Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (e-book) by Yasutaka Tsutsui

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a compilation of two stories by Yasutaka Tsutsui. It's also my first ever e-book checkout via my local public library.

I'm going to be lazy and say that, since this was a collection of two stories, I can treat it like an anthology and skip out on including a read-alikes list.


Despite my disappointment with the live action movie Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, I was looking forward to this book – possibly one of those instances of me being too attracted to cover art. Seriously, the cover of this book is lovely. And also makes no sense. At the very least, the flowers should be lavender flowers, not daisies or whatever those things are.

First off, this book is short. My e-reader app says it's only 64 pages long. The print version is 200 pages. Second, it's not just one story, it's two, and they're completely unrelated at that. Two thirds of the book is devoted to “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time,” while the last third is “The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of.”

“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is a science fiction story starring a girl named Kazuko. She has two male friends, Goro and Kazuo. One day, she and her friends have to stay late at school, cleaning the science lab. While Goro and Kazuo are off washing up, Kazuko hears somebody walking around who shouldn't be there. When she tries to confront this mystery person, he or she disappears. Kazuko becomes overwhelmed by the smell of lavender, produced by some test tubes the mystery person broke, and faints.

She wakes up and is seemingly fine, but a few days later she and Goro are almost hit by a truck, and something odd happens. Kazuko wakes up in her bed, thinking that the incident with the truck was just a dream. However, it soon becomes apparent that she has actually jumped backwards in time. Somehow, Kazuko has to convince her friends to help her and figure out how to undo whatever it was the mysterious stranger did to her.

The simplicity of this story disappointed me right from the start. It was entirely plot-focused – no attempt was made at character development at all. Any sense of fear, or wonder, or awe seemed muffled. Even after she realized what was going on, Kazuko made no attempt to play around with or test out her new ability. She cared enough about altering the past to want to try to save Goro, but the possibility of preventing the accident from happening in the first place never even occurred to her. Kazuo, Goro, and Mr. Fukushima's reactions to what was happening to Kazuko were remarkably mild, and Mr. Fukushima believed Kazuko far more quickly than I would have expected him to.

The story was interesting enough, until the mystery person's identity was revealed. I already knew what to expect, having watched Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (although that movie takes place years later), but reading this story gave me additional details. Unfortunately, those additional details managed to make the whole situation seem even dumber than it did in the movie. The mystery person's feelings for Kazuko weren't believable, and the amount of mental tampering the person had engaged in made them seem more creepy than anything. Had I been Kazuko, I'd have been mad, scared, or both, but she adjusted to it all fairly easily.

The story's ending was absolutely pointless, and I am still wondering how the mystery person managed to smooth things over so that the truck accident and the fire never happened.

“The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of” is a contemporary fiction story. You could maybe call it a bit of a psychological thriller. After her friend Bunichi scares her with a Prajna mask, Masako becomes obsessed with finding out the root of her two greatest fears, heights and Prajna masks. What horrible thing did she see or do that gave her such fears, and why can't she remember? While considering the problem of phobias, Masako accidentally learns the source of the fear that prevents her little brother Yoshio from going to the bathroom at night and leads to him wetting the bed. She tries to deal with her own fear by confronting it, but, when that doesn't work, she decides she has to find its root, the same way she did with her little brother.

This was actually pretty interesting and suspenseful, even though it suffered from several of the same problems that “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" did. As in that story, character development was nonexistent, and just about everything was oversimplified. For example, whenever Masako discovered the root of her little brother's fears, she told him about it, which instantly cured him of his fears. I'm fairly certain that curing fears and phobias is usually a little more difficult and complicated than that.

I was all geared up to find out about the horrible thing that Masako had done or seen that gave her her fears...and then the horrible thing turned out to be kind of a letdown. Yes, it would have been an awful moment, but it wasn't nearly as shocking as I had been expecting, and the way the revelation was handled could have been better.

This was a “meh” story with one particular aspect that bothered me: the way Yoshio's fears were talked about and handled. Repeated throughout the story, by several characters, was the assertion that he was five years old and a boy, so he should no longer be afraid to go to the bathroom at night. The fact that he was a boy was particularly important. His mother essentially called him a little girl for being so afraid and for playing with girls because the other boys bullied him. At the end of the story, when he fought back against one of the bullies, Masako told him he shouldn't fight and then praised him for fighting. I wanted to ask these characters to sit down and really think about the words that were coming out of their mouths.

All in all, this book was a bit of a disappointment. Both stories had interesting premises, but fell flat in the end, and both were far more simplistic than I would have liked.

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