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The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories

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Most Americans would describe Japanese science fiction with one word: Godzilla. However, true fans of the genre know that for decades, Japan has been turning out some of the most innovative stories ever published. Unfortunately, those that make it into English are often difficult to find. The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, brings together the most outstanding short Most Americans would describe Japanese science fiction with one word: Godzilla. However, true fans of the genre know that for decades, Japan has been turning out some of the most innovative stories ever published. Unfortunately, those that make it into English are often difficult to find. The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, brings together the most outstanding short stories of this body of literature. Included here are thirteen stories, by both the "big three" of Japanese science fiction, Shinichi Hoshi, Ryo Hanmura, and Sako Komatsu and by the likes of Kobo Abe and Morio Kita, writers of mainstream fiction who occasionally delve into sci-fi.


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Most Americans would describe Japanese science fiction with one word: Godzilla. However, true fans of the genre know that for decades, Japan has been turning out some of the most innovative stories ever published. Unfortunately, those that make it into English are often difficult to find. The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, brings together the most outstanding short Most Americans would describe Japanese science fiction with one word: Godzilla. However, true fans of the genre know that for decades, Japan has been turning out some of the most innovative stories ever published. Unfortunately, those that make it into English are often difficult to find. The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, brings together the most outstanding short stories of this body of literature. Included here are thirteen stories, by both the "big three" of Japanese science fiction, Shinichi Hoshi, Ryo Hanmura, and Sako Komatsu and by the likes of Kobo Abe and Morio Kita, writers of mainstream fiction who occasionally delve into sci-fi.

30 review for The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Cihodariu

    I tend to favor short stories over longer single pieces of fiction these days, especially if they connect in some way. The stories in this reader are not connected and have different authors, but it's one of the best collections I've ever read! I loved them. Of course, it helps that most of them are written by authors I had already read and belonged to my faves list. We have here Kobo Abe (the Kafka-inspired Japanese master of absurd) and Ryo Hanmura, and Morio Kita (all of them really worth read I tend to favor short stories over longer single pieces of fiction these days, especially if they connect in some way. The stories in this reader are not connected and have different authors, but it's one of the best collections I've ever read! I loved them. Of course, it helps that most of them are written by authors I had already read and belonged to my faves list. We have here Kobo Abe (the Kafka-inspired Japanese master of absurd) and Ryo Hanmura, and Morio Kita (all of them really worth reading independently), but also several less-known authors whom I was happy to discover. Japanese literature, in general, had trouble becoming known in the West due to the translation process being more difficult for it than for other languages. What with the three different alphabet systems and whatnot. That's why we tend to have access to translated Japanese classics but not so much contemporary fiction. With science fiction, the problem intensifies, since there are few translators willing to deal with that jargon, as well. :) That makes this collection even more of a rare gem than it already was. The stories are great, also, beyond all these translation considerations.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    A better title for this is "Weird Tales From Japan". A collection of Japanese short stories translated into English that are more speculative fiction than science fiction tending heavily to the weird side. The stories are light on character, description, and emotion, and heavy on concept. For this reason some are more like folk tales than contemporary fiction, though that could be due to the translation, which, based on the introduction, seems to have been done by an amateur group of fans of the A better title for this is "Weird Tales From Japan". A collection of Japanese short stories translated into English that are more speculative fiction than science fiction tending heavily to the weird side. The stories are light on character, description, and emotion, and heavy on concept. For this reason some are more like folk tales than contemporary fiction, though that could be due to the translation, which, based on the introduction, seems to have been done by an amateur group of fans of the genre. Many of the stories are thought-provoking, though most are honestly just too depressing. My favorite of the bunch is "Hey! Come on out!" by Shinichi Hoshi, whose stories I was already familiar with. It's funny, short, and has its own voice. "The Standing Woman" is on par with dystopian classics like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and The Giver. I luckily dodged mental scarring by skipping "The Savage Mouth", a story with gratuitous imagery that should come with a warning label. Unfortunately, this collection seems to suffer from the impulse that drives most publication of Japanese work overseas. Whether it be literature or film, companies seem to be under the impression that people in other countries will only pay attention to Japanese media if it's weird or shocking in some way. This is true to some extent of media from any other country that eventually gets released in a foreign market, but it is particularly true of Japan - often called "Weird Japan". "Weird Italy" isn't a thing. Neither is "Weird Britain". So, this group of sci-fi fans set out to find the oddest stories they could, then slapped "best" on it, and topped it all off with a vaguely Asian cover. Whether that "best" is fitting, I'm not too convinced. Oddest? Maybe. The truth is, Japanese literature isn't all weird. Just like the literature of any country, it's varied. But in the U.S., we don't see the love stories, the comedies, the historical fiction, the thrillers. Just the freaky, weird stuff with lots of blood, and, I think, little humanity. So this goes on (apart from the work of artists with a brand and a sizable following, like Hayao Miyazaki or Haruki Murakami), perpetuating both the belief that Japan is weird and the demand for more of that weird. You can see it for yourself: check out your local library or bookstore, or search for Japanese movies on your movie streaming service. Look at the kinds of titles they carry. Maybe that's how the world works, chasing money with no regard for impact, but it's a real shame. This approach to marketing means we miss out on stories, perspectives, and greater understanding of ourselves. Given the continuing popularity of Japan and Japanese culture, hopefully this is something that is changing. One other missed opportunity here is the lack of female authors. All of the authors included in the collection are male. Two female authors are referenced in the back of the book, in the list of recommended Japanese sci-fi reading, so why couldn't even one of their short stories be added to the mix? Another thing that I hope will change in newer anthologies. So do I recommend this book? If you're into Japanese literature, and you're curious about some of the science fiction that's out there, yes. If you like to be entertained and not bummed out about life, probably not.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Parrish Lantern

