Posted in Books

On the Lookout: Books (Nov 17, 2016)

One day at a time.

Hello again people. Back again today with that recurring segment that you probably forgot about by now, seeing as how the last entry went out quite a while ago. I hope to put out more of these in time, but we’ll see how things go. For now, let’s get to the topic of the day. Today, I’m “On the lookout” for untranslated Japanese epic fiction. By “epic” I mean fiction which creates whole and detailed worlds, and introduces vast arrays of interesting and well-developed characters. I really get into things like this with a passion, because of the huge amount of variety.

1. Moribito Series

I did a review of the first novel in this series just recently. Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito books have run for 7 main “books” (with either 1, 2 or 3 volumes each), 1 book of prequel stories and 1 spin-off book. However, out of all of that, only the first 2 canon books were translated by Scholastic, and that was back in 2009! While I am not going to out and out claim that this is the greatest series of all time, I feel that it is a huge shame that the Western world is being deprived of the opportunity to take a peek at the world of the Moribito series. The lore and the settings alone were more than enough to capture my attention and imagination, which was a welcome surprise for me. I hope in time that these novels receive some form of renewed attention, and I am going to try and do my part to see that that happens.

2. Guin Saga

Take what I just said about Moribito and multiply it by 1000000. This series has been in continuous publication since 1979! The author, Kaoru Kurimoto, planned initially 100 volumes (what a plan), but somehow ended up writing 130, along with 22 side-story novels. She kept writing until 2009, when she became too ill to keep going, and she eventually died that year. Only the first five volumes have been translated by Vertical, but that ended back in 2008. I really hope that there will be an eventual resurgence for these books, but until then I will wait and slowly learn some more Japanese.

3. Arslan Senki

I really can not get enough of Yoshiki Tanaka. His ability to craft an epic world of intrigue is almost unmatched in Japanese fiction (I say almost because I can’t think of anyone else, but there might be somebody). Arslan Senki tells the story of a young boy whose kingdom gets taken over by a rival army who possess strange powers given to them by shadowy forces. The boy goes on a journey to recruit allies to his cause and retake his home. It has court intrigues, dashing swordsmen, a womanizing bard, a failed painter, elephants…. I mean, what more could you want? I also like how it tackles the clashing of ideals with reality. You can wish for people to change and improve their lives, but when you try to go about making that change a reality, things don’t really go your way.

Currently, there are 15 novels published, with 0 translated. That’s right, none. However, the manga and anime adaptations have taken off recently, which is nice to see. I just wish the source material was treated to at least some of that attention. Dang…

4. Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu

Have I mentioned that I can’t get enough of Yoshiki Tanaka’s work? Probably. Better known by it’s English name, “Legend of the Galactic Heroes”, this show was eventually adapted into a successful and very long anime. It follows the story of warring planetary nations, one monarchical and the other democratic. The sides are personified by two men, Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen Li. These two polar personalities live on opposite sides of the battle field and their lives, inextricably tied together, will shape the future of their nations and that of the entire galaxy. I am very happy to say that these novels are currently getting published in English! They first two are available, I believe, and the third is available for pre-order. They are also available in ebook (all via Amazon).

5. The Twelve Kingdoms

The last entry on the list today is popular series, The Twelve Kingdoms, or Juuni Kokuki. The series tells tales of individuals in a fictional world inspired by Chinese mythology, where twelve kingdoms co-exist and the leader is chosen by the heavens. The world is huge and the detail of the description is amazing. Everything is laid out in depth and it creates an interesting and intriguing landscape. Currently, 4 of the books have been translated, but translation was ended when Tokyopop, everyone’s favorite defunct company, collapsed and the license was transferred to Kodansha. With the news that there will be another entry to the series in 2016, hopefully enough of a spark will be generated to get republication going. I have some ideas…. so let’s see where they go!

Okay, well that’s it for now. I, and those who share my taste for these books, have been relegated to the hopeless waiting corner, or else the corner where we try our best to learn Kanji (there are too many!). Until next time, thanks for reading and have a great day!

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