A reworking / remix / reimagining / reboot of the first few chapters in the saga of the all-but-unkillable swordsman Manji and his female sidekick Rin. Rather than simply retell the story we already know from the manga—which is among the very best in print right now, if you need a recommendation—author Junichi Ohsako uses some of the events from those opening chapters (and most of the same characters) as window-dressing for his own workmanlike but minimal plot about Manji and Rin going head-to-head with a bad guy of Ohsako’s own creation.
Light novels are one of the few remaining expansion markets for publishing in Japan, so it’s not much of a surprise that they’re becoming more and more about pushing existing franchises on new audiences. It’s almost the reverse of what happens with the Star Trek and Star Wars book markets, which are aimed squarely at the existing fanbase. BotI:LotSD is ostensibly aimed not at existing fans—why would they just want to be reintroduced to the same story they already know?—but at those who maybe only know the franchise by name, and perhaps not even that.
I could be wrong, since much of the stated appeal of light novels is giving the same experiences to the same people in a different venue—you saw the TV show and read the comic, now skim the light novel. “Skim” is the best choice of word here, since LotSD is written in the lightest of light novel prose imaginable, with paragraphs that are at most a sentence long and sometimes not even that. The eye simply slides down the middle of the page, taking in those little stubs of paragraphs all at once, and the whole book can be consumed in a single sitting.
This is apparently the intended effect in Japanese as well. I remember hearing about how a recent new Japanese translation of The Brothers Karamazov expanded the readership for the book by simply adding that many more paragraph breaks. This is hardly mutilation—after all, much the same thing was done in reverse when Donald Keene broke up some of Osamu Dazai’s infamously overlong sentences for his translation of No Longer Human; I’m not sure total fidelity there would have helped.
Likewise, here, making longer paragraphs out of Ohsako’s point-blank pulpisms (which are of the “He sat in the room. / On the floor.” ilk) would scarcely have made this a better read. It’s fun for what it is, a short joyride in Hiroaki Samura’s world and with his characters, but it goes through your system faster than the fried noodles they give you in Chinese restaurants. One serving of that and you’re just all the hungrier for an actual meal—and it’s flavorless stuff to boot. Get the comic itself, or even the TV show; only the hardiest of die-hards need bother with this rather thin piece of product.
Other Lives Of The Mind