    Early Sci-Fi, Nihon (にほん) Style . Science fiction has been published in Japan for over a hundred years, the first to really influence were the novels of Jules Verne, with the translation of Around the world in 80 days, published in 1878-1880, followed by his other works all of which were immensely popular. In fact the word kagaku shōsetsu (科学小説) was coined as a translation of "scientific novel" as early as 1886. Sci-Fi by japanese writers started to appear around the start of the twentieth centu Early Sci-Fi, Nihon (にほん) Style . Science fiction has been published in Japan for over a hundred years, the first to really influence were the novels of Jules Verne, with the translation of Around the world in 80 days, published in 1878-1880, followed by his other works all of which were immensely popular. In fact the word kagaku shōsetsu (科学小説) was coined as a translation of "scientific novel" as early as 1886. Sci-Fi by japanese writers started to appear around the start of the twentieth century, with writers such as Shunro Oshikawa (1877-1914) and Junro Unno (1897-1949) who, inspired by Verne and H.G.Wells, wrote military style adventures combined with aspects of science, such as Oshikawa’ s The undersea Warship (1900) & Unno’s The Floating Airfield (1938). Prior to world war two most japanese Science Fiction were pale imitations of western fiction, placing the emphasis on techno future, with it’s reliance on machinery to solve any problems and was considered a sub literary form, normally placed within the mystery genre. After the war with the American army an occupying force, the Japanese were introduced to a wide range of writers through the magazines & paperbacks carried by the G.I’s. Exposure to this material led to a widespread revival in the genre, followed by translations of the works of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, which both made the bestsellers list. Two major events occurred in the development of Japanese Sci-Fi in 1950’s, the first being the - now considered legendary - fanzine Cosmic dust (Uchu-jin, 宇宙塵) was founded, although the first science fiction magazine in Japan was Seiun (星雲) in 1954, but this was discontinued after only one issue. The second Hayakawa Shobo, began it’s series of Sci-Fi books and it’s Hayakawa's S-F Magazine (S-Fマガジン) with the February 1960 issue, appearing in bookshops at the end of 1959. Under the editorship of Masami Fukushima it started publishing translations of English Language stories, although later it would be prominent in the publication of original Japanese Science Fiction. http://parrishlantern.blogspot.com/20...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric Hinkle

