Review: Your Story by Sugaru Miaki
by Rakka • Tags: review
One of my favorite short stories is MURAKAMI Haruki’s “On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning”. The unnamed narrator spots an unnamed woman while wandering about, and launches into the story of the story he should have told her. In just a couple pages of prose, Murakami’s story distills the feeling of finding the perfect person for you along with the feeling of loss of not actually having such a connection. MIAKI Sugaru’s Your Story fleshes out that basic concept of your 100% fated person, your perfect childhood romance, into a tale of false memories and wanting them to be real.
The novel moves briskly, building up the narrator’s empty childhood and setting up the memory erasure/implantation technology that the story revolves around. Being raised by indifferent parents, our narrator Chihiro reaches college without a single treasured memory, and decides to purchase Lethe to erase his recollections of childhood entirely. The clinic messes up, and he instead takes Green Green, giving him false “Mimories” of a childhood friend named Touka. While struggling over the next weeks over whether to have these Mimories erased, he instead runs into someone who matches his recollections of Touka exactly—and from then on he starts doubting what is reality and what is fantasy, as she starts pushing into his life.
What I like about Sugaru’s stories is similar to what I like about Murakami’s: both manage to capture a certain mood of loneliness and emptiness perfectly. Both their characters are perfectly capable of being normal people, but they’re always stuck in some internal struggle, even if they can’t quite name it, and thus end up in solitary or broken lives. However, Sugaru’s stories also fall prey to some of the same issues as well—women are mostly wish fulfillment for the self-insert main character. Here, at least, Touka actually gets her own backstory, and half the novel actually occurs from her perspective. Murakami, in contrast, often leaves his non-primary characters as hollow shells defined by one or two quirks. And fortunately, Sugaru avoids Murakami’s habit of inserting excessive (and weird) sex all over the place.
Overall, Your Story is a heartbreaking tale of discovering a deep connection to someone even while knowing the foundation of that connection is false. The sci-fi elements are light and constrained to the memory editing technology; if the mechanism behind this central conceit (nanobots, here) weren’t explained at all, as with Sugaru’s prior work Three Days of Happiness, I’d consider the story closer to magic realism. At ~150 pages, it’s a quick read that’ll stay with you for much longer.
SPOILERS START HERE.
Ultimately, the story ends with a series of nested plot twists; Touka is a real person who wrote the Mimories and implanted herself into Chihiro’s childhood. Chihiro learns Touka’s story and goes to comfort her, but this time she is the skeptical one—she’s contracted “New Alzheimer’s” and is rapidly losing her memories from childhood onward in the last few months of her life. Over those months, they eventually bond due to his efforts, but then she gives him the Lethe he originally wanted to erase his childhood memories. He of course drinks it, and she tells him it was actually to erase his memories of her—but he reveals he had swapped the medicine far earlier, and so it in the end was the Lethe he originally wanted—to forget his true, painful, childhood.
Neither character can give up on their lies, even knowing them to be hollow; just having that experience of understanding and being understood is so core to being human, that they can’t return to who they were before.