Archive for October, 2009

The Video Blog Review by Brent – Boogiepop 2

So it’s that special time again. Brent (from Otaku no Video) is back with a second review for us, and this time, it’s a review of the light novel “Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator Part 1”.

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October 9, 2009 at 8:26 pm 1 comment

Free Light Novels! Wait…Huh?

As we all know, light novels, like manga, aren’t exactly cheap. Some are the same price as manga, others cost more. If you’re an aficionado of any kind of translated media like anime, manga, and videogames, you know that the price can be higher than most of the domestic releases of similar media.

I don’t mind paying the eight to ten dollars for light novels every once in a while, especially if it’s for a light novel that I really love. It’s only after buying the third and fourth volume that you’ll begin to realize that this is going to be an expensive habit.

So what do you do about it? You cut your costs. You don’t have to stop buying light novels altogether, but there are ways that you can curve your spending and still enjoy all the light novels that you love.

Google Books

For me, Google Books has been a big help in locating the light novels that I like and a few I’ve never even knew were published. In my library right now are more light novels than I ever expected to find. They may only be limited previews, but there are enough pages available for reading to help me decide if it’s a title that I want to purchase in the future. So far, I’ve found Hiroshi Ohnogi’s Rahxephon, Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Dark Wars: The Tale of Meiji Dracula, issue one of FAUST, and NisiOisin’s Zaregoto and XXXholic: Anotherholic. Google Books is supposed to continually add books to their library, so I’m interested in seeing what other titles will appear in the future.

Previews

I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of a preview. Previews serve as a way to help us decide if we want to buy the light novel or not, and they can keep you entertained if you just want to read a light novel without paying anything. Many publishers will post light novel previews online for you to read. The best previews are the ones that you can download and read at any time without having to return to the publisher’s site. The pdf versions of previews are surprisingly long. I’ve read light novel previews of “Haruhi,” “The Ballad of a Shinigami,” “The Guin Saga,” and many others.

Fan Translations

Fan translations have always been a good way for anyone to read a light novel for free. A lot of the light novels that are translated are novels that may never make an official debut in America. Baka-Tsuki and Shoku Dan are just two places that I’ve been able to find some light novel translations. Be sure to give those a try. However, please keep in mind that fan translations often differ in quality. Do not mistake a poor translation for ‘bad writing’ on the author’s part. These translations serve primarily as a substitute for the lacking official translations. And we highly hope that if you enjoy a fan translation that you will attempt to order the Japanese copy or eventual official English translation to support the series. Fan translations are not an excuse to not pay money for the novel.

Bookstore

Just like any avid manga reader camped out in the manga section of the bookstore, you too can go to your favorite bookstore and read all of the light novels you want. The fast-paced writing style lends itself well to this kind of reading because you can usually finish a light novel in one sitting.

Raw

If you’re really hardcore about light novels, you can definitely find them online, scanned, and in their rawest form, untranslated Japanese. Even if you’re just semi-proficient with the language, you should still be able to enjoy some of your favorite titles in the raw. Run a search on your favorite titles and see if you can find what you’re looking for. Please keep in mind however that the above is technically by law illegal. You are reading scanned books. Please be sure to buy the novel off of the Japanese Amazon website or through a local Japanese book store or Market if you enjoy it. Use light novel Raws as a preview method only, and not as a way to get out of paying.

Have any more suggestions on how we can read light novels for free? Share them with us! Leave a comment below.

October 5, 2009 at 12:17 am 3 comments

Review: Train Man: The Novel

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Reviewed By: Jacob Martin

Train Man, as a novel, changed my life. I didn’t even use blogs or forums before I read this book. My parents, they generally think the internet is a minefield of pedophiles and nasty folk. In some ways they still do. But Train Man… it presents things a little differently.

What if you were so hopeless at talking to the opposite sex, that one day, when opportunity arises, you need help to even see that the opportunity is there? When you are so used to being lonely, you’ve never known anything else and the possibility you might have a chance at love scares you because you don’t want to screw it up?