    There are a lot of really good stories in here, but in terms of pages, almost half the book consists of stuff I just didn't really enjoy very much. Every story certainly has heaps of imagination, but some of it just really didn't interest me. I thought this book would be a fun introduction to Japanese SF, which I know nothing about, and it is - but I was also happy to find that many of these stories have a lot of beauty and heart, like all of my favorite SF. Stories like the ones from Tetsu Yano There are a lot of really good stories in here, but in terms of pages, almost half the book consists of stuff I just didn't really enjoy very much. Every story certainly has heaps of imagination, but some of it just really didn't interest me. I thought this book would be a fun introduction to Japanese SF, which I know nothing about, and it is - but I was also happy to find that many of these stories have a lot of beauty and heart, like all of my favorite SF. Stories like the ones from Tetsu Yano, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Takashi Ishikawa, and the weird dinosaur story by Tensei Kino really sucked me in and sent a number of emotions swirling through my brain. Others were rollicking good fun. A couple were left happily unfinished. I'd recommend it for those who think they'd enjoy it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    twilightsprincess

    この本のアイデアを好きだから3スターをあげるけど一番良くない翻訳だった!サイファイだから話の中に本当に分からなかった!残念だったよ! I like the idea of this book so I'm giving it 3 stars, but this was the worst translated thing I've ever read! And this is sci-fi so some of the stories I couldn't even comprehend which was so unfortunate! **side note: each story has a different translator so they all come out differently - I just really don't understand what happened with this...I do think the stories I liked cloud my perception of this book so I kind of feel I sh この本のアイデアを好きだから3スターをあげるけど一番良くない翻訳だった!サイファイだから話の中に本当に分からなかった!残念だったよ! I like the idea of this book so I'm giving it 3 stars, but this was the worst translated thing I've ever read! And this is sci-fi so some of the stories I couldn't even comprehend which was so unfortunate! **side note: each story has a different translator so they all come out differently - I just really don't understand what happened with this...I do think the stories I liked cloud my perception of this book so I kind of feel I should be giving it 2 stars, but I'm too nice LOL

  6. 5 out of 5

    Luke Nieuwenhuis

    Some of these stories are wonderful, most are pretty good, and a couple are terrible. However, they are all quite unique. "The Flood" by Kobo Abe: Fantasy rather than sci-fi. People are being transmuted into water. It ends on a strange note. 3/5 "Cardboard Box" by Ryo Hanmura: Another fantasy. Cardboard boxes are anthropomorphic. It seems to be a commentary on life and death. 3.5/5 "Tansu" by Ryo Hanmura: A ghost story. It's quite dull. It lacks a fulfilling ending. 1/5 "Bokko-Chan" by Shinichi Hosh Some of these stories are wonderful, most are pretty good, and a couple are terrible. However, they are all quite unique. "The Flood" by Kobo Abe: Fantasy rather than sci-fi. People are being transmuted into water. It ends on a strange note. 3/5 "Cardboard Box" by Ryo Hanmura: Another fantasy. Cardboard boxes are anthropomorphic. It seems to be a commentary on life and death. 3.5/5 "Tansu" by Ryo Hanmura: A ghost story. It's quite dull. It lacks a fulfilling ending. 1/5 "Bokko-Chan" by Shinichi Hoshi: A gynoid is used to lure in customers, especially of the male variety. It's not great. 2.5/5 "He-y, Come on Ou-t" by Shinichi Hoshi: My personal favorite. A wormhole of sorts appears in a village. The townsfolk begin to use it as a wastebasket. The twist is amazing. 5/5 "The Road to the Sea" by Takashi Ishikawa: A boy who lives on Mars searches for a non-existent sea. Heartbreaking. 3.5/5 "The Empty Field" by Morio Kita: A UFO comes to Earth. The use of portmanteaux is exhausting, and it lacks clarity. 1/5 "The Savage Mouth" by Sakyo Komatsu: Tbh, this was hard for me to read, due to the macabre plot (a man slowly consumes himself). However, I do like the prose. 3/5 "Take Your Choice" by Sakyo Komatsu: A man is presented with three possible timelines from which to choose. Very good, though the twist changes the genre. 4/5 "Triceratops" by Tensei Kono: A science fantasy story. Ghostly dinosaurs are popping up. A battle ensues. Interesting. 3.5/5 "Fnifmum" by Taku Mayumura: A charmingly strange tale about a lovesick four-dimensional creature. 4/5 "Standing Woman" by Yasutaka Tsutsui: This story features a disturbing means of getting rid of malcontents. 4/5

