Idol, Burning

HarperAudio. Nov. 2022. tr. from Japanese by Asa Yoneda. 3:13 hrs. ISBN 9780063213319. $16.99. F
Usami’s 2020 Akutagawa Prize–winning debut novella explores fandom taken to an obsessive, even dangerous level. High school junior Akari’s one passion is Masaki Ueno, singer-songwriter for the J-pop group Maza Maza. When scandal breaks about Masaki, Akari’s life spirals out of control. The ensuing brief but potent story explores the thoughts and feelings of a super fan—how her obsession defines her sense of self, and the damage it does to her health and interpersonal relationships. Usami’s writing style is descriptively poetic, and while the narrative is interesting, listeners may be disappointed by the lack of resolution and minimal character growth. Narrator Mirai’s narrative style captures Akari’s intense and energetic personality perfectly, and her pronunciation of Japanese words is flawless. Mirai’s changes in inflection and tone make it possible to easily distinguish between characters. Unfortunately for listeners, many parts of this story are best told visually, from the internet text heavily laden with emojis to depictions of Chinese characters that lend nuance to Akari’s mental struggles.
VERDICT While Mirai’s performance is excellent, this novella is best experienced in print.
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