For the first week of this year’s summer reading program, we will discuss the first half of Your Name and the first half of The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku. That means chapters 1 to 4 of Your Name, and up to the “07/05 Thur 11:30” chapter in Hatsune Miku. If you have read further ahead, please don’t spoil anything from the second half of the stories.
(Here’s a Twitter chain of some of my thoughts on the book.)
I’m enjoying the book quite a bit so far. I saw the movie last fall, but since I was in Japan there weren’t any English subtitles. I got the gist of things, but reading the story now is definitely a more thorough experience for me plot-wise. I like the translation a lot. Mitsuha and Taki each have a distinct voice, and it’s not hard to tell the difference between the city and country voices as well.
While I believe Your Name fits with Makoto Shinkai’s other stories thematically, it’s definitely unique in terms of its plot and characters. Mitsuha and Taki are fun, and it’s nice to get their thoughts regarding all the different situations they face. At first the body-swapping premise presents some amusing shenanigans, but it’s not long before The Real Story starts to reveal itself. I’ll probably delve into the tragedy of Mitsuha’s town in the next post.
A quote from Mitsuha’s grandmother that stood out to me:
“Thanks to that fire, we don’t know what our dances or the patterns in our cords mean anymore. All we have left are the forms. Still, even not knowin’, we mustn’t ever let the forms disappear. The meanin’ in those shapes is bound to resurface someday.”
I feel this can be related to a number of things in this story. It presents the question of whether or not there is value in traditions you don’t know the origins of. I think it alludes to the intertwined identities of Japan–the traditional values countryside half, and the modern-day values metropolis half. I also think a comparison can be made between the fire and the comet… The comet brought an end to Mitsuha’s town three years ago, but “the spirit of the town” perhaps still lives on? I might have more to say on this after reading the second half of the story.
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku
I unfortunately only got this book yesterday, so I’ve only read the first 80 or so pages. I will try to catch up and add more thoughts here in the next couple days. (Maybe in the comments.)
So far this story is very cute. I take it the plot will develop into a kind of romance between Asano and Miku, but the Disappearance in the title makes me assume things will probably take a tragic turn at some point. :(
The premise reminds me of the films Her and Ex Machina, though obviously those were more serious and darker in tone, ha ha. But it’s an age-old question of sci-fi: Is there really much difference between an extremely human-like robot and an actual human? All sorts of anime and manga have taken a stab at this topic, with perhaps Ghost in the Shell being the most well-known of them. (I personally liked Time of Eve.) I don’t believe this Hatsune Miku novel will delve deeply into the questions of what constitutes life and A.I. surpassing the human mind, but it’s an engaging setup. Robots are definitely going to play a bigger role in the near future. (Especially in Japan!)
I am curious what roles Asano’s friends will play in this story. I imagine Juhachi will inspire Miku to start singing. (She has to start singing, right?) I’m less certain about what the quirky Aika will do, which makes her stand out a bit in this cast of characters.
At any rate, the book is a nice and breezy read so far. I recommend it if you’re in the mood for a sci-fi romance/drama type of story. We don’t get many of those in English when it comes to light novels. (Also, college-aged characters.)
Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts on the stories so far!
We will discuss the second half of these two books on June 28th, so try to finish reading by then. :)