Book Review: Fox-Hat and Neko – August Li

Fox Hat and NekoReading this whole thing feels like reading a manga in a subdued mood (at least I know I was in one since it took me three full days to finish this). I mean, I really liked 60% of the book but I’ve a bit of a concern with the length of the story and the development of the story arc of each character.

Here, we have Tokyo high school student Tsukino Ayumu who got sent by his parents to the small fishing village of Yuuyake to spend a school year and live with his grandfather. Ayumu’s not concern about being notice or standing out –

“It was what he had done his entire life – tried to stick to the middle of the pack, do the minimum expected, draw no attention, just blend it.

But his first few days in Yuuyake didn’t agree with Ayumu’s gameplan. In his new school, he was immediately befriended by the poor fisherman’s son Ikehara Hariku along with two girl classmates, champion archer Shizuka and aspiring artist Chou. As they go with the usual middle school flow, something big seems to be brewing in their small village that will require Ayumu and his friends’ participation.

Getting plagued by violent dreams who terrorized the children of the village and nearby places, the group tried to fight the so-called dream phantoms with the help of the mysterious Fox-Hat and Neko who came out of nowhere and seems to know more about what’s happening than Ayumu himself.

Now, it’s up to Ayumu and his friends to defeat the one creating the chaos in the dream world and create their own destiny in the process.

It’s very easy to like the characters here most especially Ayumu and Hariku. There’s just something special about their friendship. This story was told from multiple perspectives and I thought it’s more fun that way but I somehow feel the need to go back a page of two to remember who’s actually doing the narration at times. Those times are minimal though. The drawings at the end of each chapter will give us a preview of what’s about to happen next.

I find the storytelling a bit slow for my liking no matter how likable the characters are. I wished it was a bit shorter because it’s basically repeating itself midway through the story. It’s also a bit disconcerting reading about the characters’ feeling towards each other. Like, who will end up with whom. Of course, they’re still young but I got prickly about the whole “who’s doing who” business. I got alarmed when Neko started doing “it” with Ayumu but finally knowing their history in the past – I somehow see the connection they had. I was a bit mad though about the “I’m not gay” declaration by Hariku. I though it was clearly alluded from the start that he will reciprocate Ayumu’s feelings but dear lawd! No! It was pretty annoying to be honest. Of course not everyone in the genre can be gay but I wished Ayumu got a happy-ending of some sort for himself.

The “Mr. Mallory” angle was a bit predictable but I loved that the author made his character very much interesting and given how the story ended, I would expect a second book in the future and I do have this niggling feeling that Ayumu and Mallory will be more than friends in the future. He’s older like 10 years or so than Ayumu right? I’d say that’s totally fine!

I don’t really know the culture in Japan especially in the secluded areas there so I’m kind of on the fence about how receptive the people are about same sex relationship. I mean it’s great and all but it’s not very realistic at all. Still, I loved how the author focuses on narrowing each character’s feelings towards each other and their plans for the future.

I’d really like to read a second book related to this one because it just felt unfinished. August Li surely knows how to write some really good premise but sometimes, I’m missing his point with some of the scenes which felt contrived at times. Overall though, I’m giving this book a four-star rating because despite my dislike with some of the characters development, I still think that it’s a solid book that represents the youth challenging them to be free about choices and believing in their ability and basically just being a decent human being.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Published July 16th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press (first published May 21st 2015)

About The Author
August (Gus) Li is a creator of fantasy worlds. When not writing, he enjoys drawing, illustration, costuming and cosplay, and making things in general. He lives near Philadelphia with two cats and too many ball-jointed dolls. He loves to travel and is trying to see as much of the world as possible. Other hobbies include reading (of course), tattoos, and playing video games.

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