Anyone Can Write A Light Novel!
An excerpt of the text message exchange between Takahara and I:
-did you like the book? O3O
-I suppose I did.
-sweet!!!! who’s your waifu?! OAO
-I’m still a bachelor.
-funny!!! XD but really, who’s your best girl?
So it was written. His texting style is apprehensive, but it’s not a problem to read. But what’s with this question of ‘best girl’? Can’t he just say ‘favourite character’? Or is it that only the female characters are worth remembering in this book?
I throw my legs onto the coffee table, my arms falling flat on the tatami mat floorings. Tsukishima grumbles when she sees my bare feet, but it’s my house and my side of the table so she can’t complain. She’s still drawing frames. I have never seen her do anything else ever since she moved in. With my phone resting in my palm, I call out,
“Is it normal for otaku to ask who your best girl is?”
“Yeah.” Her answer came in dry. She didn’t even bother to look at me.
“No, I mean, why don’t they ask about your ‘favorite character’ instead? Do they just not pay attention to any males in the story?”
“They don’t. What do you think they pick these things up for? Look at the cover.”
I turn the book around to see a female knight clad in a barely functioning armor. By that, I mean the armor pieces don’t protect any of her vitals. She just has shoulderpads, a breastplate and greaves. A frilled skirt is draped over unprotected thighs, and the breastplate opens up to reveal her cleavage.
The side of my mouth stretches all the way down. “That one’s on me, I set the bar too low. But still, the whole otaku industry can’t just be all about the girls, right?”
She bites her bandaged thumb, as her shoulders tremble to hold in her laughter. “There’s another side to the industry if you’re gonna complain so much about it. The female demographic where it’s all about the guys.”
“Oh.” It was like a lightbulb flashed in my head. “I’d suppose women would have better standards than men when it came to these sorts of things. What kinda stories are they into?”
Her eyes roll up to the ceiling, and her cheeks inflate. “You write a harem, and swap the genders the other way around.”
“… Never mind. Female otaku are the same kind of beast.”
“The term you’re looking for is fujoshi, and yes, they’re not that much better. I could give you lots of tips if you’re aiming for them. Lots of my animator friends are fujoshi.”
“You sure it isn’t because you’re also one?”
She whistles to herself to divert the question.
“Well, regardless, I have to answer this weirdo’s question.” I hold the phone up and over towards the ceiling. To find that reply, I need to go over what I just read.
Going From The Weakest To Strongest Through Another World is about an ordinary high schooler who is mocked as the weakest among his peers. No idea why any student would use that as an insult, but let’s carry on. One day, he gets run over by a truck. He’s given a second chance by some kind of God, and is sent to another world where he is given the extraordinary skill of Disintegration. With that power, he easily ascends to the top of this new world, and wins the hearts of several women.
The problems are basically the same as Harem Protagonist, but the issues here can be seen as worse. First of all, this high schooler gets thrown into a fantasy world and handed over an ability that far outclasses anything anyone in this world can do. The point of an adventure is to make the protagonist overcome hardships and discover something new. But here, he has no hardships and his gaming knowledge gives him all the insight he needs to live in this world. So in terms of development, there is no development.
As for the girls, who I should note are introduced in a rapid-fire pace, they naturally have zero depth to their characters aside from falling for the main character. Sure, they go about it differently. One falls in love immediately, one falls in love after he saves her village, and one was antagonistic until he showed her kindness or something. But the amount of affection they have for him shot from zero to one hundred instantly. No time was dedicated to make these feelings develop naturally.
So, if I had to choose from those, I could sufficiently say I don’t have a favourite character. Even if I wanted to select a ‘best girl’, what’s the point when they’re so cookie cutter and one dimensional? I guess I just don’t like any of them at all.
Then I can answer Takahara with…
-I like all of them equally.
His reply comes in an instant.
-right!!!!?? QWQ their all so good that you just can’t choose!
I have no idea how this guy can be so excited over garbage like this… If the world were populated by Takaharas, then the standards of literature would fall into a ditch.
