Editor’s Note: Three writers. 11.2k words. Moebutas. We go through GAGAGA’s LN that is being adapted as a live action drama, Nikuniku guro CGs, and a legal comedy drama. Words, words, words!
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Love. Affection. Hatred. Loathing. At first it’d seem like all of these words hold different meanings, but I believe that at times, they can be nothing but different sides of the same coin. At least, so does too Yu Fujiwara, author of Akairo/Romance.
He poses a single question throughout the series: “what would you be willing to do for love’s sake,” and the answer to it comes in bounds and leaps. Love is indeed a weird word, and it works as a double-edged sword, in occasions warped to fit the human’s selfish and irrational standards. Warped to satiate a thirst.
Fujiwara paints an interesting image in the reader’s mind, by stating the symbolization of all malice and hatred comes from love. That love is the root of all evil. In my case, love is a topic I feel awkward writing about, as it’s such a taboo theme and feel like I’m pretty distant from what the word people think it implies nowadays (aka: being in a relationship, marrying, etc).
I must say, however, the way Fujiwara imprint that feeling of darkness to the series, was really fascinating, staying away from the standard love stories, ergo felt compelled to expand on the topic. He’s an author known for writing gory, dark and gloomy settings, adding touches of light and joy in between, and Akairo is no exception.
Fujiwara truly makes the human being one of the scariest monsters. Akairo Romance is the embodiment of how the thirst of love can transform a human being, in a really macabre way.
It tells the story of Suzuka, a clan that dates back to the Muromachi era, back when it was said that the Tsuchigumo, Tamamo and other mystical clans existed. All these clans were at war for centuries, until Suzuka wiped them all out, or so tell the legends.
Gozen Suzuka was said to be a Jorogumo and the original Suzuka member. After a couple of years, fate came to her, namely: love. She fell deeply in love with the samurai sent to exterminate her, but she, however, made a pact with him. In exchange of loving her back, she helped the samurai exterminate her own clan.
Love, once again, overcomes everything. But as I said before, it can work as a double-edged sword. After conceiving the samurai’s baby, she was killed by the samurai, and her baby abandoned in the wild. This baby would bring the resurgence of the Suzuka clan.
I find Japanese mythology really interesting, so my eyes literally sparked when I saw the Tsuchigumo and Jorogumo mentioned, and more than anything, because you can feel the Japanese-ness of the setting. After those incidents, the remnants of the Suzuka clan, now in modern day, remain hidden in the outskirts of a little town where the main story takes place.
There’s one interesting characteristic the Suzuka clan holds: they can give birth to nothing but women. And the clan, since ancestral times, has always been composed of women.
So how do the Suzuka members get pregnant, you might be wondering? Well, they need to parasyte a human woman, and change their body with her. They (the Suzuka members) only keep their neck and head, but their body changes entirely, this done by beheading the woman in question and usurping the body.
Later, they ought to marry a human man and that’s how they get pregnant. It has become a tradition since many generations ago, and it’s a ritual all the members of Suzuka find honorable and target of their dignity.
That’s how the protagonist, Takahiro Keisuke, gets involved in this whole situation, since the current head of Suzuka, Kareha (main heroine) falls in love with him, and literally asks him to become her husband, out of the blue.
From here on it becomes even more shrouded in mystery and tragedy for both of them and their beloved ones, having to face a revolt that was plotted by one of the members of Suzuka to exile, and ultimately assassinate Kareha. And as luck would have it, love (hatred) and affection (loathing) always being the root of it all.
If I had to say what I like of Fujiwara, is that he does an outstanding work at structuring his stories, and most of his series, despite being relatively short, always pack a considerable wallop. Numbers mean nothing when you have an author that knows how to substantially tell a story, and he’s already a veteran in that respect.
If you’re a person that’s interested in starting a series, but don’t feel like going through ten or fifteen volumes to see how a story develops and presents a satisfying conclusion, then Fujiwara’s a safe bet.
Next, I go from something I deeply enjoyed, to something I deeply detested. That is, the latest Gagaga light novel that’s receiving a live-action adaptation: Nidome no Natsu, Nidoto Aenai Kimi.
I’ve have to admit, though, that reading this was refreshing on its own, since it reminded me what reading something genuinely shoddy feels like. After reading many good books in succession for some months now, I kind of had forgotten what that was even like, so in that regard I thank the author of this light novel for that.
The author tried to tell a tragic teenage romantic story, and I say tried, because it was never neither tragic nor romantic, but hell, it was definitely teenagey, to the point it was almost unbearable.
Satoshi, the protagonist, is a high school student that likes playing the guitar, and some months before the university entrance exams start, he meets with Rin, a girl with a severe heart condition, although Satoshi never finds this out until later on.
By chance, Rin happens to hear him play on the way to school, and ends up really enthralled by Satoshi’s ability. She proposes to him that they form a band, and play on the school’s festival (apparently that’s her dream), which Satoshi fiercely declines since being around Rin seems to meddlesome to him.
Some incidents take place here and there, so he finally agrees to form a band with her, and then three months elapsed. The school’s festival takes place, their band tears the stage up, they have the summer of their lives and so on.
But one day, Rin collapsed. It’s here when Satoshi learns about her condition and decides to finally tell her he loves her, to which Rin reacts in the most ridiculous way possible, making a mountain out of a molehill. I was already some pages into the book, waiting for the story to at least fix what the slipshot, full-of-non sequiturs writing was fucking up.
Suffice to say that never happened. Rin dies the day after that incident in the hospital, and Satoshi turns into a living martyr in the most by-the-book way possible. Locking yourself up in your room: check. Running away from home on a snowy day, with a downcast look: check. Hoodie on the head, hands in your pockets: check. Losing all will to live just because your girl died on you: check.
I could go on and on, but it’d be endless. What it pissed me off the most is that the author never justifies the actions of Satoshi or Rin. He just gives you some monologues about “Oh, youth sure is hard, uh” or “This is so painful, losing your loved one. Let’s have the summer of our lives, and ride into the horizon!” Fuck off, seriously.
Is this a John Green novel or what?
The icing on the cake is when the author uses time travel as the story’s axis, but not adding any significant value or reasoning as to why in the world is there. Satoshi hits his head when he tumbles down while running and when he wakes up suddenly he rewinded three months.