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ghia M

    The introduction to the book really captures what makes Japanese Sci-fi interesting: You've got a country that went from Feudal to Technological in the span of less than a hundred years. There's a very specific tone to the stories that can't quite be emulated in Western science fiction. It's a mix of tradition, technology, superstition, etc. Spirituality and science aren't viewed as incompatible. The result is that a lot of sci fi from there feels like it has elements of cosmic horror. I love it The introduction to the book really captures what makes Japanese Sci-fi interesting: You've got a country that went from Feudal to Technological in the span of less than a hundred years. There's a very specific tone to the stories that can't quite be emulated in Western science fiction. It's a mix of tradition, technology, superstition, etc. Spirituality and science aren't viewed as incompatible. The result is that a lot of sci fi from there feels like it has elements of cosmic horror. I love it. That being said, you can tell that a lot of these stories are decades old even at the time of the book being published, and just on a personal level I had a hard time getting into some of them. It's hard to translate foreign languages to English precisely, so I sometimes wondered how much was lost in that process. Saying this as someone whose childhood was spent in Japan, so it's not being baffled by the general tone or anything like that. Just felt like I was skimming the top of some of the stories instead of getting to dive into them. When they're good, they're really good though. Some of them felt like they'd be appropriate for a Junji Ito short story. At least one of them is really dark and uncomfortable, though, for anyone sensitive to that stuff--'the dark pit of insanity that is the human soul' kinda jank, and potentially upsetting, haha. I know that I was edging in that direction as I started through it. Anyway, at the very least an interesting read. It gave me a little difficulty, but worth looking at.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alix

    This was a welcome introduction to a different kind of science-fiction than the one I usually read. Whether it can be called science-fiction, though, I'm not so sure - these were stories ranging from (extreme) horror to the weird, the allegoric, many of them reminiscent of old Japanese folktales. However, this goes to prove the definition of the genre is very flexible among the world's cultures. There were a handful I liked more than others ("Standing Woman", "Triceratops"), but all of them, wit This was a welcome introduction to a different kind of science-fiction than the one I usually read. Whether it can be called science-fiction, though, I'm not so sure - these were stories ranging from (extreme) horror to the weird, the allegoric, many of them reminiscent of old Japanese folktales. However, this goes to prove the definition of the genre is very flexible among the world's cultures. There were a handful I liked more than others ("Standing Woman", "Triceratops"), but all of them, without exception, gave me a great sense of discomfort. "The Savage Mouth", by Sakyo Komatsu - very well written - is probably the most disgusting story I've ever come across.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nihal Vrana

    I'm familiar with Japanese Science-fiction through animes and mangas; but these stories were really something else. The translation was weak overall and there were 2-3 of them that was lost in translation; but the rest were really unique in a creepy/gloomy way. The sheer strength of the ideas in the stories and the unique tone of each story made me really enjoy this collection. I'm familiar with Japanese Science-fiction through animes and mangas; but these stories were really something else. The translation was weak overall and there were 2-3 of them that was lost in translation; but the rest were really unique in a creepy/gloomy way. The sheer strength of the ideas in the stories and the unique tone of each story made me really enjoy this collection.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David Layton

