Risa Wataya: 勝手にふるえてろ [Tremble All You Want]
As she tells us (and a prospective boyfriend, Ni – we only learn his first name, Kirishima, much later) Yoshika Etô is twenty-six, blood group B, employed at K. K. Maruei. She has never dyed her hair. She has no boyfriend (and never has had) and no savings and pays 75,000 yen a month in rent. She hates shirkers and loves beef stew. Her current interest is reading about extinct species on Wikipedia. What she does not tell us/him at this point is that she is still a virgin, has been in love with Ichi since high school and that she was (and still is, to a certain degree) an otaku (obsessive manga fan). She will tell him these three things during the course of the book. Her virginity he finds charming, the other two less so.
While at school (as is still the case) she was something of a loner. As soon as she saw Ichi she fell in love with him. All the boys roughhouse with him while the girls all treat him as a kid brother or a pet dog. All the girls, that is, except for Yoshika. She wants to be different. She develops a way of looking at him while seemingly staring straight ahead. She is far too shy to talk to him. They have just three (very brief) encounters, which do not lead anywhere. After school they lose touch and she has no idea where he is. All that she knows is that she is still in love with him.
She works in Accounting, while Ni is in Marketing. She first met him when she had to berate him for not filling out his expenses claim properly. He was impressed with her but she was not impressed with him. Indeed, he was so impressed that he arranges a work get-together, involving the two departments, just so he can get to meet Yoshika again. However, when the idea is mooted (Yoshiki has no idea that Ni suggested it), she recommends a particular club, as they play loud techno music, which she loves and wants to hear in a club rather than on her headphones. Ni does not like techno. They do meet, though when Ni suggests they go elsewhere, she declines. He tells her how wonderful he is, how he broke up with his girlfriend of seven years last year and how everyone should go regularly to the gym. She never goes and has no intention of doing so. He asks her out and asks her to be his girlfriend. She says that she will let him know When he tries to kiss her, she finds his approaching mouth repulsive and pushes him away and, anyway, he smells of soup.
She has been struggling throughout the book with the Ni vs Ichi issue. Should she stick to her dream or accept the reality of Ni? Finally, she realises she must follow her dream. She organises a class reunion, using the name of a former fellow-student who is now in the US, so no-one thinks that she organised it. However, Ichi is not in the class list so she even phones his parents and finds out, to her joy, that he is in Tokyo. A small group gets together in the flat of one of them. Eventually, when everyone else falls asleep, they get to talk. She learns that the roughhousing was, in fact, bullying, and that the girls did indeed treat him like a kid brother, which he hated. In short, he did not enjoy school. At the end of the event, in the early hours of the next morning, she asks him why he calls her only you. He admits that he could not remember her name. Maybe, Ni is not so bad or maybe she just needs to get away all together.
The story is narrated entirely by Yoshika, who is inevitably something of an unreliable narrator and, of course, a woman not happy with herself or her life. She is not sure what she wants, apart from Ichi. Do most married couples compromise? She asks her mother, wondering why her kind-hearted mother could have fallen for her very strict father. Her mother has no easy answer. Should she settle for second-best, in the form of Ni, even though he has said he loves her? They are very different. He hates manga and techno. She does not go to the gym. Can she grow to love someone she does not love? These are issues that people all over the world deal with but Yoshika’s struggle and her attempt at growing up is quirky and charming, if not great literature.
First published in 2010 by Bungeishunju
No English translation
First French translation as Trembler te va si bien by Picquier in 2013
Translated by Patrick Honnoré