Interesting collection of short stories (like 4 pages each) by 川上 弘美 (かわかみ ひろみ). Most of the stories center on a person and their peculiarities, and a lot of them re-appear in other short stories to create a sense of a community in which these characters all exist.
The 新潮文庫 version included two other short stories that were connected to each other but not to 穴 and honestly these were also really good. 穴 has a slightly abrupt end that leaves the reader to wonder about the somewhat surreal events of the story.
My third novel by 村田 沙耶香 (むらた さやか) but one of the more enjoyable reads (all the novels by her I’ve read feature profoundly unlikeable characters and dark themes that make for an uncomfortable read, looking at you 地球星人). What I feel she does very well in her novels is flipping social convention on its head and making what is “normal” feel strange and abnormal.
I only recently started this (I’m about 200 pages in) but more than anything I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how accessible this is for someone at my level. It’s a bit slow (and I have faint memories of reading it in English god knows how long ago, although my memory of the events is nonexistent luckily).
Albeit a book primarily for kids I have to shout this out as my gateway to reading. These are all short stories by 星 新一 (ほし しんいち), usually with some sort of sci-fi / supernatural element and a clever twist at the end (although its about 50/50 if the twist is actually clever or just stupid in my opinion).
Are these kids the inspiration for 博士 in 日常?
The author of 日常 did the cover art (it says right there on the left )
I’m just going to list things I read from the start this year and ignore stuff like new volumes of series I’m already reading just to make it easier to choose (I guess I can give those an honorable mention at the end). In no particular order:
A 4koma manga. I especially like the extremely socially anxious protagonist of this a lot, along with the general band dynamics and some of the jokes. There was a part I personally found slightly weaker at one point in the more recent volumes, but it got better again afterwards. The anime is also a really nice adaption in case anyone wants to check that out — overall there’s maybe two small parts or so I liked better in the manga (one for changing things in a way I felt made less sense than in the manga version, the other for just not being nearly as cool as the manga made me expect). However, it makes up for it by doing some very creative stuff in many other places.
A 4koma manga that had a start that I thought was rather weak because of the jokes not really landing much and some weird fanservicey stuff (not just because of the presence of it but also just because of how it’s done). That said, I personally found the manga a lot more interesting after it tones down some of the attempts at comedy and becomes more of a normal fantasy story somewhere around partway through volume 2 (the joke density being lower also means that the jokes that are there also generally work better, in my opinion). Funnily enough this is the second fantasy 4koma manga serialised in Kirara Carat I’ve read that starts of very slice of lifey but gradually gets more serious.
- AI: The Somnium Files
The solutions to the mysteries presented in this visual novel are just very satisfying, and there was also some nice character stuff. I feel like this description is underselling it a lot but I’m also not sure what else to say.
A yuri light novel series about a girl’s first love, but things get a lot messier than she expected. Very far from the fluffier books I’ve otherwise read from the same author in tone, but it was still a pretty nice read. It is finished but all three volumes were released this year so it fits the theme of the thread! I haven’t finished the third volume myself yet though, so I can’t say how good or bad the ending is.
A fairly short yuri romcom? about an idol girl falling in love with someone and finding stuff to care about in life outside of school and work. It doesn’t really do anything super unique but I still liked it a lot. It also has a great cover.
Stuff I’ve read more of this year and still like includes:
Very slow burn yuri romance, though it does up the pace a bit around volume 4-5 or so and volume 5 and onwards is easily the best part.
I don’t even think I need to describe this
- Chaos;Head Noah
First visual novel in the same series as Steins;gate, this one takes some inspiration from horror stuff and has an even weirder protagonist but is otherwise kind of similar-ish in terms of how it’s written. I started it late last year but finished the last few chapters this year.
A high school girl who isn’t exactly the brightest somehow accidentally ends up cheating on her best friends by dating both of them, though things generally work out a lot better than you’d think and it’s mostly just a fairly fluffy and extremely silly romcom. The writing style and some of the plot is very light-novely though, just so people are aware of that. This series is in some ways basically the exact opposite of 私の初恋相手がキスしてた which I mentioned a bit further up.
A manga about a depressed girl who lost her family in the past but starts actually doing various things after a mermaid youkai promises she’ll eat her if she goes along with what she wants, which generally includes doing various fairly normal activities (there’s also a bunch of youkai stuff). I like the art of this manga, especially for some of the youkai.
