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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The banner title of VIZ Media's new novel line begins with... 
23rd-Oct-2005 10:18 pm
Reading
A cough and a sputter...and a double dose of insidious, deadly cancer.

EDIT: Why in the heck is Borders shelving these new novels in the manga section? Talk about a niche within a niche if they do things like that!

Katayama, Kyoichi. Socrates in Love. Trans. Akemi Wegmüller. San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2005. (First Japanese Edition: 2001)
Summary: Sakutaro falls in love with his classmate Aki. Aki contracts leukemia and dies at the age of seventeen. Sakutaro comes to grips with his loss and moves on with his life.
Comments: Given that VIZ's previous foray into the realm of translated Japanese novels, Battle Royale, left me wowed beyond my expectations and given that Sekai no Chushin de Ai wo Sakebu, as it is titled in Japan is the all-time #1 bestselling novel there, I had high expectations. Only to have my expectations dashed. Katayama uses a formulaic plot of youthful love and loss as a personal soapbox about the nature of human goodness and spirituality. Interesting, the English title of the novel was the one that the author truly intended; we're not talking about the historical Socrates in love with someone (probably one of his boy pupils...) but rather as a roundabout way of saying that we think and learn philosophy through the emotion of love. It's an allusion to a Western philosophy intro text, but I suppose this isn't exactly the most radical of ideas, given that the Japanese can use the same word to mean "to feel" and "to think." In any case, none of the philosophical/spiritual throught presented in the novel is especially challenging, and the novel sits uneasily with its pretensions of literariness. Not to mention that I'm really tired of boy as subject girl as object plots as well as exhortions about how living a "simple life" in the country is somehow more virtuous. The translation isn't bad but could have been a heck of a lot better; there were several places where I was reading and I would swear I could see entire sentences of the original Japanese superimposed on top, the translation was so clumsily literal there. Given the popularity of Japanese pop culture these days, contemporary fiction is getting a bit more attention. I had assumed that VIZ, with its subsidiary status, would have the best access to licenses, but this novel is not a good omen of things to come. Now I'm just wondering if the Ghost in the Shell and Fullmetal Alchemist novels will truly make me want to shoot myself. But it can't be as bad as Vampire Hunter D. Can it? Good Lord...perhaps I shouldn't tempt fate with questions like that. Anyway, in final analysis, I'm neutral. If you have a longstanding interest in tear-jerker teen romances (that didn't make me weep at all) with overblown literary pretensions, give it a try. If you don't, give it a pass. It wasn't anywhere near good enough for me to try to convince anyone.
Notes: hardcover, 1st American edition
Rating: 5/10 - Like The Da Vinci Code, read it to say you've joined the club. But don't expect to love it. Consider waiting for a paperback edition.
Comments 
24th-Oct-2005 02:49 am (UTC)
I gave the movie a pass as well, as people dying from diseases and such tend to leave me depressed and not entertained. But if VIZ is doing novels that were made into movies, I hope Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu is on their list.
24th-Oct-2005 02:52 am (UTC)
Well, I can't speak for the movie, but the book was too annoying to be genuinely sad. The author was too busy soapboxing his beliefs about where Japanese society is going wrong.

For some reason, I think that they're releasing a Kamikaze Girls novel...but maybe I'm just hallucinating that. What's Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu about?
24th-Oct-2005 04:11 am (UTC)
Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu is a love story and a ghost story. It's starts with the death of a young mother, who leaves behind her 7-year-old boy and her adorably incompetent husband. But she had written a book before she died (a children's book for her son) that said she would return during the next rainy season. Both father and son believe she'll return, although the father's belief is strained by adulthood, but when she does return, she doesn't remember either of them, or her life.

I haven't actually read more than the first chapter of the book, because I keep getting distracted, but I like what I've read so far. Both the movie and the TV series are lovely, though different. I'm not sure which is closer to the novel.
24th-Oct-2005 02:29 pm (UTC)
Well, frozen_yoghurt says that there might be a Hollywood remake of the film. Dunno if that's just an unsubstantiated rumor, but if it's true, the chances of the novel being released in English increase exponentially. ^_^
24th-Oct-2005 04:25 pm (UTC)
Hm, good to know. On the one hand, I love the story. On the other hand, I haven't been too keen on the last couple of Hollywood remakes of Japanese films.
24th-Oct-2005 09:24 am (UTC)
Meh, I haven't even read the Da Vinci Code... Though, from what I've heard, the idea that some European royal families are descendants of Jesus is just the stupidest thing I've ever heard... Royal families became royal families by generally being the most cruel and brutal bastards around, not exactly very "christian."... Well, maybe it is by the modern evangelical definition ^^;;
24th-Oct-2005 01:01 pm (UTC)
I read The Da Vinci Code returning home from Korea...in the airport and on the plane. I think I ended up really finishing it at home, though. Besides having an unattractive prose style, it said that John was Mary Magdalene! *argh*
24th-Oct-2005 01:36 pm (UTC)
it said that John was Mary Magdalene! *argh*

