Don’t laugh. I know you’re laughing, stop it.
So. I think I need to give an explanation on how I ended up reading “I Met You After The End Of The World” by Oniisanbomber, or how I’ve started calling him, Cristiano Bronaldo.
Just to make sure we’re on the same page, here in Italy “bomber” is a top scorer in football, and it’s also used as a friendly nickname between boys to call a friend who’s cool, regardless of their achievements in sports.
In japanese, “onii-san” is a way to refer to an older brother, and being relatively respectful it could also be used by a kid to call someone quite older than them.
The combo Oniisanbomber is quite hilarious to basically every italian weeb I know that read his name.
Moving on. On a normal day of june in 2021, I found myself doomscrolling on Twitter, y’know, the thing we all did during the pandemic. My timeline is mostly comprised of japanese artists (as it should), and one of them retweeted this GORGEOUS book cover. “I Met You At The End Of The World” - just from the title it was clear that it was inspired by the pandemic. In normal circumstances I would’ve scrolled past it, but then I noticed the name of the author.
The obvious reaction was to lose my shit, start laughing uncontrollably, and share it with my friends, that reacted in the same way.
It was decided: someone had to read that novel. Thing is, we’re all too broke to go buying books just for shits and giggles. So we tried to *ahem* find a way to borrow it, without success. We never forgot about it, but we gave up on trying to get a copy of the book.
Until the first of March 2022.
I charged my Kobo Aura H2O v2, spent a full hour losing my shit because the new firmware probably broke some Linux driver, and put the epub that my friend borrowed on it. The day after I read it in its entirety.
And I have thoughts. Not many of them are positive.
Obligatory spoiler warning. Not that I suggest reading it anyway.
The book is set in a post-pandemic Japan, a country that has been plagued by a COVID-like disease (the virus is never named, if you’re wondering); unlike the SARS-CoV-2, this virus mutated often and largely enough to make every attempt at creating vaccines ineffective, with the symptoms getting worse and deadlier the more time went on. As a result, our protagonist Daisuke, ex-salaryman, is the only human still alive in Tokyo. Why? Protagonist privilege, let’s have some healthy suspension of disbelief.
After breaking into a convenience store to get some cigarettes, he hears some noise coming from a store along the way, and there he finds Sayaka, a girl from Niigata that was forced to escape because of the discrimination against tokyoites and people with a Tokyo accent like hers, since the city has been mistaken as the starting point of the deadly mutation of the virus. After pointing a gun to him then putting it away, learning that money lost its value, and moving to his apartment, all in one short chapter (I’m trying really hard not to start judging it in the middle of the synopsis), they start looking for ways to spend their time. Videogames, movies, books, they have every shop in the city at their disposal.
Fresh food became almost impossible to find if not in the house of some billionaire who kept a huge stash of frozen food. The internet and phone lines died, but at least the electrical grid held up without any particular issue, despite all the time it went without any maintenance. Until it didn’t.
It’s in the middle of summer and all the corpses in Tokyo finally started decaying, filling the city with a putrid, disgusting smell. With nothing to lose, our heroes collect books about survival and decide to move to the south, hoping to recover Sayaka’s uncle’s diesel generator along the way.
Once in Niigata, they find more survivors. Thing is, they’re Sayaka’s ex-classmates, the same ones who pushed her away despite knowing she hadn’t been in Tokyo in a long time. To make things worse, one of the dudes is her manipulative psychopathic ex-boyfriend whose name I forgot, let’s call him Messy since we already have Cristiano Bronaldo. They’re all wary of Daisuke, which makes sense when you consider their age gap, and our man Messy tries to convince Sayaka to stay there and live with him and the rest of the circlejerk, with Daisuke almost ending up deciding by himself to leave her with them. She begs to differ, though, and to make her point come across she later takes over the car and runs over some of Messy’s lackeys, accidentally smashing the head of one of the dudes when the diesel generator falls from the back, in an action that had the same vibes as the Breaking Bad ATM incident. It’s not a compliment but again, trying hard not to judge yet.