Here’s my huge extensive list of things I’ve read in Japanese:
大ダーク 1 | L25
Love the art and humor. It’s been tough read but it being as fun as it is has helped a lot. Can’t say much about it though as I’ve only been reading this 1 volume ;_;
I don’t have much to add here, pretty much everything I’ve been reading has been covered by a WK book club already but I’ve gotten plenty of stuff to add to my lists here, so might as well share some back. If you follow the reading challenge thread, these proooobably mostly look familiar
- よつばと！L17 (15 volumes) ー it’s yotsuba! what’s not to like! I read the whole series because I couldn’t put it down.
- ホリミヤ L22 (16 volumes) ー HS slice of life/romance with a sense of real progression. It never feels tooooo ungrounded melodrama-wise (dabbles a bit here and there), and gives characters outside the main couple a lot of time to shine. I like the manga better than the anime, and it’s definitely a comfort series for me. Currently reading (but have already read in english), on vol 6.
- 三月のライオン L27 (16 volumes) ー Seinen slice of life about a young, professional shogi player and his found family. I’m really underselling it here, but idk how to put it into words well. I read about half of the first volume but decided it was too hard for me to reasonably continue with at the time. I loved what I read, and both season of the anime are in my top shows of all time. Definitely on my list to finish in the next year, though. It’s worth struggling through, for me. This series also got me into learning shogi, but that is a whole different thread
- 耳をすませば L20 (1 Volume) ー aaa to be young, stupid, and in love. The movie is a fairly different experience, and I love them both in their own ways. Finished this and literally couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.
赤い手袋 L20 ー my first foray into reading a short story that was pure text, and I really enjoyed it. Some really vivid imagery, and it just kinda felt really nice to read? idk if that makes sense but I’ll go with it (
iirc there’s a WK book club for a collection by this author as wellThere is!, which is also on my list to check out next year)
i feel like i read a lot this year, but looking back maybe i didn’t in no particular order:
ハピネス10 volumes - not the first time this has been mentioned in this thread so i’ll keep this short. binged the first three volumes and was so pulled in i (almost) immediately got hold of the next seven. great read, some amazing artwork.
しまなみ誰そ彼 - closeted queer teen stumbles across a queer-accepting hangout spot and starts on the path to self-acceptance. i’ve only read the first volume but i was completely blown away by this, made me cry at the end.
不可解なぼくのすべてを - openly non-binary teen gets a job at a cafe where all of the workers are 男の娘. opening chapter felt a little hand-hold-y, but really picks up after that. didn’t get me on quite the same emotional level as above, but still really really good.
honourable shoutout to 文豪ストレイドッグスBEAST which is hard to read and very violent but i’m having a great time with it
glances over at shelf to see both of these series waiting and begging to be read - 2023 is going to be a very good reading year for us, I think
No particular order
Light novel. The main character is a cop in a world similar to ours that “collided” with a fantasy world full of fairies and magic. Partnering with a knight-in-training from the other side, they solve magic-related crimes in the city at the border between both worlds.
Generally, it’s just nice to have characters who are actual adults in a light novel, but the mystery+magic aspect is also pretty nice.
I guess I would just describe it as “drama”. I’m not sure if I would say it’s that great in retrospect, but, after reading so many light novels this year, it was just a refreshing read.
Nice slice of life series about a young man who suddenly shows up at the eponymous hotel in the middle of winter and ends up working there. I have to admit I am mostly reading it because the (mostly) male cast is really good looking
Wait, that’s 5 already…
Err, well, then I’ll just put 悪食令嬢と狂血公爵 ~その魔物、私が美味しくいただきます!~ (series) | L31 in here as well. A new-ish light novel series with only two volumes, but the world building is very promising so far (as in, it’s a proper fantasy book, rather than yet another isekai). Sadly, it’s been nearly a year and nothing is happening with no further volume announcement. Now that I know that series may get silently dropped if they don’t sell, I am a bit worried
What was the other one?
What books did I like most in 2022?
- 海辺のカフカ（上）Fantasy story about a runaway boy and an old man who lost all his memory as a boy. As with all Murakami books (I guess?) an ample amount of trigger warnings is in order. I really liked the different writing styles the author applied across the chapters. Unfortunately the second part lost quite some steam in the middle, so I liked the first part much better. But maybe that was just me being unable to read fast enough.
