Who the Hell Am I?

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Who the Hell Am I?
Author: Ryō Asai
Specifications: ISBN  978-4103330622
316 pages
13.7 x 19.7 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 2016
Buy now: amazon.co.jp


This volume offers six prequels and sequels to author Ryō Asai’s 2012 novel Nanimono (Somebody), which won the Naoki Prize, became a bestseller, and was adapted to the big screen. The stories add new depth to the main characters, sometimes from unexpected angles. Asai demonstrates a remarkable ability to present compelling, well-rounded portrayals of widely disparate characters, from a high-school boy preparing for college entrance exams, to a college coed who has difficulty making friends, to a young female business consultant troubled by friction with her mother and sister, and more.

The central character in the title work, coming last in the volume, is Katsuhiro Matsui, who beat out Takuto Ninomiya, the narrator of Nanimono, to win a job they both interviewed for together?in effect kicking him down. Five months have gone by since he began working at Do Buy Best, an Internet company that runs an online shopping site. He has been assigned to Human Resources and finds himself in the position of interviewing the next cohort of job applicants. Having spent his years as a student focused mainly on athletic pursuits, ignoring his studies and avoiding any kind of community involvement, Katsuhiro had had no significant achievements to list on his resumé other than placing third in the National Collegiate Lacrosse Championships. He had in fact encountered considerable difficulty landing a job, and had only barely made the grade with his present employer. How exactly is he qualified to pass judgment on other job applicants, he wonders.

He lives with Yui, his girlfriend of two years, who had been a coach’s assistant on the lacrosse team. She works long hours for a company that develops smartphone apps, often getting home even later than he does. When she tells him one day that she is pregnant, it deepens his woes. They are both still trying to adjust to their new lives as working adults, in which the demands of their jobs take up so much of their time that they barely have time to see each other, and the spark seems to have gone out of their relationship. Yui nevertheless says she wants to keep the child, and presses Katsuhiro to be completely open and candid with her about his own feelings. He now finds himself wondering whether he has what it takes to be a parent.
As he questions his ability to be a father or a good judge of character, he learns from a woman in her sixth year with the company that the leader of his recruitment team, a man named Takeda, had transferred from Marketing to Human Resources only the year before, and the cohort of new hires Katsuhiro himself belonged to that spring had been his first class of recruits. When Katsuhiro sees how Takeda approaches the process, always looking for a kernel of potential in each interviewee that he can place his hopes on, he takes heart in realizing that Takeda must have seen something in him as well.

A writer of their own generation brings sharp focus to the lives of young people just entering the working world in today’s Japan, illumining their diverse experiences.