I'm a high school student who became an author after debuting at Dengeki Bunko. After taking a year of hiatus from school to write my work, I transferred out to another high school to study, and met a girl called Eri Nitadori in school, a rookie voice actress cast as a character in the anime adaptation of my work.
In school, we treat our professions as a secret. However, Nitadori's very popular in class, and I'm a loner...the only chance we get to talk to each other is when we take the train together every Thursday, seated side by side as we head off for an anime studio.
To improve her skills, she asked me questions regarding the profession. While I was answering the questions regarding the process—how did it end up like this?!
This is what I last remembered before I lost consciousness, and the story of my near-death experience.
|Baka-Tsuki Translation up to half-way through the second volume + Translation on Hell Ping|
"Danshi Koukousei de Urekko Light Novel Sakka wo Shiteiru keredo, Toshishita no Classmate de Seiyuu no Onnanoko ni Kubi wo Shimerareteiru." (which I will henceforth refer to as "DanshiShime") holds the longest-ever title for a light novel seriesーand it's entirely intentional. This is a work written by acclaimed author Keiichi Sigsawa and illustrated by Kohaku Kuroboshi, who are well-known for their work with a multitude of widely-acclaimed series, including Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World, Allison, Lillia to Treize and Gakuen Kino. Before I
really dive into DanshiShime, let me get one thing straight: this is metafiction, through and through. This is a light novel about writing light novels. Shirobako was an anime about creating anime, Bakuman。was a manga about drawing manga, and now we have DanshiShime, a light novel about writing light novels. However, there is a stark difference between DanshiShime and these other metafiction creationsーfor one thing, DanshiShime is a LOT more meta and a LOT more aware about the fact that it's meta.
But that isn't all; DanshiShime doesn't beat around the bushーit sets things up as loosely as possible and gets straight to writing about writing. Because of this, it's able to explore things in as much depth as possible. It talks about good writing, bad writing, the difference between the two, structured writing, unstructured writing, character writing, setting up the story, plot progression and more. DanshiShime is essentially a collection of all of Keiichi Sigsawa's musings about writing, the industry and himself, and for that, it's incredibly interesting. It uses its characters to spark many, many tangents, to the point where it even bleeds into other topics like anime and voice acting. DanshiShime is metafiction right to the bone, whereas Bakuman。and Shirobako also devote focus to their characters and their relationships with each other. Bakuman。in particular focuses on its characters and a romantic subplot, while Shirobako bases many of its characters on real life experiences, and thus starts to take on the same sort of documentary-style writing as DanshiShime. However, Shirobako is still much more of a character drama loosely grounded in a sort of documentary format, whereas DanshiShime is almost entirely a documentary but it makes room for its characters, too.
The other thing about DanshiShime is that it's a lot more accessible than Bakuman。or Shirobako are; you can't create anime without lots of funding and colleagues to work on all the different parts of it and you can't create manga without having some semblance of artistic skill. All of this knowledge about the anime and manga industries is interestingーperhaps even thought-provokingーbut there's a barrier between us and them. Let's face it: the vast majority of us are not going to wind up working on anime in the future, and we're probably not going to be drawing any manga anytime soon. Shirobako greatly succeeds in breaking some of the fanciful illusions that we, as anime fans, have about the industry, but we can only appreciate this from the viewpoint of a consumer, and not a creator. DanshiShime seeks to, and succeeds in, breaking down this barrier by dealing with a far more accessible craft: writing. And not just writing light novels, but writing in general. To start writing, all we need is pen and paperーanyone can write. We don't necessarily have the talent or the skill, but it's so easy for anyone to start writing about anything at all. My appreciation for DanshiShime runs deeper than for Shirobako because it personally involves me, an aspiring writer; its insight can actually be appreciated and absorbed by readers, as I'm sure there are quite a number of aspiring writers out there. Because of this accessibility, DanshiShime manages to be way more engaging and personally involving than Bakuman。or Shirobako will ever be.
However, putting aside the potential of its premise, it's time to talk about how well DanshiShime utilises it. DanshiShime is exactly what it says on the tin: it's about a high school boy who's a best-selling light novel author and a high school girl who's a voice actress. You might be curious as to where the 'strangling' part comes in, and your guess is as good as mine. The beginning of each chapter flashes forward an unknown length of time, wherein the protagonist is being choked by his voice actor underclassman. The novel then throws the strangulation aside and cuts back to the present. Perhaps this is intended as a surreal depiction of their relationship with each other, as opposed to the protagonist actually, physically being strangled? As of volume 1, this isn't made clear. Each chapter explores an entire day, wherein Nitadori and the protagonist attend school but avoid speaking to each other to keep their working relationship a secret from their classmates. Afterward, when they take the same train back from school, Nitadori gets the protagonist talking about novel-writing, along with all the hardships and intricacies that come with it. This continues until their chat is cut short by the end of the train ride. The chapter usually ends at this point. The next chapter takes place exactly a week later, rinse and repeat.
