Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate

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Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate

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Buy Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Alex Merrick
Reviewed by Alex Merrick
Summary: Tahi Saihate's debut novel Astral Season, Beasty Season is a rumination on youth. She juxtaposes gruesome murders with the pangs of being a teenager to illustrate how, even though they have little responsibilities, the youth still have it tough.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: September 2020
Publisher: Honford Star
ISBN: 978-1916277106

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We long for our past even though it is a place to which we can never return. Tahi Saihate, in her debut novel Astral Season, Beastly Season illustrates how these rose-tinted glasses often lie. Her novel is a meditation on youth and how the things we do as a teenager can seem intensely important and often life-altering.

The novel begins when Morishita and Yamashiro, two high school students, discover their favourite pop idol has killed her boyfriend, and decide murdering more people might help clear her name. Idol worship in Japan is a big deal. It is not just teenage girls who idolise these pop stars. Their fans can range from businessmen to teenage boys. Saihate chooses to have two teenage boys as her protagonists to highlight both the celebrity worship culture in Japan and also to highlight how, in our youth, the small things seem momentous.

Saihate juxtaposes these two still young teens with Okayama, another obsessed fan. Okayama's clothes were piled up on bags of trash, and I could barely see the floor… On the box, 'Okayama Mami' was written in ballpoint pen. I guess you two were married in his head. The obsessed Okayama is portrayed in a pitiful way. His life is so meaningless and unfulfilling, he invents a life in which he has married his favourite pop idol. Morishita and Yamashiro are still young, they are at the crossroads of their lives and can choose to continue down this obsessed path, like Okayama, or move on and decide to stop pursuing this fool's errand. The description of Okayama's flat peels back the allure of pop idols to reveal the darker side of what celebrity obsession looks like.

To Saihate, celebrity obsession seems almost ridiculous and maybe that is why she uses teenagers to tell this story. Looking back on our youth the problems we had were maybe ridiculous. We had no bills to pay, no mouths to feed and no jobs to go to and yet, in that particular moment, the fact someone we liked wouldn't go out with us was the most important thing in the world. Celebrity obsession can seem like that. Yamashiro says that You don't have to hold onto something just because you used to like it. If you're disappointed in Mami-chan, you should find some other girl. She is just an idol. She does not owe you anything. Saihate illustrates how much we define ourselves by our likes and dislikes until it becomes a personal affront for someone to criticise something as trivial as our favourite band.

Astral Season, Beastly Season, like its title, is broken up into two parts. The second part takes place a couple of years later and is told through the eyes of one of Morishita and Yamashiro's school friends. After the events that took place in the first half of the novel, this section provides a re-evaluation. It is similar to how we re-evaluate our own youth. We step back and can view it from a distance. We end up seeing our youth through rose-tinted glasses. We look upon these grand and important things for what they really are, schoolgirl crushes or melodramatic arguments. When we are living it, we realise that our youth does have some semblance of importance as we near the crossroads of our lives. It is not the day to day importance we proscribe meaning onto, it is a bigger looming relevance. One that can change our whole direction.

Saihate's debut novel aims to provide empathy with the youth of today. They are constantly berated by the media for being lazy and not upholding the virtues of the past. However, this is nothing new. Hesiod wrote, in the 8th Century BC, that I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly, all youth are reckless beyond words. Berating and pitying the youth is prevalent through history. Saihate wants us to empathise with them. She writes that in terms of my life this time was supposed to be like a festival. It is, youth is supposed to be fun and freeing and, as an adult, reflect and yearn for this freedom. And yet, as a teenager, we live in a paradox. We are told we are the freest we will ever be yet, at the same time, we are living through the most important period of our lives. They say that at the age of seventeen you either become a star or a beast. And whether you're killing people to free your favourite pop idol or you're cramming for university, all teenagers are just trying to figure themselves out.

For more from South-East Asia, I can recommend Hello, Shadowlands by Patrick Winn.

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Buy Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate at Amazon.com.

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