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Third Anniversary Giveaway Contest

by nickmamatas

Three years ago this week, Haikasoru launched with the publication of All You Need Is Kill and The Lord of the Sands of Time. Since then we’ve brought you the best in Japanese science fiction, fantasy, and horror, have experimented with hardcover releases and magical realism, brought you videogame tie-in novels for Ico and Metal Gear Solid and have even won a few awards. Heck, Good Luck, Yukikaze just received second place at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards over the weekend! And with our anthology The Future Is Japanese, we’ve started introducing original content!

To celebrate, we’re doing one of our famed giveaway essay contests! Just write a comment, in the comments section of this post, on the Haikasoru title you’ve enjoyed the most and why you liked it, and you may be among five lucky and talented winners will be able to select any Haikasoru title they want as their prize. (Make the little essay a good one; that’s how we judge the winners! This is not a random chance drawing!) We ship anywhere, and we read English, Japanese, Spanish, German, French, Greek, and Chinese. (And if you have all the Haikasoru titles already, I’ll flip you a copy of Genocidal Organ, which nobody has yet. We pick the winners on noon Friday, so get to typin’!

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23 Responses to “Third Anniversary Giveaway Contest”

  1. Michael Allen Rose says:

    Battle Royale was one of the first pieces of Japanese media that really penetrated my very Western-art-centric skull. Well paced, brutal, harrowing and beautiful in its way, that book will stand as a great piece of violent art for many years to come!

  2. Nathan Filizzi says:

    Well, the only Haikasoru book I’ve actually read–despite there being several on my wish list,–is Battle Royale, so that must be my favorite by default. It’s also a good book.

  3. Peter M. says:

    All you need is kill (so far).
    Because of the few really original idea in it. Looking forward for the movie adaptation.

  4. Chris Weir says:

    As an anime fan, I first approached Nojiri Housuke’s work with some trepidition, given that in 2007, his light novel series Rocket Girls was adapted into the kind of plot light moe mush that drops off the face of the Earth ten minutes after the last episode airs. Even the support of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and voicework from Yamazaki Naoko, the second Japanese woman to go into space didn’t sell me on the series, and I was left questioning Nojiri’s assertion that he is influenced by Arthur C. Clarke.

    His first contact story, Usurper of the Sun, however, subverted any expectations I had from the Rocket Girls anime within the first few chapters. Although we are introduced to our protagonist, Shiarashi Aki, as a high school girl, it’s clear that she’s not the anime-adaptation bait of Rocket Girls. Instead, she’s a smart, but somewhat unmotivated girl, part of the astronomy club but hardly enthusiastic – that is, until she becomes among the first to spot a strange, tower-like growth on Mercury. We follow her as she grows up and becomes a leading authority on the alien growth, now a vast ring.

    With a more serious plot than that of Rocket Girls, Nojiri’s detours into ‘real’ science mesh better with the story here, and are rarely as obfustacating or dry as hard sci fi is wont to become. However, accessible as the science is, it’s really the emotional life of Shirashi Aki that draws the reader in. Driven to discover the builders of the ring, we see her become intelligent, but her emotional and social life lags behind. Were Shirashi not the focus of the story, she would appear cold, but with the reader privy to her emotional state, she slowly grows into a quietly tragic character, waiting for an answer she increasingly doubts she’ll receive.

    The novel’s climax, years after Shirashi’s original discovery, is where Clarke’s influence shows most clearly. Like Rendezvous with Rama, Usurper of the Sun offers few answers, but does offer some form of emotional closure for Shirashi and the reader, and that, for me, is the novel’s success.

  5. Stephanie Carroll says:

    I love badass female characters and what could be more badass than a Full Metal Bitch? So I pick All You Need is Kill.