This is the dilemma Train Man, or as he is known in his native country, Densha Otoko, faces. So bewildered by the sharp shock that catapults him into the path of a young woman who he saved on a train from a drunken old guy… he’s at his wits end. But where does he turn? The most unlikely of places. The internet, 2Channel to be precise. What resulted from that thread which records the history of this particularly strange event was edited down by an anonymous forum user from the raw logs, and turned into the novel which I purchased one day after having heard about it, from, of all places, the internet. I don’t know precisely how it happened, nor can I remember it very well. All I know is that the story in this book, changed my life.

I started interacting with people on the other side of the world I’d never met in person. I went to see the recent Star Trek movie with Australian bloggers I had never met in real life, even though my parents were horrified by the idea, their fears for my safety were most telling about the nature of their generation, and my own. Their generation was taught to fear strangers, whereas my generation seemed to embrace strange company.

Train Man is therefore having the potential as a literary work to be just as subversive as Welcome to the NHK by Tatsuhiko Takimoto, but in a different way. The trouble lies in getting people to read it, so their lives are changed too. It’s written in internet forum posts – a literary technique not seen since The E Before Christmas by Matt Beaumont. In that novel, it’s told in emails, but in the Train Man novel, an entirely new and strange technology is equally part of the story as Train Man‘s leaps into love: the internet forum.

Literature is perhaps not quite ready to accept internet literary techniques in Western literature, but Japanese literature has long been a form which embraces innovation years or even centuries before the West even begins to come to terms with it. The multiple viewpoint technique in Japanese literature is an example, but I hope we don’t have to wait half a century before the internet is accepted as a growing part of the human experience. The choice to publish Train Man: The Novel as an edited version of its raw forum post form is a startling decision, instead of “Based on a True Story” type prose fiction, it goes all the way and accepts what it’s got to work with.

The ASCII art presented in the novel is intact: and it truly replicates the experience of the 2Channel forums in hypertext. The book is best read in either novel format or in the Project Densha translation, but if you don’t like sitting at your computer for hours, the book version is the best way to go. The fact there is a public domain translation is fascinating, because it reveals the nature of the story itself: the story of Train Man wasn’t composed by some writer who lives in a country-side cottage, it was built out of the internet posts of the common people. Nobody really owns Train Man/Densha Otoko’s story: it belongs to the common people because they helped Train Man/Densha achieve the courage he needed at the moment where he felt so lonely and helpless that he turned to the solace of strangers.

Train Man’s story is not weird because it’s unrealistic, it’s just very unlikely. To give you an idea of this, imagine a world where Terry Pratchett’s maxim of “Million to one chances happen nine times out of ten” happened to a lonely otaku with not a clue how to talk to women, or how to interact with people outside of the internet. What develops is a fascinating parable of netiquette: people stop trolling Train/Densha because his courage which was there all along completely undermines any bitterness that the people who initially trolled him in the story had against him. It’s a powerful fable about 21st Century cynicism, one that isn’t just applicable to a Japanese context, but the world.

Cynicism is born from doubt, but sometimes doubt undermines any positive change we can act out in our lives. When everything is hopeless, sometimes you just need to believe in yourself, that maybe, that girl you met on the train that you kind of like will feel the same way as you do about her? Maybe she won’t, and she’ll reject you, and you’ll go back to fantasising about anime girls like every other jaded otaku. Or maybe, you’re better than this. Maybe you want to see what happens if you take a chance even though your hopes and dreams might be shot to oblivion. And that’s part of the narrative my generation, Generation Y, born and raised on the internet, is living out RIGHT NOW.

The translation of the Robinson published edition (which is the version available in the UK) is interesting because usually translations of novels Americanise things, whereas this Britishises it. I feel a British approach to the translation rather than an Americanised translation is a fascinating look at how language is preserved by the British (except in instances where things are lost in translation). Instead of “Mom”, the abbreviation of mother in this version is “Mum”, which is what people in Australia like me use (They did start Australia as we now understand it as a British penal colony after all). In that sense I was drawn right into this translation – I felt that I was hearing the voices of real people rather than an American anime dub voice. Maybe you feel differently about translation, but as an Australian I find that maybe, complete Americanisation of all Japanese translation is not the answer for a more accessible text.

