Summer Reading: Bokushinu Discussion


It is time for a discussion of the first volume of Bokushinu, featuring me and Kastel! This post will contain lots of spoilers, so it's recommended you read the book first. (Hellping Translation -- Amazon Japan -- Books Kinokuniya -- YesAsia)

To check on the Summer Reading Program 2018 schedule, click here.

Volume 1 (Japan Cover)

Cho: Hello Kastel! Thanks for joining in for the Bokushinu discussion
Kastel: hi cho, good 2am(?)
Cho: Ah, sorry to keep you up so late ._.;
Kastel: nah, i sleep late anyway
because i am cursed
Cho: Okay, let’s go ahead and start then
So this book is Tomorrow I Will Die. You Will Revive, or something along those lines
Kastel: yep, that’s the official English title
Cho: Did you know anything about this series before you started reading it?
Kastel: not really besides the Konorano ranking and the artist drawing cute art
this is the writer’s first book and it won the prize for the Dengeki novel contest
basically, it’s a contest you send in entries to and if you win they publish your novels
Cho: That’s nice
Kastel: 86 -eightysix- is one of the most recent winners
Cho: I mainly just heard people online recommending it, so it had been on my to-read list for a couple years
Kastel: ah, i see
it’s not really a book i’d pick from the Kinokuniya
bookshelves i mean
Cho: I think it was fan-translated three years ago
It unfortunately was not as smooth of a read as I hoped — but to some degree perhaps I’m just more used to official translations at this point
You read it in Japanese though, I assume?
Kastel: yeah, the novel wasn’t really good to read in Japanese either
the best way to describe the writing in this novel is uh
a train of thoughts that gets trainwrecked
Cho: The story is a bit… meandering?
You mentioned it’s the author’s first novel, which is kind of what I was thinking while reading it
Kastel: yep, did the fan translator translate the afterword?
because there’s actually an interesting bit that could explain why the plot is like this
Cho: the afterword was translated, I don’t remember what it said though
(I think the Ro-kyu-bu author recommended him?)
Kastel: the writer basically wrote off-script many times and thought it would be amusing to bring in something unexpected
and it’s … probably the reason why this light novel is extremely bizarre
Cho: The ending in particular, right? It pulls an extra-silly twist along the lines of things like Henneko
Kastel: the premise is about a young girl who possessed a guy’s body and it’s actually pretty fun at first; it reminded me of Your Name‘s first half
how the girl made some rude high schooler into the most popular person
but then, once it gets to the dramatic moments — like the ending — it reveals something Very Silly
Cho: The beginning was a bit Your Name-ish, yes — only make Mitsuha a very wild girl
Kastel: yeah, mitsuha in this book is basically a horny anime fan
this book in general is Very Horny
tons of sex jokes
Cho: Which I think can be amusing, given the premise — but I think most of the time it just felt… “familiar LN tropes”
Kastel: i did get a kick out of the imouto
yeah, i feel like the premise was completely forgotten but there’s also a bigger problem
the reason Your Name‘s first half is memorable is because you actually see the pov the girl takes in the guy’s body
the whole novel for Bokushinu is the dude cleaning up her interesting mess; there’s really no exploration of gender and it makes the sex jokes feel kinda off too
Cho: I think the main idea was that Hikari wanted to be a high school hero of justice, and with a delinquent’s body she was more able to intimidate the bad kids at school
But yes, of course she decides to be “Sexy Dream”
Kastel: it’s not really a theme that is explored as well
it was uh jarring to learn that lol
i do think first volumes for many successful light novels are just weird and off — everyone usually gets into a series after the third novel or so — but Bokushinu doesn’t, uh, give a good first impression
Cho: It’s kind of three short stories loosely tied together, and the general tone of each is a bit all over the place
Kastel: yeah that’s a good way to put into things
i wasn’t really sure for the direction for the most part and then suddenly
Cho: (and then suddenly–not suicide)
Kastel: i personally think the approach to suicide/not suicide is somewhat offensive
since it feels like it’s devaluing people who do
have to go there
but i also got really bored and just wanted to finish the book
Cho: It gave me mixed feelings at least
I think to some degree I probably went into the book with the wrong expectations? Based on the title, it sounds like a drama meant to be taken more seriously than the average LN
Kastel: yeah
the intro definitely made me think that
i thought the humor would be cute at least but it got really old and felt like a one-trick horse
Cho: But since I went into the book expecting drama, I might have ended up liking the part with Kazeshiro (the boy who decides to kill himself, so everyone feels bad about Hikari) the most — though even then it’s pretty disjointed
Kastel: i think i just stopped caring at that point … he just appeared out of nowhere
it’s also near the end of the book too — i thought i was reading some bad slice-of-life anime that needed some drama in the end
it’s pretty clear that the writer didn’t really think things through…
and the writing is kinda brain-dead boring, i found myself dozing off a lot
Cho: Somewhat amusingly, we haven’t even touched on the whole romance plot with Kasumi, which disappears about halfway through the story
Kastel: yeah uh, that romance subplot just sucks
what was that even about…
i mean, i get that the protagonist is actually a Nice Guy and that’s why she likes him but lol
Cho: She’s a bit wild too, and then there’s the little sister… (who of course is a light novelist)
Kastel: the imouto is cool
she learned eroge from the fem protag
and wrote amazing blog posts
Cho: You liked the imouto, hm? She was a bit much for me, ha ha
Kastel: i like imouto characters because they have to be cute but they also have to be really weird and somewhat disturbing to stand out
Cho: But again, I probably went into the story with the wrong expectations. It was super bizarre for me to get Oreimo hijinks for such a large percentage of the plot
Kastel: welcome to Dengeki Bunko
where trends, not plots, are followed
and tbh if i didn’t pay for the book and had to read it for the blog, i would not have read it to completion
i don’t even think it reaches Oreimo levels of entertainment — at least that shit is hilarious and horny
this was just kinda boring once you realize only two things happened
1) the imouto is a stalker 2) the girl died because she started shipping dudes irl
everything else is just … “why is it there”
Cho: I feel like a lot happened, but most of it just didn’t tie together in a way that felt meaningful?
Kastel: well, there’s a bunch of motifs like waking up in a field of watermelons
but i assume it’s just the girl being very silly … i can’t really tell what’s serious and silly
Cho: There was a lot of dialogue that didn’t make much sense to me — perhaps it’s just characters being random, or perhaps it just didn’t get through to me in translation
Or a little of both
Kastel: i don’t really remember the dialog and i just finished it today…
i do remember the imouto’s remarks about NTR ehehe…
but i have a hard time picturing any of the scenes either because there’s no narration to put me into the place
it’s just thoughts thoughts maybe dialogs but mostly thoughts