That’s all there is to it. It’s only implemented to sort of make work whatever he tried to do with the progression of the story, but it only made everything even more messier.
This author’s vision is just so uncompromising to the point it makes you wonder if he actually put any thought into the structure or the characters’ actions. I don’t really regret whenever I buy a book, but this has to be one exception, and I hope it showcases that just because a book is published under Gagaga’s label, that doesn’t necessarily translate into quality (I address this issue because some readers, both in Japan and the West tend to think so).
Now moving onto better things, the place is for a light novel that truly gave me a good time and so much fun, compared to that mess of a novel. From the author of Zarusoba — a bit of a controversial light novel about noodles — comes Kusoge Online.
I’m guessing you already have an idea what this could be about, and in a way, it’s right and it’s not. The author takes various elements from the washed-up VRMMO genre to craft, in his own wacky, off-the-wall way, a light novel that ultimately accomplishes what it sets out do from the beginning: to entertain.
It starts with three friends that met at the popular game “Sword & Magic Online” after completing one hellish floor. The introverted protagonist, Sasaraki; a bit of an airhead, cute pink-haired girl, Lizna and an equally cute, tsundere black-haired girl, Azrael (Well, all the girls are cute, so it goes without saying).
All of them, however, are having a hard time, as the game they’re currently traversing is full of bugs, crashes, lag and such. They sweated blood to complete the first floor, out of 255 they need to clear to finish the game. Not only that, they soon learn that after floor 1, they must continue without any equipment!
A career against both time and the game itself begins when they’re trapped inside the game without being able to communicate with the outside world, and the game is nearing its demise in a few weeks. How to complete, or say, even enjoy a game that’s utter shit, with no support of any kind, more than 60K known bugs, and a pair of girls that are not exactly useful?
This premise alone sounds kind of a mess, I know, but this author has a particular charm to tell an insane story, virtually made up of nothing but references from works including SAO, Fire Emblem, or even LOTR, and giving them his own spin, but most importantly, making them work in his favor.
State of affairs change when Sasaraki meets with Alice, a young girl who apparently is the queen that ought to be at floor 255, in short, she’s the last boss. Or so Sasaraki thinks, but in reality she’s the “game master” as described in the book. Basically, she’s in charge of giving maintenance to the game and carrying out several tasks, given the fact that most of the developers abandoned their posts, leaving the game to its fate.
Alice, along with Sasaraki and his party, and a pretty especial fairy, Fury, will try to save the game before it’s too late, all of them serving as game masters, wielding the ability to do whatever they want in-game. This particular part of the book gives you a bit of insight about what creating a RPG is like and I found it neat, even if it’s just a quick look at it.
Judging by the ending, this could turn into a series, with a second volume scheduled to be released in the following months, and a manga adaptation already in the works.
Last, by no means least, is the latest webnovel I read and captivated me, be it by its heart-warming, at times heartrending story and satisfying ending, or its beautiful cover.
Osananajimi no Jidouhanbaiki ni proposeshita Keii ni tsuite (pretty long name, I’m aware) tells a story that mainly dwells in what seeing a human being grow is like, and how is that affection towards something, or someone is built. It’s in fact a love story, but what makes it interesting, is that it’s one between a boy and a vending machine, more specifically, a Tsukumogami that dwells within it, and has the appearance of a woman wearing a kimono.
The protagonist, whose name is never revealed, refers to himself as boku throughout the novel. He narrates how back when he was in middle school, whenever he went for a drink at the usual vending machine, in front of a stationery managed by an old man whom he’s close friends with, he used to always see a woman in front of it.
She was of slim figure, at times holding an umbrella, beautiful features. In occasions, walking around customers, although they couldn’t see her. Soon after they would begin a relationship that would last for years, not without its ups and downs along the way.
A relationship that goes on for almost 30 years, with the woman from the vending machine seeing the boy pass through middle school, high school, and university until he joined the workforce. As time passed by, the boy knew he felt something for her, and how not, if they shared both grim and happy moments through all those years.
The particular way the novel is written never bores you, as the author narrates it in sort of fragments. For example, a certain amount of chapters would be dedicated to a period of time, but in the next section the boy is already in either high school or university, and there’s a set of events that took place in that gap of time. Someone died, there was a change in the neighborhood, the boy had a girlfriend, etc; you get to know what happened after it happened, which makes the writing advance pretty fast.
While there’s an element of fantasy to the novel, the author deals with the situations in a down-to-earth way, being the spirit of the vending machine who accompanies the protagonist and provides him advice, what serves as the only supernatural element in a realistic environment.
Having amounted enough support from both kakuyomu and bookmeter was enough for the novel to receive a short drama adaptation, which adapts the first section, out of three (the VAs they chose did a great job by the way). I believe this novel has enough potential to receive a movie adaptation, and see Shinkai’s visuals and storytelling doing justice to both the novel’s structure and story.
The structure could work in the same fashion as 5cm Per Second, as it depicts a protagonist going through constant change, both physical and psychological, accompanied by the stations and always having this one person in his mind, although the novel does have a happy ending, and the aforementioned movie not exactly.
In any case, I’ll be rooting for this little project for sure and see if it materializes into anything else in the future.
And here I am again… What am I doing even with my life talking about incomprehensible crap in this dark corner of fucked up internet….
Well I thought I could manage this month without tentacles but seems like life doesn’t always go as I think it goes. So lets talk about those lovely squirmers that brings peace and equality to this world before we go to bask in sunshine and smiles.
Well I did know there was Dual-tail eroge announcement coming although how things had been/said it wasn’t necessarily a VB coming, but when the teaser site went online and reeked of VB I should have have started praising the tentacles again. But it still managed to get few punches on me for non-tradition, as it said screw it to alphabetical order of naming abandoning starting the titles with I and went instead to Ragnarok, the other surprising part was that it was actually a sequel type of VB. That is first in the series as the series so far has been not connected between the works other than happening in different parts of same world (and that actually too was retcon happening later). Sure it’s sequel to Frontier which is bit eh, but not that bad, will be interesting to see how they will handle Ragnarok now, doesn’t seem like it will be that heavily connected plot wise so playing it without playing Frontier should be possible. Frontier was probably one of the weaker VBs with its plot (altho it probably had my favorite chaos route last boss, law was just lol), but those who played Frontier will be wondering atleast what the fuck happened between the 500-years between the games. Also why is Loki now a shota side-kick with shit eating grin (that was sure improvement) to Ragnaroks protag, also why did Jorm grew boobs and why is Regret notRegrett with delicious see through bodysuit, hopefully these questions will get answers.
