September 17th 2023, 1:49 AM
My name is Hikigaya Hachiman.
Before I begin my recount, which incidentally I am writing purely for my own clarity and (probably) self-indulgence, allow me to provide you with all the necessary exposition you'll need for it to make sense. If you're a fan of light novels, or are in any way acquainted with the world of light novel publishing, you'll probably have heard my name at this point. Or at least, the name of the series that I write: Love and Coffee.
I can say, without any arrogance, that it's probably the most successful in all of Japan right now. That is just a truth, and the majority of those who read the books and call themselves my fans would probably agree with me.
Love and Coffee, put simply, isn't about very much. The main criticism that people tend to levee towards it is that the plot lacks action, which again is a truth. But it is a stupid truth, because Love and Coffee is not a fantasy or an action light novel series; it is a romantic comedy light novel series aimed at an adolescent or older audience.
Criticising a romantic comedy because 'not much happens', which is essentially code for 'things do happen, just not the things that I want to happen', is the equivalent of criticising a horror novel because it's frightening. A romantic comedy is about build up and romantic tension, not about fast paced shonen-esque demon fights, so shut up.
This steadfast defence of Love and Coffee probably suggests to you that I feel affection for my creation- in fact, the feelings I have towards my creation are anything but affection. I used to quite enjoy writing Love and Coffee. It used to be quite therapeutic, but now it is an inexorable chore. Every time I sit down at my laptop and begin typing away at Volume 6, I swear that my heart plummets into my stomach, and not just because I'm currently suffering from Writer's Block and also something that might be insomnia.
I realised only a couple of months ago that every word I'd published of Love and Coffee was shit. Previously, I didn't care because I was making a load of money from it and actually doing something with my life. I was making my parents and Komachi proud, and that couldn't really be described as a bad thing.
But money and fleeting fame can only deceive you for so long. That is the most intriguing thing about both of them. They remind me a little of fireworks. At first, both of them are so bright and entrancing, poetic and dazzling and whatever other adjective you want to use. But then, that amalgamation of colour and delight fades. It doesn't take much to realise that it wasn't really an amalgamation at all, but a mess. They weren't really colours- just artificial and superfluous. It wasn't really delight; only the perpetual illusion of being overwhelmed.
Actually, you have to blink because your eyes sting a bit, and there's a definite ringing in your ears.
I used to justify the shitness of Love and Coffee by lowering the whole genre it belonged to down to that level. Light novels aren't exactly supposed to be high quality literature. Originality is over-rated as long as the delivery is good. But the delivery wasn't good. It wasn't even adequate. It was generic and bland, and the illusion of its inexplainable success is, ironically, probably because of that. If Love and Coffee has taught me anything
Actually, no. It hasn't taught me anything. It's only reaffirmed a belief that I've had for a long time. People enjoy shit because they themselves are shit.
And, it was in that realisation, that sudden epiphany, that I truly remembered all the events that had taken place in New York, now over five years ago, in the autumn of 2018. I'd thought about them often- enough to motivate me to write the first volume of Love and Coffee, in fact- but I hadn't really remembered them.
In that epiphany, I remembered the coffee house and the skyscrapers and the constant people, and the gentle melancholia of the city lights from my apartment, and the comforting directionless of everything. But most of all, I remembered Yukinoshita Yukino, because it occurred to me that in denying the truth that was the lonely, vacuous sham of my life, I was doing exactly what had so repulsed me about the woman I fell in love with. That is why I am writing.
It's just about gone two o'clock in the morning. I didn't sleep very well while I was in New York either. At the end of the two weeks I spent in America, I knew her so clearly, and so deeply, that it seemed as if the name Yukinoshita Yukino itself had been imprinted on my mind, like red hot iron from the forge of a blacksmith.
I knew her hobbies, her family, her dreams of old, how her hair looked when drenched by rain, how brightly her eyes seemed to glimmer in the darkness. In short, one would think we were the closest of friends, or maybe something else entirely. But my name?
She wouldn't even be aware of it.
