What is a light novel, you ask? Check out my launch announcement post here for details. Basically, you can call it YA lit for Japan, though that’s not entirely accurate. I’ll be using the same terms for genres as I do in my Manga Monday segment, so if you get confused, go here for clarification on those terms.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to our first featured light novel for this feature! Remember, if my choice of the week has been fan translated, if it gets licensed for your area/territory and goes on sale? Please buy it and support the original artists!
Week 5 Light Novel Choice: “Kamikaze Girls/Shimotsuma Story (Shimotsuma Monogatari)” by Takemoto Novala
Author: Takemoto Novala
Series?: No. Sadly. My kingdom for a series for this world and characters, for serious.
Officially licensed & translated?: Yes, yes, yes! Viz did a fantastic job with this one, guys!
Fan translated?: No. Funnily enough, right before Viz announced it was going to translate and release it (after the film came out and there was such huge success with it both in Japan and over the pond), I was actually practicing translating it, intending for a fan-translation release. That never happened, but yeah. I also had a friend working with me as well at the time since we were such big fans.
Anime?: Nope. But I’d kill for one. Just sayin’. Preferably with character designs by CLAMP or Imai Kira. But there is a live-action film (one of my favorite movies ever), and you can find out more information on that here. Good news – it’s also been released by Viz here in the States!
Manga?: Yes! One volume by Kanesada Yukio. Also translated and released by Viz, shortly after the novel and film here in the States under the title “Kamikaze Girls”.
Summary: Meet Momoko, a “Lolita” decked out to the nines in the finest (and frilliest) of Victorian haute couture. The only scion of a drunken interlude between a cowardly yakuza and an inebriated bar-hostess, Momoko’s mom has since split the scene, and, after various ill-fated scams that involve imitation brand name merchandise, Momoko’s dad relocates them to the boondocks of rural Ibaraki prefecture. To escape her humdrum existence, Momoko fanaticizes about French rococo, dreams of living in the palace of Versailles, and buys all her extremely lacy clothes from an expensive Tokyo boutique.
Meet Ichiko, a tough-talking motorcycle grrrl (on a tricked-out moped) who leads a ladies-only biker gang known as the Ponytails. Together, this unlikeliest of duos strike out on a quest to find a legendary embroiderer, a journey on which they encounter conniving pachinko parlor managers, legendary street-punks, and anemic costumers. Who knows, they might just make it big…if only Ichiko would stop head butting Momoko in the forehead.
Why?: I actually saw the movie first, and then found out there was the original novel that was the source material. I went out and bought the original Japanese edition, and this was when I was still a second-year in the Japanese program at SB, and Takemoto’s style is notoriously…flowery (to say the least), so I was having issues reading it. Luckily, Viz went and published a good translation a year later. What you see in the film is actually a lot less than what’s in the book, so it’s definitely worth reading if just to see what the screenplay glossed over. Also, it introduces the yankee and lolita subcultures, which are pretty big deals in Japan, so it’s a pretty great book all around. If you want a great bromance contemporary novel that’s comedic yet heartwarming, this is definitely the book for you. And if you can, go see the movie! They cast Ichigo and Momoko perfectly with two of my favorite Japanese actresses, Fukada Kyoko and Tsuchiya Anna in those two main roles. While girls may relate to this book more, Takemoto makes it available for all gendered audiences to enjoy, so I hope there are a few more guy readers out there that will be willing to try this book. It deserves it.
Are you a light novel fan? If so, which ones are your favorites? Let’s talk about it in the comments!