Seemingly this time also there will be bit more focus on 2nd corruption form for the main heroines than previous games, whats with it now being 凶form instead of 狂form, will be interesting to see how that will be handled in game, gah I want to see Nannas and Fanas 凶forms already dammit (Fana better become more dragon-like and crazy and Nanna will clearly become true Oden (crackpot theories go)). Seemingly lack of Legion battles will be bummer to me though, but other than that will be looking foward how these tweaks to already good system will work out.
Also with the info and charas and all out now (WHERE THE FUCK IS ODEN THOUGH (stop chilling in Nanna and come out already because I fucking calling it now)) have to say the main charas don’t look that interesting as Hypno did other than Nanna and notRegret with shota Loki, the side heroines look nicer. Hypno probably had my favorite cast of VBs, but I hope Ragnaroks grow on me atleast a bit. Well on the outlook of things it still looks more interesting than Frontier was although some of the interesting things come from the wondering of how things connect to Frontier I guess.
CAN I HAS A TRIAL ALREADY?
And with the announcement of VB Ragnarok I just got the biggest urge to play more VB. thanks Oni. And thus decided to embark on my journey of not being bad VB-fan part 2. So decided to do VB Chimera, which has kinda the position of most whatever VB, so it was interesting to see how well this conception was true.
Well with Chimera atleast is one out of ordinary in that for once the protag really isn’t out for some kind of weird revenge trip… or if you really stretch it Crow is out for the “revenge for himself” if that makes sense. And for this reason Chimera maybe feels the most different VB from others, but it is still very VB on how things proceed and are handled. Props for using slave soul in similar scenes that it was used in original VB though instead of using Chimeras OP in those, really liked that. Gotta give that although the overall plot was prety usual thing with nothing too exciting happening they did put bit effort to fights scenes again, also it is in the true end that Chimera actually manages to pull one of the more surprising/interesting twists of the series. And it was nicely foreshadowed along the way too. Trying something more with plot was nice but it wasn’t still that heavy with until the true end anyway, and the true end did start to steer to way the endings go in the later VBs go instead of being the bittersweet one of original VBs true end.
Just couldn’t help thinking wtf is younger Enouki doing being VB protag sometimes
As far as Chimeras heroines and characters go they are kinda uninteresting as far as series goes, indeed the least interesting cast of all the VBs, well the loli once again is miracle though really ended up liking Midiel and how things proceeded with her, it helps when I’m weak against her character types really, they always tug my strings right when they do that what they did with her, and maybe because it’s that her archetype coupled with VBs protag styles makes kinda twisted heartwarming moments here and the reason I love VB series sometimes so much. It also helps that she was in charge of fetish that pleases me to most although started with anal side of things but then turned to M ways, and because how things went with her I actually felt twisted hearwarmingness from her H-scenes later on instead of feeling bad. and speaking of the fetishes, there really wasn’t a dick stuck on to any of the heroines?! wtf is that? this isn’t VB if there isn’t dick put on a heroine in some shape or fashion for proper while not just scene or two. Also because both Ragnarok and Chimera had it, but please stop using the knight type heroine as the central/cover heroine as they are clear majority in VBs, more Rukina and Anora & Sylvie for center ones please.
System wise Chimera is prety much better version of the original VBs training system. Same could really be said about the H scenes too for comparing to original VBs, so my orginal VBs stema statements stand here too. Except maybe the scenes in Chimera felt bit more sadistic, especially later ones but that kinda comes with the purpose why the protag is training them. Although I kinda felt that some scenes were shorter than they were meant to be. But on plus side it started using BGV in h-scenes too, which the original lacked and is essential when it comes to H-scenes imo.
But indeed it is understandable after playing through Chimera why it isn’t talked much as it doesn’t really bring anything new to table like the original did and doesn’t change the formula in any meaningful ways like the later games did and the heroines being bit meh outside of Midiel and the facemaker side-kick. But it wasn’t completely horrible as it still was definitely a VB, so it will satisfy VB need, good H and miracle level loli and nice twist to a boot was all that it needed to make me satisfied.
Chimera still had some damn hot H-scenes indeed. (it can’t be helped, I just like to use hot so many times today…)
Well with this I have played all the VBs, definitely one of my favorite eroge series, there’s no doubt about it. the series offering so much different things for me. Can’t wait for Ragnarok, maybe even do Frontier again if I find time to quick refresher. Still probably need to redo Desire and Empire as can’t remember shit about them other than Jill starting the whole dragon-loli snowballing of Nine/Dual-tail.
And next let’s talk about how Mia is one of the miracles of this, hauuuuuu just look at that smile I want to protect it.
Mia is so cute, I’m sure nothing bad happens to her and I can keep protecting her like this
NO NOT LIKE THAT YOU IDIOT (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻
So yes let me talk about this very moe moe eroge called 死に逝く君、館に芽吹く憎悪, I probably have mentioned it already but I really like that title for some reason. It also calls itself as 血と涙と暴力と拷問と虐殺と愛と感動の物語ADV so you can be sure it won’t be some ordinary stuff maybe, the story is something I feel like I can only see in eroges and is reason I keep reading eroges. And yes nikuniku isn’t just about cute girl getting killed over and over and over and over again, sure there is that too and you probably can’t enjoy it to fullest if you can’t appreciate that.
Originally I got interested in nikuniku when I saw that 和泉万夜 was writing it and it was coupled with cute art by るび様 (really started liking her art here and become one of my fav artist now) and checking the homepage saw it was about moe guro/torture thing with female protag that Banya sure knows how to write, so it was love at first sight because there is severe lack of this kind of things (moe guro/torture) and I trust Banya when he doing his things with female protags. And indeed I ended up loving nikuniku to extreme degrees if you know what I mean.
