This is the type of story writing and story telling that is killing the writing industry.
It's a story disguised as a complex one, but at the core, it is simple beyond belief.
The twists and turns of the plot are simply there to briefly trick you even though you've already known the outcome of a certain event.
All its "complexity" just seems like the author getting new ideas and then cramming that idea into the story, realizing it doesn't end in a favorable outcome, and then finding ridiculous ways to explain why the favorable outcome was achieved.
--This review is intended for those who plan to read the novel therefore, it is free of spoilers--
"Kazuki Hoshino. I’m here to break you. This is my 13,118th 'School Transfer'. Even I can't help but get annoyed after so many. So for a change, I'll proclaim war." Those are the words that Aya Otonashi proclaims to our dumbfounded protagonist in the start of the series, and surely, this line not only perplexes the characters in the story, but us as well.
The simple setting of a 13,118th school transfer is enough to pique your interest as this is something that is obviously uncommon. Fortunately, the
first sections of the novel hints of an intricate plot in contrast to the introduction that usually leaves a first impression of a clichéd rom-com act(It turns out to be anything but). The plot would gradually unravel the underlying dark theme that is behind something that is seemingly bright.
Hakomari’s narrative starts by introducing our protagonist Kazuki Hoshino, a rather typical student with an anomalous attachment to his ‘everyday life’. Our protagonist is in the belief that there is no difficulty that cannot be solved by the continuity of everyday life. A belief he later finds to be challenged by no other than the transfer student of phenomenal beauty, Aya Otonashi, who with every school transfer throws the class of 1-6 into confusion and chaos through her stunning looks and resolute personality, and her introductions and statements that unerringly leave the class flabbergasted.
The manner in which the first volume is narrated is somewhat unique. It tells the context of the plot by gradually unravelling the events in the story through an experimental anachronistic manner. (This experimental manner of telling the story would be one of the best aspects to be found not only in this volume, but the others as well, but is most eminent in this volume) It is this manner of narration that I would describe as the glue of the entire novel. The author would always follow a constant perfect pace in character and plot exposition, unveiling his well-thought and complex plot that infallibly leaves the reader impressed.
Plot-wise, the story is narrated in a way that resembles a detective novel and is somewhat reminiscent of Death Note. This is no other than due to the fact that the novel is partly mystery. It sets the pace of the novel by pre-emptively unveiling a mystery that drags the reader to its pace and leaves the reader glued to figuring out the happenings. What’s amazing is, Hakomari is not a detective novel yet it surprisingly does it better than most detective novels and would even rival the acclaimed Death Note in terms of complexity. It has become somewhat of a detective novel because the reader would constantly engage his mind in thinking, constantly trying to figure out the reasons of the events, constantly analyzing the statements and dialogues of each character while evaluating if they hold water, only to find their conjectures more or less wrong as the author unravels his grand scheme. This only serves as a testament that the plot is well-thought and effective because the deception is reflected not only on the characters, but also on the readers – you cannot help but get fooled into thinking what the characters were thinking.
One might even call this novel a quasi-detective novel if not for its disparate focus.
With regards to the supernatural aspect of the novel, the narrative first reveals of the existence of supernatural wish-granting machines called ‘boxes’. These boxes are what sets our novel into perpetual motion. It introduces boxes as something that grants our wishes to the extent and limited by how much we believe in the wish, in other words, a 'box' grants wishes exactly as the person pictures it, that means whatever doubts you have in mind would also be brought to fruition. The idea of a box granting a wish distorted by one’s own beliefs is already enough to catch one’s interest, what’s more interesting though is the possibilities that come along with it that become more or less the core of each volume. In other words what gives this series its spice is not the idea of a flawed wishing machine, but the realization that such a premise has the potential to achieve unique and entertaining plot lines. These said boxes are the complete antithesis of our protagonist’s ideal ‘everyday life’ for which he would constantly seek help in order to neutralize and return to a semblance of his everyday life, even to the point of cooperating with his antagonistic rival – Aya Otonashi.
A bonus that comes off from the nature of the boxes is it becomes well-defined. (Death Note for example has its rules written down for the viewers.) This limits the author to reason out the happenings in the plot unlike most series which involve the supernatural that leave explanations to plot convenience. To add to that, despite having a well-defined set of premises, the author still managed to make a very entertaining, unique and outstandingly dramatic story out of it, which I think is very difficult to do. It does the explaining far better and more intricately than say… genie stories where the source of the story’s plot progression is the malign intentions of the genie in granting wishes, where the author can easily manipulate the actions of the genie to fit his mould of the story rather than constructing a logical plot built on well-defined premises. And when I mention ‘genie stories’, I refer not only to genie stories per se, but it extends to all stories that involve the supernatural but altogether fails to construct a coherent plot.
Despite all the praise Hakomari has, all of it would be impossible if not for the well-rounded and well-conceived characters. From the self-sacrificial perfectionist Aya Otonashi, the unbreakable Kazuki Hoshino to various other characters such as the cryptic and intelligent Daiya Oomine. The cast consists of a set of various characters who come along contrastive personalities at times, but in no manner is any character introduced or portrayed as an airhead. The characters all posses a degree of intellectual independence where the absence of which often leads a story to banality since we rarely find high entertainment value in a story where a protagonist’s inherent ineptitude constantly becomes pivotal to a story. In other words we won't be seeing our clichéd and stereotyped males who are inept at everything they do and our unreasonable females whose insights defy all logic and is commonly attributed 'female intuition'. Actually, we get some of this to a certain degree, but they primarily serve as comic relief.
It is also interesting to note our protagonist's character development as he changes his perception of 'everyday life', some may find it as progressive and some may find it loathsome.
The characters and their respective actions are certainly well-thought that we could sympathize with despite them being fictional. They portray reality very accurately that we can’t help but think that the actions they take bear semblance to what we would. This accurate portrayal of reality would inevitably make others feel that the story bears more semblance of reality and mystery rather than supernatural despite it being the main element of the novel, an aspect that makes the reader attached to it like he is with reality, despite the fact that the story is fantasy/supernatural. To evoke attachment to supernatural fantasies is something rarely achieved in the history of (supernatural) literature as they usually feel ‘distant’.
The author (Eiji Mikage) is able to truly manifest his skills in writing in this novel. He manages to display versatility in sub-genres throughout the volumes by shifting from mystery to commonplace mundane themes and even to engaging in light existential and ontological allusions which he usually integrates to his plot. He blends several elements such as psychological, tragedy and even slice-of-life (as some may perceive it) uniquely in each arc resulting in the readers having mixed feelings. He would also insert his timely scenes of comic relief. Exercising the skill of stacking multi-layered plots through each volume, he would further surprise his readers by unveiling a bigger picture that could have only have been written coherently if the author already has the story conceptualized and laid out in his mind, and only has to fill in the details.
With all of that said, Hakomari is one of the best of stories that has surfaced into the literature repertoire. It is a must read recommended for almost anyone as it explores different genres that reach and appeal to people of different tastes. It always leaves the reader impressed through its outstanding narrative and convoluted plot that would always leave the reader with a satisfying explanation, and always urges you to want to read more through other volumes. And despite this being a novel, where music and animation are absent, I would say that it delivers far more entertainment value than most series (including animations) because it exercises your imagination through its rich narrative that would at times border between metaphorical and literal statements, and unveils a plot that barely falls short of perfect.
