If you follow my blog/Twitter, you might know that I’ve been encouraging light novel fans to join the summer reading program over at English Light Novels. In June, we read the first volumes of Kagerou Daze and Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou. If you’re familiar with either of those series, hop on over to the discussion thread and share your thoughts!
If you think you’re too late for this party, never fear. You can always participate in the July program. This month, we’re reading The Isolator by Reki Kawahara (yes, THAT Reki Kawahara) and Tasogare-iro no Uta Tsukai by Kei Sazane. (For more information on where to find these novels and the program schedule, click HERE.)
Getting back to Kagerou Daze and Mimizuku, I thought I’d do something a little different and give readers a taste of what Japanese readers think of the light novels we’ve been reading in English. I’ve translated the top two reviews on Amazon into English. This is by no means a comprehensive overview of fan opinion, but it should give you an idea of what some Japanese readers look for in light novels.
Get up to speed if you don’t know the original songs
This novel tells a series of stories based on the popular Vocaloid songs by Jin. It’s well-regarded by fans since it covers the stories in the songs in more depth. Also, it’s not bad when you take into account that the writer is an amateur.
There must be some people who don’t know Jin’s Vocaloid songs. I can’t really recommend the novel to those people. By that, I mean that a large portion of this book is an “adaptation” of the songs. Namely:
1) The psychological insight from the original songs tends to get toned down. As a result, it’s difficult for someone unfamiliar with the songs to get emotionally invested in the characters, and there are baffling occasions where it’s unclear why certain characters acted the way they did.
2) The perspective shifts don’t appear relevant, and the story lacks continuity. (That said, for those who know the songs, the lack of continuity is part of the charm.)
Those are the problems in a nutshell. I feel that the novel is aimed at fans of the artist’s songs. As such, I recommend that those who don’t know the songs but are interested in the book should start off by listening to the artist’s songs on Nico Nico Douga. At that point, if you find yourself wanting to learn more about the world presented in the songs, you should go ahead and buy the novel.
To sum up, I recommend this product to fans, but you should first get up to speed if you don’t know the original songs.
(TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: You can find all the Kagerou Project music videos compiled here.)
I like the songs so I read the novel. But honestly, it was a big letdown. I knew that it was written by an amateur, but it was terrible. It was the kind of novel you occasionally see on the internet, written with the gimmicky language a student would use. Also, there were a bunch of scenes that made you wonder whether they were really needed. It was hard to read.
The characters were one-note caricatures, the story was nothing to write home about, and overall it was kind of boring. In my opinion, this would have been better off as a doujin.
If you’re thinking of reading this so-called “novel”, don’t – you’re better off not buying it. I think you might enjoy it if you like the characters but aren’t looking for any literary merit whatsoever.
This story has its ups and downs, but I, for one, really liked it. Although I am pretty sure that was because I went into it blind.
I was surprised when my dear uncle introduced a light novel to me, but since I knew that good light novels do exist, I started reading this novel like any regular book. I had no idea about its awards, whether I would cry, what other people thought of it, or anything like that. The result: I got absorbed in the tale and finished it in one sitting.
But still, I might have read it differently if I had preconceived notions. If I went into it thinking I could take advantage of that, I’d be able to do it every time. It only just so happened that I had no preconceived notions at the time. That said, I really value the emotions I experienced from reading the book under these circumstances, and I believe my appraisal of it it was genuine.
It’s difficult to put “works I like” on the same plane as “good” works, but I did enjoy this work, so I recommend it.
I think it’s a raw, unpolished gem of a story.
Once upon a time…
Set in a typical fantasy world straight out of the pages of a fairytale, this is a story about a girl and a king of monsters. The interactions between these clumsy and honest people are extremely tender and heartwarming.
At first, I was bothered by the girl Mimizuku’s overly idiosyncratic way of speaking, but when I learned about her past, it felt so right.
While I do think that this was a good novel, it was not very descriptive. It traced the barest outlines of its world, its characters and each of their pasts. It would’ve been nice if the setting was a little more fleshed out, or if there was something else to ground the story. That’s my impression from a casual perusal.
Kagerou Daze V was the top-selling light novel of 2014. (Source: ANN) It is the sixth-selling series in the first half of 2015. (Source: Oricon)
Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou won the Grand Prize in the 13th Dengeki Novel Contest. The author was twenty-one years old. (Source: Dengekitaisho.jp)
Any questions? Thoughts? If you want to see more posts translating Japanese reviews, please let me know! I may consider doing more of them.
odd Kagepro is so good, surprised both think its flawed. I havent actually opened my print copies of the manga or ln yet but that one star review…wow.
