This week we are reading the second half of the 十二月 chapter, up to the end of the first bunko volume!
End page (bunko): 411
End percentage (bunko): 100
End page (tanko): I don’t know
End phrase: 一緒に、闘える。
I’m a big fan of the book so far. I love middle school dramas ( I feel liked I’m still processing my own middle school years, I guess), and the magical elements are a bonus. I love that there are surprises with clues–it’s fun to guess the next surprise.
About this week: Kokoro going to the mall with her mother is a good development both for their relationship and for Kokoro building up courage to go outside again. And now the crew has made a promise to meet up soon, at school no less! I guess we’ll know soon if the speculations from previous weeks were correct . And regardless of whether they manage to meet in real life, it will be interesting to see what happens at school…
Regarding the book as a whole:
The book has certainly turned out different from what I expected. I had expected more tie-ins with fairy tales and more of a focus on the search for the key/room.
I can’t really say that I’m wildly enthusiastic about the book. I feel that the plot is moving very slowly and the book repeats itself a lot, but maybe it’s just that reading a book in Japanese is still slow for me (and there’s the schedule, of course) and maybe it’s just that repetitions stand out more when you’re translating from a foreign language.
The arcs of Kokoro and Ureshino were nice, though.
I still intend to keep reading. I want to know how this all ends and why these kids were brought together, and we still have to learn more about the others. I also have a feeling that the supernatural aspects of the castle will play a larger role in the second volume. All in all, there’s a lot still to come so it will be a packed second half.
Woops, I got confused with the schedule and thought this chapter was supposed to be read last week and there was one more chapter therefore I was late so when I saw it was the end I was like… oh well, I was so wrong I was right.
Since I don’t remember where the cut-off for this week was I’ll just say I really enjoyed this chapter and even though I agree with others that I expected the book to focus more on the mystery of the castle and the search I’m really liking how it’s turning out and I’m really looking forward to continuing with the second volume (although I appreciate the little break since I’ve been finding it hard to find time to read this week…again).
I will say that I read the book at my “normal” pace (took about 2 weeks for the first volume and 5 days for the second volume) instead of with the schedule specifically because I suspected it might drag reading at a slower pace. I definitely don’t regret reading it faster, and it’s currently my favorite Japanese book. (You can probably tell from how long it took me to read each volume that I enjoyed the second volume more, but I loved both and it’s really one book anyway.)
I want to give some thoughts on the reading experience so far as well.
While the orphan-castle pocket dimension, the fairy tale themes and the search for a wish-granting key seemed interesting enough as a premise, I didn’t mind that the plot mostly took a backseat so that we could explore different sides of the characters and their dynamics.
I feel like if the search for the key took center-stage, there would barely be any room for developments like “Kokoro has crippling social anxiety so she stops going to the castle for weeks on end the moment anything goes even slightly wrong with her new relationships” or “Ureshino makes himself an outcast, and the rest of the crew blame themselves to some extent once he leaves” or “Masamune gets weirdly upset when Kokoro says she doesn’t like RPGs, and they have a falling-out”. These kinds of conflicts work because the characters are treating the castle more as a place for hanging out than an arena for a battle-royale. Because they aren’t thinking about the castle and the other kids purely instrumentally, in terms of ‘getting their wish’ and fixing their life at all costs, there’s room for more intimate human drama that’s reflective of their struggles in the real world(s).
Which is to say, I’m liking かがみの孤城 so far, to the point where I’m actually a bit worried about where the second book will take things.
There’s a good chance that the narrative will switch into high-stakes mode, and that it will ultimately wrap things up neatly in terms of answering any burning lore questions, having the wish be used in a way that’s symbolically meaningful and results in a technically plausible happy ending of some sort and so on, … but I’m more invested in the human conflict now, and I would hate for it to be resolved extrinsically.