Contemporary Japanese Writers

Ishin Nishio*

Ishin Nishio* 西尾維新

Ishin Nishio is a novelist who has been bringing about a revolutionary transformation to Japan's entertainment novels since 2000.

While Nishio's novels seem to adopt the trends set by shinhonkakuwriters (serious mystery writers who debuted between the late 1980s and early 1990s), they also take on the appearance of "light novels" (entertainment novels that incorporate anime-style illustrations and target middle school and high school students) and have a large fan base comprised primarily of youth.

In 2002, while Nishio was still a student in college, he debuted with Kubikiri cycle: aoiro savant to zaregototsukai (Decapitation Cycle: The Blue Savant and the Nonsense Messenger), winner of the twenty-third Mephisto Award. The novel's new approach---the characters and setting, like those of anime or video games, have been structured within a serious mystery framework---garnered much attention. Furthermore, the genre shinseishun enter (tainment), or "new adolescent entertainment," is said to have originated with this book.

Ever since the anime Shinseiki Evangelion (Neon Genesis Evangelion) touched an entire generation of youth in the 1990s, tales in which the protagonist's angst and growth affect the state of the world have been called sekai kei, "world-type," stories. Some suggest that Nishio's works belong to this category.

Thus, Nishio's works have become a hot topic across genres. Indeed, every time the writer comes out with a new book, the categories previously ascribed to his novels---shinhonkaku mystery, light novel, shinseishun enter (tainment), and sekai kei---are rendered inapplicable, and one is left with the feeling his works can only be described as belonging to the genre of "Ishin Nishio." Regarding attempts at categorization, Nishio says the following.

I think mysteries are excellent as systems to get a story going, but there's a problem with being interested in just the system itself. As long as a novel is a captivating form of entertainment, that's all that matters. I'm not attracted to the idea of mystery for mystery's sake, nor do I have any interest in it.

In other words, for Nishio, genres or forms are just one of many tricks and tools a novelist must master.

Nishio has revealed that what has influenced him most as a novelist are shojo manga. In fact, his books are the embodiment of what a generation who grew up on manga, light novels, and video-game books finds interesting. To begin with, he had not been particularly attached to the novel as his modus operandi. Greatly moved by a certain manga artist, he had first aspired to become a manga artist but gave up because he could not draw. He explains:

I started with a desire to create an independent product. And from the beginning, I'd decided that I didn't want to go the route of self-expression. I'd read interesting novels and wanted to write novels like them. It wasn't like there was something within me that I couldn't help but express and chose the novel as my means to do it.

Without any concern for literariness or genre, Nishio produces one-of-a-kind "novels that I think are interesting" by borrowing elements he finds appealing in light novels and game books and combining them with a shojo manga flavor.

A distinct characteristic of Nishio's novels is word choice. As evidenced in his palindrome pen name, Nishio Ishin, and in the series title Zaregototsukai (Nonsense Messenger), he enjoys plays on words that some might consider gibberish. From old-fashioned and obscure Japanese expressions to modern word usages, word games are strewn throughout Nishio's works.

Another defining trait of this author is his speed, recognized both by the writer himself and others who know him. Writing a hundred manuscript pages a day, he is an artisan of fiction who can bring a novel to completion in just ten days.

The public's interest in Nishio continues to rise. In 2004, he was the main feature in an issue of the general arts journal Yuriika. He is truly Japanese entertainment fiction's supernova.


* Kubikiri cycle (Kodansha, 2002, 379 double-column pages)

* Kubishime romanticist (Kodansha, 2002, 381 double-column pages)

* Kubitsuri high school (Kodansha, 2002, 381 double-column pages)

* Saikorojikaru (Kodansha, 2002, two volumes, total of 534 double-column pages)

* Hitokui majicaru (Kodansha, 2003, 477 double-column pages)

* Nekosogi rajikaru (Kodansha, 2005, three volumes, total of 1,117 double-column pages)