I bought the novelisation of the film 『未来のミライ』by director Mamoru Hosoda to try the collection Tsubasa of the publisher Kadokawa. Tsubasa is a collection of books for children with full furigana and a wide range of genres classified in different levels of difficulty. 『未来のミライ』, which is novelised by Mamoru Hosoda himself, belongs to the level “小学上級から”.
I am very happy with the collection Tsubasa, and I will certainly buy other books from it. However, I had a hard time reading 『未来のミライ』and I would not have finished it, weren’t it for the sake of this review.
Read with furigana
It really is a pleasure to read a novel with full furigana. I thought of several ways to use the books of this collection to study:
- Look up more words: I can’t tell you how often I give up looking up a word because I don’t want to draw the kanji in my electronic dictionary. I mean, having the possibility to draw the kanji rather than doing a painful search by key is a great improvement. But sometimes, I am too lazy even for that!
- Read aloud: I think that reading aloud is a very good exercise. You can work on your intonation and will certainly remember some structures more efficiently. Also, if you are not used to speaking in Japanese, it can be an easy and comfortable first step to start voicing some Japanese.
- Take the opportunity to revise forgotten words: There are a lot of words that I have learned at some point and whose meaning I remember well because they often appear in novels. However, I would forget their exact pronunciation. With so many new words around me to look up, I almost never take the time to look up these familiar words just to check their pronunciation. Having furigana is obviously a way to revise them painlessly.
The downside of having furigana is that some passages with a lot of text can sometimes look a little crowdy; this makes the whole thing look more difficult than it actually is. To be honest, I found the very first pages of 『未来のミライ』to be a little discouraging.
I highly recommend having a look at this collection if you want to start reading novels in Japanese but feel overwhelmed by the too many unknown kanji. I think you should start by looking at the “easy” books because 『未来のミライ』was not super easy to read. On the Website, you can read the first pages of the books as a free sample, so I recommend starting there.
『未来のミライ』was not for me
Let’s say it plainly, I didn’t like 『未来のミライ』and I thought I would never be able to finish it. I think that both I and the book are a little guilty of this disappointment.
A nice story
『未来のミライ』tells the story of the young Kun who has to deal with his newly born sister and two parents that seem a little overwhelmed by the situation. A series of fantastic events, in which he will meet his sister Mirai coming from the future, will help him overcome his initial dislike of her.
I think that the story is very nice, but it just was not for me. I could not, at any time, feel sympathy or interest for the capricious Kun and I was not particularly interested in the fantastic aspects of the story. I was expecting a focus on the two protagonists: Kun and Mirai from the future, but Mirai appears much less than I thought she would.
The structure of the story is also very repetitive. Instead of a narration that would progress, the same pattern repeats itself several times and I was quickly bored by it (spoiler: namely, a real situation in which Kun is frustrated and upset will trigger a fantastic situation where he meets a member of his family coming from a different time, experiences fantastic things, learns something, and then things go back to reality with a wiser Kun).
I am guilty here, but when I bought the book, I thought that the only fantastic element would be the apparition of Mirai from the future and that the story would mainly happen in “real life”. I was disappointed to see that a big part of the story takes place in a fantastic environment that was too arbitrarily fantastic to my taste.
I think that I am not very receptive for these kinds of stories or protagonists. So of course, this is my personal opinion, and I am sure that many people have watched and enjoyed the film.
Better for a film than a novel
I would like to point out another thing that explains why I didn’t like this novel. 『未来のミライ』is the kind of story that is perfect for the screen but loses a lot of its magic if novelised.
The fantastic parts create a dramatic visual effect that is certainly beautiful on screen. At least, that was my impression when I watched the trailer. Suddenly, the landscape would change, and Kun would find himself in a completely different place, time and atmosphere. It gives the film its magic, but I found it would fall flat on paper.
Some scenes’ interest and humour come from the actions and posture of the protagonists. Here again, it is much vivid on screen than in a book.
Not so easy to read
Last but not least, let’s talk about the difficulty level of this book. It was not a challenging book, but any novel by Keigo HIGASHINO would be much easier to read for me. I was reading a Higashino and 『未来のミライ』at the same time, and it always struck me how easy Higashino felt when I picked it up after I had read Hosoda’s book.
I think that there are three reasons why I found some parts of the book unexpectedly difficult:
- First, I thought that it was difficult for a children book, but then I thought that it might be difficult because it was a book for children. I can imagine that books for young readers also have an educational goal and try to introduce a rich vocabulary.
- Being a novelisation, this book has to describe everything that happened on screen. As a consequence, there was a lot of descriptive passages that were not all easy to read. I found the end to be particularly challenging, but that may be because I was looking forward to finishing it and was not as focused as I should have been.
- When you read in a foreign language and don’t understand all the words, you have to rely a lot on the context to guess a part of the words you don’t know instead of looking them up. With the fantastic elements, it was impossible to guess from the context because the context would arbitrarily change and I was sometimes as bewildered as Kun himself.
While I recommend the collection I don’t particularly recommend this book. As I didn’t like reading it, I haven’t taken advantage of the many study opportunities provided by the furigana. I wanted to use the book to make all kinds of exercises like reading out loud, translating in French then back in Japanese and so on. But at the end, I just read it as quickly as I could to finish it.
But I don’t give up! Next time, I will dig into the Tsubasa website to find a story that interests me, hoping that I will then be willing to spend more time with the novel and use it to study.