My hopes were high. Yasutaka Tsutsui is one of the most highly regard Japanese writers of sci fi. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (1967) is one of his most popular books in Japan. I had never read any Japanese time travel before, and was tremendously eager to do so.
It's the story of a teenaged girl who acquires the ability to slip back in time. Just a few days back, but still enough to ensnarl her in paradoxes, mysteries, and sci-fi intrigue.
It should have been great! When my copy of the English translation (by David Karashima, 2011, Alma Books, 105 pages) arrived, and I saw the beautiful cover, I was even more eager to begin it.
Uh. Total rats, darn, and whine.
"Morning!" called Kazuo from behind her.
"Oh, morning!" replied Kazuko, considering whether she should tell him all about the incident. Kazuo was a bright individual after all, and might be able to provide some sort of insight. But she quickly decided that it might be better to wait for Goro to arrive so they could all talk about it together.
"Is everything okay?" said Kazuo. "You look a little pale."
Kazuo was always rather attentive, so he often noticed little things like that.
"Oh it's nothing," said Kazuko, shaking her head. "I couldn't sleep much. First because of the earthquake. Then because of the fire! So I'm feeling pretty sleepy today." (p 27)
Maybe most of the blame for the clunky writing and wooden characterization can be attributed to the translator. But the final plot twist at the end, that strained all credulity, must be the author's own, and the way it's presented--future character explains everything at length--is really not sophisticated and sparkling. Plus the future character turns out to be a. 11 years old b. the love interest of this teenage girl, and that was just weird and c. able to conduct mass hypnosis at the drop of a hat on every single person (probably hundreds) with whom he's come into contact in the last few months.
So it was a big disappointment.
The English translation also includes another novella, The Stuff that Nightmares are Made Of. Not only did I find that story clunky as well, but it made me really dislike Tsutsui, because it is never funny when a mother threatens to cut off a five year old's penis with a pair of scissors so he'll be less girly.