A while ago I bought the first volume of Missing in Japanese as a challenge. It’s the first physically existing book in Japanese that I own. I have to say, reading English releases of light novels all the time made me surprised to notice that the book is pocketbook-sized – it’s the standard among LNs in Japan.
Take a look at the cover. Looks oldschool and kind of creepy, doesn’t it? The cover and the illustrations were made by Midorikawa Shin. There’s one picture at the beginning of each chapter and a few color pages at the very beginning of the book – they show the members of the Literature Club in fancy outfits with way too many belts, aesthetically reminiscent of CLAMP’s works like X/1999. And they double as the table of contents. Utsume is a cutie.
After having read through the entire novel, I can attest that the English translation leaves nothing to complain about. If you’re interested in Missing for the story, there is no need to go out of your way and read the Japanese original. Utsume’s title, “Dark Prince” is “Maou-heika” in the original, which made me chuckle the first time I saw it. The translation also made me suspicious about the name for the supernatural world threatening ours – it had no single term and used a whole bunch of them. Turns out that the original did the exact same thing – sometimes it’s referred to as “mukou” (“the other side”), sometimes it’s “ikai” (“otherworld”)… There is a reason to read Missing in Japanese if you’re interested to some extent in how it’s written. The linguistic aspect of it gets lost in translation, out of necessity. Kouda Gakuto loves to make things complicated for the reader. He tries to use obscure vocabulary and obscure runes anytime he can. Be prepared for words like 痩躯. Or writing “wakaru” as 判る. Or “warau” as 嗤う. Or my personal favorite: using three different runes for “uta” on one page: 歌, 詩 and 咏. He’s really trying hard. Reading it probably isn’t a good idea if you’re a beginner…