I drop my phone, letting it fall onto the mat with a gentle thud. My arms and legs are stretched as far as they go, letting out slight cracks. My ribs and spine feel better than they ever have. I’m at the peak of health, yet I feel so weak. It’s like sailing into the seas to see a massive wave incoming. It brings doubt into your mind whether you can get across the hurdle. But, humanity wouldn’t have gotten to the point of the modern era if we chickened at out every wave we see.
That’s why I’ll push through. I’ll hold on to everything I’ve got and push through. I won’t succumb to those waves and sink to the bottom of the ocean. I will fight.
My phone beeps. For the past few years, that sound would bring blood rushing to my heart thinking Mana was trying to contact me or whether a company’s finally answering me. But each time I see the sender, it leaves me feeling a little disappointed.
-im going to akihabara to buy stuff!!1 Do you want to come? \(OwO)/
Takahara again… I lock my phone and ponder to myself whether it’s worth it to spend time with someone so abrasive just for research. This guy’s even worse than Sawamura Aki. At least that loser knew how to keep his mouth shut. But Takahara has no filter, nothing holding him back. I’d take an Aki over a Takahara any day.
Still, I don’t have any otaku friends. I guess Tsukishima counts, but she’s dedicated her life to either slaving herself away to the animation industry, or treating me like dog poop. The less I rely on her, the better. So to find out more about this audience I’ll supposedly be writing for, there was only one answer I could give.
Mana and I had paid a visit to all of Tokyo’s cultural landmarks, but we left out Akihabara. The bright and flashy pastel colors threatened to give us a seizure and obnoxious music was being blasted wherever you go. The crowd was something neither of us would fit into, and so we went off looking for other places in Chiyoda.
Can’t recall how many years have gone by, but this place is still the same as I remember. Loud, high-pitched singing blasting through the streets. Every billboard and wall plastered with an advertisement of some anime or manga starring a heroine with eyes bigger than her hands. And a crowd carelessly dressed in merchandised clothing, huddling about under this heat.
I feel like I’m being put in that Aki’s shoes. As if I don’t belong here. As if I’m alone in this world. But I will never let that put me down. Because deep down in my heart, I know that I’m better than every media-consuming dork that walks these streets. I don’t need to drool over a drawing of a woman plastered on a poster, I have real women! Well, had. As long as I’ve felt the touch of a woman, I know I have the social superiority over everyone here.
Rendezvousing with Takahara was a matter of several text exchanges. It didn’t take us long to meet up in front of the store he was going to. He’s ranting to me about something, but I just nod it off pretending I’m listening. Ryunoana Bookstore. I can barely make out anything inside because of the massive posters they slap all over the windows. Still, I can see between the miniscule gaps of anime that there are indeed books being sold here.
We enter the store, the loud music blasting even harder than before. Judging by the endless figurines of scantily clad women displayed with utmost pride at store front, I would assume this is the stuff Takahara was talking about buying. Doesn’t look that big, so it shouldn’t be that pricy—
Given that he and I work the same job, I doubt he has the kind of budget for this. Yeah, I’d feel miserable if this weirdo otaku somehow has a disposable income while I’m still budgeting around my cup noodles.
“Where are you looking, Ito? The figurines are upstairs.” Takahara asks, tapping my shoulder.
It’s probably more figurines that are just like that, so my interest is at the lowest low. I grab the nearest book my hand could reach and tell him, “I think I’m more interested in the books.”
Takahara’s black eyes widen as he looks into my hand. His mouth stretches cheek to cheek like a smiling monkey as he gives me a knowing nod. “Understandable, really. Excellent taste, my brethren.” His steps pitter through those wooden floorboards, and disappear into metal clangs as he rises up the stairs.
I open the book to take a gander at what I picked up—
Whoa! What the hell is this?! I… Can’t describe what I’m looking at, but I can say that it’s way too explicit. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I didn’t think they drew things like these, much less sold it around in public. I’m getting second-hand embarrassment knowing someone put their name on this. I’m also getting first-hand embarrassment from holding it.
After skimming through every other page for no reason whatsoever, I put the book back where it came from. I don’t plan to gawk at figurines all day, so I went over to the Light Novel section. Like a bolt from the blue, the first thing I see is a massive display of Blade Reincarnation Phantasia. There’s a life-size cardboard cutout of the main heroine, and a screen looping the movie’s trailer over and over. A tagline proclaiming it the number one bestselling light novel hangs triumphantly from the ceiling. All seventeen volumes are piled together on a meter-long fold out able in a compact yet orderly manner, plenty of books still left over to be sold. How many times has this series been reprinted?
