I know I’m late to the party. I think I bought this book when the club was still ongoing, but never read past the first few pages now.
Now I finished the 夜市 part in 3 days and… found it surprisingly unengaging. This is probably the first time I’m saying this about a Japanese book, but the writing still really felt kind of amateurish. Most of the story was basically told in flashbacks. I’m not against using flashbacks per se, but the way it was told was, again, very unengaging.
You basically get a 1st person recap of a personal story that doesn’t feel personal at all because it glosses over all the details that actually would make it feel personal. When the man told the story of his past, almost everything was left vague. People had no names (“the girl”, “the co-workers”, “the math teacher”), events were only described briefly. Same goes for the world building; new convenient rules were invented all the time (“humans can only visit the Night Market three times”) and it didn’t feel cohesive at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually like stories rooted in magical realism that just accept the magic as a natural part of the world. But these stories tend to not explain things at all (which probably goes for typical 怪談 stories as well), like 魔女の宅急便 or Kenji Miyazawa’s works. In fact, if the magical part is a key party of the main drama, it often serves as an allegory for something else (see: fairytales).This personally works very well for me. ´
夜市 was different. It doesn’t work with a level of abstraction or distance you’d see in fairytales, but it also doesn’t have the sophistication of stories that try to integrate a supernatual theme into its world building. In a sense, the world building in 夜市 consists of made up rules that are just plot devices for some sort of dramatic twist, but totally lack cohesion or a overarching vision.
That kinda goes for the characters as well. Izumi has no real stakes in the story, but also no real personality to speak of. She doesn’t even act particularly surprised when they arrive at the Night Market. The way the “man” recaps his story totally doesn’t make it feel like he’s actually only 15. It all just doesn’t feel natural.
That being said, I did like the premise and I did like the Night Market itself as a setting. It was very easy to read and I was never bored, if nothing else. I also liked how the story ended, although the presentation itself felt lackluster and unsatisfying. The market could’ve totally served as a basis for a fascinating folktale kind of story, or a hub world for a more elaborate fantasy story.
Now I didn’t even know 夜市 was only one of the stories in the book. I mostly came here to ask whether 風の古道 is basically more of the same in terms of style and storytelling? Because if it is, I might as well skip it and read 狐笛のかなた or something else instead.