Adachi and Shimamura, Vol. 1

By Hitoma Iruma and Non. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee.

It is, to be honest, rare that a light novel catches me completely by surprise. For one thing, I tend to spoil myself as to what the content of a series is going to be. I thought I knew about this one. I knew it was an extremely popular yuri light novel series. I also knew it was supposed to be a bit boring. Both are true. The story begins with Adachi and Shimamura already knowing each other (though we get a later flashback to how they meet). They’re both delinquents who tend to cut class. Adachi, the black-haired girl, is seemingly stoic and unapproachable. Shimamura, who has dyed light brown hair, is more open and has more friends than the aloof Adachi, but also seems to have a disconnect when it comes to emotions. Seeing them flapping around in their interior monologue trying to connect is what’s meant to be the point of the book. That said, it doesn’t quite keep the reader’s attention. Then the girl in the spacesuit shows up…

So yes, this is my own fault. I knew that the author of this series has written a large number of other series for both Dengeki Bunko and other publishers (including the Bloom Into You light novel spinoffs). I had also heard of the much older series Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl (Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko), but didn’t realize that it was also by this author. And that series has, as one of its supporting cast… a girl who dresses in a spacesuit and has seemingly supernatural powers. In the context of that other series, which stars another girl who says she is an alien, Yashiro as a mysterious maybe alien with supernatural abilities works fine. But when she shows up here and starts hanging out in what is, let’s face it, the cast of K-On! without the band, it’s quite jarring. Especially when she takes over the scenes she’s in… and proves to be more interesting than the two leads.

Let’s get back to the title characters. Three fifths of the book is narrated by Shimamura, and is the poorer for it. I’m not sure what the author is really trying to convey with her headspace. She seems to be pretending to be a normal, outgoing high school girl to hide her own inner lack of empathy and interest, but she’s too good at it externally and too bad at it internally, so it doesn’t quite come off. She’s the reason the book is seen as dull. When the narrative shifts to Adachi, things pick up a great deal, as she has the actual character conflict – she’s in love with Shimamura, something she starts the book off denying (in the classic “not in a gay way or anything!” sense) but accepts, at least to herself, by the end of the book. I think she’d have confessed to Shimamura on their “date” if Yashiro hadn’t ruined her chances. Hopefully future books will give Shimamura the chance to develop beyond “how do I connect to other humans” as well.

So I am very fifty-fifty about this book. The most interesting character in it is from another series. The narrator for most of the book struggles to connect with not only everyone around her but also the reader. On the other hand, Adachi’s inner monologue of panicked love epiphany was genuinely involving. I’ll be reading another volume, but so far it’s more Adachi than Shimamura for me.

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