The best thing about The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! is the afterword, where the author reveals just how much research he did to write a shogi-themed light novel. Usually, light novel authors use the afterword to thank the book’s illustrator, editor and the readers (in that order), but Shirow Shiratori goes out of his way to thank dozens of people involved in the professional Shogi world. He even recounts a personal story from his high school days, when he played Shogi against “the high-school Ryuo.”
The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! is a novel that takes a traditional Japanese board game seriously. It took four years of research before the first volume was even published. Think of it like the Hikaru no Go of light novels, except with unfunny lolicon jokes and the worst opening chapter in the world.
Seriously, it cannot be overstated just how bad of a first impression this light novel makes.
People sure like to romanticise piracy. This was something that occurred to me after I published an article a few days ago called Explaining the English Light Novel Boom with Bookwalker Global, which didn’t mention piracy at all and yet sparked controversy on the subject anyway. As many of the comments argued, fan translations have played a part in popularizing light novels in English translation. Why didn’t I mention their existence?
In truth, I didn’t set out to snub fan translation in that piece. It was simply the case that the people I spoke to at Bookwalker Global did not mention it. The article was not intended as a comprehensive overview of the light novel industry; it was meant to showcase Bookwalker Global’s perspective on the subject. I thought that their views would be interesting because a) They’ve recently jumped onto the English light novel bandwagon with a clear rationale for doing so, and b) They are deeply connected to the Japanese light novel market.
Fan translations were clearly not relevant with Bookwalker Global’s choice of exclusive titles. Neither The Combat Baker nor The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! had English fan translations when these releases were being decided, nor was there much hype for them on English-language social media. However, people still wanted me to talk about fan translation anyway. I suspect that they wanted me to romanticise their place in history.