- Flesh & Blood. @ekg’s review above says it all. At the moment I’m a bit tired (after 10 volumes) because the target audience is teenagers, and so sometimes the “and now I’ll teach you something” or “and this is how we do this in life” vibes are a bit strong and hard to stomach for me. But the historical background is super interesting and extremely well researched by the author.
- 沖で待つ A collection of three short stories who won the Akutagawa Prize. The stories and writing styles are very different, which I like a lot. The third story is even written entirely in hiragana! The story also lightly touches on politics and technology, and it’s fun times to read about it that way There are a few reviews over at The Akutagawa Prize Reading Challenge.
- 秋の牢獄 Read it with the repeat book club interest group. Three short stories around spooky or supernatural topics. The author has a way of talking about these things in a very distant, matter-of-fact way which makes it very pleasant for me to read. The respective hero(in)es learn to cope with these things and to treat them somehow as normal and even as enjoyable.
- 海の見える理髪店 A collection of 6 short stories, all of which (except one) revolve around looking back on one’s life so far and contemplating or regretting things. The sixth one tests our belief system. Somewhere in the middle of the book I found the stories to be a bit slow and random, but the very last one tied it all together beautifully. There are some reviews in The Naoki Prize Reading Challenge.
Just まちカドまぞく, so I’m afraid it’s a manga you already know about (it obviously doesn’t get serious quite as fast and has a bit more jokes even in the serious parts, but it just felt kind of similar to me in the sense that plot stuff starts intruding more and more the further it goes)
to a good reading year! always good to see another 3月のライオン fan out in the wild
Not in a super-firm order, but:
今昔百鬼拾遺 鬼 – 京極夏彦
This is the start of a new series by 京極夏彦, who seems to have carved out a solid niche in “youkai-themed mysteries”. This is set in the 1950s, it’s fairly short, and it’s a good place to start if you haven’t read anything by this author yet. I have ordered the next two books in the series already…
花のあと – 藤沢周平
Book of short stories by my favourite historical fiction author. Lots of “struggling samurai” and bittersweet endings. My favourite was the title story.
三四郎 – 夏目漱石
I bought a few “real literature” books as something of an experiment, and this was the one I liked best. It’s essentially a coming-of-age story; the protagonist has come from rural Kyuushuu to Tokyo to study at university in the early 1900s. 三四郎 is pulled between the rural culture he’s come from, the academic culture of the university, and the urban/modern culture of the city. I find the historical period fascinating, and Soseki is writing what he knows (he was a university student and then lecturer). Much easier to read than 吾輩は猫である.
八つ墓村 – 横溝正史
Excitement, adventure, mysterious caves, lost treasure from hundreds of years in the past, murders all over the place. Just a lot of fun to read.
I don’t read much manga these days, but the beginner book club picking this reminded me how much I liked the anime. The manga is good in a different way. Shizuku’s facial expressions are one of the highlights.
Some of mine are the same as previous people, but that probably just proves how good they are, eh?
A fantastic read. I read through volumes 1 to 5 (which is the main story) with the book club. Tearjerker for sure. Has trigger warning (can be seen on the Orange home thread if wondering what it is). Really good story. Super pretty art. I’ve really enjoyed the art.
Right, premise for this one: First day back at school again, a high school girl gets a letter from herself, her future self.
Not sure what I can say about this. Naphthalene mentioned the premise. Handsome men, fun slice of life, some interesting backstories slowly revealed.
Read this with the BBC. Very enjoyable. Mysteries, cat, books: what more can you ask for?
Super funny. Well worth the read for that, if you like shenanigans with kids interacting with their environment, misunderstanding things, playing make believe, etc. I hope to get back to it soon, but my book club reading load keeps being super heavy. xD
I don’t really have a fifth read that I feel like recommending strongly, so 4 it is.
I’ve been wondering, is the series finished at volume 12, or ongoing? I’m about to start volume 5, didn’t want to look into it too much to avoid spoilers!
It’s ongoing. Volume 13 is scheduled to come out in February, and honestly I see no signs of the series ending any time soon.
That sounds excruciating lol
Though I guess it could be worse. Could be all katakana
The prologue to a book I read last year was all katakana and kanji. Not as bad as you’d think honestly. Just gotta get your brain into the flow of it.