Archive for September, 2009

A Special Interview With Nick Mamatas

We at the Ranobe Cafe try to bring you something new regulerly, whether that’s news, articles, commentaries, or reviews. But now we can add once again, something new that we have not yet done. An interview.

I got the chance to ask Nick Mamatas, who lead the project over at Haikasoru for the release of Otsuichi’s new novel “ZOO”, some questions regarding its brand new release.

1. Otsuichi’s novel ‘Zoo’ was met with much success in Japan when released, even being adapted into a movie. Do you believe that Otsuichi’s work of fiction will be met with a similar response by English audiences?

It would be great, of course. However, in Japan the short story is still very popular; most major publishers have one or more fiction magazines, which they use to cultivate new talent and give readers something to look at on the expansive public transit system. In the US, the short story has been in decline for decades, since the rise of television at the very least. Stephen King recently claimed that Americans have almost “forgotten” how to read shorts.

Then there’s horror—in Japan horror is typical summer reading. It’s believed that getting the “chills” from reading can one cool down during the hot summer months. In the US, horror is more of a niche—there was a “boom” in the 1980s, but today most horror is disguised as fantasy, or thriller, or even as romance, just so that it can sell.

And ZOO, of course, is a collection of horror short stories, though many of them are science fiction, or fantasy, or the blackest of black comedies. So will ZOO sell over a million copies—it sold 740,000 in Japan? Will there be a film version? (An anthology film, no less!) Likely no. However, it remains an excellent book; the short story is likely the best vehicle for horror, if Poe, Lovecraft, and Bradbury have shown us anything. Horror at novel length generally ends up just being a domestic drama or a mystery novel with scary bits. For the people who do love short stories, and who do love dark fiction, whatever you want to call it, ZOO will be an important book.

2. What is your favorite thing about Zoo? What is your least favorite?

My favorite and least favorite are the same thing: short stories. I am one of those lovers of short fiction; I am so jealous of both Japanese readers and Japanese writers for their luck in living in a country where the form is both respected and popular. I think Otsuichi has a singular voice that brings out the extraordinary found in ordinary circumstances, and his work is very readable.

The frustration, of course, is that short stories are a hard sell. In a way, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; if salespeople don’t think story collections will sell, they won’t hype them to bookstore buyers. If bookstore buyers don’t make large orders of the collections, the public has no opportunity to discover the fiction. If sales are low because of the lack of opportunities, publishers become very wary of publishing short fiction.

3. What do you admire, if anything, about Otsuichi’s writing style?

He’s a real “outsider.” That is, when I first read him I thought to myself, “Wow, it’s like this guy never read a book before he tried to write one!” That’s a compliment, by the way. Genre fiction is, almost by definition, the fiction of repeated experiences. It’s a joke of sorts, when a new author says something like, “But my vampires are different!” And Otsuichi really is different. He turns cliches on their heads because he is able to think outside the book due to the fact—to torture a metaphor—that he doesn’t appear to have ever been in the box. There’s a secret history of the horror short that appears to be his alone.

Also, he’s hilarious. But also as an outsider. Otsuichi means “strange one”, and he’s just like that. He’s the weird guy who just says very funny things, even when he appears to be entirely serious, even earnest.

4. What prompted the decision to choose Otsuichi’s novel over others for a release in English under the Haikasoru imprint?

We wanted to show off the range of Japanese speculative fiction. So our initial list included military SF (All You Need Is KILL), mainstream adventure SF with a strong romance element (The Lord of the Sands of Time), scientifically plausible hard SF (Usurper of the Sun) and, finally, we wanted a book that covered dark fiction, the fantastic, and the short story which is so prominent in Japan. ZOO, which also happens to be a great book, fit all those slots at once. Plus, given that September is a release month on our schedule, we thought something apropos for Halloween would be a good idea.

5. Otsuichi is quite active in the Light Novel community, having written “Calling You”, and having written many short stories in the light novel literary anthology FAUST. Do you feel that Zoo is more similar to a light novel’s writing style, or a traditional writing style?

Or does his writing style in this novel not even fit within either group?

The stories in ZOO are a bit rougher and tougher than his light novel fare, but certainly his use of first-person narratives and minimalist style shows off his light novel roots. That said, Raymond Carver was a minimalist too.

