I finished 沖で待つ (2005)!
Yet again a short story collection, with three very different stories, but I enjoyed reading them.
This story is about unemployment and society‘s expectations regarding marriage, I’d say. However it did feel so, so short! It was 50 pages, but there were so many things hinted at, and I was really looking forward to reading the continuation of the story and to seeing the relationships develop a bit more. Which is why I don’t have much more to say about the story, really.
Language-wise, this story used quite an amount of more casual and colloquial speech, which I haven’t seen that extensively in many books yet. (乳と卵 being the exception)
This one really felt more like a complete story. Work life is the focus here, but also friendships at the workplace are one of the main topics.
I really didn’t expect the ending of this story.
(General spoilers and thoughts I had in the beginning) The best friend/colleague of the protagonist is overweight and gets kind of bullied (?) for it? His nickname is 太っちゃん, and he gets comments at work, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He gets married to one of the デキる女 at work and nobody seems to understand why a guy “like him” gets together with her. These sorts of comments. Because of this “bullying” I expected the story to be about suicide and mental well-being. It’s strongly hinted at in the beginning and also in one of the conversations that the protagonist has with 太っちゃん.
(Ending sort-of spoiler?) However he does not commit suicide, which I really didn’t expect. It’s known from the beginning that 太っちゃん dies at the end, because the whole story is retold as a flashback, and I definitely think Itoyama wants you to think it goes in a certain direction. But in the end, it was kind of wholesome, really. It wasn’t a sad story, it just felt realistic and real.
You also see Itoyama’s previous experience working for a tile and sanitary manufacturer before becoming a writer. It’s really cool to read in such detail about the work life in a company, dealing with customers, architects, products, etc.
The title says it all, really. Warning: this story is written only in hiragana. Story-wise, it also feels like a children‘s book. The story is kind of absurd, with random details being thrown in that have no further relevance, and everything feels like it’s written for children.
The protagonist is the Minister of Electricity, and one day he decides to eat a delicious-looking bento that is sat on the table in one of the conference rooms. He doesn’t know whose bento it is, but whoever it belongs to, they can just eat his bento in exchange, right? However it was the President‘s bento, and the president, as a punishment, sends him away to an island in the south, where he is now supervisor of a power plant. The story then goes into a completely different direction, as ぶんたろう learns that he can talk to fish. His boring ひとりぼっち life changes completely and he spends time with his new fish friends every day, also rescuing some people along the way.
I always expected there to be some sort of lesson learned, some sort of moral of the story, that the character somehow shows signs of character growth (because I didn’t find him very likable; he‘s arrogant and egoistic – although to be fair, there is a bit of character growth: he stops eating fish once he befriends them), but almost everyone seems to like him. But maybe that is exactly what the author intended to portray: most people just lead their lives, with no karma coming their way to punish them for anything they might have done wrong.
I thought there would be a big twist, like his wife leaving him or forgetting about him, his friends never visiting because they actually were only interested in him because of his influence as Minister. But nothing like that ever happens, which made the story feel kind of simplistic and very linear.
It is a children’s story, really. I don’t think there’s a better way to describe the way the story felt to me. She even adresses the reader directly at some point: どくしゃのみなさんは、じゅうねんまえといえば、まだうまれてもいなかったでしょう。
I did realize, however, that even without kanji I managed just fine. Sometimes parsing takes a bit longer, but you get used to it quickly. The first page, I was like “this is gonna take ages”, but in the end I hardly even paid attention to the fact. Knowing lots of vocabulary definitely helps.
ぶんたろうがだいじんになってじゅうねんのひびがすぎました。ぶんたろうからみたらこくみんたちはみんな、でんきのおんけいにあずかってしあわせにくらしているようにみえました。 ← imagine this for 50 pages