  6. Submarine Bells says:

    For me, I’d have to say my favourite Haikosoru offering is “The Stories of Ibis”. I’ve always had a fondness for interesting tales involving Artificial Intelligence, and “The Stories of Ibis” certainly offers that. It explores some of my favourite SFnal themes – the nature of identity, what is “reality” in a world that includes virtual “realities”, when does a machine/program move from mimicking intelligent behaviour to actually demonstrating it? – and does so in a beautiful, lyrical way, with a collection of short stories that initially seem unrelated (other than by the narrative frame that they are presented within) but turn out to be together presenting a philosophical and historical perspective that the eponymous Ibis hopes to use to persuade others in the book of the rightness of her cause.

    I’d also like to add that the story “The Day Shion Came” is the best story about AI, bar none, that I’ve ever read; and given that it’s a theme that I seek out in SF, that’s high praise indeed.

    Summary: Highly recommended!

  7. brockton e.s. says:

    I have read almost every book up to MM9. I had almost grown bored with SciFi/Fantasy, when Haikasoru came along. I still remember the day vividly inside the now defunct Borders. On the second floor I literally ran into All you need is kill. Looking at the back I was instantly hooked, inside I also found three other books were available. I knew I had to track them down which I did. since then even if it sounded like something uninteresting I would read every book that came out. Each time I was glad I did.

    The book I think the most about these days is Mardock Scramble. Watching the demise of the main character and her rebirth into an almost unstoppable force for revenge is still captivating. The most interesting part of the book though was set in the casino. How did they manage That? I could not figure out why until I went to the casino and played roulette myself. Needless to say I think I might become a gambling addict. Roulette is as amazing as the descriptions therein. Now every time I go knowing I am losing money I stretch my senses to their limits trying to capture that ebb and flow Rune Balot, because of her techno enhancements, easily feels. Understanding the character came with the understanding of the game. I am not her but this game is addicting like the book.

    Just as seeing All you need is kill, Mardock Scramble Changed my life in a questionably meaningful way. I will continue to anticipate every release knowing I get to read something I could not have read before.

  8. Mee C. says:

    Zoo would have to be the Haikasoru book that I enjoyed the most. It was not what I had expected when I first picked up the book but it turned out to be a really great a book, which led me to other Haikasoru books. I liked all the short stories in the book. They were all interesting and eerie and I really enjoyed that. Although I like all the short stories, the story that stood out the most to me was Song of the Sunny Spot.

    Song of the Sunny Spot, to me, was different compared to the rest of the stories. It was subdued and quite gentle. Although not as dark as the rest of the stories, it is one of my favorite because even though it was quite depressing, it ended with what I would say a nice and sweet feeling.

    Overall, I really enjoyed Zoo because it opened up a new genre of books for me, which I have come to love.

  9. Jay Ridler says:

    HARMONY, by Project Itoch. I’d not read a science fiction book in years, and HARMONY reminded me why I loved the genre. Smart and modern in its voice and vision of the future, HARMONY is a well considered thought experiments with characters who were interesting and believable (not always a good fit for SF). This was SF in the tradition of Zamyatin and Huxley for me. A well conceived post-disaster world, a focus on the tyranny of biological dominance, and questions about identity, freedom, and security. No big space battles, racist alien stereotypes, or re-fighting Operation Enduring Freedom on Rigal4, Harmony was a short and beautiful book from a talented author who was taken away from us too soon.

  10. Benjamin Bauer says:

    I think it’s a true testament to the selection you guys offer that, looking at the section of my shelf reserved for Haikasoru offerings, picking just ONE book is quite the challenge.
    However, after much deliberation, I figured out which I’d hope to save from a fire…I mean, I’d love to save all of them, but if it could only be one…

    “Yukikaze”

    A study of mankinds evolving relationship with it’s own creations and of a war with the vaguest of enemies, “Yukikaze” rocked my socks off. It’s got badass aerial combat, philosophical insights, Philip K. Dick-style paranoia and an ending that’s as beautiful as it is painful. It’s like a smooth guitar riff played out against an acid-washed sunset. At times psychedelic and brutal, then veering off into a zen-like calm. It holds a pretty special place in my heart.

