“You have been chosen, walk the true path.” – Brave Story, by Miyuki Miyabe.
For many of us, the only source of Japanese literature that we are familiar with are Mangas, which is not at all surprising seeing as not many Japanese novels are translated into English for Western audiences.
However, a popular Japanese novel that has been translated into English is Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe. A lot of reviewers and people who have read this novel have often mentioned the books lengthy read of 800 plus pages, but if you were one of the people that could read a large book series such as Harry Potter in a matter of days, then this novel is going to be a piece of cake.
Brave Story is a fantasy novel that centres on Wataru Mitani, an ordinary ten year old boy who loves playing video games with his best friend Katchan, and who often wonders about the abandoned building in his area that may or may not be haunted.
As the novel progresses, the story starts to veer into darker territory, which is sparked by his parents’ divorce. Like many children who have faced this life altering experience, Wataru is caught in the middle and is well aware of the change in family dynamics.
Desperate to change his fate and to bring his family back together, Wataru discovers the fantastical world of Vision, which is made through the imagined thoughts of those that came before him. Vision understandably reminds Wataru of the fantasy video games that he played with his best friend however like our world, Vision has its own problems to face such as racial prejudice, crimes in the name of religion and war.
Wataru is faced with all of these issues and the more he stays in Vision the more he involves himself with its different cultures and its people.
Wataru is not the only person who wants to change their fate and he faces tough competition from school friend, Mitsuru, who serves as the novel’s main antagonist. As the story progresses and the characters develop, the reader discovers the differences between Wataru and Mitsuru.
Unlike many other fantasy novels, Miyabe does not fall into the cliché of good versus evil. Every character has a reason for their behaviour and the reader can easily empathise and understand the plight of both Wataru and Mitsuru.
The world of Vision is complex, but still retains some of the childhood fantasy nostalgia that a lot of readers can relate to and there are a lot of adult themes in this novel for the reader who wants a more serious fantasy novel.
I loved this novel and although it took me a little longer to read than usual, it did not feel like a chore or a burden. Miyuki Miyabe is an accomplished writer, but Brave Story is something different. I think having its own Manga, video game series and film is a pretty good indication of how popular and loved this book is.