Saturday, August 04, 2012

Chain Mail Addicted to You (Hiroshi Ishizaki)

Two things have kept me from posting as many book reviews as I could have during the past few months. One: a business trip to Tokyo that had me occupied weeks before and even weeks after my visit there. Two: a role-playing game that my friends and I have been playing for the past ten months. I've gotten obsessed quite steadily.

It's hard to explain how truly addictive an RPG can get, especially to someone who hasn't played one. Chances are, I'll only get strange looks should I attempt to do so. In a nutshell though, an RPG -- especially one that is as long-term as ours is -- lets you develop complex relationships with the other players. It lets you populate an imagined world with projections of your own selves: a direct copy, maybe; an ideal, possibly. Sooner or later, you get attached to them despite your better judgment. And in building these relationships, an RPG can also isolate your from everyone else who isn't part of it. May sariling mundo, as we say in Tagalog, in more ways than one.

That's the premise of Hiroshi Ishizaki's Chain Mail Addicted to You. Four teenage girls find themselves answering yes to an enigmatic request sent to their phones: Would you like to create a fictional world? The game they play is fairly straight-forward. Each girl takes on one of four roles: a young girl, her stalker, her boyfriend, and a detective. Through their posts, they help build the action and flesh out the characters. But eventually, the lines between what is real and what is a game start to blur -- not just for the characters but for the reader as well.

Chain Mail takes the reader through the different reasons why someone would seek to escape into an imagined world. For example, Sawako is standoffish and isn't too popular with her friends. Mayumi, on the other hand, is devoted to her best friend, a star badminton player. She's never questioned her role in the relationship until now, when she realizes that she can make things happen, even if it's just in the game. Mr Ishizaki writes from each girl's point of view. It's a challenge, but he manages to differentiate the girls from one another. He is also effective in creating tension within the game. Even if all we read are excerpts from the girls' exchanges, sufficient excitement and paranoia is built to make us eager to find out what happens to the young girl and her stalker.

There are so many elements to Chain Mail that makes the reading experience an intriguing one. Though the twists in the story were not that unique, what stands out is the depiction of teenage life from something other than a western perspective. With its Tokyo setting, different concerns and motivations are pushed into the spotlight. Of course, with what I had revealed earlier, it goes without saying that I could relate to a lot of elements in this novel. My own experiences definitely color how I appreciate a book but I hope that you can give this psychological thriller (and a social commentary of sorts) a chance as well.


Tin said...

LOL at "may sariling mundo!" A cousin of mine is currently addicted to one. A friend, who is a former RPG gamer, used to talk about nothing but. I know because I was the one at the other end of the conversation, absently nodding. :D

Attachment and blurring between reality and fantasy. These words are really perfect to describe what happens when one gets in too deep inside the gaming world. (But even when reading fictional works. I get attached to characters or stories a lot. :)) I don't have much luck with Japanese authors but this book seems really intriguing and it's kind of YA and I understand the whole getting lost in a fictional world thing.

Kyameel said...

Oooh! This sounds like an interesting read! I'll add it to my TBR pile XD

And heh at "sariling mundo". *snickers intelligibly about yogurt shop conversation*

Kim said...

This sounds interesting. Reminds me a bit of the premise of the Dot/Hack anime series franchise though. Except that one was built around a fantasy RPG. Was this translated from Japanese?

dementedchris said...

You can try this one. I think it's accessible because the protagonists are teenagers and their concerns are also familiar. :D

Yes, it was! It's a different RPG format so the approach is different, too. Not quite Dot/Hack or PRG Metanoia. ^^; I found this copy at our local Booksale.

Will lend it to you in Sept. Alam na!