Archive for the ‘ Light Novels ’ Category

Welcome to the NHK Novel Review

Welcome to the NHK Novel Cover

I figured that this would be a good title to start with, given that the title is going to be reprinted soon, in December 2009 hopefully. I haven’t seen a specific date, but it’ll be what I’m giving people for Christmas. Currently if you don’t have the book and you can’t wait, you can find it on amazon from $60 or $140 depending on how new you want it. If you’re interested in what happened to the author afterwards, (because the book leaves you hanging), I believe he now writes regularly for Faust in Japan.

Title: NHKにようこそ!/ Welcome to the NHK

Author: 滝本竜彦/ Takimoto Tatsuhiko

Illustrator: 安倍吉俊/ Abe Yoshitobe

Licensed by: TokyoPop

Translated by: Lindsey Akashi / Laura Wyrick (? “Adapter”)

[It’s bothering me but the cover illustrator is not credited at all in the English Edition. D:<]

Alright. Welcome to the NHK. This is a fantastic book, and the first real book to spur me into Japanese literature, because that’s what it is. Literature. – Now, after an attempt at banishing my inner fan I will continue.

The first thing I tell anyone when I tell anyone about this book, is that it is not the manga, nor the anime, thank god. Now I know that a good amount of people like the Welcome to the NHK manga and anime, but perhaps by misfortune I read this book first, and everything else afterwards was a disappointment. So please if you have experienced NHK in one of its other forms, hold your judgement and just read.

This is what the cover of the Japanese second edition of the book says in Engrish on the cover:

The existence of the evil organization of “NHK”, I happened to find it.All the reasons why I dropped out from the university, being unemployed and “Hikkikomori” – homicidal young person – are due to NHK’s conspiracy. I’ll keep fighting till the day I will up at the vice organization.But one day, an assassin from a religious group, show up to kill me. She is a neat and beautiful girl, Misaki-chan, with a parasol.Who is she? What can save our future contaminated with eroticism, violence and drug? Love, courage, or friendship? This is an ultimate non-stop Hikikomori Action NOVEL!

In a way that makes more sense, I would say Welcome to the NHK is about Satou Tatsuhiro and how his stagnant puddle of a life gets a rock thrown into it in the form of Nakahara Misaki, and a plunger pulled in the form of his allowance being withdrawn. It is a plot designed for character development, and it succeeds. It makes incredible use of “dark humor”. It’s wonderfully hilarious, and then you think about it for a moment, and it hits you how sad and true it feels, and then you laugh again. It is also an insight into the “culture of the Japanese youth”. I think a lot of people who talk loosely about the demographic situation in Japan would do to read this, and I also think a lot of random organizations would ban it. That means it’s good.

Satou is a hikikomori, someone who has withdrawn from social life for various reasons. Satou has gotten to the breaking point, he is into drugs to pass the time, creates the NHK to move the fault away from himself, flutters on through lolicon-ism, religion, and strives to create an h-game with his friend as if it were the holy grail. You may have taken the Kafuka Fuura approach, “there’s no way someone like that could be near me!” to hikikomori before, but as I’m sure nearly everyone that has gone to college and dealt with the social, academic, economic stress… or is a writer – can identify with Satou. Part of that is because it’s really well written. Takimoto Tatsuhiko was a hikikomori when he wrote Welcome to the NHK and really put part of himself into it. Part of that is because the plot is realistic; no matter how ridiculous it gets, it has that real feel to it. The end has a lot to do with it – the writer himself by the end of the second afterward, is still a hikikomori after all.

The other characters are believable as well, I might have met them before. Misaki-chan is a normal girl, therefore she has social problems. Yamazaki is the guy that should be happy because he has money when you don’t, but has “thrown away his life” to run in random directions, running with a bomb not knowing where to ignite it. It reverberates. If I could have my way I’d assign it for high school reading, say “this is what you’re getting yourself into.”

As for the translation, I know I’ve heard people say they hate TokyoPop translations or this and that, but the translation for this particular light novel is excellent. It doesn’t over-localize things, it doesn’t try to change Takimoto’s writing style, and it has a decent but not overblown endnotes section for explaining references. It uses terms that won’t upset people with knowledge of Japanese culture etc., but still won’t leave other people in the dark.

As a recap, Welcome to the NHK is not quite an “ultimate non-stop Hikikomori Action NOVEL!” – it’s better. It’s hilarious, has spectacular character development, and is real. It’s one of the better shorter (light) novels I’ve ever read.