After reminiscing about the insecurities of a teenage girl approaching adulthood, getting lost again because they can’t read maps properly (fair tbh, we got used to our smartphones), talking about trains and bentos, and playing with some deer in Nara Park, they end up finding a traditional inn that had electricity, with a granny living there and serving her visitors. She’s the best girl in the book so far, but don’t get too attached to her because after giving Sayaka a condom because of course she had one with her (our Cristiano Bronaldo thought this was important enough to dedicate the two whole pages of Chapter 16 to the matter) and singing some songs together in an improvised karaoke, she peacefully dies and gets buried in her vegetable garden. After Daisuke’s dream of being Sayaka’s senpai in 2003, they leave with granny’s diesel generator hoping that this time Sayaka will use something else to kill her next victim (foreshadowing). Running out of fuel on their way to Kagoshima, they see a recently painted Shinto gate, meaning there’s a shrine nearby and that someone might still be living there. There they find a monk that claims to be a student of a man named Matsu-sama, and after having a good meal and a bath, they go rest into a cottage with the promise of getting some gas for their car in the morning. Except the monk locks them inside, and Sayaka remembers about a certain cult founded by a man that went by the name of Matsu-sama, whose teachings preannounced that humanity must leave this world and he bestowed the pandemic upon the world with the purpose to rid it of humanity’s greed. So the monk wants to kill them to make them pass on like the others, but Sayaka pulls a dodge this and shoots him in the head through the narrow slit from which he was talking.
After they both go through guilt on their way to Kagoshima, they get into a mall near the port and, while gazing at the ocean, Sayaka tells Daisuke about the first man she killed, which was not her uncle but a guy who gave her a place to stay in exchange of sexual favors after everyone left her alone during the pandemic, which again makes the story sounds like the post-apocalyptic version of Higehiro. The end, what a wild ride.
Oh boy, where do I begin.
Let’s start with getting one thing off my chest: Oniisanbomber, if you’re reading this, please hire a better editor. Seriously dude, I’m sorry, maybe you like them a lot but they aren’t doing their job well enough. I won’t judge you too harshly for this because it’s fine to mess up when writing, it’s part of the process, and that’s exactly why we hire editors and why they should be good at their job. In your case, they’re missing many of your crimes against grammar, and they’re not giving you enough advice and feedback when it comes to repetitions and word choice, and yes you have a big problem with repetitions. Do yourself a favor, get a new editor.
One of the things the reader will notice in the first pages, when Daisuke explains many of the things that happened at the first stages of the pandemic, is that he (and consequently the author, since Daisuke is definitely a self-insert) really seems to have some beef with boomers. He rants about them so much that after a while it just gets annoying. We get it, they’re greedy and they messed up big time, you don’t need to say it so often because it gets boring pretty quickly.
There’s another thing that our Cristiano Ronaldo does a lot, and that’s going off on tangents. He mentions a flight and there he needs to specify that it was an Airbus A380 that transported a guy from Saitama who visited Honolulu and spread the american mutation in Japan. From time to time he’ll start writing many pointless details that add nothing to the story, they ruin the flow of the story and make the reader less focused since they’re a source of distraction. I do that too, but context matters. I would avoid that in a book at all costs. By the way, before reading chapter 8 I had some grapefruit gin, so please excuse me if it made me forgetful and I don’t point out some issues that are exclusive to that chapter. Also, this is a joke. Except for the gin, that stuff is no joke.
Yet another thing he does often is being overly precise with dumb stuff like his bike, a Honda Super Cub, and the car they found, a Toyota Land Cruiser. Dude, we don’t care. And it gets funnier when you notice that he mentions brands like Apple, Samsung, Honda, then he needs to mention the company he used to work at… and he calls it Sonia. It’s not a big deal, but it’s inconsistent (I’ll use this word a lot, gulp down a shot every time I say it). You didn’t have to censor it, and you don’t even need to mention brands in the first place.
The reason why I mentioned inconsistency (shot) is not just for the brands because, again, it’s a small thing. He’s also inconsistent (shot) with details regarding the story: at first he says that looting wasn’t a problem in Japan, and then he goes and visits a store… that has been looted clean. He also mentions gangs that robbed many shops. It’s almost as if he thought “actually, let’s make this more apocalyptic” but then forgot to change what he wrote before that thought.
If there’s one thing I really hated about this book, is the lack of suspense. When he finds Sayaka, arguably one of the most important scenes of the book, there’s an embarrassing lack of build-up. “I hear noises, I hope it’s not a boar, I go look holding a crowbar, I find a girl”. That’s it. He didn’t carefully enter the store, he didn’t look for the source of the noise, he does nothing. She’s there as soon as he enters the store, and the author has no intention of surprising you. It’s almost as quick as one of those scenes in which the male protagonist opens the door to the bathroom and finds the main girl naked, and I don’t mean this in a good way.
So they meet, she points a gun at him, she takes it away and they talk. He asks her if she’s alone. She says yes. And he goes towards his bike to leave. Really? Please explain what emotion you hope to convey with this. Like, sometimes you honestly have no idea what to think when he writes such meaningless actions.
