Well, I sure did not expect to read another apocalyptic story since I stumbled across Alas, Babylon years ago in my local public library, (Which I especially liked, and which fully fulfilled me enough not to need any more similar stories in the future) but props to Isaka Kotaro for this interesting collection of short stories.
They take place in pre-apocalyptic Sendai, Japan, following the lives of a bunch of different residents of an apartment building two and a half years before a meteor is expected to crash into Earth, thus ending the world completely.
Interestingly enough, the story takes place before the destruction and also after the initial “end of the world panic” occurs. It’s a sort of weird peaceful time where people are still wary, but weary enough not to cause any trouble.
The book had a light but melancholic feel to it, and was the right mixture of hopeful, dreadful, suspenseful, and depressing.
It’s about the survivors still alive at that point in time, and the lives they’ve lived since the meteor was announced. Rather than big adventures or rescue missions, it’s just people living and surviving, in a terrible situation, making everyday choices. There are a few tense moments, like the brothers trying to get revenge on a TV announcer and his family by holding them at gunpoint, but there’s also the old couple awaiting their estranged daughter coming home, and a couple who need to decide whether they should have their baby or not with the future so bleak.
Whether people would really calm down after a few years of knowing that the world is going to end is extremely debatable, considering how people tend to freak out over the world ending in real life, but I found the stories all enjoyable, and they all have their little twists near the end, as usual.
The chapter titles are all stylized to use the same phonetic katakana pattern, which of course sounds awful in English but clever in Japanese:
The End’s Fool
The Sun Sticker
The Sieged Building (Beer?)
the Hibernating Girl
The Steel Wool
The Celestial Night
The Play’s All
The Deep-Sea Pole
…See what I mean? It was actually the title that made me take so long to read this particular Isaka book, because every time I saw it, it confused me. フール？ It looks like pool and full, both of which make it incomprehensible, and even if you know it means fool, it still doesn’t make any sense until you finish the story.
From 週末のフール(The End’s Fool)
“Dad, what do you even think it means to be smart? Good grades, or going to a good school? Status? That’s what you think, right? That’s fine, I’ll get all of those. You’re an idiot. That’s why my brother is so unhappy, because you’re so stupid.” As if she were pointing out a criminal, she raised her finger at me and said in a wild voice, “My brother can do even bigger things.”
From 深海のポール(The Deep Sea Pole)
“Surviving, I don’t think it’s that logical, like people are chosen, or that there’s categories that decide whether you’re chosen or not. I think it’s something more desperate.”
“Panicking, struggling, agonizing…I think that’s probably what surviving is more like, really.”
Current Isaka Count: 19/32