    After having finished “Good Luck, Yukikaze” about a month ago, I find myself missing the melancholia that permeates the series. I read somewhere that there’s a third novel, yet unpublished here, in North America. Haikasoru! You likely don’t need me telling you this, but take note!!!

  11. Scotoma says:

    While I loved Harmony for its seemingly compelling reduction of the human mind to a superfluous artifact of our embodied nature, there’s nothing like the realization during the Stories of Ibis that the calm exploration of man-machine interaction through various fiction-in-fiction pieces is just a very gentle packing for a “You’re all going to die” scenario.

  12. omo says:

    My favorite has to be Story of Ibis. And it’s a little complicated.

    The thing is, I’m sympathetic to the average notion of otaku, in Japan: the typical mid-30s salaryman, single, living either at home or at a small apartment, and spending all their free time and energy, immersed in this “geek culture” stuff. Which is very different than the American or European notion of the word, at least it’s not the definition that is growing in acceptance out here. And Ibis is really about that kind of mindset, the first type of otaku that I described.

    To me, Ibis is actually a story where mankind has “declined” precisely because of this first type of otaku way of thinking. To do my best not to judge, it’s about accepting a new sort of reality where people can meet their differing needs–emotional, social, let alone physical–through these technological fantasies (and maybe soon actual advances). You know, fictional characters (virtual girlfriend, anybody?), notions of moe, communication over interest-based community and internet forums, etc. Consequently society, and humanity as we know it, ceases to be what it used to be. In Ibis, we see sort of a post-apocalyptic image, so I used the term decline to describe the outcome. But I think the short stories and their otaku-heavy themes speak more tongue-in-cheek about what would happen if everyone were to see it the way the otaku would see it.

    It certainly wouldn’t be the prettiest picture, but I think this is a fair read into kind of a, perhaps, positive outlook with that tinge of grim-dark. Is it really okay to be “a champion of justice,” for example. I think it’s too easy to paint this sort of stuff in a black-or-white kind of way, so I really enjoyed the multiple reads Ibis has. Even down to the 2-dimensional system of expressing emotion–a very suitable way to communicate for an identity-tribe of people that are known for being clumsy in expressing themselves.

    This wasn’t a book that I would have read, let alone being aware of, if not for Haikasoru. So thanks a lot!

  13. Alex says:

    This is a very difficult decision for me. I have truly enjoyed all the novels that Haikasoru has given us. Whether it’s Yukikaze’s exploration of the nature of man’s relationship with machines, Zoo’s use of extremely grim themes in ways that are varied, clever, and often contradictorily light-hearted, or Battle Royale’s fast paced thrills and chills, you’ve allowed me to experience many eclectic, intriguing and, above all, entertaining stories that would have otherwise been barred from me via language barriers.

    One sticks out to me more than the others, however: Loups-Garous.

    This novel was my first experience with Haikasoru. At the time, I had just finished the first entry in the Kyougokudo series: Summer of the Ubume after having seen the anime adaptation of the second: Mouryou no Hako. I enjoyed both greatly and was searching for other entries in the series that may have been published in English, when I found this novel. Seeing that it was the only other Kyogoku book available in English, I bought it immediately.

    At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The characters, the world, the speech patterns, the constantly referenced technology; all of it was so incredibly alien and dissimilar from my own experiences that I found everything difficult to follow. Of course, this was intentional. Before I knew it I was enveloped in this alien world and deeply enthralled by the characters that I had once found utterly incomprehensible.

    Loups-Garous is about a dystopian future very much unlike our own time, but one will find that its framework, successes and problems derive from and intertwine with modern day issues. It’s a world where human contact has been ruled obsolete and replaced by portable monitors that control all functions of life to the point that few people know how to directly communicate in a natural manner or even operate on their own. A world of featureless, sterile city. A world in which artificial food has been the norm for such a span that the young have never eaten real food. I could go on, but summing it up, it’s a completely artificial world.