Tomorrow, I Will Die. You Will Revive.

Cho: Regarding Hikari’s death though — I do feel that the true reason she wasn’t paying attention to Taxi-san was simply because she had found the boy from that childhood river incident
Because these coincidences always happen
Kastel: yeah, that’s obviously what happened
but she is never serious so she took a detour in her own special way
Cho: Of course, she can’t admit to liking Akitsuki
and of course, she’s dead and they’re sharing a body, so it’s perhaps ultimately a moot point, though I’m sure things will develop between them in subsequent volumes
Actually things could end up a bit Ranma 1/2-ish, if they build up a zany love dodecahedron
Kastel: well, there are two other volumes and one short story collection
obviously this is supposed to be a prologue of sorts, but i believe it’s finished
Cho: Thinking this, I kind of wonder if I’d have liked the story more if it stuck with one specific tone
Kastel: the book really wants to be a silly romcom
in the same idea as Your Name‘s first half
Cho: There are lots of anime/manga/etc that play with tone, jumping back and forth between light comedy and sad drama — but that’s a hard thing to pull off well
Kastel: i would not have minded that… but this is just bad
yeah, this one is basically some bad 00s anime
and it doesn’t really make sense…
most of those anime you’re talking about are adapting or creating original episodes, they are compressing a lot of time
this is just the first volume of a light novel…
Cho: I do wonder though if I’d like a novel by this author entirely devoted to wacky hijinks — I don’t think the humor generally clicked with me here
Kastel: unfortunately the writer has been MIA since 2014 (the short story collection was published that year)
so who knows

Cho: How did you feel about the protagonist Akitsuki? Did you feel he had a full character arc?
Kastel: i just think he’s a poor man’s version of 8man
he just exists, i have zero interest in him
Cho: I think this was another case where I had mixed feelings toward how the plot was handled
Akitsuki is more or less forced to change, right? Hikari is at the controls for half his days now, and is directly changing how everyone views and interacts with him
But is that just a metaphor for how anyone can affect others, just in general?
Could be a case of me wanting to delve deeper into a topic than the author did
Kastel: well, he also says he hasn’t “changed” much; his life got interesting at least
if we want to take it at face value, he’s changed but he isn’t aware of it — the girl is putting him outside of his comfort zone
but there isn’t anything interesting about it nor does the book have anything to say
that’s why i think he just “exists”
Cho: Do you think it could’ve been more interesting if Akitsuki tried to challenge Hikari a bit more, instead of (mostly) just going with the flow?
You brought up Hachiman earlier, and I think part of his appeal is that — while he is dragged around a lot — he at least has something witty to say about it
Kastel: could be, it will make him do more than just existing
i just think he’s boring and reminded me i should read Oregairu instead lol
he is one step above protagonists like Amagami man
he could be friends with Haganai man too
Cho: One other thing I have mixed feelings for in this book — the author decided that the only way our two leads could communicate was through journal entries they leave for one another (again, similar to Your Name)
On one hand I’ll give the author credit for (mostly) sticking to this throughout the whole book — but on the other hand, it sure slows things down, doesn’t it?
Kastel: it’s mostly because you never see her pov
i don’t really know why a story about souls possessing the same body won’t have pov switches
Cho: Ah, yes! That was what I think I wanted the entire time I was reading this
Thanks for reminding me, ha ha
Kastel: i was just kinda confused for the whole book and thought she must be important right
Cho: I *really* wanted Hikari’s point of view
Kastel: unfortunately after reading the ending
i get the feeling the girl was supposed to be some True VN Heroine kind of deal
so in the writer’s mind, she needs to be more mysterious
and that means no pov for her
which is Dumb
Cho: I think at one point, I thought we never got her PoV because we were going to find out she was just a made-up entity in the protagonist’s head
Or some other big twist like that
It was going to be very META about waifus in otaku culture (or so I imagined)
Kastel: nah i thought the book was dumb so i never thought of some wild plot twist
and if that was the case, it’d be something people will talk about more
Cho: But yes, it seems she’s really there, and we only get to read about the aftermath of her actions
I think the core concept is fine and could be lots of fun for an author to play around with, but all in all this story left me wanting
Kastel: if it was by a writer who knew how to write for an audience, it would be an entertaining light novel
as of now, i just think it’s a mess
Cho: It is an interesting experiment at least, but does feel more like a random web novel than an award-winning published novel
But I guess a lot of random web novels are getting published and winning awards these days
Kastel: nah, light novel published awards don’t mean much
except “you got a book contract”
Dengeki is especially that
i wouldn’t consider those awards to be on the same scale as, say, the Oscars
Cho: Of course, ha ha — but you do generally hope it’s still “the best of the bunch”
Kastel: and Dengeki Bunko has… gone down the drain anyway
after reading Ka Esuma‘s Violet “best of the bunch” Evergarden…………..
i think i’ll stick with Amazon reviews and book blogs
Cho: This is nothing particular to light novels I suppose

