Sometimes we have to realize our favorite things from Japan, may it be manga, anime, MAD videos, doujinshi, or even video games are made by people, of flesh and blood. Until robots take over the world, the minds of men and women are the source of all that stuff. And those minds are influenced by the same things we are influenced in popular culture.
Viz's new prose imprint, Haikasoru, is bringing over to America translated science fiction books that show their relevance both to what we are familiar with from Japanese pop culture, but also the great science fiction pioneers of the west. These books, while read like light novels in length, are somewhat more serious and provides more substance within its 200-or-so pages.
All You Need Is Kill is one of the first two novels (this being the other) published under that imprint, and it's quite the ride. Written by Yokuwakaru Gendai Mahou's Hiroshi Sakurazaka, this particular piece technically is a light novel, but it's not like any light novel on the shelves right now in the States. Why's that?
All You Need Is Kill
Kill is a story about the not-so-distant future. Humanity is engrossed in a war with an unfamiliar alien threat. The protagonist, a cheeky but level-headed recruit Keiji Kirya, starts out as a total newbie and gradually learns his way around the entire truth of the situation, meanwhile dressed in some kind of robotic suit, wielding the usual sci-fi weaponry, and honing his killer instincts.
The catch is that Kiriya discovers everything through a repeated experience--he relives a period of 48 hours, each time ending with a not-quite metaphorical BAD END. There is no nice boat waiting for him, just the same alien menace trying (and successfully) destroying him in countless different ways. It is Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers.
The characters that surround Kiriya remain largely static. However, not unlike trying to get 100% on a visual novel or a particular Zelda game, each death and reset bring the protagonist down a different path, that reveals to him new information about what is going in the world that a previous trip down the same routine would not have given him.
Sakurazaka's writing in Kill is rather fast paced and to the point, making these 200-some pages to an even faster read. The story is engaging enough, too, that you'll appreciate being able to complete it in a handful of hours. Besides the usual grotesque alien biology and uncultured military life as generally described by like, uncultured words, there's not much that could be objectionable.
Like many light novels, Kill is particular in how it reconstructs its scenes and concepts using ideas we might already be familiar with; tropes. Instead of laboring over detailed description of Kill's technology and dwelling on the eccentric minor characters, Sakurazaka evoke these tropes most of us are familiar with, and focuses the exposition more so on what is going on. Perhaps that attributes to the novel's economy of words, but it manages to make reading about the same routines rather interesting and well-paced. At the same time, the dialog and characterization are direct and pointed, focusing on what is happening; the story is a well-wrapped puzzle, and it takes full advantage of that nonlinear narrative.
If you're into action anime and want something a little less juvenile to read, that doesn't take place in a school, this may well be it. At the same time, titles like this makes Haikasoru a promising concept, if it could continue to deliver novels that may satisfy a more typical sci-fi readership beyond those who only browse the manga section of your local bookstores. It's no coincidence that in the typical big-box bookstore, you can only find All You Need Is Kill in the sci-fi/fantasy section.
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