    Not enough science fiction from the rest of the world is translated into English. That is what makes this anthology worth getting. Since the 1960s, science fiction in languages other than English has taken quite different forms from the American styles that dominate in the English language. Little actual science fiction has been translated from Japanese, which is a shame given the selections here. The stories come from the 1960s through the 1980s. There is quite a variety. The first three are no Not enough science fiction from the rest of the world is translated into English. That is what makes this anthology worth getting. Since the 1960s, science fiction in languages other than English has taken quite different forms from the American styles that dominate in the English language. Little actual science fiction has been translated from Japanese, which is a shame given the selections here. The stories come from the 1960s through the 1980s. There is quite a variety. The first three are not really science fiction to my mind. Kobo Abe's "The Flood" is a think-piece, a fantastical "what if" scenario worked out at a very general level to get the reader philosophical. Ryo Hanmura's "Cardboard Box" is a different kind of think-piece, one of those that presents the point of view of an inanimate object, in this case a cardboard box. What does the world look like from that perspective? Again, interesting, but not really science fiction. Hanmura's "Tansu" is pretty much a ghost story. The first true piece of science fiction here is Shinichi Hoshi's "Bokko-Chan," a satirical critique of the Japanese fascination with female androids. Hoshi's "He-y, Come on Ou-t!" is another bit of social satire, in which a town takes advantage of physical anomaly without considering the consequences. Takashi Ishikawa's "The Road to the Sea" is my favorite story in the collection, a beautiful characterization of the urge to explore. "The Empty Field" by Morio Kita is another barely science fiction story, this time a modernist, stream-of-consciousness account of something that might or might not be alien. Sakyo Komatsu gives us a truly horrifying tale in "The Savage Mouth." His other story in the collection, "Take Your Chance," is quite different. This one is about how small actions can have big consequences in the future. It has a very clever surprise ending. Tensei Kono gives us another just barely science fiction story in "Triceratops," all about the pasts that we do and do not see right in our own neighborhoods. Taku Mayumura gives us an intriguing new type of alien in "Fnifmum," one that lives in the fourth dimension, but observes the other three. Yasutaka Tsutsui's "Standing Woman" presents the oddest sort of oppressive society I think I've read about, one in which the sick, the dying, and most importantly the disobedient are planted in the ground to become trees, a fate that goes for pets and people. The last story, Tetsu Yano's "The Legend of the Paper Spaceship," is a strange account of an isolated village, the people in it, and the possibility that the two most interesting people in it might not be human. There are a few aspects to the stories that make them distinct from English-language science fiction, and might be related to Japanese culture and literary tradition. One is that, apart from the final story, there is very little that a reader might call characterization. Characters are mostly types, not stereotypes, but specific perspectives. Most the characters, even the protagonists, lack background or depth. This is fine, since most of the stories play out at the social level rather than the personal level. Another distinct aspect is the surprising ending. This is not the surprise ironic twist of "The Twilight Zone." Rather, the endings often take a sudden turn toward the introspective or philosophical, with haiku-like revelations that beg the reader to make the connection. This kind of ending is most apparent in "The Empty Field," "Triceratops," and "The Legend of the Paper Spaceship," but something of the kind happens with nearly every story. A third aspect is that no story here has what we might call a hero, and many do not even have what we might call an anti-hero. There is a kind of remoteness in the telling that dissuades a reader from making too much of any character. All in all, the collection gives an English-language reader a refreshingly different thinking about how to use the tropes of science. Even though several of the stories are not really science fiction, all are definitely interesting reads, well translated to make nothing clunky for the English-language reader, apart from the occasional confused word error (a to/too, for instance).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    The stories contained in this anthology are much more "Japanese" than "science fiction," I think. A better title might have been "The Best Japanese Wonder Stories" or something, as all of them have some wondrous element, but many fall closer to the magic-realism or fantasy or quasi-folktale side of things - mostly because of their short, almost impressionistic lengths. That said, they were mostly good, and the prose was good too - I don't know what fluent Japanese readers would say if comparing The stories contained in this anthology are much more "Japanese" than "science fiction," I think. A better title might have been "The Best Japanese Wonder Stories" or something, as all of them have some wondrous element, but many fall closer to the magic-realism or fantasy or quasi-folktale side of things - mostly because of their short, almost impressionistic lengths. That said, they were mostly good, and the prose was good too - I don't know what fluent Japanese readers would say if comparing the originals to their translations here, but I did feel that some of the "Japanese-ness" came through fine. There's additional historical interest here from a purely meta-level perspective, as this collection pre-dates the new "yellow peril" themes of much Eighties Anglo sf, where everyone thought that ultramodern Japanese megacorps would own everything in 199X or 20XX. And yet you can also see certain tendencies that would later crop up in fully-sfnal anime in the Eighties and beyond. Highlights included "The Savage Mouth," "Standing Woman," and "The Legend of the Paper Spaceship" - not coincidentally, all very sfnal.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Frederic