Cho: I’m not sure if I have anything else to add for Bokushinu
Do you have any questions to throw out?
Kastel: nothing really, it isn’t a very memorable book
i did enjoy reading something that’s not something i would read
but otherwise, it’s not an impression-leaving work
Cho: Part of the reason I keep putting together the Summer Reading program each year is to kind of force myself to try out novels I normally wouldn’t read
And encourage others to try new things
(Of course, how well I have ever accomplished such a thing is definitely up in the air, lol)
Kastel: yeah for sure
it was just interesting for me to read this book since i started thinking about what i would do differently and what worked/didn’t work
really, it should have stuck to a tone and given some limelight to the girl
Cho: Yes, as a wannabe writer myself, I do try to at least learn something from each book I read
Kastel: tons of books are wary giving pov shifts to other characters, but with a premise like body switching, you gotta do it
(unless it’s some crazy Uchikoshi twist)
Cho: That was part of what made Your Name reach a wide audience, right?
Kastel: yeah
even the sex jokes make way more sense there too
with Taki crying over touching Mitsuha’s breasts
you don’t really see that kind of meaningful sex jokes in Bokushinu
they’re just there and they’re not even good…
Cho: And I think that, in part, could be due to the fact we’re only seeing everything Hikari did a whole day after she did things
We’re not “in the moment,” as it were
Kastel: yeah, it’s just boring
and the guy is just some passive protag
Cho: He does take action at the end at least — but perhaps not in a way that felt rewarding to the reader
And I think that may be in part because it was largely thanks to everything Hikari did that he was able to, for example, convince the mohawk delinquents to help out
It’s a tricky premise to work with for these sorts of things, ha ha
Which might be why it would’ve been easier to just stick with wacky hijinks
Kastel: it’d be interesting if we just read Hikari…………..
but oh well………. we got some boring dude
Hikari is just some manic pixie character anyway
i’m tired of that archetype
Cho: Now that I think about it, she’s very Haruhi Suzumiya-ish
Which I’ll agree, is an archetype I don’t care much for
It was kind of subverted, and then un-subverted, ha ha
Kastel: they’re everywhere
and very boring
Cho: It’s all about the tsunderes now… maybe? I have no idea, lol
It’s imoutos probably
Kastel: isekai actually
Cho: oh right, elf slaves

WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us?
WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us?

Cho: Our final summer reading though will be all about the sad fighting girls, in WorldEnd volume 1
Kastel: you may want to mention that WorldEnd volume 1’s translation was praised by the original writer
he can read English and was very impressed by the localization
Cho: That’s good to hear
It’s already gotten some high praise, in the very small English LN-blogsphere
Kastel: yeah it’s an excellent series
Cho: I saw the anime and thought it was all right, but did feel the novels were probably better
IDK, guess I’ll find out soon enough :>
Kastel: the anime’s first episode was the best adaptation
everything else is a mess
the writer wrote the first episode’s script
Cho: That’s interesting
It seems like the sort of story that would need to take its time with everything, have long quiet moments that an anime can’t afford
Kastel: there’s a lot of random LORE moments that never get brought up again because the writer thought the series was getting cancelled
Cho: I think you mentioned that in your review of the series
Kastel: yeah
it’s kinda bad in volume 2
because that was the “final” volume
Cho: it almost got the boot, but the fans rallied together to spread the word
Kastel: through word-of-mouth
now it’s one of the best selling series from Sneaker Bunko

Cho: That's it for our discussion on Bokushinu volume 1. Now it's your turn! What are some of your thoughts on this book?

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