Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Year Release in English: 2016
Source: Physical Copy
Content warnings: Mention of an attempted rape, death of a child, cults, injuries, blood, threats of violence
This light novel series starts off with a fairly simple premise: a former vampire catches his classmate who slipped on a banana peel, only to find that she weighs literally nothing. And if full of stationery. And haunted by a crab. In the second half of the book, the two of them encounter a little girl haunted by a snail aberration, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Full of friendship, interesting exchanges, strange happenings, and explorations of past trauma that don’t get resolved with the resolution of the haunting, there is so much to like and see in this work told almost entirely through dialogue but does not at all feel like reading a script.
The teenagers in this series are so appropriately thorny. They try to be so mean but lose the plot halfway through and fall off into edgy. They rib at each other because they care, and because that’s what friendship looks like sometimes. It’s fun and a little refreshing.
One of the things that really simmers in the background is the world-building. It’s, by all means, contemporary Japan with trappings like modern technology and stresses that come with being a high school student. But there are also aberrations (monsters) and vampires. Where they come from and how they interact is a bit of a mystery that I don’t think gets answered in this first series, but honestly? I don’t think it needs to. These stories are character-driven to an aggressive degree. Somehow, NISIOISIN avoids the pitfalls of “blank room” syndrome despite having the majority of the scenes progressing entirely through dialogue. It’s masterful and fascinating—the fact that there is so much word play also makes it quite enjoyable to read.
Another thing I’ll mention that really kept me on the hook is how trauma gets addressed. Some pretty upsetting things have happened to all the characters that directly fed into their hauntings. But resolving the hauntings doesn’t resolve the trauma. Instead, normal is reset. That resonates with me since there is no magical cure for past hurts, but there are ways of moving forward.
I’m excited to see what new problems Araragi will help solve for girls who ultimately save themselves.