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Yes, I'm missing the 15th through the 21st, but I can't for the life of me remember what I read during that period. At any rate, here's what I read during the week of March 22-28.
1) 妖怪アパートの幽雅な日常(1) - 香月日輪
    Living the Good Life in the Youkai Apartment vol. 1 – Kozuki Hinowa

Yushi Inaba is an orphan who escapes his emotionally distant relatives to live in an eerie apartment that just happens to be a clubhouse for all the supernatural creatures in the area. Inaba adjusts to this turn of events a little too quickly to be believed, but hey, this is YA fiction, and the cast of yokai characters are whimsical enough to make up for it.

Unfortunately, what could have been a fun, light read about an adolescent discovering his latent supernatural abilities alongside his magical buddies is destroyed by heavy-handed moralising so hypocritical you'd need a machete to cut through it. You see, in the world of Yokai Apartment, certain activities (consumerism, underage drinking, gossping, bullying) are Bad...unless the protagonist (or in the case of the bullying, the supernaturally powerful adults who protect the protagonist) happens to be doing it, in which case it's all in good fun. Hinowa’s message to his female readers, to which he returns over and over, is that their worth as human beings is determined by the extent to which their dreams and ambitions align with servicing the domestic and emotional needs of others. And for an added treat, don't miss the Afterward, in which readers are urged to buy multiple copies of Yokai Apartment (including the expensive hardback edition!) to give to others. (It'll cure your drug addiction! No joke!) Having bought one copy myself, I urge you to pass.

1) イン ザ プール - 奥田秀朗
    In The Pool - Okuda Hideo

Now this is some Japanese fiction I can get behind. Irabe Ichiro, a fat otaku “psychologist”is the common thread running through the five short stories anthologised in this book. Irabe is useless not only as a shrink but as a human being--so useless, in fact, that has hapless blunderings force his patients to cure themselves in order to escape him. While it's true Irabe is more plot device than character in his own right and the volume's lone female protagonist more stereotype than character, there is still definite charm in the way Irabe's patients confront and come to grips with the many complexes that afflict them. And even were that not the case, the second story alone justifies the price of admission. This is definitely one of the better works of modern Japanese fiction I've read.

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January 2012

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