In the Last Supper you mean? Well, I do kind of like the idea of Jesus and Mary Magdalene being, er, more than friends *cough*

^__^

Well it would kind of blow away the catholic church's demonization of all things sexual.. Even better if it was Jesus and one of the other apostles.....
24th-Oct-2005 01:53 pm (UTC) - just saying hi ^_^
but I heard Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu is gonna have a hollywood remake (nooo, the horror.. :X)

the movie is really really sweet, although it starts out slowly the twist at the end is extremely satisfying, and touching.
*begs you to get the movie*

I don't know about GitS or Vampire Hunter D novels, but having read book 1 to 4 of the Fma novels (book 5 is lying next to me in it's wrapper) I guess it's of average quality, and follows the average style of the short story arcs. (the brothers find something that might lead them to the philosophers stone and then beat the bad guys and save the day etc)

uhh you might want to skip the first book though since that simply covers the Tringham brothers story in the anime.
24th-Oct-2005 02:27 pm (UTC) - Re: just saying hi ^_^
but I heard Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu is gonna have a hollywood remake (nooo, the horror.. :X)

*laughs* Well, then caithion might get her wish then! The chances of someone bringing over the novel increases exponentially if there is a movie tie-in.

the movie is really really sweet, although it starts out slowly the twist at the end is extremely satisfying, and touching.
*begs you to get the movie*


Hmm. I don't think it's been released as a Region 1, so that of course makes it more difficult to find here. But I'll definitely keep my eye out for it! Thanks for the recommendation. ^_^

uhh you might want to skip the first book though since that simply covers the Tringham brothers story in the anime.'

I've never seen the anime, but I figure if I read enough of the manga, at some point I'll pick up the novels just out of curiosity. Sounds like, from what you've said, there's a good chance I'll just end up regretting it, though. (^^;
24th-Oct-2005 02:52 pm (UTC) - Re: just saying hi ^_^
Hmm. I don't think it's been released as a Region 1, so that of course makes it more difficult to find here. But I'll definitely keep my eye out for it! Thanks for the recommendation. ^_^

*gets shifty eyes*
and the dvds here seem to be mysteriously region free...
does have a stamp of approval tho.. yep..

I've never seen the anime, but I figure if I read enough of the manga, at some point I'll pick up the novels just out of curiosity. Sounds like, from what you've said, there's a good chance I'll just end up regretting it, though. (^^;

the anime goes alternate universe after a certain point. And there's different events leading to formation of different theories about certain alchemic, uh facts. (lots more angst, 2 more special characters). And from my friend who watched the Fma movie in japan, there seems to be a good/conclusive ending of the anime then. ;D

the novels will probly have the same kind of story advancement as the ps2 games, since the 'official' storyline is with the manga after all. (they can't make any serious plot, but I grab them anyway since well, yeah. :x)
24th-Oct-2005 02:54 pm (UTC) - Re: just saying hi ^_^
*gets shifty eyes*
and the dvds here seem to be mysteriously region free...


*laughs* It's a bit harder to get those where I am. Not impossible, but inconvenient. And I am, alas, a creature of convenience first. ^^;;;;;

the novels will probly have the same kind of story advancement as the ps2 games, since the 'official' storyline is with the manga after all.

So, do the novels take place in the manga's world, the anime's world, or in a world all their own?
24th-Oct-2005 05:13 pm (UTC)
An impression I got at Viz's panel at San Diego was that shelving was going to be a major challenge for the Viz novels. I think they wanted Socrates in Love to be shelved with romances, but even that was challenging. I suspect they were mixed with Ghost in the Shell and Steamboy novels since there was a question of if those books would sell better next to other scifi novels or next to the matching manga digests. In either case, it sounded like getting consistent shelving was going to be a big challenge for the line.

'course this is all my judgements from the tone in the editor's voice when she talked.
24th-Oct-2005 05:43 pm (UTC)
The new VIZ novel releases were all shelved in the manga section of my local Borders, in alphabetical order. So, in the case of Socrates in Love, it was right next to the manga adaptation. This really surprised me because, at least in the past, I've seen the Battle Royale novel shelved in the sci-fi/fantasy novel section.

Vertical's releases of Japanese novels such as The Ring end up in the correct novel genre sections.
29th-Oct-2005 10:16 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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