    Years ago I read a fair amount of Japanese fiction (in translation), and always found it interesting. There was one story in particular that had always stuck in my mind, but I couldn't remember where I had seen it and hadn't found it since. Good news: It's in this collection -- although I'm pretty sure this is not where I had first seen it, as I remember it from several years before this was published. That story is Sakyo Komatsu's "The Savage Mouth", and it's as good as I remembered (and pretty Years ago I read a fair amount of Japanese fiction (in translation), and always found it interesting. There was one story in particular that had always stuck in my mind, but I couldn't remember where I had seen it and hadn't found it since. Good news: It's in this collection -- although I'm pretty sure this is not where I had first seen it, as I remember it from several years before this was published. That story is Sakyo Komatsu's "The Savage Mouth", and it's as good as I remembered (and pretty creepy). Other highlights for me include Komatsu's "Take Your Choice", a classic old-school-sci-fi style story (although apparently originally published in the '80s, it felt to me like a '40s-'50s US style); Tensei Kono's "Triceratops"; and Yasutaka Tsutsui's "Standing Woman". Unfortunately, overall I found the collection rather light, so I'm not sure it would be one I'd recommend as an introduction to the genre -- especially today, I'm sure there are more current collections that readers would be more likely to get into. But oh, to have "The Savage Mouth" back, that's wonderful....

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joel Kirk

    The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories was a book that possibly had bad translations, bad or mediocre writing, or ideas that could have succeeded with more work. There were, however, two stories that stood out for me: 'Cardboard Box' where a cardboard box has sentience. I won't spoil the story because I'm hoping you can read it for yourself. 'He--y, Come on Ou--t!' I imagined as a story that could have an adaption for live-action; a Twilight Zone-type of story. I also won't spoil this one. The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories was a book that possibly had bad translations, bad or mediocre writing, or ideas that could have succeeded with more work. There were, however, two stories that stood out for me: 'Cardboard Box' where a cardboard box has sentience. I won't spoil the story because I'm hoping you can read it for yourself. 'He--y, Come on Ou--t!' I imagined as a story that could have an adaption for live-action; a Twilight Zone-type of story. I also won't spoil this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Victor Van der westhuizen

    I enjoyed this book a lot. The 13 short stories found inside are definitely a hit or miss. Some are a few of the most creative short stories I have ever read, while one of them I couldn't understand at all after reading it twice. Not specifically Science Fiction, but rather a mix of a few genres where reality is slightly or extremely altered. Would recommend this to anyone looking for something slightly unexpected or different. I enjoyed this book a lot. The 13 short stories found inside are definitely a hit or miss. Some are a few of the most creative short stories I have ever read, while one of them I couldn't understand at all after reading it twice. Not specifically Science Fiction, but rather a mix of a few genres where reality is slightly or extremely altered. Would recommend this to anyone looking for something slightly unexpected or different.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    A collection of short science fictions stores; a strange mix of stories. Most enjoyed, "He-y, Come on Ou-t" by Shinichi Hoshi "The Savage Mouth" by Sakyo Komatsu "The Legend of the Paper Spaceship" by Tetsu Yano A collection of short science fictions stores; a strange mix of stories. Most enjoyed, "He-y, Come on Ou-t" by Shinichi Hoshi "The Savage Mouth" by Sakyo Komatsu "The Legend of the Paper Spaceship" by Tetsu Yano

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Mcilhenny

    A few of these were pulpy but others deserved six stars

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shashi

    Loved this series of stories, particularly "My Savage Mouth," a bizarre tale of self-cannibalization. Yes, you read that right. Loved this series of stories, particularly "My Savage Mouth," a bizarre tale of self-cannibalization. Yes, you read that right.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lance Schonberg