The general plot is basically that Mia our protag is normal girl (albeit ultra qt) in normal modern setting until one day suddenly these human looking super beings whose diet consist of humans show up and start shitting on humanity. And Mia who saw her family slaughtered and barely escaping ends up running into one of these super beings having his meal, Mia realizing this is the end for her and in last moments of her life decides to stab the dude having his meal with knife she had with her to have atleast bit of payback for these monsters. Unluckily to Mia the dude who just happens to be quite eccentric by his races standards as he likes to toy with his food doesn’t take well the fact the he was stabbed by food while having his meal and decides this delicious qt must be killed over and over and over and over and over again to learn her standpoint of food. So the dude after having accidentally killed Mia (humans are quite brittle you see) resurrects Mia and takes her to mansion he’s lodging in while in this human world. And there the dude gives Mia a simple fact, that he’ll kill Mia unless she kills him first, ofcourse the dude cannot be killed by any ordinary mean or so it seems but he enjoys to see how food comes up with desperate methods trying to survive and crushing them in despair afterwards. So with that Mias life with this eccentric superior race man starts.
There might be setting where the humanity is getting wrecked outside the mansion but that is barely any of concern to nikuniku story and is barely mentioned, instead nikuniku focuses on Mia and her life in mansion and how she copes with her absurd situation, living with a man that could kill her on any random whim he gets. Indeed 血と涙と暴力と拷問と虐殺と愛と感動の物語ADV is pretty accurate how it describes the story and what you get. Lot of the fun in nikuniku comes from reading how Mia deals with her situation and emotions of events that happen and how the man will torment her next. With how Banya can manage to write interesting female protags and keep things paced nicely without getting boring is things I have come to really like. Although the focus is mainly on Mia and the dude, there are some other minor characters that come and goes mainly picked from outside and played by the dude, but these minor characters manage to create nice contrasts (albeit slight) on how the dude treats Mia and the other food although mainly considering them the same. And there is also how Mia interacts with them and maybe finding some solace/hope with them and her own situation. There is also certain sense of vagueness/”numbness” to the story that goes very well with Mias state of mind and maybe on how she copes with the fact of repetition of her being brutally murdered, maybe this is what causes certain degree of desolate atmosphere to nikuniku that I grew to like. The OST although nothing really spectacular is still moody and manages to fit the overall atmosphere well just reinforcing feelings you get. One thing to like too is how nikuniku never tries to justify the acts of the superior race and the man as they are just like a force of nature and have very alien concept on things very different from us humans albeit they look very much like us, this is even further reinforced by the fact they don’t have concept of names and the dude is never given name during the story.
Just small moments of peace and moe in time of suffering, something that is necessary and breath taking, and to create mood.
Does the superior race man get bored with Mia and finally give her peace in death?
Does Mia actually manage to find way to escape or kill the man, while being sane?
Does Mia ever come to understand the superior race and what kind of bond does Mia create with people brought to the mansion?
What kind of wicked ways of playing with the food the man comes up next?
And what lies at the end of the world and life for us?
And what if human life to us?
Indeed nikuniku was very “pleasent” journey to me and lots of fun and emotional ride. And the story is very “Banya”, really should I start calling this kind of eroges Banyages? As there is certain kind of things that he clearly has knack of doing when he’s at helm of writing things. Maybe I should go and already play Mugen Renkan one of these days for more Banya goodness with interesting take on female protags. Also with nikuniku I don’t know if it was intentional but I can’t help but to think that all the 3 main endings represent one parts of nikunikus thematics. With the good end clearly representing the 血と涙と暴力と拷問と虐殺と愛と感動の物語ADV as it so well fits that description, it managed to give me a really good feel to end of this journey and managed to T_T me, onere Banya doing this to me ;_;. While the normal end was kinda vagues/uncertain road that so well fit the uncertain mood of things and leaving things unfinished. And then the bad ending with its epilogue (which you get if you set flags during story right) being clearly call to the very title of the eroge 死に逝く君、館に芽吹く憎悪. I feel the story isn’t complete if you don’t see all these endings. And then there is several BAD ENDs that certainly do give the simple “solution” to things that is part of the fun too.
PS. that last line in good end was just low blow, I’m so weak against that simple shit ;_;, the story here and conclusion was so Banya.
And as one would except from nikuniku the H-scenes barring some odd surprise vanilla scenes is mainly all about torture porn that ends up in death. And it sure does that well, being all about cold heartedly cruel to characters without any pleasure involved. So for people looking for something like that it is very good, and for weak hearted it definitely give wince or two. This also reinforced by the fact that VAs do superb job at screaming and the feel of despair you feel from their voice along with the writing definitely get things going. The art is also very gorgeous and moe with るび様 and her being really good at drawing facial expressions to convey all the suffering, pain and insanity. Such an amazing synchronicity of things that tingles me perfectly. Really good work here from everyone, really wish there would be similar works in future like nikuniku. Oh yeah speaking of the assets, there is actually surprisingly high amount of story CGs that aren’t just porn and gore and they are fairly well used in overall consideration of things.
Delicious cooking time,
sometimes Mia wishes she could just stay dead
If there is one bad thing to say it’s probably the length, it could have been bit longer and used few more of “go arounds” to establish few things, but even now with its medium length there atleast isn’t tedium around and it was after all mid-price release so being not too long is to be excepted. And as far as the H-scenes go, there could have been bit more variation of things, felt that there was few bit too similar scenes, but that’s minor complaint considering how much good scenes there was. But overall for mid-price release it has wonderful value.
In the end nikuniku was amazing journey to my mind and body and all that, its because of things kinds of “weird” feelings that I keep reading eroges.
And Mia is seriously such a ultra qt, I just want to give her hug and tell everything is gonna be alright in the end if possible.
This ultra sciko tentacle squirming out for this month. Next month will be so simple and normal, we all will be like 俺の中の地獄! (笑). oh wait wrong phrase thats still bit later this year, it should be 勝利は我が手に！ or something for now (no Naoto you don’t get the honor here either mauhahahahahahahha). So tentacle free next month! I wonder if my poor kokoro can take all this upcoming ballrness.
