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Hideyuki Kikuchi Anthology: A Wind Named Amnesia and Invader Summer Review

A Wind Named Amnesia and Invader Summer book cover

Well this is interesting: instead of deciding to sell two Hideyuki Kikuichi novels separately, Dark Horse decided to put A Wind Named Amnesia and Invader Summer in one volume. This is decent value for money especially in Australian dollars (where I live books are expensive: expect to pay twenty dollars or more for a paperback). The first novel on my first inspection seems to be a post-apocalyptic tale which avoids the lack of finesse more Western apocalyptic literature and film has to the influence of the (again) Australian film Mad Max and its respective sequels. I’ve never read Vampire Hunter D (written by the same author as this anthology) but Kikuichi seems to have a real grasp on how narrative flows with full exposure to the atmosphere of a novel set in a dark yet graceful future.

A Wind Named Amnesia is about a youth named Wataru who wanders the landscape of America with an alien girl named Sophia. They must discover the cause of a mysterious amnesia which has caused humanity to descend into a primitive state. The roads are perilous, and the people they meet could be friend or foe alike. And yet there is still hope. Sophia never lets Wataru give up hope in humanity, as they struggle to survive in a world where humans have forgotten basic skills and even advanced technology. Once humans were capable of reaching the stars, now they are glued to the ground. Overall A Wind Named Amnesia is a quick but raw read which plays out like a sort of On the Road only instead of Jack Kerouac a Japanese science fiction writer is documenting the graceful decay of civilization, for all its rawness in the description of brutality, it’s never gratuitous or over the top. Kikuichi as a writer chooses to depict America as a sprawling wilderness where all order has been lost due to a lack of remembering what they once had, only some people remember more than others. I highly recommend this as light reading because while it’s fun to read it’s not as intellectually demanding as Brave Story. Well written, good effort, but not much depth. Philosophical statements are made, but they sound cheesy. And isn’t that what a Kikuichi novel should be? It was written in the 1980s, and believe me, after seeing Hot Rod, the 80s inspired film about a stuntman biker, I totally “get” what Kikuichi was going for with this one. It’s rock and roll, not Mozart.

The second novel in this anthology is Invader Summer, which is an entirely different mood to A Wind Named Amnesia but sticks with the premise of alien mystery. It’s about a kendo black belt teenager or something who’s in trouble with some gangsters who want to knock him off because they’re working for a competing school who want their kendo pupils to win the national championships. There’s also a strange girl who captivates all the male members of the school, causing a lot of problems for the girls.

Invader Summer can get dark but it’s in a lot lighter tone than the first novel presented here. As I don’t know much about the context of Invader Summer – but I can tell you it’s a hell of a lot easier to read than A Wind Named Amnesia which gets pretty brutal. Mainly because the gangsters are so inept that they’re hardly threatening at all, whereas A Wind Named Amnesia has a really dark apocalyptic atmosphere. My recommendation is to buy this book because you get two stand alone light novels which can be enjoyed as reading on the bus or just individually. You can’t lose with this deal, since Hideyuki Kikuichi delivers strong stories with reasonably deep musings on humanity.

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Text Copyright © Jacob Martin 2010 and The Ranobe Cafe. All Rights Reserved.

April 30, 2010 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

A Brave Man Takes On Brave Story: A Light Novel Book Review With Heft!

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Brave Story is not for the faint of heart. By that I mean if you have been prescribed heart medication by a doctor and have been advised against heavy lifting, this book may not be for you at a whopping 818 pages. The good news is it’s a children’s book with heft, and for kids who want to demonstrate Herculean feats of reading, this book is for them. I’ve heard several reviews on Goodreads.com that have mixed reviews of this mammoth tome, you either love it or lump it, and I mean LITERALLY lump it, because this book is huge. It has been said that this book has a niche audience because of its sheer size, but fans of Final Fantasy games and other J-RPGs will appreciate a love letter to the epic quests of J-RPGs in book format.

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December 6, 2009 at 2:42 am 1 comment

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.

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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


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.

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