7SEEDS 5 (Japanese) by Yumi Tamura: B+

Book description:
With the rest of Team Summer B settled nearby the shelter at Mt. Yufudake in Kyushu, Arashi and Natsu decide to journey to Kanto to see what has become of their homes and families. Joined by Semimaru, they soon encounter Team Autumn, who were released three years ago and who have built a secure village. The only problem is that a tyrannical couple treats the others like slave labor, and the team’s guide is too weak to put a stop to it. Is this the kind of desperation Team Summer B will eventually experience?

It becomes apparent in this volume that we’re not only bouncing around in time a little, but that the various teams were released at different times, as well. The story of Team Winter recounted in the last volume actually took place fifteen years ago, while Team Autumn has been working to survive for three years. Also, in the last volume Hana found a note in a stockpile that was actually left by Natsu in this volume, if that makes sense.

Anyway, there’s a lot of traveling going on in this volume. Although I was looking forward to the teams meeting up, it kind of amuses me that Arashi, Natsu, and Semimaru suddenly seem to run into every team but Hana’s on this outing. Like, in the whole of an empty and desolate Japan, they just happen to walk in the direction where Team Autumn has built their village. I suppose having common clues for where to look for the stockpiles helps a little, but still.

Team Autumn is pretty horrible, and the Summer B folk are scarred by the experience, so when they meet gentle and kind Taka from Team Winter, they end up suspecting him and slipping away in the night. Just a few days later, he runs into Hana from Team Spring, and she (who has met no one else yet) accepts him. It’s very sweet. It also shows just how close Arashi and Hana are to each other without knowing it.

Alas, not much more than this really happens in the volume. Walking, angsting, big dangerous animals, reckless puppies. That about sums it up.

7SEEDS 4 (Japanese) by Yumi Tamura: A-

Book description:
It’s been confirmed that the desolate land is indeed Japan, though the teams still don’t know what happened or what year it is. Team Spring—having lost their guide, Yanagi—travels to Mt. Fuji to look for another of the stockpiles, only to find that the volcano has erupted and is no longer there. Just as their hope is flagging, Hana notices some manmade signs directing them to another mountain to the east. The members of Team Winter face their own hardships from the start—between equipment failures, man-eating tigers, and Hokkaido’s bitter cold, some of them will not survive.

The majority of the chapters in this volume featured Team Winter. I’m a little torn about the introduction of other teams into the story. On the one hand I want to see them and what they’re doing, and on the other, there are already tons of characters as it is. Right from the start, Team Winter’s story is a bit more grim than the others, however, as a few of their number do not survive the thawing process, and I got into it more than I thought I would.

More shocks and twists in the story follow, and since I’m not the kind to go around suspecting such things, I really enjoyed the various surprises. The main protagonist of this group is Taka, who believed himself to be weak until inspired by the example of boisterous Fubuki, another member of the group. It was good to see how Taka had progressed by the end of the story, though the appearance of a couple of precious puppies at a crucial point was a bit silly (but sniff-inducing nonetheless).

So, as it stands, each of the teams has now located a stockpile of goods and is camped out nearby. Arashi and Natsu have passed through where Hana’s team is and left a note, though Hana, of course, still has no idea that Arashi is alive. I’m eager for the teams to meet up, especially since I have no idea what to expect from the story after that happens. I have faith that it’ll be something really cool.

7SEEDS 3 (Japanese) by Yumi Tamura: A-

Book description:
In the near future, a huge meteorite has collided with the earth. Governments around the world, who had forseen this worst case scenario, took countermeasures so that humanity would not go extinct. One example is Japan’s “Seven Seeds” project, in which young people were carefully selected and cryogenically frozen until such time as a computer deemed Earth safe for human habitation.

Team Summer B has left their inhospitable island in search of answers while Team Spring’s attempt to escape theirs failed due in part to the misogynist Yanagi, who wants to assume control of the group and refuses to heed the others’ suggestions. After a fall into a pit of deadly mantises, Yanagi is presumed dead. What could his sudden reappearance mean?