    The only exceptions to this rule seem to exist in the form of the past, namely in the forms of Section C: The “slum” sector of the city that has been largely abandoned by the government and thus is the only area where one can find relics from the reader’s present, and Kunugi: a rough police officer that is, himself, a relic from the past/present world. This constant conflict between the past and present and their apparent incongruity just adds to the story’s plausibility.

    This is easily my favorite part of Loups-Garous: the world building. Every aspect of the world presented herein is so thoroughly complete and believable, while remaining completely alien. Not only this, but unlike many novelists, the author completely neglects to hold your hand when introducing you to this world and its characters, preferring instead to throw you into the thick of it, allowing you to introduce yourself to the themes and characters in far more subtle and engrossing ways than you usually would.

    This made it much more exciting when, towards the end of the book, it becomes difficult to believe that the characters I’ve become so invested in will be able to continue on against a world that’s completely controlled and inescapable.

    There’s so much more I can say about this novel. The world and characters were amazingly vivid, the action was thrilling, the mystery was enthralling, and the overall message was affecting. This novel cemented my love for Natsuhiko Kyogoku and ended up introducing me to your wonderful brand as well. I genuinely thank you for bringing it to the US.

  14. Justin C. says:

    I’ve read a number of Haikasoru books over the last three years, and it’s really hard to pick my favorite. Both collections from Otsuichi are amazing, and Miyuke Miyabe’s fantasy is unforgettable. And then there’s the cyberpunk detective noir of Mardock Scramble, or the networking in Loups-Garoups….it’s so hard to make a choice.

    However, think the book I look at most fondly is The Ouroboros Wave. I lived out in the country as a kid, and was fortunate enough to see planets, comets, and hundreds of stars making their high, slow arc across the heavens. And every evening after sunset, I would watch for the satellites. It never failed to astonish me as a kid that we were able to put hunks of metal, and sometimes even people up among the heavenly bodies.

    I would say that that fascination got me into science fiction to begin with, reading Clarke’s stories about new technologies that would one day explore the heavens, or the adventures of Heinlein’s protagonists. I think The Ouroboros Wave is soundly grounded (is that really the right word to use?) in that tradition.

    I turned the pages of The Ouroboros Wave in rapt attention, absorbing Jyouji Hayashi’s ideas as to what he thought of the future of a spacefaring humanity. His idea of an Earth so preoccupied with rank that it ceases to innovate resonates with the tack some tech companies are taking these days, with their emphasis on copyrighting *very* general ideas and trying to sue one another out of the market, rather than using innovation to keep their edge.

    Aside from some of the social commentary subtly woven into the fabric of the book, Hayashi tells some fun stories, which remind me a lot of some of Clarke’s or Asimov’s stories of humanity taking their first steps and strides into space. Even with the fun, the stories take care to at least remain mostly grounded in science. It makes me think of the things that humankind can do, given the right amount of planning and effort.

    So much about this book brought back memories of when I was first getting into science fiction in a big way ten years ago, and with it returned the starry-eyed wonder of a kid who looked up in the night sky and thought man could do anything.

  15. Kevin says:

    I started my “Haikasoru”-Collection with the Otsuichi-novels. I really loved them, but from most of all the stories he wrote, I loved was last story of “Summer, Fireworks and and my corpse”. From the beginning of the story you really wanted to know what is going on, what happened in the past and how everything comes together in the end.
    And it was full of suspense.

    How Otsuichi put all those pieces together…
    It was really great.

    The other novel I really loved was Ico. I played the Game like maybe 7 years ago, when I was still a teenager and even then it fascinated me. The Castle, the artstyle. Everything was really great.
    Then I got the book last year and I was really happy to have some more “lore” for this universe.
    When I read it, I really imagined how Icos Village looks like and, in sharp contrast to the Games of TeamIco, you knew something more about the everyday life in this universe.
    When you play the Games, it always seems like its a bad life for everyone in this world. You kinda feel alone.
    But when I read Ico, I could feel that only Ico is the one who has to bear the pain. The everyday villagers, the people from the Capital… no one really seems to have a care in the world.

