Amiko Here
Author: Natsuko Imamura
Specifications: ISBN  978-4480804303
199 pages
13.4 x 19.0 cm / 5.4 x 7.6 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Chikuma Shobo Ltd.
Tokyo, 2011
Awards: Mishima Yukio Prize, 2011
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In the title piece of this pair of novellas, a 15-year-old girl living alone with her grandmother looks back over her life. Amiko used to live in a family of four with her mother, father, and big brother, Kota. Shunned by the other pupils while at primary school, she fell hard for Nori, a boy in the same year who attended the calligraphy lessons Amiko's mother ran from her home. Her mother, however, refused to let Amiko join the class because she was "too badly behaved." In the winter of her fifth-grade year, her mother has a miscarriage. Filching a wooden board from a nearby house, Amiko puts it up in the garden after getting Nori to write "My baby brother's grave" on it in his most exquisite script. Amiko meant to cheer her mother up, but the message had quite the opposite effect. Bursting into shocked tears, her mother abandons housework entirely. Time passes. Kota turns into a delinquent and joins a biker gang. Amiko, now in middle school, seldom turns up for class. On the rare occasions she does go, she is barefoot. As she seldom bathes and does not eat properly, she's also scrawny and smells bad. Reawakening to Nori's existence after an interval of years, Amiko confesses her love to him. Inexplicably, he responds with a threat to kill her, beating her up so badly she loses three front teeth. When she completes middle school, Amiko leaves her family to move in with her grandmother . . .

A strikingly drawn character, Amiko lurches from disaster to disaster. Wounding and wounded by others, she still does her best to make a go of life, her desire to connect with other people symbolized by the toy transceiver she often clutches in her hand. Pikunikku (Picnic), the other novella in the collection, centers on an eccentric woman who falls in love with a comedian.