There were some sequences in this volume that were just downright COOL. In a deliciously freaky moment, Team Summer B discovered a Nagasaki landmark—a giant statue—almost entirely submerged in water. It was that discovery that really made the reality of their situation sink in. On their separate course, Team Spring realized that they were in Yokohama. Members of each group ventured off separately to check on the status of their home towns, leading to the exploration of creepy abandoned buildings and stuff. I love that sort of thing.

Tamura is adept at maintaining a tense atmosphere and kept the pacing of the story at a satisfying level. Some of the answers I’d been waiting for were provided, but plenty of plot potential remains. I suppose my main complaint at this point is the size of the cast. Sure, Basara had a ton of people, but they felt more gradually introduced. In 7SEEDS there’s already 15 or so. A couple of them got some development in this volume, but there really aren’t any that I particularly care about yet.

It’s the story rather than the characters that’s driving the series at this point. Luckily it’s a darned good one.

7SEEDS 2 (Japanese) by Yumi Tamura: A-

Book description:
A strange man on the island who helped free Arashi and Natsu from some carnivorous plants gives them a clue as to why they find themselves in this predicament—it’s not a kidnapping, it’s “a government project.” The four castaways decide to climb a rocky outcrop from which they can survey their surroundings and get an idea of what is going on and where they are. But what will be waiting for them up there?

The story progresses nicely in this volume. Some answers are revealed regarding the government project, a few additional castaways are discovered, and the group decides to leave the dangerous island. The larger cast and the communal goal brought a Basara-like feel to the proceedings.

And just as the first group is launching out to sea, we meet another group of castaways in the same situation. One of them is Hana (who looks a great deal like Sarasa), the girlfriend of Arashi in the first group (who looks a great deal like Shuri). Natsu has a bit of a crush on Arashi, but Hana is far more worthy of him. It’s kind of interesting to not want the heroine to get the guy, though I guess Hana qualifies as co-heroine by this point.

I actually find this second group more interesting so far. Their circumstances are similar—more with the giant, predatory insects—but Hana’s smart and resourceful and also has to confront a lecherous guy who thinks he’s in charge, which makes for better reading than a timid girl freaking out about giant crocodiles.

One of the best things about the story is that now that the groups know about the project (though some don’t entirely believe it), they’re coming to wonder how many years have actually gone by since they were frozen and are driven to get away from the islands and find out what’s become of Japan and the world. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

7SEEDS 1 (Japanese) by Yumi Tamura: B+

Book description:
The last thing Natsu remembers is going to sleep in her own bed. She awakes on a sinking ship in the company of three strangers, each with no memory of how they got there. After managing to reach a deserted island, the four need to overcome their differences and work together to find out about the inhospitable, strange island where nature appears totally out of balance. What happened? How did they get there? And will they be able to survive?

Yumi Tamura’s Basara is one of my favorite manga series, so I was really interested in reading 7SEEDS, a series she began in 2002.

The premise is an interesting one, though comparisons with the TV show Lost are probably inevitable. This first volume mainly covers the four castaways exploring the island, discovering that most living things—animal, plant, or insect—really really want to eat them, and being suspicious of one another.

The heroine of the piece is Natsu, and she’s a little annoying so far, as she’s very timid and seemingly unable to think for herself. There’s two guys—the nice Arashi and the not-nice Semimaru—who are both really afraid of bugs. My favorite character so far is the ruthlessly practical Botan, who seems to have more of an idea of what’s going on than any of the others.

Tamura does well with dramatic moments—the frequency of thunderstorms on the island helps to furnish ominous lightning as needed—and it’s never dull, though it’s pretty much just setup so far. The art is essentially unchanged from Basara and though Arashi looks a great deal like Shuri and Natsu like Kikune, they’re still distinct enough in expression that I don’t think one would confuse them. I really like how Botan is drawn; her competence just radiates.

I’m sure Basara wasn’t a hot seller for Viz, but I hope they or some other company will license 7SEEDS for American release someday. We need more good sci-fi shoujo!