REVIEW: ‘Yokohama Station SF,’ Light Novel

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Yokohama Station SF

Yokohama Station SF a “light novel” by Yoba Isukari. However, it’s much more of a science-fiction novel than it is a “light novel”. I think “light novel” was used because it falls under Yen Press’s light novel and Japanese novel imprint, Yen On. However, this definitely is definitely a solid piece of Japanese SFF, and y’all?  Yokohama Station SF is really good.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty of Yokohama Station SF, I’d like to tell you a bit about the folks behind it. Yokohama Station SF was written by Isukari Yuba, with cover art by Tatsuyuki Tanaka. Isukari, the author, was originally a research biologist born in Fukushima Prefecture, where I actually previously lived for four years before the pandemic. 

Isukari took to writing stories on his weekends to relax from his work, only to end up winning the 1st Kakuyomu Web Novel Award for Science Fiction with Yokohama Station SF. After that, he became a  commercially published writer, and continues to write other work in his native Japanese. Additionally, Yokohama Station SF features some illustrated inserts, which were drawn by Tanaka as well. Translation for Yokohama Station SF was done by Stephen Paul, a translator known for his work on the One Piece manga, as well as his work with Sword Art Online and Vinland Saga.

Now, let me take you into the world of Yokohama Station SF, or well… I’ll at least give you a summary of the world. Yokohama Station SF follows Hiroto, a man whose existence can be summed up by a tiny spit of land in coastal Japan. In fact, that’s the only land he’s ever known. Why? Well, most of the country of Japan has been overtaken by Yokohama Station, a mysterious, eerie series of buildings that have always been around. The few who live outside its multitude of entrances have never been inside. They only know tall tales, rumors, and legends about the station’s interior. 

Yet that all changes when Hiroto is given a five-day pass to enter the massive, sprawling complex. Aimless and seeking purpose, Hiroto takes a chance. But the purpose he’s seeking might not be exactly what he asked for, especially once he meets a mysterious being named Nepshamai.

Yokohama Station SF reads less like a novel and more like a collection of interconnected stories. Really, they feel like interconnected vignettes, though you can’t read them out of order. However, the episodic nature of the novel means that you can devour each chapter and let it sit while you’re doing something else, but still keep the plot threads all aligned. I liked reading it in chunks specifically for this reason. 

All the neat sci-fi elements of Yokohama Station got to marinate in the back of my mind, letting me theorize and guess at what would ultimately happen to Hiroto and the denizens of Yokohama Station that we meet during his multi-day journey around Yokohama Station. There’s a wide variety of characters and people Hiroto encounters, all of whom have been touched by the ever-growing station’s reach. Thanks to Stephen Paul’s translation work, it’s all incredibly engaging, especially if you can’t resist and decide to devour chunks of it at a time.

His localization of this text reads so smoothly, and his word choice really highlights the uneasiness Hiroto feels as he tries to understand the culture of the incredibly foreign Yokohama Station. In fact, I think Paul’s characterization of Hiroto was the strongest part of Yokohama Station SF. However, I generally found all of the characters in the novel interesting, though shout-out to my favorite character, Keiha. Additionally, the most fascinating aspect of Yokohama Station SF is Yokohama Station itself. There’s something so undeniably cool and unsettling about a train station the size of Japan. The notion of Yokohama Station, which I’ve been to, expanding to consume the country is the coolest idea. I say that even knowing that it’s probably not a great idea.

As a former resident of Japan, I found it fascinating to imagine Tokyo Station or Shinjuku station growing to the same supermassive size. It was both uneasy and thrilling at the same time, which is kind of how I felt about Yokohama Station SF’s titular station. Safe to say this novel is certainly going to stick with me for a while yet. Once again, I credit that to Stephen Paul, as well as the editor for this volume, who is unnamed.

Ultimately, Yokohama Station SF is a fascinating novel, full of neat tech, a haunting setting, and lots of quirky characters existing in and around a nation-wide train station. Fans of Serial Experiments Lain and Akudama Drive will find themselves eager to plunge into the multi-leveled halls of Yokohama Station in this sci-fi treat.

Yokohama Station SF is available now wherever books are sold. 

 

Yokohama Station SF 
5

TL;DR

Ultimately, Yokohama Station SF is a fascinating novel, full of neat tech, a haunting setting, and lots of quirky characters existing in and around a nation-wide train station. Fans of Serial Experiments Lain and Akudama Drive will find themselves eager to plunge into the multi-leveled halls of Yokohama Station in this sci-fi treat.