Looking at the reviews, it’s a very polarising series. Seems that people either praise it lavishly or completely can it. Since it’s such a popular title, I don’t think it’s surprising that those who don’t like it are very verbal about it.
I’d be curious to see a review of Oregairu… Or Zettai Naru Isolator..
If you’re curious, I can translate some reviews. I’ll have to do it tomorrow when I’m not so tired, though :P
General opinion on Oregairu has changed over the series run. The first volume started off kind of shaky, but gained a better reputation as the series went on. Volume 9 is regarded as the best volume by fans. Readers have complained that volumes 10 and 11 have dragged but overall the series is very popular and beloved.
Zettai Naru Isolator… well, let’s just say the critical reception hasn’t been too good. Readers complained that the story was a ripoff of Accel World and that it took ages for the plot to go anywhere. However, some diehard Kawahara fans said it was enjoyable.
The reception of Zettai Naru Isolator is a bit saddening but I think I think I can understand. I certainly think you could make comparisons between the two works and I did feel there were some similarities, but also quite a few differences and certainly didn’t feel lie a ripoff. And honestly I think Isolator was much quicker than Accel World, but of course that could just be me.
Well, Kawahara is a very popular writer, and it seems that in Japan there’s a backlash against him, just as there is over here. Personally, I think a few of those Amazon JP reviewers aren’t really light novel fans – they like “proper” novels and will snub their noses at LNs. You can see some of that attitude even in the reviews that I translated in the post.
Anyway, when I saw the post about The Isolator for the summer reading program for July on Englishlightnovels and actually felt like trying to be a part of it. I had actually read a short fan translation back of The Isolator in 2014 (I think was around when it was announced it would receive a Western release), and quite liked it.
In fact, I bought and finished reading The Isolator not too long ago. And I loved it, so I look forward to perhaps giving being a part of the July summer reading program and talking to others about it.
Awesome! Glad you liked The Isolator. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it very much.
I would like to read a Mahou Sensou review ;)
Thanks for supporting the reading program, Frog-kun! I think my main goal is to just get people talking specifics about light novels a little more–an equivalent to the anime blogosphere’s episodic blogging, perhaps. Also, maybe expose people to different kinds of stories.
Readings reviews from Japan is always interesting, especially when a general consensus seems to differ from that of other world regions. (e.g. Sometimes fans of a series in Japan will overall prefer one romance option in a story much more than the other, while fan reception is overall the opposite in the West, etc.)
I haven’t seen the Vocaloid music videos for the Kagerou Project, but I never had any trouble following anything happening in this first volume. Perhaps that will change in later volumes? It seems a straightforward story to me at least, and one I rather enjoyed. The reviews remind me a bit of how many anime adaptations of visual novels will have fans saying the anime will make no sense whatsoever to those who haven’t played through the VNs–but in reality it’s not nearly as big of a deal as they’ve made it out to be.
“It’s difficult to put ‘works I like’ on the same plane as “good” works, but I did enjoy this work, so I recommend it.”
Ha ha, I feel like I think this every time I review just about anything. (Including, obviously, light novels.) I thoroughly enjoyed Mimizuku and the King of Night, but still, I could easily see a literary critic tearing it to shreds. One could focus on how the setting was hardly developed, for example–but to me, worldbuilding wasn’t a huge facet of this story so it’s a relatively moot point. (Go read From the New World if you want in-depth worldbuilding, right?)
You know, what fascinates me more about reading Japanese reviews isn’t so much where their opinion differs from the English-speaking fandom but where they’re similar. And by that, I mean that the Japanese reception can be all over the map, just as it is over here.
I agree with you on this. I watched some of the Vocaloid music videos after reading the light novel – at least, the ones that were covered in volume 1. The novel was perfectly coherent as a standalone narrative. The characters did come across as more intriguing in the music videos, though, because it’s a different medium and a lot was left unsaid. If anything, I thought the problem with the light novel was that it overexplained things.
Well, it did win the grand prize for the Dengeki Novel Award, so some critics must have liked it, right? ;)
I do understand what you mean, though! Reviewing things is very difficult, especially when I feel like I’m going against the popular critical opinion. But in the end, it’s best to be honest about the things you genuinely like, right?
Also, I agree about Mimizuku – I don’t think the worldbuilding was really the point. In fact, one might argue that the vagueness of the setting was deliberate in order to make the personal story stand out.
I haven’t been reading your blog lately and missed on on the June reading program. I will definitely take part in the July one. Such a fabulous idea, and thank you for pointing it out, Frog-kun!
[…] also posted translations of a couple Japanese reviews for the two novels we read last month in the LN reading program (Kagerou Daze and […]