The first volume follows this formula all the way up until the end. I won't blame you if that's turned you off this novelーhad I known that this was what it was going to be about, I would have glossed right over it. However, while the format is undoubedly dry, the insight this novel provides about writing is anything but. If you're even moderately interested in writing, it's fascinating to hear about how the protagonist got started with writing, the roadblocks he ran into, how he overcame them, and some talk about the industry. It ends up being something akin to a tastefully insightful documentary, peppered with elements of comedy throughout. Nitadori plays the 'interviewer' role, whereas the protagonist takes on the role of teaching her about the various facets of writing, with one topic bleeding into the next. And, surprisingly, it's really interesting! Of course, that isn't all the novel has going for it.
DanshiShime has some really great characterisation that it builds on every chapter. Through these lengthy chats about novel-writing, we get to learn more about the protagonist, his childhood and the type of person he was growing up. The protagonist is no doubt a reflectionーthough, as Keiichi admits himself in the afterword of the novel, a glorified version ofーthe author and it's equally as interesting to hear about how his interest in writing came aboutーit even ties in directly to the framework of novel-writing itself. And that's something I think this novel does wonderfullyーit manages to talk about writing and talk about its characters at the same time without obstructing the flow of the 'narrative'. Because of the novel's attention to its protagonist, he is properly fleshed out and even becomes an interesting character because of all the things we learn about him.
On the other hand, Nitadori is a noticeably weaker character, simply because of how mysterious (read: not fleshed out) she is. We don't end up getting to know a lot about her by the end of the first volume, and the protagonist even lampshades this in chapter 4 by saying, "What do I know about Nitadori, really?" While Nitadori is an interesting character with plenty of personality, at least on the surface, we don't get to know a whole lot about what makes her tick. This will likely be remedied by the end of volume 2 (which has not yet been fully translated at this time). The banter between the protagonist and Nitadori is fun and charming, though sometimes it has an unhealthy propensity to start speaking directly to the reader instead of focusing on the characters. I enjoyed reading how they interacted with each other and it was good to see such great chemistry. Unfortunately, both the world and Nitadori remained quite shallow by the last line of the volume. On the other hand, the protagonist's personality is actually explored quite well through these chats, but I feel that it only really scratches the surface of his character. Let's not forget that DanshiShime is, if we're being honest here, a spruced-up essay on writing with several tangents on voice acting and anime at heart.
Taken another way, DanshiShime can be seen as something of a character study on Keiichi Sigsawa and, simultaneously, the perspective of a writer. DanshiShime keeps coming back to this idea about 'delusions'. For the protagonist, 'delusions' are his writing inspiration. They are the expression of his creativity and involve switching up your perspective to see things in a certain light. I loved the way it ties this big ambiguous ball of information combined with a variety of perspectives that we call 'creativity' to what the protagonist refers to 'delusions'. While I certainly don't feel these 'delusions' as strongly or in as much capacity as the protagonist (Keiichi Sigsawa) does, I certainly understand the feeling. I felt that it was an incredibly interesting take on the subject of creativity, and I was very much a fan of it.
With Kohaku Kuroboshi drawing the illustrations for DanshiShime, it should be no surprise that they retain his usual quality. They're great as eye candy and manage to breathe some life and atmosphere to the novel. That said, I'm of the opinion that this wasn't the sort of novel that needed those atmosphere-building illustrations, but they're a nice addition nonetheless, and my way of reading DanshiShime is only one of many. But I feel that if you read DanshiShime as you would any other novel, you won't get nearly as much enjoyment out of it if you come into it expecting something of a highly-decorated essay on writing.
What I got out of DanshiShime was some interesting commentary about the industry, some insight into the writing process and some loose exploration of what sparks creativity and how it works. It was a really interesting read, and I would certainly love to read more of DanshShime. You won't be able to glean a whole lot out of this series in terms of its loose plotline, underdeveloped female lead, and very weak worldbuilding, but it's an interesting meta-piece on writing that doubles as somewhat of a character study for the writer himself. If you go into this novel for the right reasons, with the right perspective it can be plenty enjoyable.
Having said that, I wouldn't say this series is very well-written, but that certainly doesn't mean that it isn't engaging. Some of the irony here is that the writing is quite messy and largely unstructured, but I wouldn't have DanshiShime any other way. DanshiShime is a messy amalgamation of writing insight and reflection. It's all these messy ideas and concepts that are crammed together to make up a storyーthat's what the writing process is all about, and DanshiShime captures it perfectly. Forget storylines and charactersーDanshiShime is metafiction about writing at heart. If you go in knowing that, you can enjoy it for what it is: an unorthodox, charming and insightful light novel about writing (light novels).
I personally feel that every aspiring writer should at least give this series the once-over; DanshiShime has quickly become one of my favourite light novels thus far. I highly recommend this series to anyone who is even mildly interested in writing for its fascinating and valuable insight into the writing process that comes directly from a highly-successful Japanese light novel author. DanshiShime is easily the most enjoyable metafiction I've experienced thus far, and I implore anyone interested in this sort of thing to experience it as well.