Socrates In Love Novel Vol. # -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 17.99
  • Pages: 172
  • ISBN: 1-4215-0154-6
  • Orientation: Left to Right

Socrates In Love Novel Vol. #

By Julie Rosato     September 28, 2005
Release Date: October 15, 2005

Socrates In Love Novel Vol.#
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kyoichi Katayama
Translated by:Akemi Wegmüller
Adapted by:

What They Say
Affectionately known as "Sekachu" in Japan, Katayama's novel depicts a sweet high school romance between an average guy and a beautiful girl. But tragedy ensues when the girl falls ill with leukemia. A bittersweet tale of young love, enduring devotion, and heartbreaking loss, Socrates in Love is a story to cherish and nurture.

The Review
A bittersweet romance for fans of the sentimental.

VIZ clearly wants to market this novel beyond the manga crowd. Everything about the presentation is good and definitely geared to the mainstream, right down to the hard binding and slipcover. Borrowing a poignant image from the book, a pattern of hydrangeas dot a matte and gloss cover of pastel blues and purples. This is not a flashy cover, but neither is this a flashy story; I found it to be fitting in its simplicity and serenity. Inside the text and layout is as expected for any novel. The book measures only slightly larger than VIZ's standard manga, and the spine sports the Shojo Beat Fiction logo.


Having no familiarity with the original work I cannot compare the two, but the translation for this novel reads quite wonderfully. The proofreading and editing appear to be top-notch, and each passage, be it description or conversation, reads fluidly, bringing to life the feelings of the story.

Contents:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This story depicts a tragic love between two high school teenagers. Sakutaro is a carefree and sarcastic teenage boy whose biggest concern is buying new CDs. Aki is a quiet girl, beautiful and popular, who is always by his side. However, before she is even able to graduate high school, Aki becomes ill with leukemia and Sakutaro is forced to examine what it means to truly love someone and how far he’ll go to prove his – even in the face of the unimaginable.

The narrative opens just after Aki’s death, with Sakutaro’s pain of loss still fresh. He is en route to Australia with her parents to scatter her ashes across the aboriginal desert. From there the story is told mainly through a series of flashbacks, alternating between the early stages of Aki and Sakutaro’s relationship to the times of her sickness, interspersing the present journey at random intervals in between.

We learn first of how they met; chosen as class representatives in junior high, an easy friendship developed between them. One day, after the death of one of their teachers, a more mature Sakutaro realizes that he is in love with Aki, and that she has loved him all along. A classic romance of childhood friends, there was never a defining moment where they became an actual couple, it just happened. The reader is given a series of glimpses into Aki and Sakutaro’s life together over the course of two years—class duties, studying together, walks home from school, vacation trips.

Poised on both the threshold of their adulthood and a turning point in their relationship, Aki becomes ill with leukemia. The focus of the story then shifts, showing Aki’s illness through the eyes of Sakutaro, and how it slowly pulls away all that is dear to him. Sakutaro’s life becomes a blur of emotions, speeding toward an end he can’t fathom. When she is near death, he tries to secret her away to Australia so she can die at peace, believing, like the Aborigines, that even her death has a purpose. They don’t make it to Australia but his attempt gives Aki the solace she needs, knowing that their love will live on, even once her body has disappeared.

Sakutaro’s journey to scatter her ashes is one that holds little meaning for him at the time. It isn’t until years later that he realizes Aki is both everywhere and nowhere at once, always with him and waiting for their lives to come together again. This realization gives him the strength to carry on, feeling, probably for the first time since her death, alive and free.

In the afterward, Kyoichi Katayama discusses the notion that love is a form of coercive violence. That not only was this his starting point in developing the character of Sakutaro, but also what he believes it means to love someone--to become a better person through having loved another. Living only for one’s self is not the way to great happiness, but to do all you can for the sake of another is what truly makes us alive as humans. While an idea still accessible to all, I do think this will have a greater impact on readers who have either experienced a great love, or those who can empathize with the tragedy of losing one.

This is a story that argues in a human world of beginnings and endings, there is nothing greater for us than love--and that a great love, for what it can teach us, is worth enduring its loss. Everywhere the summaries declare this book a social phenomenon, a story so popular it will be forever considered a classic love story in Japan.

Beyond the existing fans of manga and other Japanese works, I think this book could indeed go over very well here with both teen readers and adult fans of the romance and chick-lit genres. The writing is beautiful, almost lyrical. The conversations between the characters are easy and fluid, and the author does a great job creating believable relationships. Aki and Sakutaro spoke to the memories of my own youth--the passion and complexity with which we all lived and thought. Though theirs was ultimately an innocent love, the closeness Aki and Sakutaro's shared is clearly felt through the moments the readers are shown.

My main complaint with this book, however, is that it tries awfully hard to make the reader cry. In doing so it feels, at times, overly sentimental. Sakutaro has a habit of dwelling continuously on the same feelings of grief, sentence after sentence. Of course his boundless loss is the basis for the entire tone of the book, made clear from page one, but after dozens of metaphors and similes describing the shape of his grief, it becomes quite repetitive. Similarly, the imagery has frequent opportunities to be vivid and stunning, but the continuous usage of (and sometimes over-reliance on) metaphors often kept me from being truly drawn in by what could have been a simpler description of things. Perhaps this is a cultural literary thing, or perhaps it is just the work of this author; this I do not know.

Having said that though, I do think this story is thoughtful and potentially engaging and can easily find an audience domestically, though I would recommend readers first take a look at the afterward for a proper frame of reference. After seeing this, VIZ’s first effort in shoujo-related fiction, I eagerly await what else they have in store.


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