It’s the first of the month, which means it’s time for the next installment of Lost’s character evaluations. Commence the cheers and fanfare. This time the character we are going to be analysing is one of the main character’s from what once was the number one rated light novel on MAL, Kazuki Hoshino from The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria. Once again we will be dealing with the main question of why this is the character we are seeing the story through, and exploring the character’s Motivation, Growth, and Impact. What is different this time, and will be for the subsequent analyses, is that we will be looking at all of the novels and discussing the character with full spoilers so that I can provide examples when I bring up certain aspects of the character. With that warning out of the way let’s dive right in.
Synopsis: Kazuki Hoshino values his everyday life above all else. He spends the days carefree with his friends at school, until the uneventful bliss suddenly comes to a halt with the transfer of the aloof beauty Aya Otonashi into his class and her cold, dramatic statement to him immediately upon arrival:
“I’m here to break you. This is the 13,118th time I’ve transferred. After so many occasions, I have to say that this is all starting to grate on me, which is why this time I’m spicing things up with a proper declaration of war.”
And with those puzzling words, the ordinary days that Kazuki loved so dearly become a cycle of turmoil and fear—Aya’s sudden appearance signals the unraveling of unseen mysteries surrounding Kazuki’s seemingly normal friends, including the discovery of mysterious devices known as “boxes.”
Kazuki’s Motivation as a character is a bit difficult to pin down and is not something we can even begin to touch upon without first dealing with the other main character in the series, Maria Otonashi. Maria grew up living in the shadow of her “perfect” sister Aya who seemed to be able to perform miracles and bring happiness and prosperity to everyone around her. Maria felt lucky to have such an incredible sister, and when Aya died she despaired for the world at the loss of an amazing person who could do so much good. Maria believed that the world would be better off if she had died instead, and so decided to live her life assuming her sister’s identity and making everything she would do from that point on be for the benefit of others. This wish became the first “box,” a device that can make wishes come true but only if the person making the wish believes it is possible. Three entities were born from this wish. The first was “O,” a mysterious figure with the ability to give “boxes” to others to make their wishes come true, the personification of Maria’s desire to help others be happy. The second was Maria herself, though she began to go by her sister’s name Aya, who made it her mission to help people with their wishes or destroy those wishes if they did not bring the happiness they were supposed to. The third was Kazuki Hoshino, the antithesis of “O,” a being who rejects “boxes” and believes that the only real happiness comes from accepting the ups and downs of everyday life. That belief, that single minded goal, is the Motivation of Kazuki Koshino. He is the embodiment of Maria’s doubts that what she is attempting to do is right, and the piece of herself that wants her to live her own life. The entire series is the story of accepting reality, however difficult or painful it may be, and Kazuki Hoshino is the agent of that theme.
Kazuki begins the series unaware of his nature as a “box” and starts off as a rather unremarkable high school youth. His life changes when Maria enters his classroom and she explains to him the existence of “boxes.” Faced with this revelation that flies in the face of the everyday life he holds dear he aides Maria in her quest to find the “box’s” owner and release the school from the time loop it is trapped in. In the course of their investigation they fall in love, or something close to it, and that feeling becomes the catalyst for Kazuki’s changes as the books progress. No matter what, Maria holds lives sacred, even if the people in question would be revived should they die, or if that death would save the lives of others. Under no circumstances will she kill or allow another to die if she can help it, and as the couple continue their mission to stop “O” and the “boxes,” Kazuki decides that he needs to protect Maria and her ideals, even if it means taking a life. His love for Maria, his obsession, changes him over time until he has justified killing for her sake. He does not know his Motivation, his origin that is driving these feelings farther than they may have otherwise gone, but he makes choices time and again that reflect his Growth from seeing himself as Maria’s follower to being her protector. From a docile student content with the everyday to a quietly obsessive lover who would kill or be killed if it meant saving the one person who matters to him. He becomes willing to risk everything, his friends, his relationship, his life, even, as we will discuss, his sanity.
The concept of a time loop has been done time and again in modern media, the most famous examples of which being its use in the movie Groundhog Day. The movie has become so well known and stands as such a representation of the plot device that the title of the movie itself has become a synonym for the phenomena. When the idea is brought up now it’s hard not to think of Bill Murray’s comedic antics and his dedication to better himself each day. But what would it really do to a person? The answer in The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria, and in my opinion one of the most potent examples of Impact in a light novel, is what happens to Kazuki when he gets stuck repeating the same day over 400,000 times. As Kazuki’s willingness to kill is revealed to Maria, it drives her to make a new wish for a world in which Kazuki can be happy. She feels that her involvement in his life has changed him for the worse, so chooses to forget him and place his mind in a simulated world in which she never met him. It is not a perfect simulation though, it is flawed like all “boxes.” Kazuki repeats the same single day over and over. Eventually, though his memory is supposed to reset each day, he manages to recognize the simulation for what it is and look for a way to escape. He discovers that the most sure way for him to avoid the memory reset and give himself the most time to find a way out is to deliver a shock to his psyche potent enough to force his mind to deal with it. He does this by jumping off the roof of the simulated school. Day, after day, after day, after day. As he does this it slowly begins to break him until he succumbs to temptation and decides not to do it anymore and accept the simulation. That works for a while until he manages to break free of it again, his memories of last escape gone, and he goes through the same process. Eventually it changes to him killing the “NPC’s” in the simulation with him, though they disappear from any future loops if he does that, and soon enough he is left by himself with only fleeting memories of Maria in this fabricated reality. Alone with his thoughts, his fading memories, and the lingering sensation of thousands of suicides and murders, his mind breaks down over the course of essentially 500 years of isolation. When Maria finally recalls Kazuki and goes to rescue him from this “Flawed Bliss” he returns to his atrophied body with a shattered mind, and even after years of therapy, both physical and mental, at the end of the series he is still barely functional. This is just one example, albeit the most potent, of the Impact of the choices the Kazuki deals with, and to me this series of events is the culmination of all of the previous choices he made. It wraps up his story, destroying the “box” who existed in the shape of a person, and as he recovers he becomes a person who originated from a “box.” For all intents and purposes the character known as Kazuki Hoshino that we had followed for seven books had died, and the end of the last book introduces us to the birth of a brand new individual. That, if it is anything, is Impact.
Kazuki Hoshino stands as an example that anything, anything at all, when done to the extreme can be extraordinary. He begins as a steadfast defender of the average and the everyday, and many readers are able to relate to that cherishing of day to day life. He stands in opposition to the idea of wishing for things to be better and embraces the reality he is in. He is the character we see the story through because sometimes that is a message we need to hear. When things are painful, exhausting, depressing, and unfair it can help to be told that it all means something and that we can get through it. We watch him fall, break, and stand back up as he battles against the absurd, an extreme portrayal of the struggle people can go through in their day-to-day lives. We follow his story because it is our story, and we wish for him to succeed because then so can we against the absurdities of the world.
You can purchase the novels through Amazon. Please support the author of this great series and expect another analysis from me next month.