That being said though, I wouldn't recommend this to the typical elitist who finds that anything involving teenagers and a school setting is abhorrent and would rather stick to his deliberately ambiguous impossible-to-decipher ultra-philosophical anime. Nor would I recommend it to people who find critical thinking to be a chore.
After an excruciatingly long time of waiting, at long last the seventh volume of Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria (more commonly referred to as HakoMari) has now been released, and with that it's finally time to close the lid on one of the greatest works of literature to have ever originated from Japan, and the overall best light novel I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
HakoMari's story is... *unique* to say the least. It can be classified as fantasy, mystery and psychological above all else, but it really touches upon just about every genre imaginable during the course of its progression. It starts
out seemingly ordinary with a typical high-school boy named Hoshino Kazuki who is extremely fond of the idea of having a so-called "normal, everyday life". But when a mysterious girl called Otonashi Aya one day joins his class, announces that it's her 13,118th school transfer and that she's here to "break him", Kazuki's life immediately becomes as far from normal as humanly possible.
The plot progression of HakoMari is very difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't read it, because it's unbelievably complex and also very niche. It primarily revolves around a wish-granting device called a "box". The "boxes" are given to various people and function in different ways depending on the characters' personalities, what they wish for and also how much they truly believe in the concept of granting wishes to begin with. But either way a box can be considered a space like a fictional world which people can be trapped inside, and it operates under its own rules. In this way, effectively anything is possibly in HakoMari because all laws of normality are completely thrown out the window.
I think HakoMari can be classified as "Chaos Theory". It's completely erratic, yet very systematic. It's completely irrational, yet makes absolutely perfect sense. It's abstract, yet completely logical. It messes with your head like nothing else from essentially the first sentence of the first volume and it never ever stops, but neither does it stop fascinating you with what it's capable of. The plot twists are so incredibly difficult to predict, but they always make you feel like the answer was so obvious all along once the truth is revealed. It's just that well-written, and as a result it never fails to make you smile and impress you.
Almost every single volume is very different from the rest since every box operates under its own set of rules, but they still always maintain the same dark, cryptic yet incredibly captivating atmosphere. This is all possible because the writing and narration is simply superb. The author makes the readers dance to his tune like puppets with his almost cult-like writing style, and when all is said and done it's probably the main reason why HakoMari is so interesting to read. It's like trying to lay a three-dimensional puzzle in the dark, except the author is helping you by guiding your hands for you. In that way it feels like you're being presented an overall storyline that reasonably shouldn't be possible to write, except somehow it actually works out. But it's something that cannot really be explained in words alone, you have to read it for yourself.
Another interesting aspect is that HakoMari has multiple protagonists. It constantly changes perspective. Each and every character is thus provided incredible depth, much more so than you would ever expect from a novel only seven volumes long in total. Furthermore, given the abnormal nature of the story itself, the different perspectives give you vastly different impressions of the flow of events.
Overall, what you have is a light novel which is unlike anything else on the market, has some of the best writing I've ever seen and never ceases to amaze you with its unbelievable twists and turns. It makes you care about the characters something tremendously due to how captivating it is from the very beginning, and presents you with a storyline which is as about as close to flawless as you can possibly get. I don't think I've ever talked to anyone who's read HakoMari and didn't like it, which is something I don't think I've experienced with any other series, regardless of medium.
As it is though, HakoMari is only hyped in the west, but it's basically unknown in Japan. Thus the chances of HakoMari ever getting an anime adaptation are probably rather slim, even now after the novels have finished publishing. However, I do not believe it is humanly possible to make an adaptation of HakoMari that would do the novels justice anyway, so maybe that's for the best. Either way, I'm more than happy with what we got, because it is my all-time favorite light novel and quite simply one of the overall best reads I've ever had in my life. Highly recommended to essentially everyone.
HakoMari's story is one of the most 'cult' light novel story I have ever read, throwing mainstream out from the window right away.
It made me scream like a fangirl.
The story is about Kazuki Hoshino, a boy who very much treasures his normal 'everyday life'. An everyday life, which is no longer normal without he himself realizing it when he met a mysterious transfer student Aya Otonashi.
-- Story : 9/10.
HakoMari's genre is somewhat a combination of fantasy and mystery. The story, like I said, avoids today's light novel mainstream and cliche plot. It's not a stupid boy-meets-girl-then-continue-to-meeting-harem-member. It's a boy-meets-girl-then-reality-went-to-shit kind.
When Kazuki Hoshino met Aya Otonashi, his whole world and the normalcy around him was turned upside down. It turns out he has been repeating the same particular day over and over again, trapped in a time loop. With only the transfer student a.k.a. heroine Aya Otonashi as the one who realize the loop, he needs to struggle out of the loop and get back his normal everyday. Little that he know, his normal life is no longer within reach.
The story itself focus mainly on an wish granting tool known as the 'box'. These 'boxes', given by a certain character that could be said as the main antagonist, reflex on the box's owner personality and granting the owner's wish, but its power only extend as far as how much the owner believes on the 'wish granting concept'. These 'boxes' is our protagonist Kazuki Hoshino archenemies, existences that only serves to destroy his precious normal lives. As the story goes, together with Aya Otonashi, Kazuki meet all kinds of 'box' owners with their own distinct mindset and, more often than not, twisted wishes.
The plot eschew the normal story nowadays and gives us a new but tainted kind of plot. The story is dark indeed; either morally or mentally. But despite the dark fantasy genre, the story would actually feel realistic, felt that the way it unfold could actually happened to our normal life.The writing style is also very unique; each novel uses different style of storytelling and it gives power and impression to each arc, for example is the repeating time loop at first arc and volume.
-- Character : 9/10.
The characters in HakoMari is realistic; you can find people like this around you. Yet each and every one of them is a distinct individual, with their own depth and story.
Our protagonist, Kazuki Hoshino, is a boy with a somewhat abnormal attachment to a concept of 'normal life'. It is the most precious thing for him. Whe it was taken from him, he'd go to his utmost in order to get it back. It is ironic that, despite his love for normalcy, it is the very thing that makes him actually abnormal.
The main heroine, Aya Otonashi, is at first ambiguously portrayed as the main antagonist, with her action completely opposing our protagonist. But it turns out that Aya Otonashi designated enemy is also the very one that serves to destroy the concept of normal life, making him as Kazuki Hoshino's enemy as well. Thus, both of Aya and Kazuki creates a mutual ceasefire relationship, which will develop further and become on that is closer than at the beginning.
Aya Otonashi is a very unique and distinct character; she is unlike any heroine I have ever met. The more the story progress, I as a reader was given more and more revelation about her. Her relationship with the 'boxes' giver is one of the most important point in the series, together with her own, indeed, wish and 'box'.
Besides our two protagonists, a lot of side characters exists as well. Except that there are no side characters in HakoMari.
Like I said before, all the characters in HakoMari is a distinct individual, with their own story. Each and every one of them has their own stage within the story, one that equals our protagonists'. And that gives all characters a strong flavor. Throughout the story, you will find that each character was, in fact, a main character.