    Furthermore I really liked how the novel tells the past of Yordas Life in the Castle . Really hard for her to be a Rapunzel-Like character without any freedom. Her relationship to her mother was also really well written and you could feel how much pain Yorda has to bear, just by being her daughter. But her mother also was very well written. She was not like a normal villain, who is utterly evil to the bones. You sometimes could feel that she still loves Yorda, even though she did all those horrible things to her.

    What I liked most about Ico was the ending. I dont wanna spoil anything for those who are still waiting to read it, but I really loved how everything was resolved. Especially the place where “it” happens, was beautiful!

    Hope in the future I can read more titles from Haikasoru. Thanks for all these wonderful books~

    Greetings from Germany (hope my english is good enough that people are able to read my impression *haha*)

  16. Dots says:

    Good Luck Yukikaze. Full stop, Good Luck Yukikaze. When I think of science fiction, what comes to mind first is a world crafted in such a way that it’s plausibly close to ours, yet at the same time so very alien. Yukikaze kicked off the series right, but Good Luck Yukikaze took all of that and made something more out of it all. We get Yukikaze’s development as an actual character (something amazing, and quite honestly very cute, for an AI embedded in an airplane), her developing relationship with Rei (who now has to see Yuki as more than just the machine he thinks he knows inside out), and the unraveling machinations of not only the JAM but the machine-AI of the Fairy Air Force. A story about what it means to be human has evolved into something where even the parties that at face value aren’t human manage to come off as being very humanlike. The whole thing gets you thinking just how different entities with vastly different worldviews and perspectives will come together; the SAF manages to break the barriers of human and AI and work together as a cohesive unit, yet the FAF is incapable of doing the same thing. Similar conflicts in worldview occur with humanity and the JAM, but to talk further would be to ruin one of the most amusing moments in the series so far.

    Good Luck Yukikaze is that one Haikasoru work that clicks with me perfectly. The action’s a nice way to get things rolling, but at heart it’s a story painting a world that feels somewhat plausible at times, while conveying some pretty thought-provoking situations not just about human vs nonhuman, but also about the failure of communication across parties that lack a common reference point.

  17. Jim L says:

    Of the titles mentioned, I’m most intrigued by “Genocidal Organ” as it provokes the image of a gritty, surreal dystopia where Bach is a deadly weapon when delivered via pipe organs mounted on rolling tank treads. It’s the sort of thing one might dig up in an obscure 1980s music video.

    I’ve read “The Ouroboros Wave”, which was at first glance a hard SF trip. In actuality, the book was a sequence of mysteries set against an SF backdrop. What else is space exploration but the unraveling of mysteries?

  18. Kate C. says:

    As many others have said, Haikasoru has a nearly unbelievable array of quality titles, and it’s hard to ignore many in favor of one. Still, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a favorite, and that favorite is Otsuichi’s “Summer, Fireworks, And My Corpse.”

    I had previously read only Otsuichi’s Tokyopop-published light novel: “Goth.” Though I sincerely enjoyed it, the lack of readily available versions of his other material prevented me from investigating further. In fact, when I first saw “Summer, Fireworks, And My Corpse” at Kinokuniya, I only noticed it because it was shelved in the horror section next to the extremely conspicuous “Ring.” Well, not only did I end up loving this collection even more than I did “Goth,” it is the single work responsible for my newly developed interest in popular Japanese fiction: embarrassingly, I had previously ignored anything more recent than Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s stuff.

    The titular story of the collection: “Summer, Fireworks, And My Corpse,” features an impossible observer developing an oddly blasé acceptance of the inhumanity that lurks behind the surface of innocence. “Yuko” is a story about the razor-thin edge we all walk as we perceive the reality around us: the characters’ and readers’ realities change as one, leaving everyone unsettled by the cruelty that has been behind the mirror all along. Finally, “Black Fairy Tale” takes us to the limits of an unbelievable reality to stretch our definition of “humanity.”

