While I was in the middle of Doctor Butabuta I bought this book, #19 in the long-running series. Here our stuffed pig of a protagonist is the owner of a bookshop – huzzah for bookish stuff in novels! He’s even surrounded by previous installments of his own series on the cover.
There is some publishing talk and handselling to customers but most of the action revolves around a community radio show. Every week a listener writes in with their real life worries and Butabuta recommends a book to help them through their problems, a la The Novel Cure.
Overall I found the four short stories that make up this volume to be quite uneven. While it has my favorite Butabuta story so far, about a student who is having difficulty transitioning to university life, it also has two stories I struggled to get through. One follows an angsty teenager (ugh) and the other is an oversimplified look at the hikikomori phenomenon. The ending makes light of what can be a symptom of a serious psychiatric disorder – not cool.
Getting back to the series as a whole, in each book Butabuta leads a different life so I expected massive changes, but I’m still surprised that he’s married in this installment. Both his wife and daughter are human even though he’s a living stuffed pig… I don’t get it, either. One character shared my confusion but frustratingly the question was left to lie.
Enough negatives – there are props to be given, too. I love that the radio show recommends and reads excerpts from actual books. One is even an English book in translation, much appreciated, and Yazaki touches on the reasons for her selections in the afterward.
With a bookish theme I had high hopes but Butabuta’s Bookstore fell a bit flat for me. I’ll continue on with the series, but maybe not right away – an entire world of Japanese language literature awaits!