Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: _Brave Story_ by Miyuki Miyabe

I remember as a child watching cartoon movies on HBO and Showtime, movies like Nausicaa, which fascinated me, as they were nothing like any of the cartoons you saw on television at the time. Characters with emotional depth, with real feelings. And sometimes the characters died, which is something you don't see on American cartoons. Cobra Commander might have been an evil mastermind, but he couldn't shoot the broad side of a barn. And no Transformer ever got killed until the movie, which sent many of us into therapy. There's a fundamental difference between anime coming from Japan and those cartoons coming from America.

Take even video games of which I've talked about recently. Final Fantasy VII was ported directly from Japan, with all of its movies added. This includes the death of Aerith, the flower girl, some 2/3rds of the way into the game. She's a playable character with special skills and everything, and even though you work on leveling her up, at that point, she dies. Of course, I thought (not having read any walkthroughs) that she'd be resurrected at some point. Of course we'll have her at the end of the game, or Cloud would go into the lifestream and find her essence and bring her back. But that's not the case. She never comes back. It was a shock to many people (look her up on the internet, it affected a lot of people). I think that's why J.K. Rowling shocked so many people with the deaths that occur in Harry Potter. Main characters just don't die. It doesn't work that way....

But it does. And that's what makes the movies and video games and books coming out of Japan for young adults so much more poignant than those that come from Western Civilization. We're just not willing to see someone that we have invested emotional ties to be killed off in the middle of a story line. They have to come back. Nowadays, when Optimus Prime is killed (which he is, inevitably, every single series), it's not a shock to anyone, because he will always come back somehow.

So, to the book review. I read Brave Story, by Miyuki Miyabe, who is most known, until this book, for Suspense thrillers. Most reviews will tell you that it is slow in the beginning, that it drags out and it is good, but too long. What they don't get is that the length of the set up of the story is meant to set up Wataru's real life. Which is the life that we all lead, for the most part. There are bullies, and divorces, adulterous affairs... all the things that makes the real world what it is.... and most importantly, it sets up all the things that children are protected from in the real world in America. The book talks about the suicide of one of the friend's parents. You wouldn't have that talked about in a normal kid's fantasy novel. But it is the real world that people run away from, and only through Wataru's running away into the land of Vision do we experience the growth during that time of escapism.

The book is like the worlds of Hayao Miyazaki all laid out in print. It is the world of Hyrule or Final Fantasy in words. Masterfully constructed, a work that should be aside Paolini's Eragon or Harry Potter. The interesting thing is that the book is placed in with the Manga works, with most of the Japanese authors. I understand why, as the story has been adapted to Manga form, and Anime, and video game form (on the PSP and in Japan on the PS2). But the main work is a novel, and deserves to be read by those who love Fantasy or Young Adult fiction. It will change someone's life, just as The Hobbit changed mine.

No comments:

Post a Comment