    What marks Otsuichi’s work is not manipulation of our primal human fears, or terrifying imagery, or the ability to convince the reader that they, too, might soon be facing these things with nowhere to run. What Otsuichi does is invite us into the psychology of the many faces of horror, always giving enough to inspire but not to limit our interpretation of the driving forces behind his implicitly gruesome, sometimes fantastical realities. His masterful manipulation of perspective weaves unusually rich narratives in each story, with the result that we as readers are always surprised – and sort of unnerved – by the answer to a mystery that we didn’t even know we were trying to solve. It is a true testament to the strength of Haikasoru’s efforts that this delicate atmosphere is perfectly preserved in translation.

    Otsuichi has now settled solidly in my affections as my absolute favorite Japanese author, and I will be recommending this book and its companion, “Zoo,” to friends for many years to come.

  19. Carrie Laben says:

    I just finished The Navidad Incident and it reminded me a bit of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which is always a good thing. The sly humor and the ultimately devastating portrait of a self-justifying man caught in the currents of history really grabbed me. Matías Guili is an actual anti-hero, not just a protagonist who mopes a bit while being secretly noble. And the islands’ history, folklore, and politics are well-drawn enough that I regret that Navidad’s not real and I can’t read more about it.

  20. Adonisus says:

    I’ve always had a passion for world sci-fi culture. French, Russian, Polish, and yes Japanese. Every country’s science fiction has its own unique flavor because it reflects its own history. Take Japan, for example. It basically cut itself off from the west of the world for centuries, then became a major power player virtually overnight. It was the first major industrialized nation without a judeo-christian background. It brought Southeast Asia into world affairs. And it has the misfortune of being the only country in human history to be on the receiving end of atomic warfare. Their science fiction reflects this, with recurring themes of metaphysics, the nature of conquest, and a strong anti-war undertone that permeates so much of Modern Japan’s culture.

    And of course, I have no one else to thank but the good, hard working folks at Haiksoru for bringing Japan’s sci-fi culture to the masses. Because of them, we now have the source material for so many anime and games, and are able to appreciate the enormous contribution to the genre that the Japanese have made. I’ve read pretty much every single release that Haikasoru has published and wish they would publish more from certain authors (hint hint, guys. Publish more Kambayashi!), but of all of them I would have to say that my absolute favorite of all of them is the late great Ryu Mitsuse’s “Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights”.

    This wasn’t my first encounter with Mitsuse’s work, of course. Mitsuse was the first japanese sci-fi author to have a story translated into english (in Frederik Pohl’s anthology “Best Science Fiction for 1972″). But for me, I first encountered his work through the fantastic manga trilogy “Andromeda Stories”, which was illustrated by the extremely talented Keiko Takemiya. Mitsuse had actually been writing manga stories since the fifties. He was the author of a popular manga on the subject of entomology entitled “Dr. Ron’s Magnifying Glass” that lasted for ten volumes. It was serialized in Weekly Shonen Champion (along with manga legends Osamu Tezuka and Go Nagai). Heck, even “Ten Billion….” was adapted into a manga and serialized in Champion. It was illustrated by none other than legendary shojo artist Moto Hagio, making it the only shonen comic she has ever drawn (Another hint hint, guys. Get someone at VIZ to translate this!).

    But his mind-bending, high quality science fiction is where his fame lies, and its “Ten Billion Days and One Hundered Billion Nights” that is his masterpiece. At least, that’s what the Japanese think. I tend to agree. It is a phenomenal piece of work, thought provoking and mind expanding all in just a few hundred pages. It’s essential theme, about the birth and death of our universe (and its true origins and purpose), is a very trying topic to attempt, and from a japanese mindset it must have taken a very haughty person to tackle it.

    But Mitsuse tackled it, and he tackled it well. And the reason he was able to tackle it well is – simply put- because he was THAT good of a writer. Mitsuse could accomplish in one volume what would take lesser writers several books to accomplish. He was able to take these gigantic concepts about metaphysics and philosophy and manages to contain them in relatively short chapters. He takes mind-blowingly epic events and somehow manages to keep it only about 20-30 pages at most. But each of these semi-self contained chapters are fulfilling and powerful, like threads being carefully woven into a beautiful tapestry.