    This is an odd anthology, but not in the way I expected. While I’d originally picked a different anthology for Japanese short fiction (which I may still get to this year), this was the first significant English-language anthology done of Japanese SF, way back in 1989, though some of it was translated much earlier, I think. I think it’s likely anytime you get to read something for a very different viewpoint culturally, you’ll get something odd, something weird. Bringing something from another lang This is an odd anthology, but not in the way I expected. While I’d originally picked a different anthology for Japanese short fiction (which I may still get to this year), this was the first significant English-language anthology done of Japanese SF, way back in 1989, though some of it was translated much earlier, I think. I think it’s likely anytime you get to read something for a very different viewpoint culturally, you’ll get something odd, something weird. Bringing something from another language has a whole new set of problems, some of which will be inherent to the language you’re moving to as well as the one you’re moving from. The quality of the translation is important. So is the culture it’s coming from initially. So I expected different and I expected odd and I expected weird. I didn’t expect boring. Using the Goodreads 1-5 scale, I didn’t give anything more than a 3.5, and only two of those. Most of the rest were 2s and 3s, with 6 of the 13 stories falling below the 3 “I Liked It” mark. Some of the stories read like newspaper articles or essays, or maybe just someone telling you about some event but with very little actually happening in the story. There are some neat ideas, but the execution doesn’t come through into English very well, in spite of what I think are mostly good translations. The two stories that I flagged with a 3.5, good without quite making it to great for me, were “He-y, Come on Ou-t!” and “The Road to the Sea”. “He-y, Come on Ou-t!” is a story about what people do when they find a bottomless hole. Human nature being what it is, it’s not hard to figure out some of what gets tossed into it. The story leaves off just as we learn that it’s actually a wormhole (not that the word is used) and the other end lets out somewhere entertaining. “The Road to the Sea” is a rather sad story about a boy who loves stories of the sea so much that he sets out on a quest to find it. Unfortunately for him, he lives on Mars. There are some other neat ideas and reflections in the anthology – a creature that grows in time rather than space, a man who sets out to eat himself, and life from the point of view of a cardboard box – but nothing that stands out as really good. Overall rating: 2.5 stars, arrived at by the usual weighted average, which I'll round up to three for the official rating because I’m absolutely glad I read the volume even though it left me vaguely disappointed overall.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gareth D.

    This anthology of Japanese science fiction was first published in 1988 and is comprised of stories dating back to the 60’s, so in terms of my interest in comparing SF from other cultures, it doesn’t really give me an idea of what contemporary Japanese SF is like. What I did find interesting is that, similar to Anglophone SF of the same period, the protagonists are all male and female characters play little, if any, active roles in the stories. I can only assume that this has changed with time as This anthology of Japanese science fiction was first published in 1988 and is comprised of stories dating back to the 60’s, so in terms of my interest in comparing SF from other cultures, it doesn’t really give me an idea of what contemporary Japanese SF is like. What I did find interesting is that, similar to Anglophone SF of the same period, the protagonists are all male and female characters play little, if any, active roles in the stories. I can only assume that this has changed with time as it has done to some degree in English SF. Many of the stories are set in contemporary or near-future Japan, and even where aspects of society are obviously futuristic, the settings themselves are not startlingly different from today. I found several of the stories to be rather, I don’t know, naïve? They told stories of things that were intended to be amazing, but were not at all surprising, often narrated in the style of a parable rather than from an individual point of view. Again, I’m assuming this is due to the age of the stories, and to the fact that I’m very well read in SF. One thing that particularly struck me is that none of the protagonists have names. They are always referred to as ‘the young man’, ‘the father’, ‘the boy’ etc. In fact the only characters who are named are the non-humans. Again, I wonder if this is typical of Japanese fiction, or just of that time period? Two stories: ‘The Road to the Sea’ and ‘Fnifmum’ stood out among the collection, the kind of tales that leave you feeling satisfied at have read them. Then I came to the final entry, ‘The Legend of the Paper Spaceship’, a novelette by Tetsu Yano, described as ‘the dean of Japanese SF writers’. For this story, ignore everything else I have written. This is a classic in any time and place.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Japanese science fiction has always appealed to me in a different way than Western, Asimov-style fiction. Whereas western sci fi is more concerned with incorporating the hard sciences and thinking about what the future may hold, Japanese fiction is much more down to earth and fixated on the strange. The stories don't usually revolve around space marines or scientists, they revolve around regular people in unsettling circumstances. This is a really solid collection that hits everything from comic Japanese science fiction has always appealed to me in a different way than Western, Asimov-style fiction. Whereas western sci fi is more concerned with incorporating the hard sciences and thinking about what the future may hold, Japanese fiction is much more down to earth and fixated on the strange. The stories don't usually revolve around space marines or scientists, they revolve around regular people in unsettling circumstances. This is a really solid collection that hits everything from comical, to horror, to speculative.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amy Peavy