Till the next month my fellow hotdogs
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To make up for my weak performance and shoddy writing last month, I will now vomit words on everything I have read, watched, and want to discuss. Please be aware that my own section is around 5.5k words. The total word count for this whole post by the way is about 11.2k :-)
the Classical Elegance of being Quiet and Erotic
Classical Japanese literature — what a mystery it can evoke to any reader influenced by Western aesthetics. In the Western world, scenes are filled with all types of movements: Characters walk from point A to point B; objects roll; time flies fast or slow depending on the writer’s discretion. Movement is associated with plot: we want our stories moving. But that seems to be not the case for the classical Japanese writers — with their stories feeling “static”. It is so much a problem that even the youth finds reading them as tiring as we do. But if you can handle the eventlessness, there is something beautiful. If Western literature is about moving stories, then classical Japanese literature is about moving people. And I mean it both ways: motion and appealing to the senses.
Easily, I think 雪国 by the great Kawabata Yasunari has the cleanest prose I’ve seen that moves you around its world as smooth as riding on an ice skating rink. There is nothing happening in terms of plot or events. Rather, you have impressionistic swatches of snow and trees. What do those images convey in your mind? Emptiness? Silence? The reader participates more and fills in the blanks, hence being moved in every sense possible. You have to move yourself to make the story work and 雪国 is brilliant for smoothing your path. It gives nothing unnecessary that will block your path and lets you free rein on how you would walk on it. And you feel moved by the atmosphere around you. Reading this book or any Kawabata works, it seems, confines you into your own little world. You forget that this novel is about a guy who is practically cheating on his wife and his geisha mistress with another geisha. It’s a rather short book and I personally prefer 山の音 for its more poignant usage of silence and death. But it is one of his most accessible works and there are scenes, especially those with the shamisen, that evoke a deeper chord. It is the consistency of muteness that let this book resonate with many people. If anything, it will be surprising to know that the book never “lets up” after the famous first line. I’m not so sure if it deserves the international recognition of a Nobel Prize awarded book since it is very Japanese and the translations, no matter how good they are, can’t seem to do justice to Kawabata’s minimalist prose. But I think it is worth reading a Kawabata book or two to understand the aesthetics of Japanese writing. He is far more readable than Soseki in any case and lets people understand why I am forever enamored by Japanese classics, even if they are tough for my mind so influenced by Western literary aesthetics at times. The idea of “moving people” instead of “moving stories” is a very neat thing in classical Japanese literature and I like to see more of it.
And so, I did. Junichiro Tanizaki is another classic writer worth reading, mostly because he wrote the Japanese Lolita, 痴人の愛. In that book, he draws Japan as this man infatuated with a young girl who is becoming more and more Westernized. Junichiro suggests that Westernization is basically a fetish and this idea speaks volumes, even today, as we grow more globalized (or westernized). He has a fascination with the erotic and connects it with his worldview, a bit like Shibusawa, Marquis de Sade, and other prominent writers influenced by the functions of sex in life. But I think 春琴抄 is his most revealing work on his view of sadomasochism as an aesthetic system. Even the synopsis is revealing enough: a boy becomes an apprentice and falls in love with his teacher’s daughter who is a blind genius shamisen player. She is a tsundere (even the Japanese readers agree) and will sometimes treat the boy cruelly. But he remains loyal. The boy sometimes wonder what it is like to be blind and will try to emulate it by being in complete darkness, making him empathize with the girl even more. And when tragedy strikes, he decides to be her knight and it turns to a beautiful romantic account of sadomasochism as love.
For Junichiro, to suffer in pain is to love. Beauty/art is worth suffering for and we are always striving for it. It is interesting to note that 春琴抄 is written like a historical retelling of actual events with little “fiction techniques”. There is introspection, but it is — to use hackneyed terms from creative writing classes — rarely shown, mostly told. And this dry, pseudo-objective take in the narration makes the male protagonist’s action more knightly as you can see him grow from a boy to an adult. His love is one-dimensional and that is fine: that’s how we devote ourselves to beauty whenever we find one. We don’t question it when beauty steps on us; rather, we find it a trait of theirs to appreciate. Is loyal love then a sort of sadomasochistic activity that we all engage in? Has love ever been stripped off from its sadomasochism and what would it look like? It is probably shallow and not beautiful. It’s hard to say if the sadomasochism portrayed in Junichiro’s work is ideal or not — it usually shows how animalistic we human beings are — but in this little book it defines beauty. We will do anything for beauty and art; that’s why this work resonates with me because we do think, in a sense, good works are “erotic”. We want to caress them and be so zealous that we can speak nothing but of them in daily conservations — like someone in love gossiping to their friend and accidentally sneaking in references to their crush.
running away from lost time
As I write this, I find it difficult to hype people over classic literature written over what seems a million years ago however. The more I think of Japanese classics, the more I realize how unreadable they can be and sound too. It makes my Seabed post look silly because it is at least more readable than most 純文学.
So to the readers more comfortable with short eventful story arcs set in a lively world — i.e. every one of us — 夢見通りの人々 by Miyamoto Teru can be a perfect substitute. Like its title suggests, the book takes place in a shopping district filled with people who are dreaming of a better life. The structure resembles a novel in stories form, now a trend in contemporary American literature but already big in Japanese writing. Each chapter focuses on a character arc and shows an angle to the desolate district that will eventually build up to this lively world. There is no overarching narrative sense in terms of plot, only in the characters. That, I think, is the least interesting aspect of the book. Its structure doesn’t mean anything until you see the characters, the reason this book is so engaging. You have fathers who want their sons back, sons who return to their fathers after their lives are fucked over by the yakuza, people trying to live ordinary lives while having their own crushes. Every smile by the store owner does not hide a sinister past but a somber desire to change themselves and their sad past.
In Miyamoto’s world, that is why people have dreams. They are unable to move from the past — like the butcher’s elder son who has a giant dragon tattoo from his yakuza past and now wants to take it off so he can have the courage to ask the flower store owner out. I feel like I’ve seen and experienced many lives and heartbreaks throughout the span of this 284 paged book. Every dose of regret is never the same. Silently, you want the characters to have their own happy endings but the reality of life does not permit that. Every chapter has a cynical ending with little salvation, even spiritually. Some of the chapters still leave a bitter taste with me and this is maybe because I can imagine meeting people like this in real life. This novel makes me empathize with them as much as I can sometimes find them frustrating to talk to.