    And he HAD to be a good writer, because when your main characters include both the Buddha AND Jesus of Nazereth, you had better have the chops to justify their inclusion. Normally, when these characters are included in a work of fiction its often to portray them as forces of nature who remain on the sidelines until the grand finale, where the full force of their power strikes like a massive tsunami. If Jesus makes an apperance, he’s usually less a character and more of an awe-inspiring figure of goodness. But in this case, in Mitsuse’s novel, they are the main characters witnessing the true powers of the universe and its ultimate downfall, all the while as slack-jawed in amazement and confusion as the reader is.

    That’s another thing about Mitsuse’s writing that works here, the ambiguity. Mitsuse rarely puts us into the minds of the Others themselves. We get little glimpses of them, their influences and their history, but its always through the proverbial dark glass. We’re their with Plato as he discovers the fate of fabled Atlantis. We’re their with Siddhartha Gautama as he meets the hindu god Azura in a fantastic city of towers. And all the while, we are right along with them, trying to comprehend an interstellar power which the human mind cannot possibly comprehend, less we collapse into insanity.

    But the best part? It has that one quality that every truly good book has: It stands up to numerous reads. You’ll always find something new, because Mitsune hides so many layers within his prose.

  21. Danny B. says:

    There are only two things I’m going to be talking about here today: Harmony and Inception.

    I really enjoyed Harmony by Project Itoh. There are a couple of reasons for that.

    First of all, I just thought that this book was generally awesome. I liked the story-line, I liked the discussion on the brain-blood barrier in humans, and I liked how the story had a couple of angry teenagers wanted to cause trouble for the world.

    By the time I read this book the film Inception had come out. I bought the soundtrack of the film and would listen to it while I was reading Harmony. For some reason, to me, the music from that film would fit in nicely with the book. Out of the other soundtrack albums I listened to while reading this book, the Inception soundtrack stood out the most—mainly because I’ve noticed certain similarities between the film and the book.

    The worlds in both the book and film were idyllic and the people who inhabit these worlds would protect it. In Inception, if the person realized they were dreaming, the other people in the dream would realize something is up and would begin to give the person causing this disruption a hard time. Mainly by giving nasty looks and rudely shoving that person until they can fix what’s making the people act that way.

    In Harmony, a cataclysmic event leads to universal healthcare for the whole Earth population and that lead to creating a “safe” environment for everyone to live in. It was their dreams made manifest and it would be defended. Instead of nasty looks and rude shoving, the WatchMe program would give off an alert whenever someone went above the accepted levels of public displays of emotion and would immediately be sent to therapy. To me, it would be like a nice way of putting you in detention.

    Nothing like having the whole world conspire against you!

    Another similarity I noticed was that the main characters Tuan and Cobb we’re both haunted by someone close to them. The persons they kept close to them were the springboards of what they were doing and were always not so far away throughout the stories. And it caused both Tuan and Cobb to kind of isolate themselves from their family and friends and seem to concentrate on their work instead.

    It’s kind of odd that all this started because of one random music album. Music’s always been a big part of my life. Now I’m forever going to associate these two stories of Harmony and Inception forever.

    So, yeah, I do believe these worlds are similar. It was an interesting summer.

    Come to think of it, if I ever have a daughter I would name her Tuan (and so would begin the task of explaining how a Hispanic-descent child got a Japanese name. It would be fun!) I enjoyed exploring this new world of Harmony through Tuan’s eyes. She can fire rocket launchers like nobody’s business.

  22. Seth Ellis says:

    I’m going to skip over my favorite Haikasoru book (mecha-Jesus WHAT) and talk instead about the book that I think has the most interesting problems. Problems are always easier to talk about, which is why this got so long.

