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Morimi Tomihiko

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1979-    ) Writing name of a Japanese author whose work bridges many trends in Japan, including concentrations on studied, commodified "cute", contemporary romance, postmodernism (see Postmodernism and SF) and the Media Landscape.

A master's graduate in Agriculture from Kyōto University, Morimi was first published while still a student, and continues to draw deeply on the experience of living in the City that was Japan's capital for a thousand years before 1868, and which remains an icon of old-world tourism and genteel sophistication. Morimi's Kyōto is a riot of pop-up bazaars and student happenings, the thinnest of veneers over the rich, vibrant colours and culture of antiquity, where the sight of a geisha in full finery waiting for a bus is no more or less surreal than the revelation that said geisha is a Shapeshifting fox-spirit or crow-demon from Japanese Mythology. For Morimi, the city's periodic festivals and carnivals are recurring moments of liminality, over-writing the modern world with bursts of Fantastika. Of particular note is his Tanuki series beginning with Uchōten Kazoku ["Eccentric Family"] (2007), set in a Wainscot Society of Shapeshifter racoon-dogs, contending over who gets to be the Secret Master of Kyōto. Parallels are inevitable with Haruki Murakami, not the least for Morimi's shared penchant for nameless, slacker protagonists and pixie-dreamgirl muses, but in Morimi's work the city itself becomes a nest for Club Stories, the tellers of which may or may not realize that they are living amid the Ruins and Futurity of a forgotten Japan. In that regard, his work might be better regarded as a Japanese answer to the urban fantasies of Neil Gaiman.

Several of his books have been adapted into Anime by production committees keen to stress the local colour: a twenty-first-century trend in "holy land" tourism encouraging many film adaptations that rely, at least partly, on their role in promoting domestic tourism. Undeniably, Morimi has also tapped into a modern zeitgeist for bathetic romance and might-have beens in the vein of Makoto Shinkai, particularly in his Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei ["4.5 Mat Mythical Chronicles"] (2008; vt The Tatami Galaxy), a Time Loop in which a freshman's luck in love is revisited and retooled through the simple Jonbar Point of which university hobby-club he elects to join; the story was adapted for television as The Tatami Galaxy (2010). The protagonist of Yoru wa Mijika-shi, Aruke-yo Otome ["The Night is Short, Walk on, Girl"] (in Sweet Blue Age, anth 2006; fixup 2008; trans Emily Balistrieri as The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl 2019) pursues an indifferent love interest through an academic year, dimly aware that she is merely a catalyst not only for his adventures on the journey, but for the romantic imaginings that he projects upon her. The 2017 anime version of the same name increases the sense of the surreal by compressing the entire story, seasonal changes and all, into a Fabulation that purports to last for a single allegorical night. The post-modern awareness, of the literal object status of love objects, is given a delicious twist in Morimi's Yakō ["Night Train"] (2016), which begins as an investigation into the disappearance of a girl, only for the protagonist to realize that he is the one who has disappeared, in at least one universe.

Much as Hayao Miyazaki's Gake no Ue no Ponyo (2008) (see Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) followed an Oulipo policy of dropping all words from the script that would be unintelligible to its infant protagonist, Morimi's Penguin Highway (2010) sustains the voice of its pre-teen narrator throughout as he attempts to comprehend the arrival of Aliens in a small Japanese town. Entirely ill-equipped to understand the advanced civilization that has landed in a nearby meadow, and possibly enclosed it within a Pocket Universe, the young Aoyama is nevertheless no worse at interpreting the phenomena around him than the adult officials and Scientists who would otherwise form the protagonists in mainstream sf. A reinterpretation of Clarke's third law (see Clarke's Laws), to the extent that any sufficiently advanced technology might not merely be indistinguishable from magic, but also from Magic Realism, the novel features a town infested by teleporting penguins (see Teleportation), themselves a manifestation of a presence that exists in multiple Dimensions beyond human understanding. Where the adult scientists fail to achieve meaningful results, their children successfully befriend the mystery woman who is herself an extension of the ship's AI. Deducing that the penguin-forms are themselves somehow held in check by predatory "Jabberwock" creatures (see Lewis Carroll), and that both are symbolic manifestations of the ship's Power Source, it is the children who penetrate the ship's defences to achieve First Contact. This itself is naturalistically anti-climactic, since the children are no more able to communicate than might a denizen of Flatland with a visitor from our world. [JonC]

Morimi Tomihiko

born Ikoma, Nara, Japan: 6 January 1979




individual titles (many possibly linked)

  • Taiyō no Tō ["Tower of the Sun"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2003) [binding unknown/]
  • Yojōhan Shinwa Taikei ["4.5 Mat Mythical Chronicles" vt The Tatami Galaxy] (Tokyo: Ōta Shuppan, 2008) [The Tatami Galaxy (2010) is the English title of the anime series based on this work: binding unknown/]
  • Kitsune no Hanashi ["A Fox's Tale"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2009) [binding unknown/]
  • Yoru wa Mijika-shi, Aruke-yo Otome ["The Night is Short, Walk on, Girl"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2008) [binding unknown/]
  • Yueyama Mangekyō ["Yueyama Kaleidoscope"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2009) [binding unknown/]
  • Penguin Highway (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2010) [binding unknown/]
    • Penguin Highway (New York: Yen Press, 2019) [trans of the above by Andrew Cunningham: hb/]
  • Yūbin Shōnen ["Postal Boy"] (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 2011) [binding unknown/]
  • Koibumi no Kijutsu ["Techniques for Love Letters"] (Tokyo: Popular-sha, 2011) [binding unknown/]
  • Seinaru Namakemono no Bōken ["The Adventures of a Saintly Slacker"] (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbun Shuppan, 2013) [binding unknown/]
  • Yakō ["Night Train"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2016) [binding unknown/]


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