    I was really excited when I found another Japanese sci-fi anthology. The concepts of the stories in this book were often very interesting and inventive. However, I felt like I was missing a lot in translation. I liked a few of the stories. "The Standing Woman" because it was a unique snapshot of a disturbing future (where people and animals can be turned into plants). And "The Legend of the Paper Spaceship" not for the content, but because of the use of language. I was really excited when I found another Japanese sci-fi anthology. The concepts of the stories in this book were often very interesting and inventive. However, I felt like I was missing a lot in translation. I liked a few of the stories. "The Standing Woman" because it was a unique snapshot of a disturbing future (where people and animals can be turned into plants). And "The Legend of the Paper Spaceship" not for the content, but because of the use of language.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kimberley Frank

    This book had several stories that were more like philosophical moral stories and a few that seemed to actually be Scifi related. That said, the stories in this book were very interesting. You just have to take your time while you're reading through it to make sure you are interpreting the content correctly. This book had several stories that were more like philosophical moral stories and a few that seemed to actually be Scifi related. That said, the stories in this book were very interesting. You just have to take your time while you're reading through it to make sure you are interpreting the content correctly.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Printable Tire

    A lot of these stories were great. Deffinately more "speculative fiction" (ugh) or "magical realism" than science fiction though. The only ones I can remember off the top of my head are the one personifying a box and cosmic worm ouroboros. A lot of these stories were great. Deffinately more "speculative fiction" (ugh) or "magical realism" than science fiction though. The only ones I can remember off the top of my head are the one personifying a box and cosmic worm ouroboros.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    220219: 2nd reading. first read 30 years ago. not exactly sf in many cases and for this i am disappointed, but now, having read much japan lit (330 books) and more lit in general i must up the rating. the story 'legend of the paper starship' is one of my forgotten favorite short stories ever... 220219: 2nd reading. first read 30 years ago. not exactly sf in many cases and for this i am disappointed, but now, having read much japan lit (330 books) and more lit in general i must up the rating. the story 'legend of the paper starship' is one of my forgotten favorite short stories ever...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I loved these stories!!!!! Totally worth the Amazon shipping. So crazy and absurd and lovely. :) And in at least one story, totally f#@*ed up! :) Two thumbs way up. :)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    Worth picking up just for "The Savage Mouth" and "Take Your Choice" by Sakyo Komatsu. Some stories are a little disturbing or high-handed, but all in all a very good collection. Worth picking up just for "The Savage Mouth" and "Take Your Choice" by Sakyo Komatsu. Some stories are a little disturbing or high-handed, but all in all a very good collection.

  27. 4 out of 5

    SFReader

    http://www.sfreader.com/read_review.a... http://www.sfreader.com/read_review.a...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    One of the finest Sci/Fi books I have ever read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sae-chan

    Clearly I'm in a science fiction streak this month. And not disappointing. These are great stories, great fantasies, great ideas. I especially loved the one with the abyssmal hole. Clearly I'm in a science fiction streak this month. And not disappointing. These are great stories, great fantasies, great ideas. I especially loved the one with the abyssmal hole.

  30. 4 out of 5

    A.

    Startling and insightful, translated magnificently by a very dedicated team.

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