The story itself is a powerful one, nerdy guy makes good sounds like a cheesy romance novel plot – but how many romance novels can you say both appeal to men and women at the same time? The gender divide is really balanced here, you can enjoy it no matter if you’re a boy or a girl. Love is universal that way. I am serious. Even if you never buy the novel, read the Project Densha translation just to try it out. I give you a money-back guarantee you will like it, because you will have paid nothing but your time which is well worth it.

* * * * *

Jacob Martin is a blogger, writer and photographer with Asperger’s Syndrome who lives in Sydney. He also thinks like Train Man, he needs to get out more.

Added Note by Ranobe Cafe: While although it is believed by many that these posts from 2ch were in fact real. It should be noted that the novel when released was marketed as such, a NOVEL, a work of FICTION. The English edition makes no mention of it being based on actual real life internet posts or any true story. So while many believe in both Japan and America that these posts within the book were taken directly from the 2ch boards, it is also believed by many that this was a complete work of fiction. Please keep this in mind. Thank you.

October 5, 2009 at 12:00 am 2 comments

Are You Ready To Go To The ZOO?

Obviously by now you have realized that we have mentioned the new Haikasoru title “Zoo” extensively, and yet again we bring you a new article, this time, a review!

This is my first review of a book for my blog, so hopefully you will all enjoy it.

The third title from the new Haikasoru Science Fiction Imprint by Viz, Otsuichi’s newest novel to be brought to English readers is “ZOO”. Sounds harmless, right?

Before discussing the book itself, let’s review who the man Otsuichi even is. You may have heard of him, or you may not have. Having published his first novel while still in High School living in Japan (Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse) and recieving critical praise for it, he went onwards to write many many more novels. Two besides this one have been translated into English. The first was “Calling You”, while the second was “GOTH”.

Having read Otsuichi’s two published short stories in the English edition of FAUST by Del Rey, I already was well aware that this author was excellent. I ordered a copy of “Calling You” and after a while, sat down one day to read it. I was floored when I finished it. It was an amazing book, a true work of art, a masterpiece. It was inspiring, filled with hope, and yet contained the realistic sadness the characters carried with them. I loved it.

I was however entirely shocked to realize that someone who wrote such great Science Fiction and such inspiring stories could be a bestselling ‘Horror’ writer. I was reluctant to delve right into “GOTH”, so I waited and got “ZOO” instead to give me a taste of his writing style. See, to understand, I have never read a Horror novel before. So I was a bit reluctant to start.

Let me start off by saying that Zoo was deffinitely a unique read. There are very few books like it, I believe, of course, I don’t read Horror, so maybe I’m incorrect, however, I have a feeling that this book is still unique even to the Horror genre. However, it was not a perfect read, it had its faults, however, its positives I believe outweighed the negatives. Below, I will give my review for each of the chapters, and then give my overall detailed review of the book as a whole. No worries, I won’t give away any major spoilers.

1. ZOO

The first short story in this 11 story collection was of course expected by me to be an amazing start to a hopefully amazing novel. Afterall, the entire book was named after this story. It follows a man who kills his girlfriend after going to the Zoo, and then takes photo’s of her decomposing corpse. But he makes himself forget that he did it, or rather, he refuses to accept it. Ok, so, any reader of Otsuichi know’s that all of his great short stories have really good ‘twists’ at the end that help to wrap up the story. Up until this book, I hadn’t read a story of his that didn’t. So what’s the twist? Oh wait…I’ve already told you above. I know, your confused. You see, for some unknown and unexplainable reason, Otsuichi decides to reveal the twist in the very beginning. So through most of the story, you KNOW the main character is the killer. So what’s the ending? I won’t tell, that’s obviously a spoiler, however, to me, it was a very un-enjoyable ending. I already knew what the ending would be LONG BEFORE it actually happened. It was quite a dissapointment for me to read Otsuichi writing something that was so DIFFERENT and completely not as good as his other short stories. In my opinion, he really didn’t think hard enough about this story when he wrote it.

