Idol burning cover

Idol, Burning

Rin Usami (translated by Asa Yoneda)
Canongate Books, Paperback

The 2020 Akutagawa Prize winner is an intriguing novella pitched as a look into “obsession, pop culture and fandom.” Although it absolutely delivers on that front, its most compelling element is not the teenage protagonist’s relationship to her oshi, or idol, but to those around her.

Akari has always struggled, both in school and life. Becoming a dedicated fan and blogger gave her a sense of achievement and self-worth, but when rumours arise that her oshi has attacked a fan, Akari’s beloved online community begins to disintegrate.

Like Akari herself, this is a quietly intense book that offers an honest exploration of contemporary connection and isolation, with fan culture as a fascinating backdrop. Frequently described as “compassionate,” the first-person narrative paints a nuanced picture of dedication that might seem extreme to some, but can be a remedy for loneliness and frustration to people like Akari. In her note, translator Asa Yoneda highlights the ease of rendering the online discourse in English, a testament to the ubiquity of these experiences, regardless of geographic location.

I highly recommend this for readers who loved Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman for its equally compassionate portrayal of a woman who relates to the everyday in unique ways.

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