By Tomihiko Morimi. Released in Japan as “Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome” by Kadokawa Shoten. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.
I had read this author’s Penguin Highway, though had not seen the adaptation, so it seems appropriate that I read this book by the same author, one where I also have not seen the adaptation. I sometimes feel a bit guilty about reading books like these, where the only reason that Yen On has licensed the book in the first place is because of the popular anime adaptation – usually a movie – of the source. The core market here are those who enjoyed the movie and want to see how it reads in prose. In addition, this is also connected the the author’s Tatami Galaxy – which also got an anime that I also haven’t seen. That said, the book does not lose any of its charm by not having visuals attached to it – indeed, it rewards the imaginative reader by allowing their flights of fancy to picture what’s going on in all its chaos. For this book is, in many ways, three stories of a seemingly peaceful event turned to chaos, and a young woman who walks among it, unaware.
The book has two narrators, neither of who are named. The titular girl is a young woman at college who belongs to a club, the other narrator is the man who is her sempai at the club, and who also has a crush on her. Being a classic socially awkward Japanese man,he deals with this by stalking her and ‘arranging coincidentally’ to run into her, in hopes that they will meet cute and fall happily in love. Fortunately, this is not the main plot of the book. The plot of the book is four separate events where the girl is walking around an event of some sort – a night out on the town drinking, a used book fair, a cultural festival, and the town brought low by a nasty cold – and interacting with various people as she does. The man is interacting with the same people, but mostly seems to just miss her, or if he does see her it’s not in the best way. That said, the plot is mostly irrelevant, as the story runs on mood, and the mood is sensational.
The story seems to be toying with being a sort of fantasy realism, and there are many times when we get so-called gods or fantastical events happening, but they could just as easily be metaphorical imaginings. The girl’s joy of life is infectious, and the guy gradually finding it in himself to analyze his own actions and wonder why he’s been doing what he’s doing is at least acceptable. Honestly, I found the romance the weak part of the book, and felt it might have done better without it. But the book is worth reading for the amusing characters, for the ridiculous small eve4nts that blow up until they’re a huge mess, and the heart that it wears on its sleeve, ending with the girl running all over town trying to care for everyone, the only person not down with a cold.
If you enjoyed the movie, you should definitely read this to see how it compares. As for me, I do want to try the movie out now, and definitely recommend this to anyone who likes great imagery and fantastical weirdness.