2. In A Falling Airplane

Ok, so while the first story was a big dissapointment to me, the second was a wonderful, brilliant, amazing surprise! I really mean it. The second story involves a woman who boards an airplane and ends up sitting next to another passenger, a male salesman. But as they are in the air, a highschool student who had been rejected entrance to Tokyo University hijacks the aircraft, holding everyone hostage. He announces he plans to ram the plane into the University. It is now that people panic, and the woman is offered to buy something from her male passenger. You see, it just so happens he has a bit of a Euthenasia Drug with him, however, she has to act quickly. It’s an hour until they crash, and the durg takes a half hour to take effect. With thirty minutes on the clock she must decide what to do, and what is the truth. This story, let me start of by saying, is utterly brilliant! I loved every moment of it. From page 1 until the end, I was completely sucked into the story. And the ending? Just like all of Otsuichi’s mastperieces, it had a satifying and enjoyable twist and ending. This is probably the BEST story in the entire book. A MUST READ.

3. The White House In The Cold Forest

This was the second horror genre story in the book. While some reviewers said they found the character distant. I felt in the beginning of the story he was more relatable, but as he went his own way, he became distant. But this was not in my eye’s any problem such as it was for others. I was actually pretty interested in the story. Obviously, Otsuichi’s writing is good in almost every story, no matter if its good or not. So whether his stories are well written is almost always never a question that needs to be asked. However, as the story sets itself up for the final TWIST ending, as he is normally famous for, I sighed miserably. It sucked. There was at least a twist this time, unlike Zoo which gave it away, however, the twist in my opinion just wasn’t really “twist-worthy”. I just didn’t enjoy it, and so it made the whole story a waste of my time.

4. Find the Blood!

This short story about a man who can’t feel anything, but wakes up in the morning while out on vacation with his family, stabbed. He’s bleeding, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop it or get him to the a hospital since they are in the mountains. So he comes to the conclusion that someone in his family did him in, and he decides he needs to figure it out. So as he bleeds to death, he tries to figure it out. Problem is, none of his family mind his death, so any one of them could have done it. It’s supposed to be a dark comedy I guess, however, it simply lacked the magic Otsuichi’s stories normally have. It’s ok, it just….not anything worthwhile.

5. In A Park At Twilight, A Long Time Ago

A 2 and half page short story. A very quick read, but a good one. Has a nice small twist of an ending.

6. Wardrobe

The sixth short story, and deffinitely the second best. Some have called it a “who done it” kind of story, but I believe that couldn’t be further from the truth. I can’t really tell you any details about it, because it’s really complicated. However, essentially, on the last small paragraph, Otsuichi mind rapes you. No, I mean, I’m serious. You’re left gawking at the page, wondering if the author is half-mad, or you are. You re-read it several times, re-read the page again, and then finally start to re-read the beginning of the story. It is at this time you realize the truth, and laugh or scream your head off in fury. Why? Because Otsuichi, that cunning man he is, is laughing at you. You’ve been duked! I can’t explain any more, or else it will spoil it. But anyways, deffinitely a wonderful story that will not leave your mind after reading it and truly show’s how a simple story can still be turned into an unforgettable tale of cunning writing.

7. Song of the Sunny Spot

This is another science fiction story, like Otsuichi is famous for. It’s about a robot built by the last human on earth after a virus has killed everyone. He informs the android human looking girl that he is infected and will soon die. Her job? To bury him next to his uncle. The story is mostly philosophical and looks at the “Meaning of Life”. It has a nice small twist at the end that helps make the story even more enjoyable. Deffinitely a nice read.