6. Does Haikasoru have any plans to possibly release any other works by Otsuichi? The original novel, which he wrote while in High School, “Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse”, made a big splash in Japan. Could this novel be possibly heading for an English release?

There will be more Otsuichi. More than that, I cannot say right now.

7. What was your favorite part of handling the English adaptation of Zoo?

I was very happy when we received a blurb from Brian Keene, one of the best and hottest new horror writers. That he liked it told me that we were on the right track with ZOO.

8. What do you think makes Haikasoru so unique, and why should fans of Light Novels or for that matter, traditional American fiction, experiment with Japanese Science Fiction?

Japanese SF (and horror) has a close relationship with English-language material, but is given a spin all its own. From Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, to the continued interest in short fiction in that country, to the peculiarities of its publishing industry, Japanese SF is both familiar and alien. It’s sort of like seeing life form and then turning away for a million years, then looking back to see how life evolved in unexpected ways. SF readers are interested in both the “golden age” of their own early reading experiences, and in the new of imagined futures and unique fantasy worlds. Haikasoru offers both.

Haikasoru’s New Release, “Zoo” by author Otsuichi, is now available to buy wherever books are sold.

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September 29, 2009 at 4:28 pm 6 comments

Seitokai no Ichizon Anime Adaptation Promo Up

The TV Anime adaptation of the light novel series “Seitokai no Ichizon” (Student Council’s Discretion) by Sekina Aoi and Kira Inugami has had a 15-second promo video advertisement posted online at the Anime Newtype Channel website. The adaptation is being done by Studio DEEN.

As Taken From Anime News Network…

The light novels series, which is also called Hekiyō Gakuen Seito-kaigi Jiroku (The Records of the Hekiyoh School Student Council’s Activities), revolves around a private high school whose student council is chosen entirely by popularity vote. Because of this, Ken Sugisaki is the only male representative, in the otherwise all bishōjo student council, that may enter the “sacred sanctuary” of the council’s meeting room. At the behest of Council President Kurimu Sakurano, Sugisaki records the minutes of the council meetings, which devolve into daily conversations about the students’ lives and interests.

The anime is planned to make its broadcasting debut in Japan this coming Friday, on October 2.

Source: Anime News Network

September 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment

Do You Have A Passion For Light Novels?

If you’re like me, you have a strong passion for Light Novels. You love them, you like them, and you want more people to do the same.

Well, The Ranobe Cafe is looking for people like you, people to help make this blog even better.

We already have two reviewers, one of which does video reviews. But we need more!

If you want to review light novels, then say so in the comments below. But, also, if you would like to be a contributor and write occasional articles or news stories about Light Novels, then say so as well!

Were looking for more help, so why not volunteer? ^_^

September 26, 2009 at 3:17 pm 10 comments

Yen Press Unveils English Spice and Wolf Novel

So after many many months since the initial announcement by Yen Press of their aquisition of the best selling Light Novel series “Spice and Wolf” written by author Isuna Hasekura, and much speculation regarding the possible new english cover, Yen Press yesterday finally put all the rumors to a rest, unveiling the new cover before hundreds of eager fans.

Intrigingly, unlike with the english addition of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, the Yen Press announcement starts off by appologizing to the fanbase reading. Apparently, they themsleves could forsee how fans might react to the new radically re-designed cover.

Now, here are the details. Unlike with Haruhi, the novel will not apparently have a hardback release, but will only contain a mass paperback release, using the cover as seen to the left.

However, to make ammends with fans, they will be offering a slip cover for the novel in the December issue of Yen+ magazine which fans can use to put over the book which will contain the original cover art. This follows in the footsteps of many magazines in Japan. The third manga of Spice and Wolf was offered an alternative slip cover in Japan through the manga magazine serializing it.

Yen+ will also be providing a preview of the novel in their magazine.

Even with this, fans erupted in a fury.

“Her boob looks…. somewhat… lopsided. Like someone took a blur/smudge tool and scribbled over the image in a straight line. (Trying to refrain from the ‘this looks shopped’ line here.)
Her boob really shouldn’t be flat on one side. It’s freaking me out! Poor Horo!”
wrote Bonita in their comments section.

