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Book Review: 「ヒーローズ(株)!!!」by 北川恵海

「ヒーローズ(株)!!!」(read: かぶしきがいしゃ) is a novel by 北川恵海(きたがわ・えみ). It is the second book by Emi KITAGAWA, the first one being 「ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる」. It was this last title that drew my attention when I saw it in a bookshop. But I chose 「ヒーローズ(株)!!!」because the wrapper band said: 読んだ後はきっと元気になれます… haha, I let myself be influenced by a commercial catchphrase!

Even if it the novel is not explicitly categorised as “light novel”, I think that it can be defined as such, given that the author herself uses this word in her afterword.

Light Novels

I have never read light novels before because their cover is generally very manga-like, or at least this is the impression I have. As I am not really interested in reading mangas, I naturally never have been particularly interested in reading light novels. I don’t even know what “ライトノベル” actually means and I have seen on Wikipedia that there is no strict definition of the genre. (I should maybe just add that there is no illustration in our book).

In fact, I didn’t know that 「ヒーローズ(株)!!!」 could be defined as a light novel until I read the author’s afterword. I was just puzzled by its style because it was so obviously entertaining and easy to read. Later, I learnt that the publisher メディアワークス文庫 is specialised in light novels.

In the afterword, Emi KITAGAWA has reflected upon the question: what is a ライトノベル? After having read her book, I think that I can relate to her definition (p.326, あとがき):

わたしにとってライトノベルとは『とにかく楽しいもの』です。

It looks like the author wrote her book with this definition in mind and gave her reader a novel that was essentially enjoyable to read.

「ヒーローズ(株)!!!」

I was afraid that this book would be a little surrealistic (this is not my favourite genre), but the book was surprisingly anchored in reality, even if some aspects of the story are eccentric.

Our protagonist is a young man working in a convenience store. His life is about to change, and he is about to change the life of others, but he still does not know it when the novel begins. I think that it is easy to identify with the protagonist. He is an ordinary man who goes on with his life, while it seems obvious that things haven’t gone his way in the past.

The story that unfolds itself is about work, life, family, self-doubt and how to gain confidence, how to overcome a haunting past and haunting fears, how to keep moving even though it is dreadful. We learn that people all come with their particular personal story and that “talented” people are only the result of a good amount of trial and errors and overcome doubts.

But for all the serious theme encompassed in it, the novel never loses its good-humoured and light-hearted tone. It is funny too, several scenes made me laugh. I think that this is the greatest quality of this novel: while it conveys reflexions about life and its ups and downs, the novel never takes itself too seriously.

It is definitely a feel-good read that encourages and motivates.

Reading 「ヒーローズ(株)!!!」

This book is so easy to read!

The author purposely made a book that one can read fast without having to struggle with difficult kanji and so on.

What makes the book easy to read is certainly his dialogue-based structure. It really is like a manga put into words only. There are of course some narrative passages, but the book mostly consists of dialogues.

The vocabulary is also not challenging. For example, I am always on the watch out for onomatopoeia, and I can say that the same 4 or 5 onomatopoeia kept returning again and again.

To give you a rough approximation, if I compare with other books I am reading at the moment, I feel that while I am reading 1 page of 「朝鮮の開国と日清戦争」, I can read 10 pages of 「光」and 30 or 40 pages of 「ヒーローズ(株)!!!」.

Conclusion

To conclude, I would say that this book was written for the sake of being “楽しい” as the author said, so it would be unfair to expect too much from it, regarding literary value. But within the bounds of the genre, 「ヒーローズ(株)!!!」achieved its goal: it is easy to read, relaxing, funny, the story is interesting and can lead to deeper reflexions.

I really enjoyed dropping literary expectations and read a novel only for the sake of the story.

Note: I see that the author has written a second tome called 「続・ヒーローズ(株)!!!」.

Note2: I didn’t know before but her first novel, 「ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる」, was adapted into a film! Here is the trailer:

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