Review: Zaregoto – The Kubishime Romanticist

(art by Hii101)
(art by Hii101)

For general information on this series: Zaregoto entry

This review is for the second volume of the Zaregoto Series by Nisio Isin (with art by Take). The English edition was released by Del Rey in December 2010, and that was the end of their run with the series (out of nine total volumes from Japan). Vertical will be releasing the first volume of Zaregoto (The Kubikiri Cycle) soon, so perhaps if enough people buy that they’ll continue on with the rest of the series.

Zaregoto: The Kubishime Romanticist
Zaregoto: The Kubishime Romanticist

Here’s a novel I had been meaning to read and review for some time. I really enjoyed the first volume of Zaregoto, and consider it a must-read for any fans of mystery. This second volume is quite different from the first, and overall is probably the much better of the two. The writing for Kubishime Romanticist is perhaps the best I’ve seen in a light novel, in fact. But with all that said…

Good god. This story is brutal.

Kubishime Romanticist follows our curious protagonist Ii-chan (or “Ikkun” — his real name still left unspoken), now back at his university in Kyoto. In the first volume it was hinted that he was unusual, but for the most part he simply played the role of a passive observer until it came time to solve the whodunnit of that story. Surrounded by characters who were all geniuses among geniuses in their respective fields, he almost seemed like an average insert protagonist. The second volume of Zaregoto flips things around, and makes it abundantly clear that Ikkun is not an everyday person. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, because this is more or less what Kubishime Romanticist is all about: what kind of person Ikkun is, how he views the world, and why he lives the way he does.

This story plays out quite differently from the first volume. The story starts off with a big conflict: a serial killer is on the loose in Kyoto! Several people have been stabbed to death. You would think this is the mystery Ikkun needs to solve — but no, the killer is very quickly revealed to us… and Ikkun kind of sort of befriends him? Yes, it’s that kind of book. A really uncomfortable one.

The real mystery begins when one of Ikkun’s acquaintances from the university is murdered (but not by the serial killer). Ikkun has four new (sort of) friends, and most of the book involves Ikkun chatting with them about light topics such as what it means to be human and the purpose of life and can we ever forgive ourselves for all the terrible things we do. This is perhaps what will make or break the book for readers: Nisio Isin’s penchant for long, drawn-out conversations. I personally found them interesting–and in a couple instances, downright fascinating–but I can understand some readers not being too excited to see how much more nihilistic the next chapter will be than the last one.

Definitely a great book for anyone looking for something completely different from other light novels. And perhaps even completely different from Nisio Isin’s other works. It’s a tough book to read, but a tough book to put down. Also well-worth noting is the translation, which felt like an A+ effort from start to finish. It’s a shame the series did not get more volumes translated and released, but in light of Vertical’s recent efforts, I’m going to go ahead and start hoping for more again.

Cho's Rating: Strongly Recommended

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