sort of teen girl. The twist with Rozione was also fairly predictable, even if I was off on some of the details. Its message is not a bad one - don't completely let go of your past, even after you grow up - but it lands with the literary equivalent of a dull, wet THUD.
The same goes for the story about the witch girl, which is a shame as the premise reminded me of another series I do love: Sugar Sugar Rune. There's a crossdressing angle which adds some interest to it, as does the fact that Shalala tries to get her subject's attention not with affection but with cruelty. It drags out a bit too long towards the end, though, and having the boy return her affections after all that feels false. The last one actually manages to do some decent world-building in a minimal amount of time, but the rest of the writing is so muddled that it ends up being all for naught. I suspect that based on some word choices this was meant to evoke Antoine St. Expy's The Little Prince, even if more modern readers are more likely to be reminded of Nier Automata. Mostly it's a story about two androids fighting among themselves over the years. Reading this story was akin to one long, confused "huh?"
Good anthologies need to make the most of their limited space to create some sort of mood or moment that might stick with the reader. Otherwise they end up like Himeyuka & Rozione's Story, where the good moments are few and far between and reach only the mildest highs. It's like a entire book of filler, forgotten as fast as it's read.
Yumeka's writing leaves something to be desired, but at least her art is appealing. Once again, though, its biggest problem is that it lacks any sort of distinct identity. She's a perfectly fine artist, even if she has a particular tendency to add superfluous hair, horns, and spikes to her characters. Yet her artwork here is no different than that from hundreds of other no-name shoujo artists. Even the lighting is mundane, as she uses only a single, faint gradiant for shading and applies it liberally.
If you're looking for some inoffensive short-form shoujo stories with a few good ideas scattered here and there, then Himeyuka & Rozione's Story will suit you just fine. Just don't be surprised if you don't remember much about it afterwards.
This book was published by Yen Press. It is currently in print.