Light Novel Review – Kara no Kyoukai – Fukan Fuukei

空の境界 - 俯瞰風景 (ch1) - Thanatos / Fujoh Kirie

^No it’s not a picture of Fujoh Kirie, but this is her chapter; you can’t start a Kara no Kyoukai anything and not have a picture of Ryougi Shiki.

First of all I’ve updated the Black Lotus post to include romaji, which comes in handy for EastNewSound as they like to play with the difference between lyrics sung and those written on paper. I’ve started reading Bakemonogatari and with a perhaps too hopeful strategy I should be able to finish a full chapter every 1-2 weeks, while still reading Kara no Kyoukai. My second contact has received “Gungnir” so I should receive it in two weeks – I can’t wait to read and translate it. If I’m not too busy I’ll share; I also should put up a few more EastNewSound translations from Lucent Wish and Lyrical Crimson.

I was already thinking about writing a proper review for Kara no Kyoukai (not just a jotted down film v. text comparison), and around the same time I heard the Ranobe Cafe was looking for light novel reviewers – so I figured I’d make a submission – this is it.

If only I could stop time~ I’d translate all these wonderful novels and give them to the English speaking world~

Title: 空の境界 (Kara no Kyoukai): the Garden of sinners
Chapter: 1/俯瞰風景(Fukan Fuukei) Fujoh Kirie | Thanatos.
…(俯瞰風景=Overlooking View/Commanding View; also translated as “A View from Above”)
Author: Nasu Kinoko (TYPE-MOON)
Illustrator: Takeuchi Takashi (TYPE-MOON)
Licensed by??: Del Rey Manga/Faust Editing Group

I first encountered Kara no Kyoukai in Faust 1 (as “The Garden of Sinners: A View from Above”), translated by Paul Johnson, with a note: “The first chapter of The Garden of Sinners is presented here. The novel will be published in the United States, in its entirety in two volumes by Del Rey Manga, beginning in 2009.” Unfortunately that’s the last you’ll hear of it. I wanted more so after a little research I found the books and ordered the newest editions. (The new covers caught my eye). At this point I’ve read the original Japanese text, the only official English translation, and seen the film as well.

First of all, the format: Kara no Kyoukai (meaning Empty Boundary) is made up of seven chapters (excluding a sort of omake chapter published separately), each with their own basic plot and focal character, with an interlinking underlying plot (not unlike other series such as Bakemonogatari). The chapters themselves aren’t in chronological order and you must piece together hints until the arc reaches whatever time period. It’s a good format.

Kara no Kyoukai starts off with Fukan Fuukei, or Overlooking View. Fukan Fuukei itself without much of a warning switches narrators and its own chronological order around easily, but this is one of its charms. Narration, unreliable narration is key to the text. In fact, one of the main narrators, Kokutou, is oblivious throughout the entirety of the incident. Vagueness permeates the story – how are these characters connected, really who – who are they? Unlike the dazzling film would lead you to believe, most of the chapter is about suicide jumpers, falling and flying, and the psychological effects of an environmentally dissociative situation. The magic, that is. It’s a writing style that may take getting used to, but in the end it is absolutely superb.

Now because I don’t believe a review should leave the reader in the dark, I offer an overview. This chapter introduces three of the main characters: Ryougi Shiki, a young woman newly out of a two year coma, eternally dressed in traditional Japanese clothing with the exception of a bright red leather jumper; Kokutou Mikiya, the normal protagonist, relative to the others a bit dull witted, but lucky in a way and kind – who the reader connects with; and finally Aozaki Touko, the mage and puppeteer who runs “Garan no Dou”, employer of Kokutou who sometimes chooses to meddle indirectly in “incidents” that occur. Then there is Fujou Kirie who seems to be the link between a number of suicides, all jumpers. A link that spreads all the way to Kokutou.

All in all, what I like most about Fukan Fuukei is how it is written and the imagery tied in with it all. The “magic”, is in a way casually explained or glossed over that you accept it as fact, without really understanding it, just like Kokutou. If you’ve only watched the film, which takes a much more direct approach to the story (as a visual medium it sort of lends itself to that), I highly recommend the text. I think it has a much more interesting approach. Though I love the writing style, it’s easy to understand how someone could be put off by it. Though as it’s one of the shorter chapters, and that by itself it reads well enough as a short story, I recommend you give it a try. If you like it, there’s more to come. Though you might despair over the lack of more official translations, Baka-Tsuki has up to halfway through chapter 5 of 7 translated (it’s stalled there). Further than that, if you’re up to reading it in Japanese or pestering Del Rey to hurry up, join me in both motions. Other than that there are also the films, a flurry of beautiful animation by ufotable and beautiful music by Kalafina.