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Arai Motoko

(1960-    ) Japanese sf and crime author, mainly in the Young Adult market, whose breathless, chatty style was an early harbinger of the Light Novels that dominate modern juvenile publishing in Japan. Aged seventeen, Arai first found fame in a magazine competition judged by the three most prominent sf authors in Japan, when her submission Atashi no Naka no ... ["Inside Me ..."] (February 1978 Kisō Tengai; 1978) was rejected by both Yasutaka Tsutsui and Sakyō Komatsu, but praised by Shinichi Hoshi, who was later revealed to be a former classmate of her father. With strong family connections to the Kōdansha publishing company, Arai's subsequent career has been similarly haunted by the two-faced ghost of her heritage; her authorial vocation seems almost predestined, but also blessed with suspicious good fortune.

While studying German literature at Rikkyo University, she produced her most accomplished early work, the Seiun Award-winning Green Requiem (September 1980 Kisō Tengai; 1983 trans Naomi Anderson 1984), the protagonist of which is a girl from an Alien race of green-haired dryads. Crashlanding on Earth, she falls in love with a human, but is compelled towards suicide by the titular piece of Music: a melody that embodies her mother's command (see Basilisk) that she walk into the sea. The story artfully allegorizes the generation gap, juxtaposing star-crossed young love with the crushing, deadening weight of ossified tradition. "Neptune" (January 1981 S-F Magazine), was a similar sf variation on the theme of the Little Mermaid, and won the same award the following year.

The darling of the Japanese sf establishment in the early 1980s, Arai saw her work adapted as both a live-action film adaptation of Green Requiem (1985), directed by Akiyoshi Imazeki, and an Anime of Tobira o Akete ["Please Open the Door"] (1986), directed by Keizo Shimizu and Tsuneo Tominaga. Among Japanese authors, only Haruki Murakami had more titles than Arai in the Kōdansha English Library programme, a Japan-only translation series often seen as the gateway to foreign attention. Creatively, however, Arai seemed satisfied with variations on earlier juvenilia. Hoshi e Iku Fune (1981 Kō-1 Course; 1981; trans Naomi Anderson as A Ship to the Stars 1984), is a pedestrian picaresque in which a teenage girl stows away on a vessel bound for the Colonization of Other Worlds. Serialized in the same magazine for schools that nourished the Toki o Kakeru Shōjo phenomenon, it eventually spawned several sequels, as did her non-sf Black Cat (1984; trans Kate McCandless 1991), the first in a series of crime capers told from the point of view of a teenage sidekick.

Ima wa mō Inai Watashi e ["To the Me that is No More"] (1988), is an account of a hospitalized girl who comes to suspect that her original self was killed in an accident, and that she is a Clone replacement. But after this promising development, Arai spent the 1990s largely on sequels or non-sf. Her youthful readership aged with her as she moved into light-hearted comedies about marriage and coupledom, not truly returning to genre form until she won the Japanese SF Grand Prix with Tigris to Euphrates ["Tigris and Euphrates"] (1999) which depicts a foiled plan to populate a new world with colonists artificially grown from frozen embryos. [JonC]

Motoko Arai

born Tokyo: 8 August 1960

works (selected)

series

Ship to the Stars

Green Requiem

Black Cat

individual titles (selected)

collections

links

Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls and Graham Sleight.
Accessed 17:01 pm on 7 December 2021.
<https://sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/arai_motoko>