It’s time for our second and final discussion of the novels Your Name and The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku. Spoilers ahoy!
What is there to say about the story of Your Name that hasn’t been said a hundred times already? That’s the first thing that comes to mind for me as I try to decide what topic to focus on for this summer reading post. Fate and fatalism, what constitutes one’s identity, traditional culture in a modern era, gender roles, the effect of great disasters on society, fulfilling dreams within mundane reality… The list goes on and on.
There are a lot of things I like about the second half of Your Name. Much of it plays out like a sort of YA thriller, and is pulled off well enough that I had to read most of it in one sitting. The protagonists Mitsuha and Taki are also very easy characters to root for. The story as a whole feels like multiple genres that have all been meshed together seamlessly (for the most part), and each has its own unique spin on things.
What stands out the most to me though is the emotion of the story. Some of Makoto Shinkai’s past films have really resonated with me, particularly Five Centimeters Per Second (which I’m going to have to say, is still my favorite of his). I feel that Shinkai’s greatest strength in his storytelling is how he manages to powerfully convey the sorts of feelings people carry deep within themselves. In the final chapter of the novel, I ended up highlighting an entire page that stuck out to me in this way:
There are a number of “montage sequences” in the book, but this one in particular stood out for how it gets across a feeling that is not so easy to define. The days of our lives go by–and for many of us, we yearn for something, but don’t know what precisely. Sometimes we stop and observe small, everyday things, and just absorb that moment. We try to glean something from it. It’s a hint to something important, maybe? Or maybe it’s not. Our day-to-day lives are perhaps mostly made up of things that don’t actually matter. But then, what is it that we decide is significant? What do we keep breathing and walking and struggling for?
Your Name is written in simple language, but through those simple words I think we can glean a variety of messages. The story is about many different things, but they all tie together nicely enough that the overarching themes feel greater than the sums of their parts. The prose is carefully handled in such a way that the words have more “weight” to them than I feel is typical of genre fiction.
In other words, the story is going to stick with me, and I can see myself re-reading the book in the years to come.
The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku
The Hatsune Miku robot may have disappeared, but as long as people keep making Vocaloid songs, her memory will never die… That’s the gist of the story, right?
To be honest, I felt this book was too straightforward, as nothing about its plot ever took me by surprise. Well, until the ending, that is — but that just came off as a bit random. A robot has the power to absorb matter, wipe away memories, and turn into mist? It was a bit much for me to accept, as was the dull epilogue that focused on an entirely new set of characters for no reason.
More concerning than the banal plot for me though were the bland characters. They were cute at first, but in the end they’re pretty forgettable. Miku lost her emotions (for the most part) halfway through, and the protagonist Asano never really pushed outside of Self-Insert Character territory. His two friends were nice for giving the first act a little pep, but once the main plot started to develop they seemed to just be there to accomplish all the things Asano needed done to move the story from one point to the next.
The artwork was certainly nice though! And I do like the general concept of Vocaloid programs allowing everyone to interpret singing characters such as Miku in their own clever and engaging ways. I think I mainly just wish the “Miku as a robot” angle could have been explored a little more, particularly in how she interacted with Asano. Would Miku have gotten attached to any person assigned to the field study with her? Does Miku like Asano simply because Somejima Otoha (the girl whose personality was copied for Miku) would have liked Asano?
Of course, the story ended with a generic “you are you!” message for Miku, but the concept of a robot being programmed with some individual’s personality at least seems to fit with Vocaloid music-making in general. All the songs people create star their own unique Miku, and in turn everyone who listens to the songs will interpret their own unique Miku.
Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts on the stories!
Next month we will discuss Magical Girl Raising Project and The Combat Baker and Automaton Waitress. Look forward to the reading schedule for those soon.