    ICO: Castle in the Mist is a novelization of a video game—a very highly acclaimed one, but not (I gather) a hugely successful one. The game was designed specifically to be “immersive,” to which end the designers removed as many story elements as they could, including dialogue. This gets at what it really means to play a narrative game. It’s a truism, but it’s true: most of the real game is the meta-game happening around play, either in the interaction between players or in the single player’s imagination. And this is also what it means to read, as the science fiction genre has benefitted from tremendously. Star Trek is an entire detailed, sometimes labored universe built on a few cardboard sets and some flat acting; the act of reading those first stories is what generated all the others.

    So to approach the game in order to write a novel out of it is a tricky proposition. On the one hand, Miyuki Miyabe had a lot of freedom to make up extra story; on the other hand, the game itself doesn’t give her a lot to work with. At its heart, it’s a very simple platform game, with a Princess Token, a Big Bad, and rather abstract temporary challenges to overcome. It’s Super Mario Bros. with beautiful graphics. An adaptation felt to me at first like an old-fashioned 80’s thing to do, like the cheap novelizations I read as a kid (faded paperback of Quag Keep in the remainder bin with the cover missing WHAT). What Miyabe does is to build out this very simple framework into a story, but in so doing, she’s eliminating all other possible stories. She’s reading the game on behalf of the reader, so that the reader no longer can. You can see her struggle to keep those imaginative possibilities open for the reader.

    You can also see the limitations of the original game in the book. At one point, I was afraid that the last two-thirds of the story was going to consist of just following Ico around as he leveled up, towing his Princess Token around by the wrist, and there are indeed some long sequences of that. But Miyabe manages to escape that trap, mostly by ducking through a wormhole into flashback territory. And this is where the most interesting issues of the adaptation come up. The Princess Token (whose name, not to compound the problem, is Yorda) is a completely passive, agencyless figure in the game, a logistical problem for Ico to overcome. In the novel, Miyabe first lampshades this by making clear that Yorda is trapped in a bubble of enchantment, so that she literally can’t act on her own; then she moves into Yorba’s bubble, so to speak, and explores the princess’ own story in flashback. It’s an elegant way around the problem, and Miyabe manages to build up a moral tension out of the consciously simple fairy-tale setup; but still the effort to work away from those limitations without violating them only point out their constraints.

    The other interesting issue is the simple fairy-tale setup I just mentioned; what it means to move one’s imagination into a secondary world, especially one that has been pre-imagined for me, by someone else adapting a game—and especially a cross-cultural secondary world, a Japanese novel of a Japanese game being read in English translation by an American. Miyabe’s imagined world reads to me as simple and precise, trying to flesh out the game setting just so much and no more, to leave room for the reader to move. The bare-bones setting leaves something to be desired; it feels mechanical sometimes, walking a line between archetypal and generic. But the fact that that secondary world can feel even potentially archetypal to a reader from another culture is interesting in itself, and perhaps a testament to Miyabe’s skill. My uninformed impression is that Japanese authors have often been cleverer at incorporating transnational and transcultural influences into their work in an organic way than a lot of Western writers.

    I wouldn’t hold ICO: Castle in the Wind up as a shining example of the Haikasoru line; there are plenty of other books to use for that. But it was a fascinating read, and even its issues stayed with me longer than many other books I’ve read recently.

  23. Marc McKenzie says:

    The Haikasoru title I’ve enjoyed the most? Geez….that’s unfair! There have been several titles I’ve enjoyed reading. To be fair, though, the one that I have really liked–so much so that I’ve read it multiple times–was ALL YOU NEED IS KILL. It may be a short novel, but it’s a fast, exciting read, and yet it packs more content than a novel twice its length. It doesn’t hurt that it also has some of my favorite SF tropes–alien invaders, powered armor, time travel (well….sorta), and a strong female character.

    AYNIK just edged out YUKIKAZE (which I’m eternally thankful for the translation!). The latter I got into because I’m a fan of the anime. But after an agonizing mental session….I have to go with ALL YOU NEED IS KILL.


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