The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui is a small collection of two novellas, the first of the same name and the second, The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made of. I read this with my Japanese Novel and Light Novel Book Club over on GoodReads as our monthly book pick! For my review here, I’ll go ahead and review each story individually, and then share my opinions on the book as a whole.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
One day while cleaning the classroom after school, fifteen-year-old Kazuko ends up fainting. When she awakes, she discovers that she has acquired the power to leap through time!
There were a couple of things that I enjoyed about this novella. The premise is actually quite compelling and interesting to me, particularly for it being a science-fiction story. It’s a unique twist on the classic time travel trope. I also found Kazuko’s reactions to her situation to be natural and realistic. I mean, if I woke up one day and found that I had an unusual power that I had no control over, I’d probably react the same way that she did.
Unfortunately, none of those qualities are enough to redeem this story from all of the really bad parts. The story unravels at light-speed and the plot suffers tragically for it as it’s stripped thin to its bones. The atmosphere building is virtually non-existent with a severe lack of details in regards to settings, emotions, environments, etc. Everything was utterly generic, which is a terrible thing in a science-fiction book, especially one that focuses so heavily on shifting surroundings involving time.
Other issues include the characters. While the main character was somewhat easy to relate to, all of the others felt very monotonous and there were a limited amount of qualities to truly differentiate one from the next. The chapters also ended very abruptly. There was one scene in particular where Kazuko is mid-conversation with one of her teachers and the chapter just ends without warning or set-up. It continues on in the following chapter, but it leaves a residue of disorientation every time.
Overall, I do not recommend this novella at all. Unfortunately, this is a rare instance where the film adaptation is far better than the book. The novella was adapted into an anime film made by the brilliant Mamoru Hosoda, which essentially absolves the story for all of its shortcomings.
2.25 lavenders outta 5!
The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of
A young girl named Masako has a deep rooted fear of Prajna masks. This fear baffles her as does its origins. In an effort to conquer this very peculiar fear, Masako embarks on a small psychological journey to discover the cause of her fears so she can put it behind her.
The only good thing about this second novella is, once again, the premise. The examination of fear and its effects on the human psyche would have made for a wonderful psychological story. But so many things just cause the narrative to fall apart into pieces.
Déjà vu: we have a severe lack of substance and meat. There is very little to no world-building, except where it’s relative to the plot. This isn’t a good thing because then it makes the story a tad bit predictable. Each chapter, or chunk, that focuses on a specific fear feels like a stand-alone short story with the common factor being our protagonist, Masako. This creates a lot of disconnect within the novella as a whole entity. The pacing is also terribly slow for what it is.
Overall, I felt like there was a strong premise here and plenty of potential for one hell of a thought-provoking tale, but there was nothing there to support it; it collapsed upon itself.
1.75 masks outta 5!
Here are some musings that I had in regards to the book itself, which I strongly feel contributed to the low-quality of these stories. The first is the translation. I do not recommend anyone read this English translation (see picture) because it’s complete and total crap. This may have been a huge contributor to the horrendously jarring feel that the pacing had. There’s also not a single mention of the second story anywhere on either covers, or within the book. We have a Contents page that lists the story, but that’s it. I believe that The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of was included in this collection only in a pathetic attempt to bulk up the pages for publishing.
All in all, I do not recommend The Girl Who Leapt Through Time book. It’s just not worth the effort to read it, even if it only takes you half an hour to an hour.
2 leaps outta 5!