As the story goes, the readers will be pleased that each character is given a revelation and/or development. Indeed, in HakoMari characters are not given only development, but revelation as well, to the point that the development itself comes as our view about the character changes and as more and more about the character is revealed. In other words, the characters didn't change; it's us, the readers, who changes the way we perceive those characters. And it's one thing that I love from HakoMari. The credibility of the characters was done by their action within the story, not through the power of narration, making the action they take and thus, their characterization, very realistic.
-- Art : 7/10
As often the case with a novel, art isnt it's strong point and thus, I never gave it much attention. But, again, in HakoMari the art concept is different than most light novel. We are not given an 'event illustration', we are given an illustration that 'symbolize' the current arc and chapter. It is unique in its own way.
The artwork quality itself was not spectacular, but the concept itself was good enough to make up for it.
-- Enjoyment : 10/10
This, in my opinion, is the most important point at reading a novel. Since most people dislike reading novel as seeing only writings and letter can be boring. This is the biggest hurdle for a novel. A novel must be able to give enjoyment to the readers and pull them into the story itself, so not only the reader read the story, but get pulled inside them and LIVE them. The simplest of stories can be a great story if told with great enjoyment.
This series's 'cult' concept is the one aspect that made me attached to and enjoying the series, with the typical harem and cliche plot LNs around. A refreshing idea, combined with dark premises hooked me up immediately.
HakoMari has given me enjoyment to the fullest when reading it. The pacing was perfect; Eiji Mikage write each story segment with perfect proportion and placing that each reading pulls us more and more, until the big bomb of surprise is revealed. The way he writes managed to combine mundane everyday life and comedy segment with fantasy and mystery blending, giving dark premises in the process. The way he blends hem together was so well-done that each segment, like I said, felt realistic and could actually happened around us, despite them being dark fantasy genre.
All in all, HakoMari is a great read; a different story that leave a deep impression within me, with the way the story was told and the characterization. Thus, if you are tired with the same cliche story in most LNs nowadays, I recommend HakoMari to you all. You won't regret it.
P.S. : I actually sincerely hope that there wont be an anime adaptation of this, as I believe there are no studios that could captivate the story as perfect as I imagine it. I hope I will be proven wrong.
I don't think myself able to write an objective critic to HakoMari, not while the last volume is still so vivid in my mind. As such, this is not a review, but a love letter to this wonderful novel.
HakoMari is, in a nutshell, a wild ride. A crazy, reckless and downright cruel wild ride.
The story, while thought out really well, is really just a container. It's the playbox where all the characters are thrown into while being told "Now do what you want".
And the characters are really what makes this series so worthwhile and unforgettable.
Characters who love each other but
end up hurting each other.
Characters who hate each other but end up realizing how much they resemble each other.
All of them, unmistakably broken.
HakoMari is not supposed to be a "feel-good" novel. It has the wonderful gift of being able to present characters who are hurt, broken and in despair without looking edgy or try-hard.
Because at its core HakoMari is a story about many different things.
A story about regrets.
A story about envy.
As tory about boredom.
A story about misunderstandings.
A story about loneliness.
And a story about "love"
They all wander clumsily through the story, while searching for their real value, their real self, their real "wish".
And you are there with them, watching as they laugh, cry, and get hurt.
And, before even realizing it, you too have a "wish".
That at the end of their struggles, some kind of "good end" will await them...
If you have a box that grants any wish, would you use it?
Can you actually believe that something like really could exist?
Actually not, isn't it?
I assume that I was really anxious to see the end of this novel to know it and write a review. As far as I can concern, The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria (Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria a.k.a HakoMari) is one of the Japanese Novels that touched me most. There is the Japanese masterpiece for 21th century.
Often people who watch something want an STORY to enjoy, or for enjoyable show, at least. Instead of deliver it, HakoMari
works with epiphanies, metaphors, examples and human questions inside several somewhat big monologues. Actually they are not exactly "funny", but amazing INTERESTING and good to make you reflect. They are so fantastic that it can be "simple" but complex. Immature but mature. Irrational but rational. They can fit in most kinds of tastes, however it is deeper and deeper and author isn't afraid to show weird side of world. Obviously there are a story. However this is not the most important thing. "Hidden Messages" are more important. Think and look forward seeing it! Moreover suspense is great and VERY hard to predict. It is always trick with your mind! Twists are not forced and coherents, very good at all with little flaws (especially in last volume, as I expected).
Characters are good too! They are humans. They are natural and believable! Every single character have their own personalities and thoughts, except for singular cases here and there. Also they have space to think, act, appear as main characters. You can love or hate someone from beginning, but your perspective would change bit a bit when you read. As someone said "when you know someone, this person couldn't be your enemy anymore". HakoMari works with this line with characters and readers. Furthermore their reactions, thoughts twists and trouble treats are center of attention for these books. It could help to understand better how human heads work.
Illustrations are good, but they are not so amazing and there are few pictures... I think it's a good point based on words and readers imagination are the best points of this, so images aren't needed at all. Because of these elements, my grade is seven for it.
Well, I love it and recommend to all people who want to know more about human beings and enjoy at same time. It's interesting without any boring parts... Oh, except for second volume. If you want to give up because of it, forget this stupid idea. Second volume is the majority flaw, but when you overcome it, you can access the whole potential of this novel. YOU MUST READ IT! XD
Oh, yes. Settings are somehow different too. Situations and plot are somewhat innovative. "Nothing is priceless" is remembered here in whole novel, so you have to expect that it can be interesting with almost flawless formula. Finally I can say that this work of fiction is the prove of depression can be productive.
This is a masterpiece. It is truly unbelievable what the author has managed to do with so very little. Hell, the first volume takes place nearly entirely in the same location and you don't care. The story is THAT compelling. If you are looking for a good story, one that gives you something that makes you want to keep reading, read this.
It has plot twists like no other story I've ever read. Plot twists that you don't see coming, but make sense. They make such perfect sense you can't believe you didn't realize it yourself.
I would only start if you have time to spare
because you will be hooked.
The author has it as a free .pdf file on their website, which confused me at first. It's also in a different format than any other story I've read. Don't let this deter you. The description doesn't give this story justice. You will love it.
“I won't have a conversation with you. You will just listen to my words like an idiot." [p. 45]
Well, that pretty much sums up how reading this book feels like.
Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria is a light novel series by Mikage Eiji told in seven books, which I don't know if I'll ever read till the end because just the first one, The Rejecting Classroom here reviewed, was such an experience Game of Thrones suddenly seems worth the Nobel prize for literature in comparison. And I'm talking about a book written so badly there are empty, generic passages like:
“The hall rang to Yunkish
laughter, Yunkish songs, Yunkish prayers. Dancers danced; musicians played queer tunes with bells and squeaks and bladders; singers sang ancient love songs in the incomprehensible tongue of Old Ghis.” [from 'A Dance with Dragons']
Ugh, how it does not express any kind of mood or content.
One premise: I, as well as likely many western readers of the series, do not speak japanese, so this entire review (or analysis, or rant, you choose) is going to refer to Baka-Tsuki's English translation of the first novel; whether it is faithful or not to the original text, for the sake of the review I'll generally refer to whoever is behind it, be it Mikage Eiji or a translator, as “the author”. It's my way of being fair and unbiased, please bear with it.
