Saturday, January 11, 2020

REVIEW: Missing: Spirited Away (book) by Gakuto Coda, translated by Andrew Cunningham

Missing: Spirited Away is the first book in Coda's 13-volume Missing series. The series was originally licensed by Tokyopop, and only two volumes were ever translated and published in English. The third volume was scheduled to be released in September 2008, but since that's about when Tokyopop imploded, it never happened.


When Kyoichi Utsume was a child, he and his younger brother disappeared. He somehow managed to return, but his little brother did not. Ever since then, he's been obsessed with death and kamikakushi, mysterious beings that are said to spirit people away.

Rumors start flying at Utsume's high school that he, the guy who supposedly doesn't believe in love and romance, has found a girlfriend and is introducing her to everyone. Utsume's friends in the Literature Club discover that the rumors are true when he brings Ayame, a cute but oddly easy to overlook girl, to meet them. Ryoko and Takemi, two members of the Literature Club, decide to follow the couple and come back with gaps in their memories and a strange story of visiting a terrifying other world. Since there's no longer any sign of either Utsume or Ayame, it looks like Ryoko and Takemi's story may be true. Can the members of the Literature Club somehow retrieve their friend from the other world? Will he even want to come back?

My first impression of this was that it was better than I expected. The translation was relatively smooth, and the lack of the usual anime cliches in the story was a welcome change of pace from many of the more recently published light novels I've read (no boob jokes! no harems composed of several well-worn character types!).

Utsume made me roll my eyes, with the way the other characters referred to him as "Dark Prince" and "Your Majesty." Utsume's personality was cold and didn't seem like the sort that would attract a bunch of devoted friends. It helped, a little, that Coda spent time establishing why the other members of the Literature Club cared so much about him. Toshiya had been around when Utsume and his brother originally disappeared and had seen the changes in him after he'd come back. Utsume had helped Ryoko through an exam-inspired panic attack. Aki was a prickly girl who recognized parts of herself in Utsume. Of all of the characters, Aki was probably my most favorite, but I wish she hadn't been quite so focused on Utsume.

The teens' efforts to rescue their friend took them in a couple different directions, and I'm hoping at least some of that comes up in the second book as well. One half of the Literature Club talked to a mysterious magician named Jinno, while the other half talked to a man who was essentially part of Japan's version of the men in black.

The books' ending was confusing. What happened? It seemed like one particular character had been shot, but then for some reason they were fine. Why did another one of the characters disappear? Was that Ayame's influence?

If it weren't for the confusing ending, I think I might have liked this a bit more. I'm still looking forward to reading the second book in the series, at any rate.


A short afterword written by the author, an excerpt from the next book, and an excerpt from the manga based on this book.

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