The faces of these characters in my mind resemble the aunties and uncles in Singapore’s kopitiams (street hawker places) who, for the most part, are fine living the way they are. It is admirable for folks like them and the characters in 夢見通りの人々 to keep on living, but when I was younger it was difficult for me to care about their own sufferings and history. It did not matter to me if someone was a veteran who saw Singapore fall into chaos or, in the case of the book, a mother of a dead soldier and their only meaning to life was to work. It was something I did not comprehend.
Today, 夢見通りの人々 has made me remember that everyone has a history they like to change; we all have dreams like that to be in a better position than where we are now. In a way, humans can be defined as people who have dreams and want things. And no matter how old, decaying, and desolate your shopping districts are, it is filled with the shopkeepers who are still dreaming. They may be dull, depressed, and not at all fun to talk to, but because they are people just like you and me they dream and that’s why they are lively once you see it that way.
the tribalism of Modernity
I will always have a soft heart for the sentimental and nostalgic, which will be frustrating to those who seek progress in our understanding of the “human condition”. The whole concept of timelessness in classical literature eradicates every step we have made toward a better world if books of an older period still make a point. That’s why there are people who read modern novels.
However, Murata Sayaka’s Akutagawa award-winning book コンビニ人間 will like to refute the myth that we are progressing as a humanity. She suggests nothing has changed. Keiko has been working in a convenience store for 18 years of her life and still counting. She has always considered herself weird and out of place in society ever since she has brought a dead bird to her mother and asked if she can fry it for her father or tried to calm down a hysterical teacher by taking off her clothes because she saw that worked in the movies. She wants to be a normal person like everyone else and copies everyone’s mannerisms. Indeed, she looks normal outside — but she is mentally taking notes of the clothes her coworkers are wearing, the way they change tones to express contentedness or dismay, and even the way they walk. Her desire to be normal and at one with society is taken to an extreme when she works in the convenience store. Everything is orderly and makes sense to her. The chaos of society has been regulated into arranging cup noodles into a neat stack that looks appealing to buyers. This is what she believes society has asked her to do — until she meets a lecherous part-time worker who tells her that society has been raping us individuals.
Societal rape, he laments, is everywhere. We have never moved from the mechanics of hunter-gatherer societies; men are expected to bring home the bacon while women must give birth to children. If no one is up to that task, they are considered parasites. Society has fucked the individual and will keep on doing so because we have the mindset that — to return to my ants analogy — we shouldn’t focus on a single ant worker, we should focus on the whole ant colony. Normalcy is nothing more than accepting the whims of society and denying one’s existence. This is at odds with Keiko’s weak belief in her own existence and individuality. How can she remain as a person if she is nothing more than a slave to society? Her resolution, I believe, is the one we’ve all taken in order to endure societal pressure.
This novel makes readers question not only normalcy, progress, and mental illness but also whether we have the right to laugh at people like Keiko. I sort of see Keiko as autistic as she is unresponsive to any emotional stimulus and sees the world as rationally as possible. We do ostracize people for not just being different and thus define them mentally ill but also consider them subhuman. Very few characters who are mentally ill can make people empathize with and force them to realize the horrible ending Keiko faces with her life. She is not and has never been ill. The way she sees the world is merely different and that is why she is stigmatized. We wonder if our collective actions as a society have made her — us — gone mad. Long gone are the existentialist calls to define ourselves; instead, we let society define our roles and throw us away once we have expended our service to them. We are nothing more than a plastic bag ready to be thrown into the garbage bin. It’s a sad life that we all face.
I’m a fan of these positive, happy world views. Murata reminds me a lot of Towelket‘s scenarist Kanashimi Hotchkiss. They like to analyze the gender roles in society through their stories and expand their research to absurd settings. Even their weaknesses are similar: despite being crazy writers who find it fun and amusing to chop up characters, they can also be utterly boring. In their wading about, they forget that pacing matters and their more insightful works can turn into retreading if they are not careful (and they usually aren’t). You almost want them to either go crazy or write something else. コンビニ人間 is the latter for Murata because it features little about sex, but it is not representative of her work.
I think the novel 消滅世界 is not only the best summary of her exploration of sex but also does a far better job than anything she’s done with the subject. She builds on concepts she has written and superficially explored in 殺人出産 and does something with them in the alternate world of 消滅世界 where artificial wombs are a success and they are the only way children are born. Created out of a worry over the thousands of men lost in World War 2, artificial wombs have de facto taken out the need for sex. In fact, by the time we read the first page of the novel, sex is discouraged. Because so many people are now related due to the genes, sex has been defined by incestuous rape. The protagonist however at an early age is taught by her mother that she is born out of sexual intercourse unlike her friends. Her mother, an anthropologist, says that the past is right in saying that love is sex and sex is love.
As the protagonist grows, she falls in love with an anime character and wants to find a way to make love to him. She uses objects and later boys and teachers to make her come to the “other world” where he resides. It is not masturbation, she likes to say, but a connection to this fictional character. But as she matures and tries to find a loving husband through speeddating, she has difficulty repressing her sexual desire. Once, she has found a man who she adores and then arouses him by doing a soft handjob. The man starts screaming and vomiting before he calls the police and cries for a divorce. This is because civilization has “progressed” from the animalistic rituals of sexual relationships to a “purer” one that resembles more like a sibling relationship. Even when she marries again, her husband and she start dating other people because it is allowed. The husband and wife role is the legal version of brothers and sisters from different parents and should not be seen as something “romantic” except when they are specifically dating romantically.
The final part of the novel shows the divorce of families from humanity in the name of purity and sexlessness. A nightmare scenario begins where reproduction becomes asexual and, uh, it gets fucked up.