Back on topic, I opened with an actual big claim: the author's writing is worse than G. R. R. Martin's. It's not unusual to find dry and unispired prose in light novels, but for it to be so terrible I actually gave up four times prior in the first pages is an amazing result. Let's take for example page 13 of the first volume; Daiya, our protagonist's best friend, informs him about the incoming transfer student, to which Hoshino, our protagonist, absent-mindedly replies that he already “heard something about it”. Now this was a really bad move on his part because immediately Daiya begins questioning him on how he knew about the transfer student, presenting a lenghty reasoning to prove the impossibility for Hoshino to know anything of it, just to completely shrug it off next page with a “Well, whatever”. And the topic will never be discussed again.
So why even bother in the first place? The answer is actually pretty simple; it was so we could be informed, in a very straight-forward manner, about the story being a time loop. Which, incidentally, was clearly so since the first line in the novel, “1st time”. It became more obvious at the fourth line “23th time” and almost insultingly forced upon us at the seventh line “1050th time” [p. 10]. So I get it, there's a time loop, I know you have to explain it to the readers but, since it's already an established plot point since the very first page, is it necessary to be so redundant about it? It seems nitpicking, I know, but it's important to understand how the author is poorly using repetitions to get across a very simple point, as if he's not confident enough about his plot so he has to retrace it again and again.
And that's overlooking the stiff small talks in which the characters engage in the first few pages. Still, if we need further evidences of the author awkward prose, here's some other passages from the following pages:
“It's not good to be making these guesses about the transfer student, it's prejudice. I mean she's already in a suspicious position even without that.” [p. 14]
Why would she be? Never explained. Also this statement sounds quite prejudicial itself.
“She sits down naturally at the empty seat beside mine, almost as if this seat has been prepared for her from the start.” [p. 15]
Isn't that how it usually works, the transfer student gets the empty sit? Maybe there were several empty seats she could choose from but it is never stated otherwise so how could we know? The way it is presented it's not something so weird it deserves this enigmatic phrasing.
“The white legs that look out from Mogi-san's skirt are so thin, […] And I am, for some reason, sleeping with my head on her lap. Ah, yeah. I don't have a clue anymore of what´s going on, either. […] I can, by the way, remember how it came to this.“ [p. 16]
Either you don't have a clue of what's going on or you do, there's really no in-between. One cannot know and not know about something, Socrates would go insane at the mere thought. You probably meant to say that the protagonist is confused about the situations he's in, but that's way too roundabout and misspelled to express such a simple point.
“Daiyan is so intelligent it's not even funny, right? […] And he said he would simply write «Aya Otonashi». So he couldn't think of anything else to write. Of course it's the same for me. What I want to say is, well, we can't think of anything, so we can't write anything else, either." [p. 23]
“'Sent back' is the correct expression from my own perspective, but generally it's not. So I'm using the expression 'School Transfer' here, since it's closer to what actually happens––” [p. 25]
My mind just did several back flips in the attempt to understand what is even written here.
"Forgetting how to take it out is a common case. But you have just forgotten it; somewhere, you still know how. Like you know how to ride a bicycle: you can't teach it to others, but you know it as a feeling. You're just bewildered because you can't convert it into words." [p. 29]
Since no one is seen laughing after this sentence, I have to believe it was intended as a serious statement, which raises the question: are the author's thoughts so hazy and messy he can't even imagine how to explain the basic concept of riding a bycicle? Does he think it's a natural innate ability we inherit from our DNA, or is it so difficult in his or her native language to say “sit on the saddle, balance yourself with one leg, start spinning the pedal with the other leg and keep going so you don't fall”, which I believe is how most parents teach their children how to ride a bicycle.
Furthermore, who already read the novel surely noticed the extensive use of underlined text, which is a rather unusual stylistic choice. I checked the original text to see if it was just the english translation and apparently even in japanese it was used a similiar fashion to stress relevant plot points. Which is simply a way to say “Look, this part here is very, very important, be sure to remember just this and nothing else on this paragraph. Don't worry about remembering the actual text or story, we are doing it for you”. Being treated as a Chalmers' zombie is not exactly the most flattering way to relate to a book, especially when we have at hand supposedly a mystery novel and a great deal in mystery is for the reader to actually think about the plot, to even try and solve it before the heroes get to the solution. I actually searched to understand the reason behind the underlined text and, seemingly, it's to add emphasis on important parts. Very well, then let's check one of these important parts:
“My friend Haruaki Usui, [who is sitting next to me]” [p. 19]
The bit in brackets was originally underlined and no, there's no real reason why it should be. Nothing gained from emphasis and no tension whatsoever. Some may argue that there is in fact a reason for wherever Haruaki is sitting to be of utmost importance for us; some pages later Haruaki is run over by a truck and immediately after we are brought back to the classroom where “Haruaki, who is sitting beside me, worries about me.” [p.30]. So, it was intended to accentuate, yet again, that our plot revolves around a time loop, which we've seen has been far well established by this point and, moreover, this paragraph even started with the line “2602nd time”. So, again, why is Haruaki's sit so important it needs an underscore and how long will we need to be reminded about the time loop before the plot even begins?
I'll hold back further remarks about the writing itself (it'll never get much better anyway) so I can express my point up to now: we barely hit the 30-page mark, of which 8 pages were pictures, and the author has so far revealed him or herself to be redundant, contradictory, shallow, confused and, apparently, so uncomfortable with the vocabulary he can't explain how to ride a bicycle. And he's supposed to tell a compelling thriller/horror/sci-fi story in the remaining 120 or so pages. Forgive me for being quite skeptical.
In fact, what we know by page 30 of the story is that a transfer student named Otonashi Aya is repeating the same day over and over again until she obtains a box from the protagonist Hoshino Kazuki. If he does not comply, people dies. Sounds like a very bad fanfic of Groundhog Day, and there's not even Bill Murray to raise the quality of the cast but we'll live with that. The problem raises when the story tries to set the tone for the central conflict between the two main characters but the actual contents consist of faux wit duels: “Are you stupid? Here's a lenghty explanation as to why”, “Ah! I'm actually a rather smart fellow. Here's a lenghty retort as to why.”, copy and paste for some chapters. My God, this pacing. Also basically everyone express him or herself the same way so after a while you don't even bother with who's accusing who anymore. Now it's starting to sound as a bad Death Note fanfic.
The whole reasoning behind the time loop is quite romantic. It's literally the same as the Endless Eight plus murders but I sincerely appreciated the spin the story gave to the concept. Too bad it took almost a hundred pages of redundancy to get to it; and that the culprit motivations were explaind in a mere page; and that they even tried to hide it for almost twenty more pages; and the solution is brought upon us by circumstantial and meaningless evidences (yes, the pouch). And really, can the murderer blame someone for not remembering what happens in a time loop controlled by the same murderer? I mean it's obvious that the memories will mostly reset if you restart everything from the beginning. I seriously did not understand why they were accused of forgetting what happened in the previous loops [p. 100]. By the end there's also so much of the story based on the concept of “the box” it's just inexcusable no one ever bothered to explain what it was. It grant wishes, sure, but then the wish separate itself from the person, but the “attachment” stays [p. 113], there's the conflict with other box users [p. 66], the fact that one can be closed inside a box [p. 115] because boxes are alternate dimensions? [p. 65] and boxes can be people, or people can be boxes?, it's all too vague and alien to me. The more I read of a book the more I expect to understand, not the the exact opposite.