I am sorry to the person who reads this recount, if they do, that it will not be as compromising a read as Love and Coffee.
Love and Coffee
Volume One of the Hit Series!
Written by Hikigaya Hachiman
Illustrations by Ponkan 8
LOVE AND COFFEE
First published in Japan by Shogakukan.
First published in the USA and Great Britain by Yen Press.
Shogakukan is a division of Hitotsubashi Group LTD and the Love and Coffee light novel series is a trademark propery of Hitotsubashi Group LTD under Japanese federal law.
The Shogakukan website i . shogakukan . com
Conditions of sale:
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade of otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwie circulated without the publisher's prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which is it published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent publisher.
Praise for LOVE AND COFFEE
'The writing is engaging and all too addictive. If only all light novels could be like this' Hokkaido Shimbun
'The reason for its success in Japan is all too evident, and in crossing the Pacific it appears to have lost none of its potent, anarchic, self-aware hilarity' New York Times
'The biggest light novel series around, and for good reason' The Guardian
VOLUME 6 WILL BE PUBLISHED IN DECEMBER 2023!
This book is dedicated to all the other publishing houses who point blank rejected it.
Special thanks to the cutest imouto in the world, Hikigaya Komachi
Page Five to Eight:
I doubt anyone will take notice of this, because let's face it, who actually reads the foreword of a light novel nowadays? Certainly not me; when I was a teenager growing up in Chiba, virtually the entirety of my obviously fulfilling youth was spent reading light novels, and not once in all of that time did I take any interest in the comments of a smug writer on their usually subpar piece of writing.
But hey, if you are in fact so flattering as to think my comments are worth your time, then I commend you for your good taste.
The reason for the existence of the snazzy re-issued copy of Love and Coffee: Volume One in your hands is, supposedly at least, to celebrate the sale of its one millionth copy, including both here in Japan and in Western territories. All five of the currently released volumes are also reaching similar sales figures. A tankobon volume of the manga adaptation of the series has already been released, and Kyoto Animation has recently bought the rights for an anime, which is scheduled for release next May.
Reflecting on those figures even as I write, I can still scarcely believe that they've materialised at all. I started writing this series for several reasons, and not a single one of them was to make money, though I'd be lying through my teeth if I said that all this newfound financial security hasn't been welcomed with open arms.
Boredom was honestly a big part of it. I'd just returned from a two week trip to New York which itself served as inspiration for the concept, and had little else to do in the evenings after my various part time jobs.
The other big reason was simply passion for the format. As you've probably gathered from my earlier comments, I love light novels. It's one of those few types of entertainment that can be both hideously low quality and still gloriously entertaining. Perfect for general procrastination, for relax-reading before bed, and especially good for the long afternoons that I spent, and still spend, not doing all that much.
So, it fills me with a whole lot of pride to know that there could be other Hikigaya Hachimans, lamenting the evils of youth as I used to so fervently, reading Love and Coffee and thinking "You know what... I could probably make a living out of that."
I'll conclude my foreword, which I've kept short and snappy partly out of preference and partly out of contractual word limit requirements, by dishing out the obligatory gratitude. Thank you to everyone who's bought and read Love and Coffee, and totally transformed my life. Thank you to the positive reviewers who've so effectively swelled my ego, and to the negative ones that kept it in check (however brutally). Just thank you, really. Keep reading and I'll keep writing.
Gosh... I'm beginning to sound like a dirty little riajuu!
Page Seven to Twenty One:
THERE are two types of people in this world.
Those types are not, as would probably be expected, good and evil. They are not the fortunate and the unfortunate. It is not even, as every cliched action movie seems to have suggested, "those who pull the trigger and those who do not", or whatever slightly altered phrasing of that which screenwriter uses to differentiate themselves.
In fact, the two types that I've derived are definitely the best and most fitting; they are as follows. The dirty little riajuu and the loners.
