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Book Review: 『ボクたちはみんな大人になれなかった』by Moegara

Presentation of the book

The novel 『ボクたちはみんな大人になれなっかた』was first written by Moegara (燃え殻) on the website Cakes. It was published on June 30th, 2017, by Shincho bunko with modifications compared to the original version.
When it came out, this short novel of 162 pages became a best-seller in Japan.

「一枚の絵で人生が変わったという人間や、一冊の本で人生が決まったという人間を今までボクはどこかで軽蔑していた。だけど、彼女と出会ったこの日、ボクは止まっていた自分の人生の秒針がカチカチカチと動き出したことを確信した。」

『ボクたちはみんな大人になれなっかた』 , p.40

In the first pages of『ボクたちはみんな大人になれなっかた 』, the narrator sees the name of the girl he loved some 20 years ago appear on Facebook. Seeing this name brings back memories, from the day he met her to the last day he saw her. Through a recollection of scenes and moments, we glance at the Tokyo of the ’90s.

Review

I liked this novel, but I found it difficult to read for a non-Japanese.

First, the novel is mainly composed of scenes and does not follow a traditional narrative pattern. There is a chronological progression but no real plot. I felt that it required an effort to follow the author, and this added to the difficulty of reading in Japanese.

Secondly, the novel creates an atmosphere rather than describing places. As I see it, the aim of the novel is not to show you what the Tokyo of the ’90s was like. It shows the experience that the author had of it. If you have a similar experience, this novel will certainly resonate with you from beginning to finish. But if not (different generation, different country), it might be difficult to picture some of the scenes described.

For example, Moegara often mentions songs that were popular at the time. It is one thing to recall having heard the same music when you were 20, but it is another thing to google it while reading the book and listen to it on YouTube for the first time.

In an interview with Shigesato ITOI, Moegara said that he always gave the same answer to the question: why did you write this novel? His answer was
「90年代の空気みたいなものを一つの本に閉じ込めたかったんです 」. This answer makes everybody happy, it does not need further explanations, and it is the kind of answer people want to hear. But the real reason why Moegara wrote his book is different. He just wanted to write certain scenes, a particular moment, a particular feeling. Not to convey something, but because he enjoyed writing these scenes.

As a result, I felt that the novel did not really care about the reader. It tells its story and does not expect you to sympathise with it… but many people did and, maybe I did too, to some extent.

While I had difficulties picturing certain scenes and found some passages difficult to read, this novel made me want to read more about this particular time that followed the collapse of the economic bubble. I also liked Moegara’s writing. I don’t often extract quotes from novels, but my copy of the book is full of tags marking striking or beautiful passages and sentences. I also liked the story and I would very much like to see a film adaptation of this novel! I don’t know if it will happen, but I feel that this story on the screen would be very appealing.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Language diary #2 | Inside That Japanese Book

  2. Pingback: Language diary #3 monthly review | Inside That Japanese Book

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