Let's now discuss our hero, Hoshino Kazuki, a high-school boy gifted with a remarkable intellect. For being such a thoughtful protagonist, Hoshino seems to repeatedly fail to ask the most obvious and important questions, such as “How could I fall in love during the time loop when there had been little to no interactions between me and the girl?”, “What exactly is the box?”, “Who is the asterisk guy?”, “Who is Otonashi Aya?”, “Why only a person related to the classroom can be the culprit?” and “If I did my summer homework would Haruhi stop this madness already?”. He also has some very confused ideas about time and geology: “Everyday life is called everyday life because it flows continuously. If you stopped the flow of a river, then mud would gather and paint it black. It's just like that. Sediment has gathered here as well.” [p. 50]. So, that's not the actual meaning of “everyday”, that's not what happens to a river when you dam it and while the comparison between the flow of time and the flow of a river is common since ancient philosophy, it really does not apply here that well. Had Hoshino been described as a complete berk I would have said he was one of the most believable hero I've encountered in light novels yet.
Then there's the main heroine, Otonashi L Lelouch Light whatever, a girl so smart the moment she's asked to kindly and simply explain the whole story to us- I mean, to Hoshino, her answer is “There will be hindrances if I explain the details to you. Thus I can't tell you.” [p. 65]. Straight out from the international guide on how to avoid any explanation so the readers have to keep hoping that the plot will eventually make sense. Many mistakes this approach for “mystery” when, by its own definition, mystery is “something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain […] whose [...] nature is puzzling or unknown” [Oxford dictionaries], which really does not translate to “completely avoiding explanations or answers”.
Then what is that HakoMari confuses shallowly as mystery? From the very beginning, we are lead to believe that the protagonist is behind a time loop (which, again, is not that much of a mystery since it was established on page 10) because he accepted the box [p. 8], except he didn't actually accept the box [p. 53] in a turn of events which resembles more the act of throwing a stone and hiding the hand than an actual plot twist. The first moment the mystery is properly addressed and we are given an insight of the culprit [p. 80] it's so painfully obvious who the novel is referring to that I'm left to wonder, was any of this really a mystery to begin with? I guess so, because they even went as far as giving us a red herring to hide the true culprit after that point, and I could only feel sad about it because it meant we reached the point where the author ran out of ideas so he tried to delay as much as possible the solution. Which also reminds me of another flaw which usually occurs in mysteries: when you are mixing fantasy with mystery, either you are called Murakami Haruki or you really should stop, because it will always result in a battle of sci-fi jargon that has little to nothing to do with actual wits or plot twists. And it's also very anticlimactic. Ryukishi07 knows what I'm talking about.
This approach to the story also reflects how HakoMari's author loves to spout unpopular sentences to make his or her characters appear unconventional and witty, when said sentences are not even remotely put into any context: "[Love and hatred a]re the same. ...No, they are certainly different. Love's a worse feeling than hatred because people themselves aren't aware of its dirtiness. It's just repulsive."[p. 87] I can accept this kind of line when I find it in the lyrics of some emo noise metal hardcore band's songs, mostly because I don't listen to any of those genres so they can write whatever they wish; but when a character in a novel stands with such a strong argument, the least I expect is for some in depth study of the character to justify said statement. What do we get then after this? “That doesn't matter now.” [p. 87] which, since characters motivations are so dimly addressed, is a sentence the author must have applied to the whole idea of character development.
At this point some may retort “The first book is just an introduction to the setting and characters; the story actually gets good by the nth volume, there are also the answers you are seeking”, to whom I reply “I'm not sure I want to keep on eating at this restaurant when the appetiser were nettle-coated living locusts, even their pomegranate-chocolate pizza sound suspicious”. I had some exchanges with people who actually went on with the series, and the auspices look far from brighter to me:
“It gets hyped by its niche fans because it loves to shove HUMANS ARE EVIL all the time. We all know people love that. I also hate the author's inability to get to the point instead of going on overblown tangents filled with unnecessary thoughts on how a character feels. […] Well, it is distrust involving romantic abuse which makes it even better. One of the characters convinces a girl to get gang raped in order to prove to him that she loves her. That girls also likes to be burned with cigarettes. The [main character] likes to drink the tears off his girlfriend, which I think is kind of cool. So stuff like that.”
When I'm told I'm about to read mature, controversial content I would expect Pasolini, Kafka or Hardy, not any random issue of the Punisher comic books, because that's really far from the definition of “mature”.
And if the argument “You can't judge it just for the first book” still stands, then I must ask, why are there series which manage to narrate a good overall story while being made of good stand-alone books? The Zaregoto, Spice and Wolf and Haruhi series are major examples, some may say Narita Ryogho's works, and even outside the light novel medium there are the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, Dune, Gormenghast, Earthsea, Narnia, even Harry Potter manages that! It's clever to base future books' events on what was already established previously, that's foreshadowing done good; not so much when key plot points of the first book are not seen nor discussed til much later because up to that point the single book will still count as flawed, as it doesn't explain the fundamental of its own foundations.
The Rejecting Classroom was indeed one of the worst books I've ever read: it was pretty predictable, often times self-contradictory and incredibly redundant; but at least things happened, thanks to the fact these books are so short you can read them in a single afternoon. I'm going to continue this series, none of what I discussed up to know is ever going to be changed by further knowledge of the universe of course, but some very small aspects such certain funny dialogues, passages and actual events and the overall theme of human desire might be worth giving the series the benefit of the doubt. And simply put, from times to times I'm in need of quick, childish, light-hearted reads like this.
Although, The Seven Night in the Mud certainly does not open in any brighter manner:
“In the first place; the «everyday life», which you don't get tired to mention all the time, is different from the «everyday life» as it is perceived by others. You include the loss of things in your perception of «everyday life», am I right? This is, in fact, different from the common definition of «everyday life». Other humans are unable to take it as it comes, […] Every human is distorted, and their «everyday life» gets twisted by their individual values. You could say that a 'box' forces this distortion upon others. You are sensitive to these intentional distortions of the «everyday life» by the 'boxes' of others — and you find them repulsive. Am I wrong?”
But at least this time the book itself replies the same way I would:
“I really have not the slightest idea what he's talking about. Let me be already.”
Simply put, the more you progress through the story arcs, the more convoluted it becomes. It gets really bad during the survival game part that is covered in 2 volumes. It is equivalent to an 8 year old continually making rules to a game that is changed to his or her convenience. That really summarizes all the story sections in general.
The way the characters think and talk seem like they are trying to sound really clever when it really is a bunch of bs that would make a politician blush. The amount of dialogue needed to convey their feelings and attitude is often only a
third of what is there. It's like the author just had free-writing exercises and forgot to edit it.
I will probably be cyber-lynched for sharing my opinion on this critically acclaimed piece of literature, but personally this series just screams mediocre to me, hence the score. I'm really just reading it because I literally have nothing else to read during my breaks. Though the characters and their story of struggle had potential, in the end it's just a big ball of convolution for you to un-ravel with sticky fingers.
