Iris was born on a rainy day dyed with emptiness, regret, and fond memories. As an android, Iris must obey her master's orders and cater to her every need, but her creator, Professor Umbrella, wishes for a more intimate and more 'human' relationship with her.
To cultivate an organic connection between master and servant, Professor Umbrella helps Iris to develop a sense of identity and pushes her into taking an active role in her own growth.
This is a story about a female robot born on a rainy day.
This is a story about rainy days.
This is a story about how a mechanical maiden born on a rainy day became a soft-hearted and free-willed girl.
Iris on Rainy Days: My Homework is a short story prequel to the main series, Iris on Rainy Days. Coming in at less than 9,000 words and 50 pages, this short story is all about adding more weight, deeper context, and further depth to the main series. That isn't to say that the story doesn't hold up to scrutiny if taken as a standalone narrative--it's a great short story, in fact--it just means that My Homework will be more valuable, so to speak, if it is read after the 2011 novel. This short story is perfectly readable and perfectly enjoyable even if you haven't read
the first novel, and it will likely entice you to read the 'expanded' story afterward. Both iterations of the series are available in the form of fan-translations on Baka-Tsuki's website, with no official translation in sight. If you enjoyed the original novel, you'll enjoy this short story. If you are on the fence about the series, I would like to point you in the direction of the 2011 novel before getting into this story; in addition to having an all-around better translation, you'll also have a greater appreciation for My Homework after reading the original. Ultimately, I can't decide for you what to read, but that would be my ideal reading order. Without reading the specifics, I highly recommend Iris on Rainy Days: My Homework along with the original novel as gripping, reflective and thought-provoking experiences.
How well does the story read in English? It isn't the best translation ever, but the writing won't confuse you at any point, and it's a (mostly) smooth read. The writing feels stilted at a number of points, with fluidity seemingly sacrificed for the sake of communicating the full meaning of the words. At other times, it's nothing more than simple grammatical mistakes as a result of human error. Fortunately, there are next to zero spelling errors throughout the text. All in all, there isn't anything majorly wrong with the translation; it's a combination of minor errors here and there that take away from the fluidity of the writing. I wouldn't say it's 'riddled' with mistakes, but it's far from perfect. It's fairly competent, but it isn't exceptional--it needs some minor edits.
On another note, I felt that the writing lacked a sense of 'soul'; there wasn't a distinctive style at the heart of the writing, lacking any real flair. To me, it seems as if the writer's original style of writing was, unfortunately, lost in translation--littered throughout the story are remnants of this missing 'soul'. At worst, it almost felt mechanical. Effective writing doesn't just encompass spelling and grammatical structure--this 'soul' I'm talking about is the difference between 'The knife stabbed me, stopping me from moving,' and 'The knife dug straight into my body, freezing my movements instantly.' My Homework is only peppered with heart, as opposed to it being at the forefront of its writing. The protagonist is a robot, so it feels strange to say that even its mechanical descriptions lack heart, but it does. In spite of My Homework's lack of heart, the narrative isn't boring because of it. It simply feels...limited, in terms of what it could be; as if the translation is missing out on something from the original Japanese text. While being perfectly readable, the translation has a lot of room for improvement.
IRIS ON RAINY DAYS: MY HOMEWORK
"This is a story about a female robot born on a rainy day.
This is a story about rainy days.
This is a story about a robot born on a rainy day, endeavouring."
My Homework opens with these three lines, immediately tying the narrative to its core themes: developing a sense of identity/taking an active role in your own development, emptiness/regret and how these two are connected. My Homework almost poetically lets you in on exactly what this story is about. Iris takes the reins in this story and propels it forward through her first-person perspective. My Homework explores the relationship between Iris and the Professor she so adores in the main series. It also sees iris develop from the mechanical maiden she is in the beginning of My Homework into the soft-hearted, free-willed girl she is in the opening lines of the 2011 novel.
The way in which this short story tightly explores these themes is reminiscent of chapter 2 of the original novel, where it checks on Iris every few days as we see her change in perspective, emotions, and personality. First and foremost, My Homework is about Iris diverging from her set role and getting in touch with and understanding her emotions. This is about Iris's personal development and her Professor's role in said development.
But it isn't just about Iris--My Homework is also about the Professor and the role she wants Iris to take on. This idea of roles that society, other people and people themselves assign to someone set the framework for the sequel novel to work off brilliantly. My Homework is a whole lot more subtle and poetic about its exploration of these themes than the original work was, which made for tighter, more effective storytelling. On the other hand, the original series utilizes symbolism more creatively and effectively and explores its themes in a lot more depth than My Homework, so they both have their own strengths. I personally prefer My Homework's approach, but they are both engaging for different reasons.
Following on from my earlier remark, My Homework fails to fully explore all of the themes it introduces on its own--Rainy Days manages to explore these themes in more detail almost in the background--it only goes so far as to set the foundation and scratch the surface. There was certainly a lot more that could have been done with them, but these depths are left unexplored. However, what more could you ask from a prequel, and a short story at that? There simply wasn't enough space for such exploration, but that doesn't change the fact that it could have been deeper. That said, My Homework does a fantastic job of introducing these themes and concepts and providing a solid framework for Rainy Days to work with.
Thematically, My Homework is quite solid, but it also makes a point to explore a character that lacked focus in the original work: the previously enigmatic Wendy Von Umbrella. In the original work, her role is 'Umbrella', while she takes on the role of 'Professor' in My Homework. Again, a very prominent underlying theme in My Homework is this idea of 'roles'. Like in the original work, all characters are intrinsically tied to the themes that the novel wants to explore. Do the characters end up suffering because of this? No; the narrative makes full use of this link between the themes and its characters and uses it to expand on and explore the psyche of its characters, making them deeper as a result. The professor in particular is a great example of this, giving readers a greater appreciation for her role in Rainy Days.
What I love most about My Homework, putting aside its subtle exploration of its underlying themes, it's well-paced narrative and its well-developed characters is how everything is intricately tied together with Rainy Days. As I mentioned before, it brilliantly sets the groundwork by introducing and exploring the exact same themes that Rainy Days founds its own core themes on--by exploring those particular themes, it allows us, the reader, to appreciate every significant development in Rainy Days. This series has always been about taking a simple idea or theme as far as it can go by adding as much complexity as possible to it. And that's why I love it so much.
If you are on the fence about Iris on Rainy Days, I earnestly implore you to read it. This isn't a series that requires much commitment--it's no Naruto, Bleach or One Piece--this series is made up of one novel and one short story, coming in for a total of slightly more than 58,000 words, just over half the length of an ordinary novel. If you end up not liking it, let me know why--I encourage you to direct all your complaints here. I believe that this is one of the best-written stories ever to grace the medium of light novels, which may seem like a grandiose overstatement, but I fully believe so. Naturally, this series isn't without its flaws, but I wholly believe that Iris on Rainy Days will be enjoyable for anyone to read, no matter how you choose to read it. Iris on Rainy Days may not be the deepest, darkest or most daring novel ever, but it is certainly meaningful, intelligent and enjoyable.