That display grinds into my mind the scale of the wave I plan to brave. The sheer number of books on this table, the disorderly heights telling me of the way it flies off shelves… As I think about it clearly, if what Tsukishima has been saying is true, then this is a clear case of pandering to the mass audience. The posters depict an unbalanced cast of characters, with the girls outnumbering the boys eight to two. And the term Reincarnation brings to mind the strange trend of reincarnation based works that I can see on many titles here.
Sawamura Aki is an author with no standards of his own, nor any sense of originality. He only follows the waves, and he only writes what would engage an audience with a similar lack of standards. To find success in such a method, as a man who prides himself on his works, I believe it to be the same as a loss. If the world itself protects him, then I’ll fight the world to knock him down.
I scan the bookstore for other works of the like. Every book isn’t wrapped so I was able make quick peeks through twenty different titles. I realize there was a trend: All of them start with the main character getting run over by a truck, and then transported into another world where they become powerful and gain a harem.
There was no mistaking this as mere coincidence. After all, Tsukishima said that otaku want to experience a certain kind of fantasy. The similarities between these works could only be the result of the incestual relationship every piece of fiction has in the otaku world. Everyone tries to form their identity by following the trends that have been set. Resultantly, that very identity gets lost in a sea of imitators.
A lot of the books also have certain interesting tagline: The popular web novel is serialized! I have no idea what a web novel is. Maybe it’s an otaku term for antique books that are so old they have cobwebs on them. But, given the frequency of that term being used to promote these books, I think I should do my homework on it.
Takahara returns to me with five boxes of varying colours hugged to his chest. On them are visual previews of the figurines contained within them, the main heroine of Blade Reincarnation Phantasia being one of it. Seeing as he’s also a clerk like me, I’d wager these were on markdown, because I don’t want to believe he can afford these.
… And they’re not. The pricetags on each box tell me they’re at least 10,000 yen each.
I point at the boxes weakly. “Takahara, are you really buying these?”
He pumps his fist enthusiastically. “Damn right I am! I’ve been waiting for these to come out.” He rubs his cheek against the previously mentioned box like it was a puppy that finally came home. “Especially this figurine of Asami! Oh, no matter how many other girls I see in any show, she’s the best of the best!”
I remain quiet, not wanting to allow my disdain toward Sawamura Aki’s work to show.
He huddles the box together with the rest as he sizes up the line he’s about to queue. “What about you, Ito? Aren’t you buying a book?”
“I’m kind of… broke. So I can’t buy anything even if I wanted to.” I give him a shrug as I step towards the exit. “I’ve seen everything I wanted to see here anyway. I’ll wait for you outside.”
Takahara’s eyes are obscured once more by the reflection of the bright lights.
As I stand by the roadside, the hustle and bustle of Akihabara brings to mind a certain spirit that I unfortunately lack. An appreciation for pop culture on a scale I could never comprehend. The images plastered on every nook and cranny of the street invigorates all the people who choose to spend time here. Meanwhile, the only thing that would invigorate me is a good smoke.
When I see Takahara walk out of that bookstore with paperbags in hand, I can only feel my spine tingling at the thought that an otaku like him somehow has money. The only thing I’d find acceptable regarding that information is if he lives with his parents and still receives a monthly allowance.
How is it that a creator like Tsukishima bends over backwards living in poverty to bring these things to life, whereas a consumer like Takahara can spend his cash on useless statues without a care in the world? Something’s wrong with this industry, I swear.
Takahara waves at me happily as he reaches into his paperbag. “Ito, I felt really bad bringing you here when you couldn’t buy anything. So I thought that I’d buy you a book. As a gift.”
I didn’t think he’d be so thoughtful. Maybe I’ve been too harsh on Takahara. He’s a strange person I’ll never get along with, but if he’s willing to do something like this, he’s definitely a good person at heart. Although I doubt I’d ever enjoy anything to come out of this place, I’m sure whatever he hands over to me would be excellent research material. So I’ll accept it graciously.
It’s that explicit manga I randomly picked up…