Kanashii yokan (1988)

Kanashii yokan 哀しい予感:  A full-length novel written expressly for book publication, her first.  And the last of her five Banana-boom volumes of fiction that I’ve read.  It was published in book form in December, 1988.  I read the Kadokawa paperback, published in 1991;  it says it contains revisions to the original hardback text of an unspecified nature and extent.  Supposedly they’re pretty extensive.

It starts out sort of gothic, describing a dilapidated, overgrown, big old house and the strange spinster aunt who lives there.  The narrator is Yayoi, a college aged girl, and the aunt is Yukino, about ten or so years older than Yayoi.  The aunt is a school music teacher, outwardly prim but a real slob when she gets home;  nobody in the family really seems to get her but Yayoi, who has a habit of running away from home every now and then to stay with Yukino, which is what she’s done as the story begins.

Oh, yeah, and Yayoi has no memories of her childhood, but she had a ghostly encounter a few months before the story starts that triggered the beginning of the return of her memories, and among them is the realization that as a child she used to have some kind of clairvoyance.

All the makings of a good horror story, in fact, and there’s some creepiness crawling over the first few pages.  But soon enough the story takes a turn for the romantic, and the rest of the book is what readers by now would have begun to recognize as Standard Issue Banana.

The aunt disappears, and Yayoi chases her first to Karuizawa and then to Aomori.  In the process she makes a lot of discoveries about her life and her family, chief among which is that Yukino’s not her aunt, but her sister.  Yukino and Yayoi were orphaned when Yayoi was a small girl, in a car crash from which the girls barely escaped, and they were taken in by friends of the family, the people who Yayoi now calls Mother and Father.  Yukino was old enough to insist on living alone in a house the new family’s grandfather gave her (no money problems in this world), and so they called her an aunt.  Now Yayoi discovers the truth, which explains why she’s always felt so close to Yukino.

She discovers the truth just in time, too, because she’s realizing she has a crush on her “brother,” Tetsuo, who’s a couple of years younger than her.  Turns out he’s known for a while that they’re not related, and by the end of the book he’s reciprocating Yayoi’s feelings, although they decide to keep it cool for a while so as not to freak out their parents.

Like I say, the gothic atmosphere pretty much disappears by about a quarter of the way into the book.  For example, there’s no resentment between Yayoi and her adoptive parents as one might expect in a darker version of this scenario;  instead, they’re all happy, like a family in a Spielberg movie, she says.  In fact, there’s really not much conflict at all in the story;  instead there’s just a gentle and safe period in which the narrator learns about her traumatized background in a non-traumatic way, and falls in love into the bargain.  Even the aunt’s disappearance turns out merely to be the result of a need for a little time alone to confront her own memories – no foul play, no monsters under the bed.

Standard Issue Banana.  Reasonably well done, though.  Certainly lays out some themes that the author would explore more purposefully in future books – memory loss, near-miss-incest, the subversion of horror-story motifs.