Continuing with my non-fiction streak, I settled on Anime and the Visual Novel, if only for the novelty of finding an academic-style text focusing on anime, as well as the comparatively obscure genre of computer game that is the visual novel. Being fond of both of these media, I thought I could hardly go wrong with something that looked at them with a bit of critical thought.
Anime and the Visual Novel focuses on a set of visual novels that have had subsequent anime adaptations, analysing how the animated adaptations have dealt with the problem of condensing a game with the core feature of branching narratives into a singular cohesive narrative. Additionally, the text also discusses particular narrative tropes and themes that are common to the visual novel medium and how those themes affect both gameplay and adaptation into a singular narrative.
This is kind of an odd book to discuss. As it’s more of an academic text in style and focuses on such a niche subject, it’s one of those books where you can tell more or less instantly whether it will be to your taste or not. The arguments presented here are fairly solidly reasoned, with a nicely varied set of primary texts to draw upon. So if that tickles your fancy, then you should be fairly well served by Anime and the Visual Novel.
That’s not to say that it’s without flaw, and there are two main issues that I could potentially see putting readers off. Firstly, there is some of the vocabulary used. A problem that a lot of academic texts have is that they couch themselves in overly-complicated language and syntax in order to make themselves more highbrow, when simple words could have expressed their point in a clearer, more succinct way. Anime and the Visual Novel is unfortunately not an exception to this rule. It is the first time I’ve had to consult my dictionary in months, and most of the time there was a far simpler term that could have been used in its place that would have made the point more accurately. So that’s one part of the language that could be off-putting. The other aspect of the iffy language is perhaps a more personal bugbear, but there is something intensely irritating about seeing texts repeatedly being called “yarns” throughout the book. First of all, it all but proves that this was written by someone fairly new to the whole academia bit, because there is no way that a seasoned academic would refer to anything that wasn’t textile-based as a “yarn”. Hell, I was taught that in my first year of university, Cavallaro should have no excuse. Second, a yarn in the slang definition is specifically a long, rambling and usually implausible story, which is an entirely unsuited moniker for visual novels. While a visual novel may have multiple endings to experience, thus lengthening the amount of time spent replaying, this only increases the need for the story to be tightly-written and plausible within its own world. For Cavallaro to refer to them as yarns only diminishes the medium that they are trying to celebrate.
The second issue I have is with, of all things, the proofreading. Whoever edited this needs to be sacked, because my copy was absolutely littered with punctuation errors. Comma-splicing, missing spaces between words and extra words that should have been deleted pre-publishing, it was all in there. I could possibly forgive one or two errors, but this was a handful within more or less every chapter, enough to make me annoyed at paying money to interpret someone’s rough draft. If I couldn’t get away with it in uni, I’m sure as shit not letting someone get away with it when money is being exchanged. It’s just not professional.
A solid set of essays analysing a wide range of well-received visual novels and their anime adaptations. Somewhat marred by a reliance on a vocabulary that is far too complex for the subject being discussed, and a series of punctuation errors throughout the text that is honestly just sloppy. For a fan of either medium discussed, I would say that there’s a fair chance you’ll like it if you can keep the above flaws in mind. 3.5/5
Next review: The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons edited by Paula Guran