THIS is the light novel that just keeps you at edge of the seat.....the story revolves around wish creating box .simple but main point of the story is about what u gain and what you lose after being granted those you strive for.These box also opens up negative side of your wish ie curses to be granted aswell. this is a story about a guy who loves his daily life and doesnot want any change to it and a girl who sacrifices herself to give other wishes .this is a story about clash between rationality and irrationality.IN THE END THIS IS STORY ABOUT PPL WHO
CANT THINK ABOUT THEMSELVES FIRST ..and a guy who is willing to even let his
love die to get his normal day to day life back
"Masterpiece" is a buzzword commonly thrown about in relation on this website. There are many pieces of fiction people consider worthy of the title, and many more people overlook. To be honest, when I looked into reading this, I was not expecting much. At the very most, it seemed a redundant amalgamation of all of the generic clichés that come with "school life" fiction. In addition, having read Oyasumi Punpun and Onani Master Kurosawa prior to Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria (which fans have likened as Hakomari), the bar was VERY high.
My God, was I shocked.
-- Immediately from volume 1, you get a grasp of this odd sort of chaotic coherence, and the ordinary conventions and tropes are deconstructed and defenestrated. The utter nuance of the piece is incredible.
Volume 1 does take its time unraveling the plot; details aren't force fed, but allowed a slow digestion time as the story lets you catch up at the same pace as the characters. Volume 2 was rather weak, in my opinion, as the story had very little to grant--it seemed almost as if an episodic nature had been born. Volume 3 seemed to continue the trend, and I had even considered absconding from the series for a short reprieve...but then I read volume 4. Suddenly, the characters develop at an incredible rate, and their stories are enough to send chills down your spine--and it only picks up from there.
I won't dally too much on the details of the story, but I will say that it is intricate and complex; there is no definite plot for the first few volumes, as it forgoes that for developing the character interactions.
ART: 9 -- The art, of course, is Light Novel art. There's not really much to work off of, but the art is very befitting for the sort of story the author is trying to convey.
CHARACTERS: 10 -- This is, in my opinion, where Hakomari excels above all other. The characters in this story are so well-made that realistic does not begin to describe them. Every single character's complex psyche is explored in this story, and you begin to realize the sheer intimacy of the characters that acts duplicitously from the grand scale of the plot.
ENJOYMENT: 10 -- This is a series that you can't seem to put down. It latches on to you with incredible force, and you find yourself absorbed into the story to the point where it would not be surprising to find yourself making exclamations while reading. I certainly did.
Overall: 10 -- The themes dealt with in Hakomari are dark. The story is a very cynical take on society, but it deals with that take so fluidly that it almost feels comfortable with the flaws in its society. It is a perfect union of euphoria and melancholy.
Is it a masterpiece? That depends entirely on how Eiji Mikage ends the story. But I will say this: it is the single greatest piece of fiction I have ever read from Japan.
What a beautiful piece of writing~
Have you ever wondered if there's a divine deity watching us?
Have you ever wanted to escape your repetitive everyday life?
Have you thought for a moment that you could change fate/destiny?
Basic Story Outline: A story revolving around Kazuki Hoshino, a student who lives quite the delightful and repetitive everyday life. However on the 2nd of March, near the end of the class year, a beautiful and mysterious girl named Aya Otonashi is transferred for the 13,118th time in his class and when she introduces herself, she directly targets Hoshino, saying that she’ll break Hoshino. Confusing and pretty bizarre huh?
Utsuro no Hako
to Zero no Maria is certainly a complex, mysterious, dark, twisted, and surprisingly rather funny story about people's most basic values vs reality of the world. At first look, the story just seems like a mystery with some random murders/deaths here and there and some suspense. But oh my, is it so much more. The viewers are led to follow the characters in masterfully done multiple iterations of the same day and the struggles they have in each one. The grand suspense that's built up through small, detailed developments are brilliant. The feelings of every character: Loss of a "human" way to think even if our senses kick back just to take us back to reality. The mysterious aspect of this show is similar to that of Death Note (and if you haven't read/watched Death Note, then I don't know what you're doing with your life). The symbolic, and most important things in the manga though are the boxes. The wishes are supposedly "wish-granting genies" and depending on how strong your passion for that dream is, it'll come true. Now, this is obviously not just some easy, Aladdin 3-wish childish stuff. The boxes are a symbol of temptation and they are an escape of Kazuki Hoshino's repetitive everyday life.
Absolutely a marvelous story, but it'd be nothing without the magical characters. All the characters are absolutely genius, and no one will leave you annoyed; they'll leave you rather dumbfounded after each thought (especially Aya). The change in the characters throughout the novel is wondrous, especially Kazuki's perception of "life" itself. The art was average, could have used some better art, but nonetheless it was readable, and enjoyable. Honestly, the art needed a more dark premise approach to it... Oh and did I ask you yet...? Do you believe in God?
A fine masterpiece indeed. One of the more genius writings of literature. Definitely a novel that people should check out, if they can process some complex/confusing/deep stuff. Closest similarity to this novel would be Death Note. Check out both, they're both masterpieces.
"Do you have a wish? This is a box that grants any wish."
"Kazuki Hoshino, I'm here to break you."
"We are surrounded by soft, sweet, and pure white despair."
The Empty Box and The Zeroth Maria is a dark story about a flawed wish-granting device that causes trouble for our protagonist Hoshino and Otonashi.
The story took place around Ikebukuro, in which a district of Japan. The settings are mostly involving just one tileset at each volume, mostly around the school. But the story are somewhat unique that you will not be bored despite being so.
The story begins when a transfer student called Aya Otonashi, that have just
transferred to a a school and intends to 'break' Kazuki Hoshino, a normal boy in which likes umaibo snacks and heavily attached to his daily life, right after her introduction. She claimed that it's her 13,118th transfer. She then told Kazuki about the existence of box in which could grant any wish, and that they're trapped inside a box and must find and stop the culprit, because some tragic incident happened involving the box, in which every box design was the symbolizations of the 'owners' characteristics, as it's their wish. Because of this, Kazuki's 'daily life' ruined. As the story goes, stress, depression, identity crisis, moral dilemmas, how a seemingly perfect system flawed heavily, and even death occurs. HakoMari managed to give a heavy thrilling, sinister, and surreal athmosphere as you read it. There's also so many other unexpected plot twists too, but I avoid of telling them so that you can enjoy HakoMari at it's fullest.
Nothing Much to say here, same as other Light Novels, there are only few illustrations about it, it somewhat surreal, and it's good IMO.
This is one of the most interesting part of HakoMari IMO. There are many characters here and most of them are well developed, in which a character that takes a main role on a volume may recurring at some next few volume, either be a protagonist or an antagonist. I can also say that all of the characters are well developed, as how their backstories such as tragic pasts, how they deal with the 'box', their involvement on mind games, ulterior motives, how their personality changes as more box involved around their life, and their aftermath. I think almost every characters tend to have spoilery stories so I also avoid to told it more. Such tragedy happened in almost every characters and you may even shocked or shed some tears.
Couldn't expect more from this story, it's a brilliance IMO. I glued at this story, even when I was a bit sleepy, HakoMari managed to make me stay awake when I read it. Even the tiniest bit of comedy managed to make me laugh as I read this story. Also, I enjoy this story because of it's not focused just on one characters (I don't really like stories that only develops 1 character) To be honest, I can say that this is the current Magnum Opus story I've read so far. Completely mindblown.
I highly recommend for you guys who are fans of time traveling stories like Madoka Magica or Steins;Gate, and Survival or Mind Games like Death Note or Danganronpa to read this LN. And if these LNs was sold in your local bookstores, I recommend you to just buy it, because it's a bit sad that such a Masterpiece not sells pretty well in Japan, as this story is 'different' than most LNs.