8. Kazari and Yoko

The story is about two twin girls, and how their mother loves one, but hate’s another. And when I say ‘hate’, I mean ‘hate’ as the dictionary defines. In fact, it opens the story up with Yoko wondering how she will be killed by her mother, should her mother finally decide to do it. Wow…how to explain this story…. Creepy? Scary? Frightening? Not sure. What I can say is, you’ll have a very hard time trying to stop reading it. It’s another horror themed short story, and as you have read already, all the previous ‘horror’ stories all came out sub-par or below. But not with this one. This was finally a great read. It was engaging, frightening, and hooked the reader till the very end. And it did not dissapoint. While some may read it and consider an alternate ending that would have had more of a horror genre effect perhaps, the ending Otsuichi delivers is just as good. A scary good read. Although, perhaps ‘thriller’ best describes the book considering the ending Otsuichi gave it. Hmm…I guess you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

9. SO-far

Another wonderful gem by Otsuichi. This short story is about a young boy who one day realizes his parents can no longer see each other. Each of the parents believes that the other is dead. But he can see both of them. So what’s the truth? Are they both dead? Or is only one dead? Or are neither dead? Does an “alternate reality” have anything to do with it? The mystery abounds and so does the intrigue as the young boy quickly becomes the speaker box for both of his parents to talk to each other. However, when their conversation goes sour, and the boy is forced to speak unpleasent things to both his parents, will the grief and sorrow brought about be their son’s demise? This story is just wonderful. I loved it. It has a BEAUTIFUL twist ending that truly makes one relflect long and hard on the story. ANY new parents with young children who are fighting in the home, MUST and SHOULD BE REQUIRED to read this story. It just might make them think twice about what they are doing, and how it will effect their children’s futures. VERY good story.

10. Words of God

This short story follows a young boy who believes he is a wretched soul, is ugly on the inside, and is always trying to please others so as to not be looked down on. Did I mention he can speak commands and any living thing must obey him? Oh, no? Yea, it’s kind of important I guess. Anyways, I read, and I read, and I hoped that after this many ‘good’ stories finally, the trend would keep going. Sadly, I was to be dissapointed. This story like the first few, lacked a good ending. I was not pleased with it, and it once again didn’t feel like Otsuichi. It’s supposed to have a twist at the end, but…honestly, I was left feeling “Who cares?”

11. Seven Rooms

The final chapter and short story, and the scariest of them all. It gives a true taste of Otsuichi’s idea of Horror. It’s a very frightening read, and it’s written well enough (as expected) that you can’t stop reading. A brother and sister awaken in a single locked (with no windows) cell. They quickly try to discover the secret behind their capitivity, but as they do, their fate’s grow grimmer. While it has amazing spell binding writing, and the story captivates you increddibly. The ending was too sad. I know, corny right? Keep in mind, this is my first time reading ANYTHING horror. As such, I was hoping for a happier ending. And while in a certain sense it is, it isn’t. I just felt, depressed at the end of it all. And while I realize some may enjoy that type of story, for me, it just left me feeling bad. Of course, after a while and getting my mind off it, I was able to not feel so bad. I had become so attatched to both characters that their fates felt too real for me to be comfortable with. haha. Of course, that just goes to show you how well written it was. So while this story could be a great read for some people, for other’s it might prove not to be so great.

So what do I think of the book as overall? A great read. While it may contain many faults, it does indeed have many worthwhile gems. It’s deffinitely a book worth buying and reading. In my opinion, you could skip reading the chapter’s I mentioned as bad. It would make your perception of the book entirely better probably. Of course, everyone’s opinion is different, so who know’s, you just might have an opposite opinion as to mine. To me. ff the questionable chapters had not been included, I would have called this book “amazing”. But unfortunately they were, so I must simply call it “very good”.

I will say most of all that this was a very enjoyable read, and had many amazing stories by Otsuichi. I am glad to know that Viz will be releasing more of Otsuichi’s novels in the hopefully near future. I certainly will be eagerly buying them as they are released.

So to the people at Haikasoru, “Job Well Done!”

My one complaint: No Afterward by Otsuichi. I would have really enjoyed hearing his thoughts. Oh well.

Hope you all found the review helpful. Feel free to leave any comments below.

October 2, 2009 at 8:59 pm 3 comments

Welcome to the N.H.K Light Novel Review

Welcome to the NHK Novel Cover

Reviewed by: Kafkafuura

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.

October 1, 2009 at 8:46 am 7 comments


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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