Review: Wolf Guy by Kazumasa Hirai (Translation: Edward Lipsett)

Quick review for a quick read. This was my first time reading “Wolf Guy” as well as any work from an author considered a classic writer in Japanese sci-fi, Kazumasa Hirai. I’m reviewing the English-translated version (by Edward Lipsett) which was released back in 2015, a bit after the original author’s passing.

The story begins from the perspective of Akiko Aoshika, a teacher whose eye catches a mysterious new student – Akira Inugami. Akira seems like a boy who gets into trouble at the drop of a hat, but considering Akiko teaches at a school controlled by corruption and gangs, one more troublesome student doesn’t seem like it would be beyond the norm for her. Yet Akira doesn’t seem to be a “normal” student by any stretch of the imagination – she notices in some encounters that he comes out of brutal fights without being seriously injured and continously downplays situations she realizes aren’t in the normal realm of what a student can get away with. What follows from there is a story of how Akiko and Akira navigate some brutal gangs and encounters, while trying to fight the corruption from within their school in a distinct set of power plays. Akira comes into his own identity and power, though it doesn’t come without some difficult situations and memories.

Fair warning – there’s graphic depictions and rampant sexual violence references in here, so it earns its mature tag. While there were parts of the story I liked in that it reminded me of reading a brutal school life manga with supernatural inclinations and twists, it felt like almost not enough story or development to keep me gripped for the whole read. This is a story that could’ve worked better for me in manga format rather than the light novel text. The text itself read fast and fluid, but doesn’t always feel full when it comes to the character development and plot details. I read through this fairly quickly, but I still felt like I wanted more from the narrative or felt parts of it were missing elements to keep me as engaged as I wanted to be in the story. I appreciated the aim of it though, and it had me interested in researching the different versions of the “Wolf Guy” franchise (I didn’t even realize there was an anime OVA based on this – which I understand is a different version of the story depicted in the novels). I’m glad I had the chance to experience this first hand and in the capacity of what is considered a Japanese classic sci-fi story (the original series started in 1969!) I just wish I could’ve fully had more to hold onto with respect to the story details, characters, and lore.

Overall rating: 2.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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