Okay I think that's all for my reviews, thanks a lot for reading and I hope you enjoyed my review!
I usually don't write reviews. But for this novel, I even made this account just for the purpose of making this review. Why ? The reason is simple, it's because this is the best story I have ever read / known in my life.
Let's start with art. Art is not needed in this novel, because the novel is relying on obscuring the facts, especially in volume 1 and 7 , so I rate the art 7/10.
The story , character, and enjoyment from volume 1-6 are really great, The story is really good with plot twist you would not see coming but makes
perfect sense, Characters is really engaging , I really enjoyed my time with it and overall for volume 1-6 I would personally rate it 9/10. Volume 1-6 IMO is one of the best stories out there.
BUT, then volume 7 came out. Volume 7 is the thing that made this novel the best story I have ever known in my life. It's so good that volume 1-6 felt like a long prologue to this volume. The author really knows how to push a story and its character to the limit. I have never seen any story being pushed that crazy before. Most other stories will just stop and "twist" itself to a happy ending after vol 7 chapter 1. This one makes the tragedy even worse. I bet you will remember this story for a long long time, because how impactful and traumatizing this is. For me, Volume 7 deserve way more than 10/10.
So yeah, if you haven't read this novel, READ IT NOW! Volume 1-6 is still a great story, but please, read until volume 7 for the part that makes this novel a true masterpiece.
Warning! This novel will make most tragedies in other stories seems small when compared to this novel.
Before I read the Volume 7 , I thought the best story was Vampire Juuji Kai. It has a really awful tragedy that is thoroughly logical, and no other stories can compare to that. I have even read it 4 times, because it is that good. I thought no other stories can match to Vampire Juuji Kai. Volume 1-6 of hakomari can't match Vampire Juuji Kai too IMO, even though volume 1 has a really awesome story.
But then, volume 7 came out fully translated 1-2 weeks ago. I
read it in one go, and then I was left speechless. Vampire Juuji Kai had a tragedy that made me cry badly, but this one did not make me cry at all, instead, it made me horrified. I can't even sleep well after reading it that night. It is just batsh*t insane. And, in my opinion it's even slightly better than Vampire Juuji Kai, which made me surprised.
It is the BEST story I have ever known. Read 'till volume 7, and you will understand what I am talking about. You will not be dissapointed.
Simply the best thing ever written hands down. Only one complain. It is hard to read and understand at first but you will get use to it half way through. A masterpiece written by a genius. Download it right now and just go READ IT. I have nothing else to say.
You will find the best plot twists ever. Its impossible to guess right. You are never correct. In just one sentence everything will twist.
Well its a light novel so it only has a few pictures.
The characters are amazing and so smart. I love Otonashi. I don't
know how she is still sane. I love the character development. The main characters becomes so bad ass toward the end.
I really enjoyed it. Try to read it. It may be hard at first but trust me you won't regret it. You will really enjoy it.
I'm sorry to be 'that guy' but I really don't understand why this is rated so high. This is the first light novel I've read and I did enjoy it but it isn't the best thing ever.
To all who are not sure of reading it, give it a shot. You might enjoy it. The character Aya Otonashi might just be the best thing in this first volume followed by Usui. I didn't really feel much for the main character. He just seemed bland and boring in his choice of dialogue. I also wasn't really sure which side he was
on most of the time.
Maybe all of this criticism is biased cause I read through it pretty quickly.
I like how they're going for a different concept that isn't too cliche. The never-ending classroom and the fact that it already looped through an astounding number of times kept me interested.
I will continue to read in hopes of being pleasantly surprised by what's to come.
I would like to start this review by saying that I'll be covering all 6 volumes of the light novel in this review. While the first volume might be used as the framework and even the basis of the entire novel, the volumes that followed Volume 1 are equally important and I'll try to focus on the series as whole instead of talking about the almost flawless first volume. [If you see me say Hakomari it is another title for Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria. It's just easier to type]
Story - 10/10
Assuming you have read the synopsis of this novel you'd have
some kind of idea about the setting and atmosphere of the story. I feel that the synopsis really doesn't describe the novel as a whole and even though it focuses on outlining the first volume's plot, it fails to encompass the entire theme and idea behind the novel. Hakomari's first volume flawlessly expands on the synopsis provided to create one of the most intriguing and complex stories that you'll find. You will constantly attempt to solve the mystery yourself and while the story may provide clues to the reader you will often find yourself mistaken in many aspects of this story. The novel does this throughout its entirety and although Volume 2 falls slightly in this regard the rest of the novel is almost perfect. The story is constantly evolving, changing and twsting itself into a seamless expanse of "mind-fuckery" (as I like to call it).
Art - 8/10
I would have liked to leave Art out of the review as I felt it played no part in the novel whatsoever apart from putting a face to my beloved characters. I've given it an 8 simply because it didn't feature prominently in the novel and wasn't an integral part of it. Added to that is the art itself. I liked it but I felt something was off. No idea how to describe it.
Characters - 10/10
Hakomari might seamlessly twist and weave a story that leaves you wondering what's up and what's down but it is the characters presented in the story that manage to steal the spotlight. Throughout its entirety, Hakomari creates some of the most fleshed out and developed characters that you'll ever find. I'll take for example, Kazuki Hoshino, who begins a transformation in the latter half of the 6 volumes that leaves him as a completely different person. Eji Mikage manages to make this transformation seamless as Kazuki slowly but surely transforms into one of the most amazing characters. He's my favourite character for a reason as his transformation uses some of his most defining features and amplifies them due to his obsession with someone. I used Kazuki as an exaple but I can promise that every single character is just as fleshed out and many of them do go through transformations or personal makeovers due to their indivual challenges.
Enjoyment - 10/10
Hakomari is my favourite light novel for a reason. the very first volume takes place in literally one classroom and for most of the volume the setting never changes. Even though the setting doesn't change the story and characters are phenomenal and I was simply drawn in and wasn't let go until I finished all 6 volumes. All 6 volumes are unique, diverse and above all interesting and enjoyable. Hakomari is simply a masterpiece.
Overall - 10/10
I wish more people would recognise the masterpiece that is Hakomari. Today's manga and anime industry is flooded by copy-paste, bland and unoriginal content that uses the same formulas. Hakomari surpasses these constraints and manages to pull off a unique concept flawlessly. If you haven't done so already go pick up Hakomari now and get nice and comfortable because you're about to go on a ride that you'll likely never want to get off of.
Ahhhh, how I love stories that go against the flow of the river like a beautiful school of salmon. In a type of media that seems to be swarming with Harem, RPG SAO wannabes and bad attempts at making something different, HakoMari certainly comes as a nice a gem. If you are tired of those types of stories, and want something different, or if you like some nice mystery with romance and some suspense, then this is light novel for you.
However, I believe there is just too much hype over this one. It is good, yes, it is great! But I think there are too
many people just jumping on the 10/10 wagon, so I wish to bring another point of view as well. Over the course of this review, I will state why I gave this a 9/10.
Firstly, as I have said before, HakoMari is different. It is also hard to describe because it is a story that would be hard if not impossible to adapt to other type of media other than a light novel (so we probably won't be seeing any manga or anime adaptation, and if they try, it will suck. I guarantee it). That means that a lot of the descriptions going on in the story is up to your imagination on how you picture it.
