We are first introduced to a girl named Toko Tachibana, and her adopted brother Oguna. Toko’s family are the guardians of one of four (originally five) powerful “magatama,” magical stones that had originally been strung on a necklace belonging to a goddess. Toko is very close to her adopted brother, and a great deal of the opening action revolves around Toko trying to get her parents to let Oguna take part in family-only rituals he can’t be involved in because he’s adopted.
This story wanders quite a bit and seems to have some problem getting anywhere. We follow Oguna as he is taken in by a prince and trained to be that prince’s “shadow” or double. Due to a number of accidents and disasters, Oguna comes to learn that he is also a prince. He also turns out to be capable of wielding a very dangerous magical sword. These disasters have the end result of destroying Toko’s clan and home, and then the story switches to Toko, who goes on a quest to find the other magatama so that she can kill Oguna. (Oguna cannot die by ordinary means because he and the sword are too powerful.)
Our Heroine Toko combines the features of the active Heroine who goes out and gets things done with the narrative of a passive Heroine who mostly reacts to what happens to her. The recurring themes surrounding Toko are themes related to “being a woman” versus “being a girl.” (Not so much as in growing up but as in presenting as female; Toko is frequently mistaken for a boy and her lack of feminine behaviors or mannerism is often pointed out as detrimental or made fun of. The general idea is that her “boyish” behavior is seen as something she needs to grow out of.) She also has issues with reconciling the boy she remembers to the prince that he’s become.
This particular story drags a lot in places. Some of the character interactions are interesting, but a lot of the writing falls flat. I am not sure if the fault is with the writing or the translation, but it was very difficult to work my way through the story. There are some good moments, but they are buried under the meandering details of the plot. (It is only 438 pages but it feels longer, and not in a good way.)