Sunday, 8 April 2012

a wind named amnesia {} invader summer

This volume collects two novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi, also author of Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku, that were both originally published in Japan in 2005, translated by Joe and Yuko Swift and published by Black Horse Books in 2009, accompanied by fifteen pages of illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano. It could be said that they are quite noir-ish in style and show inspiration from Lovecraft, also at times reminding me of Otsuichi. The first story, A Wind Named Amnesia is set in a post apocalyptic America, after a recent reading of Jonathan Lethem's Amnesia Moon it wasn't too difficult to make parallels with the two stories, an event occurred in the not so distant past that has caused a collective amnesia, reading the story also provoked memories of reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, although with a few differences, ok, perhaps maybe more than a few. The two main characters, Wataru and Sophia, find themselves on a road movie-like quest of a journey as they head, at Sophia's request to New Orleans, along the way they encounter various gangs usually made up of a violent leader and those just trying to survive, after each of these episodes they pick up a straggler who wants to continue with them, but usually leaves after finding a renewed sense of themselves. These survivors carry vague recollections of their past lives which are variously recalled in slight abstraction. Set in the futuristic year 20X5 another factor that threatens them are the existence of the Guardians, huge mechanical robots that were used to police the cities before the apocalyptic event and now roam randomly, their drivers now skeletal. Wataru recalls his meeting with Johnny, who seems to have escaped the amnesia, teaches Wataru world history and instructs him that he must spread the word of this civilisation that man had created before the amnesia struck, Johnny recalls the apocalyptic moment the amnesia started, when Johnny meets Wataru he tells him that his mental age had reverted to that of a three year old. Sophia's history is clouded in ambiguity, and as their journey progresses she begins to exhibit some strange powers, none the least her ability to communicate with the survivors who have lost the ability to speak in a recognisable language. As they travel from city to city and gang to gang, it becomes apparent that something malevolent seems to be travelling not too far behind them, Wataru begins to suspect that Sophia has some extra-terrestial connections that could also be linked to the collective amnesia. 

The second story, Invader Summer seemed to clinch it in being my favourite out of the two, set around the High School of Yubue City the main protagonist is Katagiri, a well trained student of Kendo whose abilities are outstanding, through his conversations with Sayo we learn that he had a relationship of sorts with her late sister Yayoi. The narrative follows Katagiri as he walks past a dilapidated house and sees a slightly spectral girl, later the girl is seen again in the playground of the school. Through the various perspectives of Katagiri's friends, Mikimoto, the poetry writing literature student and Kuramochi, a judo champion, things begin to go a little strange for the community of students, the boys begin to fall obsessively in love with the pale girl, collectively lingering around her house, a human eating dragon monster appears which has been pulled out of the realm of fantasy by one of the boys whilst fantasizing over the girl. The pale girl appears before Katagiri asking for his friendship and reveals that her name is also Yayoi, (although with a different family name to that of Sayo and Yayoi). A local journalist friend of Katagiri, Otomo, begins to investigate the girl's history which doesn't add up to what she has been telling people. Another story line that weaves it's way through this is of a group of Yakuza who keep approaching Katagiri, which usually ends with their defeat by Katagiri who defends himself without a sword. Invader Summer contains many story lines as it explores it's characters involvement with the plot, some of which end up being more relevant to the main story than others which makes the story an enjoyable reading experience, and the slightly abstracted way the characters are introduced, at first they are described figurativley and then later named specifically in the narrative kept you uncertain as to who was being introduced and to what degree they would be involved in the central plot, keeps the reader guessing. This story too has an extra-terrestial theme, (albeit that of a dysfunctional alien), which reaches it's conclusion at the local Natsu Kudari festival.

A Wind Named Amnesia {} Invader Summer at Dark Horse Books

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