Literary anthologies are quite rare. Though a few are still sold in magazine stands across the US, they are few in number and mostly obscure to the general public. So how surprising is it that out of all the books from Japan a publisher could bring over, they would choose a young adult anthology?
Of course, FAUST isn’t just any YA anthology. It is, in all honesty, one of the most prestigious in all of Japan. Having launched in 2003, the publisher went on to release seven subsequent volumes, all of which still remain readily available in print. Bound almost exactly like a regular paperback book, the anthology features some of Japan’s most popular and well known YA authors. With only one editor, a man who works for a well known YA publishing division, the magazine has surpassed most expectations.
When I first heard of FAUST’s English release, I was admittedly excited. Not only did it mark another translation of Japanese fiction, but a serious literary work that has much notoriety in its home country. With eager anticipation, I picked up a copy as soon as possible.
As surmised by the term “anthology”, FAUST is a collection of short stories by some of Japan’s bestselling YA authors, including such big names as Otsuichi (author of “Calling You”, “Zoo”, etc), NisiOisin (author of “Zaregoto”), and Kouhei Kadono (author of the “Boogiepop” series). Ranging from science fiction, to psychological thriller, to romance, and to slice of life, the four hundred page paperback delivers nothing else if not variety. Along with the large number of short stories are some advice columns and original Manga that attempt to blur the line between art and prose.
To start this review off, I’ll begin by saying that FAUST is a work of gripping, thought provoking, and humorous talent. Filled with stories that encompass a wide variety of genres, it succeeds in showing us what a literary anthology can and should strive to be in terms of raw creativity. On the other hand, it’s also boring and including one story, terribly written. As with any short story collection, especially when dealing with multiple authors, there is always the risk that not every story will be as well written as the last.
To get specific, some of the stories are downright unforgettable, such as with the works “F-Sensei’s Pocket” by Otsuichi or “Outlandos dAmour” by Kouhei Kadono. But some stories prove to be the polar opposite: unfulfilling throughout. Because of this, FAUST can be likened to a bag of Halloween candy. There are some great candies, but also some you’d rather spit out once you take a bite.
Overall, the publication is a winner though. Filled with new ideas and old alike, it provides an excellent example for why YA can’t be stereotyped and how it has the potential to be just as diverse as any other genre.
Del Rey has done a great job with their translation of the book, much like their previous work on “Zaregoto”, and do not disappoint with their localization. Translation notes are scattered across the pages helping readers to avoid confusion or feeling out of the loop in regard to Japanese-centric aspects of the stories.
FAUST is a literary anthology that will both entertain and educate readers in more ways than one. Not only does it allow us to steal a sneak peak at a literary culture very different from our own, but it shows us the vast amount of room American YA authors still have to maneuver in. Though not every story is a keeper, the ones that are more than make up for the duds.
Matthew Reeves is an aspiring novelist living in California. You can usually find him lost in thought on a walk or writing on Twitter as @MattReeves17.