Sunday, May 07, 2023

Associate Professor Akira Takatsuki's Conjecture by Mikage Sawamura: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Associate Professor Akira Takatsuki's Conjecture by Mikage Sawamura

Associate Professor Akira Takatsuki's Conjecture is a Japanese light novel set in a university in present day Tokyo. Naoya Fukamachi is a first-year student trying to figure out college life and what he wants to study. What he doesn’t want are activity clubs and friends. If at all possible, he would stay away from people completely.

Naoya has a unique ability to hear lies. It’s a distortion of sound that is painful for him, so much so that if many people lie around him, he might faint. To survive, he hasn’t a single friend, and even casual acquaintances are upsetting, because he doesn’t want to know when they lie. Large lecture halls are a nightmare.

But they can’t be avoided. On a whimor so he tells himselfhe attends a course on folklore that specializes in urban legends, ghost stories, and strange phenomena. It’s held by professor Akira Takatsuki whose enthusiasm for his topic keeps the students glued to their seatsor it’s because he’s very handsome.

For extra credit, Naoya submits a story of a strange event that happened to him, and even though he doesn’t tell everything, Professor Takatsuki knows it’s real. He’s an eccentric person who gets excited fast, and so he decides to make Naoya his assistant, mostly because Naoya has common sense the professor lacks and can read maps. And then he learns about Naoya’s ability and it turns out that the professor has a similar story in his past.

The book consists of three cases the pair investigate. There’s a haunted house, a curse, and a girl who has been spirited away. They’re fun stories, though not particularly difficult to solve, with some exciting action too. And they are good windows to Japanese society and folklore. A lot of folklore. The author is either a folklorist himself, or a true enthusiast. Occasionally the book reads like lecture notes, but everything is always interestingat least for a historian like me.

But the main mystery remains unsolved for now. What happened to Naoya and the professor when they were children. Were they genuine supernatural events or something more mundane. What they know is that both have been permanently altered because of it.

This was a good start for a series. The cases were complete and the book ends at a natural point and not with a cliffhanger. Naoya and Takatsuki were great characters and complete opposites of each other; the teacher student dynamic was occasionally upside down, which probably doesn’t translate well to western readers. For a light novel, the story had a more mature feel than I usually associate with them, and it reads more like a paranormal cozy mystery than a young adult novel. I’d very much like to read more and I hope the rest of the seven volumes are translated too.

I received a free copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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