You've probably already guessed which type that I belong to from the derogatory manner in which I spoke of the riajuus of planet Earth. So yeah, I can affirm without the slightest hint of shame, that I, Nagatomo Etsuji, am a loner. Wait, no. I'm more than that. I'm the loneliest loner that ever loned. Other loners blush when they see the extent of my lonerish awesomeness. The Emperor of Loners, perhaps. Or maybe the Duke? Regardless, I totally deserve a title.
I am also incredibly proud of the fact that I'm a loner. It is similar to how one might be patriotic about their national allegiance; I, on the other hand, am patriotic about my societal allegiance (I mean, I'm not sure you can use the word patriotic about anything but countries, but whatever). It is definitely the best of the two types, for reasons that I will now describe, while also dispelling some myths about loners that I will prove to be untruthful propaganda.
You see, Japan lives in the system we call democracy (or at least a system as close to true democracy as we can get). Democracy invariably results in the majority having power, and unfortunately, the majority of people fall into the riajuu category.
This means that riajuu suppose themselves to have a kind of self-appointed authority over everyone else, and horrendously abuse that authority by perpetuating slander against my kindren. You know who also manipulated the truth? Adolf Hitler. Therefore, all riajuu are Nazis, confirmed. It also confirms that all loners are having their human rights violated every day. This is an outrage!
Continuing with my social activism, I'd like to tell you of the first, and probably the most prevalent, lie that they spread about loners. While we're on the subject, I have collected all of the most common of these lies into a list of 28, which I refer to simply as the 28 Sins, and will probably hark back to quite a lot. Just a warning. Lie 1 of these is this: loners are sad and depressed.
I find this assumption to be very irritating. The classification of loner in no way constitutes or even suggests that a loner must also be sad or depressed, or even lonely, really. Source: Me. I have found over the years that being with yourself is actually infinitely more rewarding than being with others. For example, there are few quite a few pleasures that one can only enjoy with themselves (don't be dirty minded...), like conversation.
Despite what you may think, conversation is not a two way thing. In fact, I'd go as far to say that one has not truly conversed until they've conversed with themselves. When talking to yourself, everything that is said is absolutely right, and there's no chance that you'll annoy or embarrass yourself, or be forced into something inconvenient that you definitely don't want to do.
Furthermore, I've also found that being a loner, separated from other people, really helps to lend perspective to every day life. You begin to appreciate the small things that idiot riajuu would only glance at, like the extra moments you steal in bed before the start of a school day, or cups of coffee or listening to music.
To conclude, being a loner is the superior way of life, and anyone who says otherwise is either horrifically misguided or a Nazi.
That's not to say that the loner way of life is perfect, though. There are admittedly some (very limited...) perks to being a riajuu too. As a loner, the amount that you can do with your spare time is limited, although once you become accustomed to the hours in the evening after homework has been completed, this isn't really a problem. Ironically, it soon becomes strange and disturbing if you don't spend your time alone.
These riajuu perks range from the significant to the trivial, but the one I'm concerned with is the ability to go to a really nice cafe a couple of streets away from my school without feeling self-conscious.
Yep. That is genuinely my biggest gripe with being a loner- a very very small reduction in the availability of caffeine. But, being something of a coffee enthusiast (a nicer way of saying that you're an addict), any reduction in the availability of caffeine would be enough for me to trigger a nuclear war. If I had the power to do that, I mean. And the other major global power was trying to intimidate me by limiting the supply of legal narcotics.
I'm exaggerating, of course, but coffee has actually ended up being the source of a great amount of strife for me of late. It probably says something that the events of the past year or so have been far away the most dramatic of my high school education. I'd much rather my life be stress-less than stressful. That is, after all, one of the most important rules for loners to live their life by: if at all possible, don't.
So yeah. Recently, I've had to go against that mantra by engaging in a few instances of... god forbid it... social interaction. But good things can always emerge from bad. That is, if you look at the bad long and hard enough. Those interactions have helped me on the way to formulating another mantra, the importance of which will soon become clear, and which I'd strongly advise that you adopt for yourself.
Women and coffee. No... love and coffee. Both the greatest blessings, and curses, in any man's life.