Thus, my first and best example of it is also the main theme of the story, the concept of "boxes". Right from the start, the author introduces us to the existence of these "boxes" that can grant wishes depending on the character personality and state of mind. That being said, these "boxes" alter the lives of the people that come in contact with them, and quite frequently, the persons around them as well.
Which sets the tone for our protagonist, Kazuki Hoshino, purpose. Kazuki is obsessed with what the author defines as his "everyday life", that is, the normal life of a male japanese high school student, meeting girls so that he may create his own Har.... I mean, having fun with his friends... Kidding aside, the very concept of "boxes" goes against his idea of "everyday life" as something abnormal, and it is his objective to destroy these "boxes".
The author also does a damn fine job at grabbing your attention right from the get go throwing the mystery right at your face and with the enigmatic words of our lovely main heroine Aya Otonashi.
The story also tries to question several concepts of society and can be considered realistic to a point, although I have some reservation which I will talk about soon. Every novel also has a different setting for the main characters, with a different writing styles all perfectly adequate for each of the volumes making each one unique.
Combine all that with a very well written and revised story with no plot holes that I noticed, and you have a must read.
So far, you might be wandering, if it is so good, why is the score a 9 out of 10? Indeed, and the reason is the characters, which for me also happen to lower a bit the score of the other aspects as well (hence I gave 9/10 to the story). Now, let me make this clear, the characters and very good, way better than the vast majority of your run-of-the-mill characters, however it is far from perfect.
Let me present the good aspects.
First, the characters are all not stupid. Which is already more than we can usually ask. But the author also tries to make them deep with dark pasts and real motives as to why they want something or the other. It also presents conflict between the beliefs of each one, which is one of the main driving aspects of the story.
Furthermore, every character that appears for some time has a purpose in the story and contributes significantly to it. The protagonist and main heroine also have personalities that makes the reader root for them. And unlike several stories, all characters develop with their actions and grow as an individual.
The relationship between the two main characters, is also a delight too see and one of the selling points of HakoMari.
However...... during the course of my reading, I always had a feeling, an itch if you will. I couldn't exactly pinpoint what it was at the begging, but in the later volumes it became clear.
The characters feel fake. All of them. And thus the story also suffers from it as well.
And that is why I said the story is realistic to a point. The author just tried too hard to make them realistic with dark pasts and beautiful motivations to the point that they don't feel real. Now before any white knight comes screaming at me that his is just a fantasy, the biggest selling point of the light novel is that it wants the reader to feel connected to the "realism" in it and think of all the the terrible things that happened with the characters so that you may think of all the hidden "messages" it is trying to pass. It wants us to believe that could also happen in a real world setting.
So, when you can't really connect with any of the characters, it doesn't really matter. There were several moments in the story that it was obvious the author was trying to get me connected with the sad moments (and happy parts as well) of the characters. But since they felt "fake", I just didn't really care. I was in more because it was written very well and of the mystery.
Maybe if it were adults in a adult setting or if the author didn't try so hard the, "I wish to change the world", it would be more believable. But, when we remember that all the characters are high school kids... hey, high school students just aren't like that. The "genius" concept is also just not good and overused in HakoMari. The thing is, Geniuses, doesn't actually exist. Well they do, but they are just so very rare, and even so, it doesn't mean they are bound to do great stuff or even want to. In fact, usually, it is quite the contrary. And when HakoMari presents us a school setting apparently full of them, well it is just not believable.
Furthermore, the way the MC likes to flail himself is quite annoying. Try to picture this. People are trying to destroy you, sometimes they are even your friends. You give what they deserve, what do you think:
a) Think that you acted in self-defense and they should apologize
b) Think what a horrible person you are for what you did, even though they started it, and you feel sick with yourself. So you want to beg for forgiveness
Yes I am sure it is option b, because that is certainly what our MC thinks as he always chooses that option. And apparently all the other characters thinks so, because nobody feels bad for what they did and accept his apologies.... the hypocrites.
Also, the way the author seems to just brush off some of the actions that some characters takes bothered me a little. Even if they did something horrible. "Hey I killed someone and manipulated a lot of people against their will. But I suffered in my past and it was all for my distorted sense of justice, so it is ok right?" Well apparently there is no consequence because the character is a good person deep down.
Ok rant over. Even though I said all that, it is way better than it sounded. Those complaints just appeared occasionally, otherwise the score wouldn't be 9/10 overall (which is very good).
If you can just shake off that feeling and apreciate the rest of the story you will enjoy it a lot more, that is what I did.
Pretty good, nothing out of the ordinary, and it is a light novel, so who cares.
So even with that rant, HakoMari is still very enjoying to read, the writing is amazing. It truly is, and the story is fantastic, if it wasn't for the super try hard characters it would be an easy 10. So I enjoyed it not because of it's serious aspect and messages, but because of it is a interesting fantasy story.
I like my readings to be somewhat "smart", and HakoMari certainly fits that bill. Good atmosphere and interesting concept with some mystery some romance, good dialogue and monologue. Specially in the first 4 volumes where the mystery was more in force, it was very enjoyable and I would give a 10/10 for the first part. No overly complicated plot, just a nice read.
I would most definitely recommend HakoMari to anyone and everyone. And I am sure most people will read it in a blaze.
You could say that Hakomari is a mix between 'chessgame' type fiction like No Game No Life, Kaiji and Akagi, Yasutaka Tsuisui and Dostoyevsky-lite (or Kokoro Connect). The light novel works on two levels, the first being the highly satisfactory intellectual level of how the games and betrayals pile up on top of one another, and the second being the extremely brutally pessimistic worldview of Eiji Mikage. Most characters contain deep psychological traumas derived from the worst part of humanity. The main failure of most other chessgame fiction is the lack of characterization and an overt focus on the games themselves. What made Kaiji great
was that it had biting social critique and it actually bothered to characterize exactly how powerless a person is at the bottom of the Japanese societal class structure and how dog-eat-dog the world was.
The thing about Hakomari is that while the psychological traumas are very brutally expounded upon, they seem to derive from incessantly small miserable human exploits. This is where the Tsuisui connection comes in. Much of the plot of Hakomari involves petty human unrequited loves, domestic violence, jealousy, anger and arrogance blowing up into apocalyptic levels due to the interference of supernatural forces. Bullying and the chain effect of evil is an especially prevalent theme across, but especially at the later arcs when more ground-shaking revelations are thrown out at everyone. In fact he even uses the latest arc to commentate on this by showing every human, even the most normal, being full of pent-up dirty emotions and despicable shames. Mikage's world is a world of whores, misanthropists and broken souls.
As a light-novel the plot is extremely satisfying and tragic and, although entertaining and emotional, doesn't quite go the far stretch at portraying the human soul as stuff like NGE and Tsuisui's books actually do. It's just a very tightly written story with enough twists and turns and dramatic outcries to get your heart pumping. Its also written (or rather translated) into a very readable and economic style which sets up the rules of the games in a precise manner and then shows the outcome. It also mixes up a lot of styles and narrative methods to vary up the types of games. On a technical level Mikage writes a lot like the highly psychological works of Looseboy like G Senjou no Maou and Sharin no Kuni.