Book review: 『アキラとあきら』 by Jun Ikeido

Introduction

Title: 『アキラとあきら』
Author: Jun Ikeido 池井戸潤
Published by 集英社文庫
720 pages

Jun Ikeido is a popular author of business novels, most of which have been adapted into drama. Published in 2017, 『アキラとあきら』 it one of his most recent novels.

There is a one volume edition and a two-volume edition. I bought the two-books edition and found that the summary of the second book reveals too much. I heartily recommend to not read it!

There is a drama adaptation featuring Osamu Mukai 向井理 and Takumi Saito 斎藤工.

Akira Yamazaki and Akira Kaido could not have more opposite background: Yamazaki has grown up near his father’s small factory in a rural area, while Kaido’s father is the director of one of Japan’s biggest steamship companies. We follow them over several years, as they navigate the dramatic changes that have shaped Japan’s economy from the 70s to the 90s.

Review

Easy to understand and suspenseful

This is the first business novel I read, and I was very surprised by how engrossing all this bank stuff can be! I know nothing about finance, and I was afraid I would have a hard time following the story, but the book turned out to be quite easy to follow, even for newbies like me. Jun Ikeido really makes a great job at making all the financial intrigues and conversations very accessible even if you are not familiar to these kinds of topics.

It is also super engrossing! I would have thought that bank loans and investments would be boring topics for a novel, but the truth is that I could not put down the book. I am not sure that you can classify 『アキラとあきら』 as a financial thriller – as there is no real financial crime in it, but it does have a good dose of suspense in it.

Not as much about friendship than business

The reason why I bought this book even though I am not particularly interested in finance, is because I thought it would be more about friendship and rivalry between the two protagonists.

Actually, and contrary to the drama, Kaido and Yamazaki are very rarely together, and they meet for business only. This book is mostly about business and apart from passages dedicated to the two Akira’s youth, there is not much going on in terms of private life.

Long but too short!

This book is the longest book I have read in Japanese, but it almost felt too short! It is so good that I wanted it to last longer and tell me more about the main characters. The end, especially, while quite good, felt a little abrupt. I was thinking: “what, is that it? But what happens next? Is there a second volume?”. I could not help but wanting more business adventures with the two Akiras.

Good guys and bad guys

The only thing that I did not like that much in the novel is that characters can be quite stereotyped. The characters’ actions and intentions lack some depth in my opinion. Good characters do good things because they are kind and smart, and bad characters do bad things because they are greedy and/or stupid.

As such, reading this novel often felt like watching a drama with characters falling into predefined roles, which annoyed me a little.

Japanese level

I said that all the business-related passages were easy to follow, but obviously, reading them in Japanese makes everything much more complicated. I recognised a lot of words that I learned when I was preparing for the JLPT N1, but still, I had to look up a bunch of other new words. I also had to re-read some passages several times and make an effort to understand them.

The non-business related passages are not particularly difficult, but there are a lot of conversations around investments, loans and management, so you have to be prepared for some dictionary work if you are not already familiar with tackling these topics in Japanese.

Conclusion

『アキラとあきら』 is definitely one of my favourite books read in Japanese so far, and I heartily recommend it! If you are new to business novels like me, this one is a really good place to start as we learn everything together with Kaido and Yamazaki as they grow up.

This is my first Jun Ikeido but certainly not my last, I cannot wait to read more by this author 🙂

(I made the drawing of this post using a scene from the drama.)