Whoever Steals This Book Volume 1: A Side of Absurdism



After reading the first volume of Whoever Steals This Book, I had one thought that immediately and strongly struck me: “Ah, I wish I could read the novel version of this“. Yes, this is an adaptation of Nowaki Fukamidori’s novel of the same name. I think at times there’s an undeniable rift in translation when moving between formats, but alongside that I simply believe that Kakeru Sora’s art remains deeply uninspiring, and sorely missing on the mystique and air of such a surreal story. Such is life when dealing with an adaptation of this sort however, so there’s no sense in crying over already spilt milk. Instead, I’d rather explain why I still encourage readers who enjoy a very good story to pick this series up- in hopes of having its novel licensed.

To provide a touch of background, our story revolves around Mifuyu Mikura- the descendant of a long line of book curators. However, she herself detests books, and has seldom set foot into her family’s massive library: Mikura Hall…. that is, until the beginning of this story. Forced into taking care of her aunt due to her father’s (short term) hospital stay, Mifuyu ventures into the great hall and is caught off guard by a spirit that demands Mifuyu capture a book thief, lest the town be absorbed by the book’s curse.

You might think, “wow, the story’s off to a roaring start”. Truthfully, once you’re in it’s certainly faithful to that feeling, but there’s quite a bit of setup required to reach that point. Presenting the sheer pervasion of books into Mifuyu’s hometown, defining Mifuyu herself as someone who hates books, providing context and history to interactions and supporting characters. There is something amiss with the transition between the two aspects, making it seem as though you’ve turned a page into a brand new book. Personally speaking, I think that Whoever Steals This Book could certainly do better in that regard. Beginning with a cold open, providing a “something’s wrong” feeling to Mifuyu as a curse already spreads across the town. There’s a few different ideas that could really help to bridge the immediate gap between the foundation of this story and the pillars that come to define its shape.

However, you must only suffer through a chapter and a bit of that setup (which is not well translated to a manga format) before you’re able to properly enjoy this series. Mystery certainly defines Whoever Steals This Book, but its delivery has me remaining curious. Just as there are as many genres as there are grains of sand in the observable universe, will there be as many interpretations of novels? In this first volume we’re exposed to two fictional titles, both of which are decidedly different tales. The challenge, however, appears with the fact that we’re not exposed to the consequences of the latter. Because of that, I’m largely forced into discussing the first mythical tale.

Strictly speaking, it’s very fun. Perhaps a little simple, or conversely maybe even incredibly thoughtful (depending on direction), but undeniably an enjoyable and interesting time. Seeing an entire township twist and skew to match the form of a figureless fiction was deeply engaging, and Fukamidori’s approach to the marriage of fiction within fiction goes off without a hitch. It’s certainly a novel experience, and a lot of that appeal is derived from Fukamidori’s ability to weave impressive ideas in the shape of introductions to nonexistent novels.

Though, while the curse-imbued stories may or may not find roots in reality, the titles of the previously mentioned curses mostly likely do. Magical Realism itself is a well defined genre, and I’m rather confident that the “Inside A Hard-Boiled Egg” is a double entendre. Of course, the first meaning is an allusion to the fact that the book thief is trapped inside the experience of being a hard-boiled detective, cop, or other similar profession. In addition to that however, the very existence of the term “Hard-Boiled” lends itself to literary genius and library fanatic Haruki Murakami. A novelist known for surpassing the surreal and absurd, within their bibliography exists a novel titled “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” (fantastic read, can’t recommend it enough). With connections like these, the potential for references, homages, and other relations remains incredibly high, and allows Fukamidori to retain an battalion’s worth of literary weapons at their disposal to depict their very own stories with.

Ultimately, the question posed by all this information remains: “Is it worth the read?”. And ultimately, the response is quite similar to what I briefly spoke on at the beginning. Whoever Steals This Book, as a manga, is something that exists in a bit of a no man’s land. Without a strong visual presence, Fukamidori’s words lack punch and presence, instead being forced to lean on creative imagery regardless of quality. All the same, the potential oozes out of every crevice with each page turn. Finding out the connection between the literary club a town over and the spirit that Mifuyu discovers. Figuring out why Mifuyu’s aunt is always asleep when Mifuyu is tasked with catching a thief. Uncovering all the repressed memories that Mifuyu has of her grandmother and Mikura Hall. It’s a world that speaks proudly of its potential and ability, but remains bogged down by a collaborator that can’t match Fukamidori’s vision. So, you’d think that my answer would be to not recommend this book. Honestly, if you have no passion for the story than it’s obviously not worth it… but, if you have even the slightest, I implore you to pick up this volume so that Yen Press may grace us with Fukamidori’s original work.

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