For the first week of this summer reading program, we will discuss the first third of Kagerou Daze (volume 1) and Mimizuku and the King of Night. For Kagerou Daze, you need to have read the chapters titled “Kagerou Daze I” and “Jinzou Enemy” (ending at page 51). Meanwhile for Mimizuku, you need to have read the prologue and first three chapters.
If you have read further ahead, please refrain from spoiling anything past the points in the stories mentioned above. (Also, obviously, if you’ve experienced a manga or anime adaptation in the past, don’t reveal what happens next.)
“Jinzou Enemy” is a self-contained story about a shut-in boy named Shintaro and a computer A.I. girl named Ene, who incredulously end up in a hostage situation the one day they leave their home. All in all I found the whole thing rather entertaining. The story had a strong “voice” (SEE: the melodramatic vending machine soda scene), and Shintaro made for an amusing first-person viewpoint throughout the strange series of events. I enjoyed all the banter between him and Ene.
There have been quite a few light novels (and anime, manga, etc) dealing with hikikomori in recent years. How does Shintaro’s situation compare to those you’re familiar with in other series? Generally it seems the shut-in situation is portrayed through a comedic lens, sometimes outright mocking the character in question. Is Shintaro a pitiable character? Is his particular lifestyle (i.e. sitting at his computer station 24/7) actually viable? And since Shintaro has proven capable of leaving his home, navigating a giant shopping mall, and even dealing with a hostage situation–how does this affect your interpretation of his decision to live as a shut-in?
Ene is an artificial intelligence that resides in Shintaro’s computer and cell phone, and her sudden arrival via a mysterious email was apparently unexpected for the both of them. Whether or not this advanced level of computer programming is unheard of in this story’s world is unclear (Shintaro at least doesn’t appear to have made a huge deal out of it), but it seems at the very least Ene is special in some fashion. Would you consider her a legitimate friend of Shinatro, despite not being a living being? Interestingly the main conflict regarding their relationship stems more from their respective personalities, which I think says a lot about both characters. For Ene, it implies a lot about how unrestricted and individualistic (or self-aware) she is as an A.I. And for Shintaro, I believe it shows how much more he is “in tune” with cyberspace as opposed to the real world. To some degree it conjures up the whole discussion that has existed the last decade or so, in regard to whether or not “online friends” and online interactions hold the same value as “real-life friends” and outside social interactions.
Just a random aside, but the whole sequence with Shintaro and the pretty electronics store lady reminded me a lot of a chapter from the manga Watamote, in which the protagonist Tomoko considers it a pinnacle achievement in her life to mutter a few words to a cute guy at the convenience store. Introverts have to relish these small victories in life, I suppose? Will go ahead and say I can relate and empathize with characters like Shintaro, ha ha.
Mimizuku and the King of Night
And now for something completely different? The prologue and first three chapters detail how a young girl enters a monster-filled forest in hopes of being eaten. From what I gather Mimizuku is an escaped slave who has been battered her whole life physically, mentally, and emotionally. Her effort to die in the dangerous forest however does not go as planned, as the King of Night (Fukurou) refuses to devour her. To say the very least, this is an unusual story both in tone and in subject matter. I’ve certainly found it interesting however, and am curious to see what direction the story takes in its subsequent chapters.
“My only happiness would come from being eaten by the King of Night,” said Mimizuku, chuckling happily.
Mimizuku has a unique perspective on life, particularly for a protagonist. Considering all she has apparently suffered through however, it is understandable she has a negative viewpoint of humanity and the world in general. Her hope to die is also thus supported, though I find it intriguing that she has latched on to specifically wanting to be eaten–and eaten specifically by the king of the monsters, no less. Why is that?
So far the monsters of the story (Kuro and Fukurou) have each been portrayed in a sympathetic light. Why is Kuro helping Mimizuku out so much, do you imagine? And why does Fukurou refuse to kill Mimizuku? She has trespassed into the forest and in general appears to be deemed a nuisance, considering the improper manner she interacts with him. At the moment it appears to me that the two monsters simply consider Mimizuku a curious entity they haven’t decided on how to deal with, but I can imagine there could be more to it all that simply hasn’t been revealed yet. Fukurou in particular seems like he could have some connection to the human world, considering the way he is described.
In a roundabout way Mimizuku has found something to live for (at least temporarily) when she decides to acquire the magical red paint ingredient for Fukurou. By the end of chapter three this has already led to the two characters having full conversations, and Fukurou replacing Mimizuku’s forehead number with a pattern she finds beautiful. In other words, she has managed to abandon the human world not through suicide, but by joining the monster world. I imagine this will lead into a significant confrontation once the human prince (curiously named Ann) enters the forest in an effort to “save” her from that world she has found some form of happiness in for the first time in her life.
As mentioned before, feel free to discuss any point you would like to bring up about either (or both) of these two books. General impressions, predictions for how the stories will play out, some compare/contrast between the two books, or any random observations and things you’d like to analyze are all fair game.