“Vomit. Why couldn’t you do it like Haruhi? Include the original cover with a hardback release or something along those lines. I do not want this thing on my shelf.” said another user who went by “h”.

“Well, I just cancelled my preorder. I find this cover prurient and distasteful. I cannot imagine this generating new sales, and while I have no general problem with ‘Americanization’ in general, I frankly hope this specific attempt fails.” wrote Travis.

“After seeing this cover, I’ve canceled my order. Please consider other options to make the Ayakura cover more accessible and affordable and I’ll reconsider my decision as well. I won’t purchase this as it is, however.” typed another user who went only by “-“.

“I don’t think that the new cover represents the spirit of Spicy Wolf very well. When I think of Spicy Wolf, nude wolf girls are not what comes to mind first. What does come to mind are images of medieval economics. This cover seems like it should be next to a Fabio romance novel.” said Faris.

But even with a wall of fans crashing angrily against Yen Press, there were among them, an almost equal ammount of fans defending the companies marketing decisions.

“Ugly cover, but i will buy the LN because i like the story, and i will buy the Yen+ december number too. I hope the hardcore fans dont be angry with the change, i understand what YP want do, the same like Tokyopop, TP fails and i hope YP not.” wrote Eris.

“Although I’m disappointed that you’re not using the original, I’m glad that we still have access to it! Thank you very much, and looking forward to the December release!” wrote Shirachi.

“I can completely understand changing cover designs to bring into audiences. It’s unfortunate, but necessary; light novels just don’t make enough profits from the manga community alone. That said, it’s cool that you guys are offering a cover slip. I hope light novels will be successful for once.” said Arc.

“W00T for SPICE AND WOLF! I love Light Novels and I’m definitly picking this one up.” said Demio.

“I am so glad that you are also making the slip jacket for us hardcore fans of this wonderful series. It just goes to show that Yen Press really knows what their fans want and are willing to try and please us all. I can’t wait to get my hands on the novel and December’s issue of Yen+!” typed BillChiu

“I think the new cover is pretty gorgeous in itself. I hope it succeeds to bringing in a bigger audience!” said Kiri.

“I think the cover is beautiful and mysterious. It just goes to show how backwards-minded the American culture is about nudity with so many people calling this “tasteless”. It is a very tasteful cover, doesn’t show too much at all.” added  Katelyn.

It’s obvious that the ammount of opinion on this cover decision are large, and some valid points to consider have been mentioned by users in the comment section.

In response, “Hassler” of Yen Press replied in a comment, “Lots and lots of comments! Feedback is never a bad thing.
We appreciate the support from everyone offering it, and we understand the frustration of others. We’ve received a lot of interesting suggestions about other possible ways to get cover versions featuring the original art into fans’ hands going forward, and we’ll be exploring their feasibility.”

I’m glad they are reading the comments of users and listening sincerely to them. But now, I’d like to give my own thoughts regarding this, and ask for Yen Press to hear me out on what I have to say.

First off, since this is the most heated part of this announcement, let’s talk above covers. Do I personally like it? No. I personally feel the cover somewhatpresents Spice and Wolf in a wrong light. However, I’m guessing there’s nothing that can be done about it by now, since you probably have already begun printing copies with it.

I am VERY thankful to you for providing a slip cover with the colored cover. Really, I am so thankful.

In fact,  since from what I understand Spice and Wolf will be published in paperback, this marks the very FIRST ever paperback English light novel to recieve a slip cover, much like the ones in Japan come with on default. So congratulations, you’ve made history!

Secondly, the issue on many fans minds is the name change from “Horo to Holo”. As much as I disagree with this, I will respect the fact that the Japanese publisher (and hopefully with the authorization of the author) decided the L looked better than the R. I disagree, but I shall respect their decision.

Thirdly, what am I mad if anything about? I’ll tell you, and it’s the one thing not brought up in the comments by fans.

There is something that the covers ARE MISSING.

What? you ask.

There is a tagline that appears on EVERY Spice and Wolf novel in Japan, it’s even printed in English on the Japanese releases. It says “Merchant Meats Spicy Wolf”. It appears right alongside the title.