What makes this book very strange from the likes of books such as Handmaid’s Tale is that it is a very conservative feminist book. Feminism has always been oriented to the left, but Murata’s conservatism shows as she remains skeptical of progress and purity. It is not the radical religious fervors that will ruin the world but our own madness with technology and belief in advancing societal practices. For her, there is a reason why God has separated Adam and Eve after the two have eaten the fruit of knowledge. But we have always wanted to go back to Eden in our own way. This means eliminating sex and combining the two genders into one again. Threading the themes of being an individual woman, sex as an identity of ourselves, and purity being our delusion, this book deserves its controversial status. I cannot imagine anyone in today’s Western political climate picking up this book and nodding their heads in agreement. On the one hand, this book will annoy readers of a conservative leaning for its feminist critiques on tradition; it also has a dose of that radical feminism which disavows transwomen as women, but there is also a hit of conservatism in family values. Murata’s political leanings in terms of gender are hard to pinpoint because they are all over the place and this can irritate readers who want to read political writers who they agree with. You also can’t detach her philosophy from her writings because they are interconnected. That’s why I think she is a fascinating writer to read, even if this book can be somewhat dull.
Writers, politicians, and even people don’t subscribe to just one idea. The problem with so many Western writers on political issues is that they tend to come up as one dimensional people who bring up straw men hat arguments. It is the sort of thing that annoyed me with loved feminist books like Handmaid’s Tale and Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; their bluntness with political views are appreciable, but you can easily summarize the books’ themes in a sentence. It makes the Orwellian idea that art is propaganda even truer than it should be. In 消滅世界, there are so many absurd nuances that one has to take note before explaining to people. Murata’s world is more believable and relevant to me personally because we do think we are progressing to a more civilized world and that will be our fault. I don’t even know if I agree with her and that makes her a dynamic figure — an actual human being whose political views are as individualistic as her own writings. The hatred and the lament feel real compared to Handmaid’s Tale (for the record, I think Alias Grace is great and Atwood can be a fine writer if she goes beyond the simple underlining the themes and saying this is bad) and Bluest Eye (Morrison, I cannot defend because her writing sucks). If novels want to comment on social subjects, they better do it on a series of subjects and not just one or two. Murata’s work challenges me more to think about what I think about gender roles and sex, even ideas I’ve considered safe and not worth questioning about.
As a Bookmeter commenter once said, her work is like drinking scotch: it tastes harsh at first, but you get used to it and appreciate it as a whole. Not all of her works are spectacular like コンビニ人間 or as deep as 消滅世界 but she is someone who you take as a whole. It is impossible to reduce books that explore sex to individual things; her corpus needs to be taken as a whole. And that goes with her political views and it is certainly why I find writers like her cool.
rest stop: the apocalypse
As every writer who has written of the seas would know, a transition into calmness is needed before the writer unleashes another perfect storm. That is why the ocean is a terrible place and always a place of horror and admiration; it knows when to strike. I feel like I have unleashed a giant tidal wave with the Murata sections, so I’d like the reader to take a break. Some readers might probably guess what will be up coming next, but let’s be patient. I have something short to talk about for once. It’s a mediocre work, but I can imagine it sparking some interest as well for people interested in sekai-kei. 世界が終わる場所へ君をつれていく makes some good light reading.
A commentary on イリヤのUFO (what isn’t?), the work is of humble dispositions and never goes beyond its premise: a tree-like alien has landed in the unassuming prefecture of Aoyama and starts shooting out seeds and lashing out its roots, destroying its surroundings. However, the male protagonist finds himself enchanted by what he calls the 銀の樹. Ignoring the warnings from his parents and schoolmates, he cycles to the tree to get a picture of the glimmering leaf. He meets a girl older than him on the way at the bus stop. The girl wants to go to the tree too, so she waits by the bus stop. But it seems she is a bit silly in the head if she imagines that buses would function like normal. So she rides on his bike and declares that this meeting is fate. Fate because if the boy cycles too early, he might miss her. Fate because the tree has killed her parents and sister and she survived so she feels like the tree has missed her chance to kill her. Fate because she wants to go to the tree and die. She then lectures him about finding a meaning in his life — that if he wants to be who he wants to be, he has to strive for it.
This strange dissonance is present in the ambivalence portrayed in the close third person narration for the boy wonders: Why does she feel like there is an obligation for her to be killed by the tree? It is true that her meaning in life has been stripped away when her parents have passed away and there’s no reason in continuing her education. But there must be a reason to live, isn’t it? Those are the most interesting moments to this novel that relies a bit too much on the suspense and thrill found in pulp fiction. When the adventure ceases — for example, biking through the roots wrecking havoc around their surroundings and they make through — it is those calm seconds that the male protagonist looks in awe with the female protagonist. His confusion on why she is smiling despite the grief she must be holding resonates more than the dangerous circumstances they are in. When they sneak into an apartment, it is their guilt in barging into someone’s privacy that paints the space around them. Everywhere they see is a belonging of the owner. They feel regret, but having no choice for shelter pray to the ancestral shrine for protection.
The book’s ending is poignant and can be stated as anti-sekai-kei. A charming, short book but it makes you wonder if it could have been more. It is light and good to read, but people wanting more will probably forget about it. But for the ones who need something to read over the weekends, this is a fine choice.
you can’t spell lawful without awful
It is by this point books have bored me. I’d like something more visual and animated. Maybe something serious and funny but definitely something crazy and philosophical. Now, I’m a genius and not a dummy. Such a thing will be rare and if a thing does exist, it deserves more of a post than my sperg on Murata Sayaka which should have been one. I would even try to be cute and add some lyrics from the theme song because it’s always showtime. It is the perfect storm as foreshadowed in the previous paragraph. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case: Legal High!
Now, where should I start? Maybe I should talk about how I found this J-drama because I haven’t watched J-dramas in years. A bunch of us were talking about the Hanzawa Naoki series for being salaryman porn — I have words about the writer, but let’s save it for later — and we found the acting in the J-drama adaptation hysterically bad. But then, there are videos comparing the main actor in Hanzawa Naoki and Legal High. In the former, he tries to be serious and menacing with his dorky smile. It’s hard to take him seriously. But in his Legal High performance, he starts screaming and laughing. He smiles like a monster and it is amusing as hell. I feel like I had to watch this no matter how bad it might be.
And people who have followed me on Twitter and talk to me on Discord will know I started raving for the series like a No Man’s Sky fan.
