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Shinjō Kazuma

Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: Author.

(?   -    ) Japanese author whose early success came in 1991 with a Tie to a Play-by-Mail game: Hōrai Gakuen ["Penglai Academy"] set at a huge, 100,000-strong school of duellists and schemers, itself on an offshore island that takes its name from that of the "isles of the immortals" in Chinese legend. His subsequent work has largely remained in the multiple chapbook format known as Light Novels in Japan (see also Motoko Arai; Yuichi Sasamoto), a genre in which he is sufficiently highly regarded to also be the author of a how-to guide, Light Novel Chō Nyūmon ["The Super Introduction to Light Novels"] (2006).

The Hōrai Gakuen series was turned into an audio drama, usually the first sign of a pipeline to Anime adaptation, but it never advanced any further, turning Shinjō into one of the shadowy figures of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century Media Landscape: popular in prose, but largely unknown in the other elements of the media mix that form synergies around particular creators and franchises. His subsequent serials included 15 x 24, which embroiled teenage protagonists in a Suicide club that uses cellphones to coordinate its members' deaths.

Although his output remained largely pulpy and dismissive, sometimes to the extent of his name credited as "editorial director" while others Sharecropped his franchises, Shinjō continued to put his own name to occasional works of greater merit, usually as standalone titles, such as Hoshi no, Babel ["Babel, of the Stars"] (2001), in which a Japanese protagonist in a South-Seas Ruritania attempts to preserve an Archipelago's unique language, in the face of modern military aggression. This experiment in Linguistics recalls the classier subject matter of Hisashi Inoue's earlier Kirikirijin ["The People of Kirikiri"] (1981), but goes further in its exposition on the nature of words to describe and manipulate reality. His best-known work to date, tellingly the only one to be published by the influential Hayakawa Shobō press, was Summer / Time / Traveller (2005), in which Time Travel is introduced to a teenager, who at first uses it for the most mundane and initially ineffectual leap of a mere three seconds. Redolent of the famous Toki o Kakeru Shōjo series, it struck a chord with a Seiun Award voting crowd nostalgic for their own high school days, and won Shinjō the Best Novel prize in 2006.

More recently, his Shimazu Senki ["Chronicles of House Shimazu"] (2014) is an intriguing work of History in SF, reimagining the southern domain of Shimazu as a samurai-era Keep with forbidden, exotic contacts to overseas technology and ideas, into which, to many critics' annoyance, Shinjō wove subplots of ESP and telepathic powers. The level of antipathy towards this story in particular suggests that, like some modern colleagues who have come up through the pulps (see Issui Ogawa), Shinjō is an author struggling to free himself from the mode of fiction that has made his name, although some of his readers seem unwilling to let him go. [JonC]

Kazuma Shinjō


works (selected)


Hōrai Gakuen

  • Hōrai Gakuen no Hatsukoi ["First Love at Penglai Academy"] (Tokyo: Fujimi Shobo, 1991) [Hōrai Gakuen: pb/Hirofumi Nakamura]
  • Hōrai Gakuen no Hanzai ["The Crimes of Penglai Academy"] (Tokyo: Fujimi Shobo, 1992) [in two vols: Hōrai Gakuen: pb/Hirofumi Nakamura]
  • Hōrai Gakuen no Majū ["The Beasts of Penglai Academy"] (Tokyo: Fujimi Shobo, 1993) [in two vols: Hōrai Gakuen: pb/Hirofumi Nakamura]
  • Hōrai Gakuen no Kakumei ["Revolution at Penglai Academy"] (Tokyo: Fujimi Shobo, 1996) [Hōrai Gakuen: pb/Hirofumi Nakamura]

15 x 24

individual titles


previous versions of this entry

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