What makes me mad, is that the original colored cover being given in Yen+ is even lacking it. This tagline is IMPORTANT. The author has admitted that the tagline’s mispelling of “Meets” to “Meats” is eluding to something not yet shown in the story. I politely ask that Yen Press add this tagline to the slip cover edition ASAP. The original cover just isn’t complete in my eyes without that famous tagline.

Otherwise, with that tagline added, I can happily 100% support Yen Press’s goal of making Holo *cough*it’s better as Horo*cough* a household name.

I think any true fan of this story should buy this novel, and for those who say they have canceled or hope that Yen Press will fail, all I can do is shake my head sadly. It is fans like that who will hinder the light novel industry from suceeding in the future. They need the books to sell to more than just the fanbase. Perhaps in the future, if Spice and Wolf becomes a best selling novel in the US, we can have a proper cover release of the novel as a collectors edition.

So I eagerly look forward to Yen Press’s release of Spice and Wolf, and congratulate them on getting their hands on something so special.

Also though, a question was asked that I feel needs an answer. Will Yen+ give a special slip cover for every novel release of Spice and Wolf? Because that would be great. 😉

September 25, 2009 at 4:46 pm 27 comments

Sorry For The Delay, Were Back!

As you might have noticed, the updates to the blog were slowing, and then for the past week few days, there have been no updates whatsoever. Well, not to worry, we are still alive and well. I’ve been pretty busy marathoning the anime “Eureka Seven” (In my humble opinion, the best anime ever created) in preparation for seeing the movie yesterday evening at the theatre.

But now that that’s over with, and things are a bit more back to normal, we will resume with the updates to the blog.

Sorry for the wait! 😉

September 25, 2009 at 3:32 pm Leave a comment

The Case of the (MISSING) Dragon Slayer

As you may vaguely remember, Del Rey in April of last year, announced at the New York Comic-Con that it had aquired the license to Kouhei Kadono’s first novel in the Jinken Light Novel series, titled “The Case of the Dragon Slayer” and also announced that they would be publishing it in February of 2009.

Well……..February came and went.

There has in fact never been any word or mention of cancelation on this title from Del Rey or elsewhere. In fact, there hasn’t been any word PERIOD.

The Amazon.com listing shows a cover for Kitchen Princess and says the release will be  June 28, 2011.

GKWorld lists the novel as coming June 22, 2010.

Books-By-ISBN.com lists it as coming in 2011.

But although those sites all list release dates in the future, some, have released dates already gone by.

TFAW lists the release date as February 25, 2009.

Anime Castle lists the release date as February 25, 2009 as well, but still has a “PRE-ORDER” button listed.

While on the other hand, Anime Wild lists no release date, but does say that the book is available, released, and ready to order. In fact, it says shipping should only take up to 3 days.

There is no listing on Barnes & Noble by the way.

So perhaps this is a weird messed up listing error because Del Rey pushed back the novel’s release, just like they did with Zaregoto Book 2.

Just one problem…

There are already reviews on the internet for the book.

There are reviews for it here, and here.

So what’s the truth here? Did it get released? Is it on hold? Is it canceled?

Del Rey hasn’t said.

So what do you think about this? Leave your comments below.

September 20, 2009 at 11:33 pm 3 comments

Light Novel Based Movie Will Be Live-Action

The official website for the movie adaptation of Tōru Honda’s light novel series, “Light Novel no Tanoshii Kakikata”,  launched yesterday with the announcement that the film would be live-action. When the series was first announced as having been given the green light for a movie adaptation, it had not been specified as to whether the film would be animated or live-action.

The website promises another update to come in 15 days.

Honda began writing the light novel series just last year.

The story follows a girl who secretely writes light novels, and her classmate who finds out.

Source: Anime News Network

September 18, 2009 at 1:39 pm Leave a comment

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Welcome To Ranobe Cafe!

This marks the english speaking world's first dedicated light novel blog, bringing you news and views from the english perspective on light novels. We are more than just a blog about light novels though, we also stand in awe of the many other literary works crossing over to the West from Japan. So expect to also see articles that dabble from time to time in Cell Phone Novels and Japanese Sci-Fi works, to mention a few.

So come all you light novel enthusiasts! Come one and all! We may be a niche, and may represent one of the smallest markets in these economically troubled times, but we are also one of the most dedicated! So let us come together and support the industry we love and hold so dearly!

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