Mayazumi is a lawyer who wants to fight against injustice, but she is inexperienced and doesn’t know anything about the court. Her law firm is up against a man who she believes to be framed. So she gets the help of her boss’s rival Komikado, a Machiavellian lawyer who thinks only of money and enterprise. Komikado is a shady motherfucker sometimes and will bribe witnesses and even incite violence for the sake of his clients. After he helps win the case, Mayazumi finds him detestable but a good teacher to learn from. She joins his law firm, declaring that she will beat him in court someday with her own methods. Underneath this simple romance drama premise lies scathing social commentary on how we perceive law and the brutish human nature.
In the world of Legal High — or shall we say, ours? — the truth doesn’t matter. That is for the detectives to figure out. Lawyers are hired by their clients to defend. They act for their sake, not for the “truth”. If this sounds inhumane, that’s because that’s how governments work. When the Founding Fathers of America were drafting the US Constitution, they decided to add an electoral college fearing that the mob might take over the government; an elite group will be able to cast their votes to other more respectable people. Likewise, this is how law works: it is not at the discretion of people and truth but what the wording entails. Cases can be put into question by their methodology and the unfairness of interrogation. The OJ Simpson trial is one such case where everyone knows he has murdered his wife, but evidence has been tampered and mishandled to the point they cannot be used in court — thus, he is left scot-free. Is this justice then? If you are Mayazumi (and she is the self-insert for the audience), you would hesitate in saying yes or no. It is justice because it is the fault of the investigators to go over their power, but it is also injustice because, well, he did it.
But if you are Komikado — the Uncle Scrooge of this show — that thought experiment requires no thought. That is justice because the wording in the law said so. This faith in the law is not literalist for he does bend the law’s wording at times for the benefit of the client. Rather, the truth is not always important. What matters is law and order, so there is no finer institution than the court of law. His categorical imperative is “follow the law” and he does it well without a single desire to betray.
In fact, the grand delusion of searching for justice can be obstructive to not only the courts but in life. Komikado finds himself defending a corporation building apartments in lands that were once parks in this tranquil neighborhood because the money is really good. Mayazumi is disappointed in him and roots for the opposing lawyer who says he is a defender of the public. However, Komikado notes that new apartments can bring people into this small neighborhood and that means money pouring in. It will urbanize the neighborhood and there is nothing harmed to this population. And the population later agrees as they drop support for his opponent. Infuriated, the lawyer says that he is fighting for justice but people call him out for his egoism to “defend” them when all he is doing is fighting for his “own” justice. A lawyer that does not speak for their client’s interest but themselves is not a good lawyer. That, in Komikado’s eyes, is justice and the court of law is the arena for that justice to happen.
And it is this dynamic with Komikado that shapes the work because he is the voice of reason. Everyone knows he is a jerk and his behavior is rude at best. However, his insights on the public and law are not something to be taken lightly. He doesn’t believe in human nature, especially of the messianic kind. Those are egotists as far as he is concerned. The court cannot make people happy. Lawyers are not heroes and counselors. Only the clients themselves can make themselves happy. So humans are alone when solving their own problems; lawyers can only untangle the legal complications and that is their one and only job. Using the law to better society is exactly the opposite of what lawyers must do.
So Komikado accepts human nature is miserable, irrational, and have a tendency to fuck up big. That’s why we have laws functioning as rational entities to judge us. They may be drafted by the ruling class as legal realists argue, but the wording in the law is better than our own varying interpretations on justice. Can we imagine anything without law? Actual anarchy consists of subjective interpretations of justice being our “code of law”. Nothing will get done except our emotions will run high and nothing can stop us. We thus need a social contract to abide with and the code of law is one such contract. Komikado, being the lawyer he is, respects the contract and is an enemy of anyone who challenges its sanctity. He brings the philosophy into his life and how he interacts with people. Everybody is a client and needs someone to speak for them. Being an asshole looking for money isn’t a breach of the contract with the law and that’s why he’s an asshole looking for money.
And this philosophy matters especially in the way the episodes are written. Kosari Ryouta, the screenwriter who has won Best Screenplay in several award ceremonies, plays with how we would expect a procedural drama to work out. We are so used to the conventions in cop/legal dramas that we expect the plot to unravel with clues and twists and end in a dose of sentimentalism. But the show is against sentimentalism because sentimentalism has never been part of the law. Appealing to the emotions — pathos — is not valid in court, no matter how many times it is used there; it isn’t rational. So pathos/catharsis/feels is often made fun of, ending touching events with a cynical twist. The final seconds of each episode therefore are the most memorable thing, adding that spark of realism where nothing goes according to planned. And that’s how law/life works.
This is not to say the show is ridiculously serious. It is ridiculous. The cases can go extremely 逆転裁判/Ace Attorney at times and the characters joke and jive. Everything is all done for a good laugh. You can tell the actors have fun saying the crazy shit Kosari has written because they do a better job acting here than in most J-dramas. Indeed, the humorous nature is what makes people keep on watching. It may be didactic, but it covers that up with its strange sense of humor and treats life and law as something funny and lovable. All the typical one-note characters in J-dramas become vibrant with their own sense of humor coloring the world. There is never a dull moment in the show and in its weakest episodes, you can still smile at the effort.
And we cannot forget how much of that is in the design of the rooms. Everything is brimming with objects that speak more about the characters living in them than anything they would say or if narration comes in. Fashion plays a big role in defining characters too — in season 1 episode 2, the death metal attires clash harshly with the lawyers’ suits and this adds to the zaniness that, yes, death metal people are in the fucking court of law.
There’s a lot more I’d put in an actual post such as that “feels.mp3” track titled “justice” and how it’s used, but I think this is enough for a TNSM post. Enough not due to word count but in giving readers a picture of how and why it works for me by laying the basics down. You may wonder, “This is the basics???” But I feel that it is an incomplete discussion, just like the Murata Sayaka sections. The analysis here in my standards is unsatisfactory. It is enough for me to do the stealth marketing. This might be long, but my passion for those works is more than giant blocks of paragraphs. Whenever I write a full post, I feel like this is it — there’s nothing more to add and if there is, it’s probably on a new subject/theme anyway and nothing to do with the post in question. That’s why the Murata Sayaka and Legal High sections are here.
Lastly, Charlotte is a beautiful anime about the meaning of courage.
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