I already mentioned that Daisuke is clearly a self-insert, but it gets even more clear when he talks about his past girls. I’m not shitting you when I say that the dude spent more time writing about Daisuke having sex with his exes and being proud of his friends masturbating to his girlfriend (this dude thinks this is a cool thing to say), than writing the scene of the two main characters meeting for the first time. I’m sure Oniisanbomber has a lot of sex and the self-insert thing is just an incorrect assumption of mine.
If you were hoping that at this point I would run out of things to judge, I’m sorry, there’s more. Many of the dialogues in this book are DRY. In some of them there’s barely any emotion, and in some cases it’s because he doesn’t use the correct punctuation like exclamation marks. He’s inconsistent (shot) even with this, because it doesn’t happen with every dialogue. It seems like he’s almost aware.
Now, remember the diesel generator incident? Turns out, he’s also inconsistent (shot) with repulsive scenes like that. Sometimes he tries to be particularly descriptive almost in the gory details, which is inconsistent (shot) with the rest of the writing, and other times he’s not. And even besides those scenes, he’s overall inconsistent (shot, I’m doing this on purpose) with the pacing of the whole story. Sometimes he takes his time telling the situations our heroes are in, and others he moves on quickly from them. It sucks a lot when he does it while he’s exposing Daisuke’s feelings, like when he thinks about how he only ended up meeting Sayaka and the granny because of the end of the world. And while we’re talking about feelings, we should mention Sayaka’s feelings and lack thereof: the way Sayaka feels during the story is very inconsistent (shot): sometimes she’s a normal and fragile girl like we expect her to be, but when her survival instincts kick, she completely detaches from herself in a way that’s a bit too hard to believe. Those moments are almost told in a hurry, with no suspense nor struggles, with barely any guilt that turns into apathy very quickly. And as a consequence of this all, the book ends with no cliffhanger, nothing at all that might make you feel like you can’t wait for the next volume. Hell, one might even assume there won’t be another if they don’t notice the easy-to-miss number on the cover. Just cutting a story in half is not enough to end a volume.
This story is overall a bit too influenced by Higehiro, and the author’s obsession with it gets even more evident when you read the excerpt from “I Fell in Love With A Soapland Girl”, one of his other books. Influence is good, but this kind of obsession is not, it turns you into a copycat.
I haven’t read his other books so I can’t judge them, but my instinct tells me that this is his best book. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, it’s up to you to decide. So, do I hate the book and Oniisanbomber? No, not really.
I honestly appreciate the lack of quirky humor, I was ready for the worst since I ended up on Cristiano Bronaldo’s Reddit account. It’s a relatively serious novel, it’s not exactly funny but has enough relief from the serious atmosphere and it’s the one thing that doesn’t ruin the atmosphere, I like it this way. Not that I’d have laughed anyway, I misheard “look Harry had a vagina malfunction” in the Caramelldansen chorus and experienced peak comedy, I won’t be able to laugh at anything else for a while.
The last thing I want is to discourage or destroy the dude. If anything, I envy him because, unlike me, he actually writes his stories. I feel like Oniisanbomber has the right creative vision, there’s some talent and a lot of potential. It’s up to him to turn his latent abilities into something able to cast a shadow, he needs to grow up both as a person and as a writer. This book is clearly targeted towards the average redditor-otaku who’s into fanservice and self-inserts, but I get the feeling that he’s capable of more than this. Even though I made fun of him for his name, maybe it’s for the best, I’d rather have him write mediocre stories with a dumb name than waste a good one before he matures enough. Oniisanbomber can be his playground, but I really hope that one day he’ll grow past it and start writing better and more original books. And please don’t say “this dude says to write better books because he thinks he has a galactic brain”. I don’t believe I have a galactic brain just because Haruki Murakami is my favorite author. I do have a galactic brain, but that’s because of my divine music taste.
In the end, the book didn’t leave a mark in any way, no memories, no excitement nor anger or hatred, which is lowkey the worst outcome.
Will I read something else from Oniisanbomber? I don’t know, maybe not. I could read the next volumes of post-covid Higehiro just to get closure, but I don’t see myself reading any other of his series because honestly, I’d rather read the other books that I’ve been piling up.
When I decided to read this book I was hoping for a surprise, the weird-named author can actually write a banger book, the title would’ve been “Oniisanbomber and the art of gatekeeping yourself with a pen name”.
I’m kinda sorry I had to borrow the book, but I usually end up buying the stuff I borrow if it’s worth it and especially when it’s from small and independent creators; but in this case, I’m just gonna unborrow the book, I’ll save the little money I have (I also have to get a “new” car) for something I can appreciate. I’m still kinda rooting for him, though, so feel free to hit me up if he ends up writing an actual banger.
God’s peed you, Oniisanbomber.