Table of Contents
- Final Verdict
TAGS : Action, Mystery, Drama, Horror, Romance, School, Supernatural, Psychological, Thriller
STATUS : FINISHED
Sinister story of Kazuki Hoshino, who is almost madly attached to his everyday life, and his antagonist Aya Otonashi, who suddenly transfers into his class—for the 13,118th time. She majestically announces to “break” him, without paying heed to anyone else around them.
This is but the start of a dark roller coaster ride that turns the two against themselves, the people around them and the one who may be god. Read on as their relationship slowly changes and they go against their most basic values in their struggle against the world itself.
Welcome to Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria, or The Empty Box and The Zeroth Maria – a revisit review. The previous one was lacking in many regards – so why not try to write it all over again, with the last volume already out? What’s with the titular “Empty Box” and why is this Light Novel so damn good? I’m about to tell you, so grab onto something ’cause it’s going to be a wild ride!
The story of HakoMari appears to be a very simple one at the start. It’s only after some time that we realize it’s actually much more complex than initially thought. It does so in a manner that is surprising, and not so much. Contradicting myself much, but let me explain. The depth of the story is indeed surprising, something that comes out of nowhere really. But! The moment it does, you’re not surprised at all. It’s like you’ve been expecting to be so from the very get go. Why is that? I’d say it’s because of the writing. It is excellent. Eiji Mikage manages to keep you invested in the story and characters regardless of the current pace of events.
The story is very coherent, and slowly but surely ties everything really well. And at the center of everything are the titular Boxes. What are Boxes? A wish-granting devices. They are very well designed, and as the series go on you discover more and more about them and their inner workings. While it is a seemingly simple concept that’s easy to grasp, in reality it is anything but. That makes them fantastic. That makes their mystery that much more intriguing, thrilling and better than any other supernatural plot device.
The story itself is told from Kazuki’s POV, and is heavy on the inner monologue. Here’s the main deal breaker regarding HakoMari – the narrative. If you’re not a fan of heavy narrated series, this one may be a tough read. It has a fairly slow start, which doesn’t help the process at all. Throughout most of the series we are witnessing his inner monologue, which gets quite in-depth and is fairly long. It definitely is not for everyone, especially if you are the type to prefer more action-oriented stories and how they are written. It’s amazing in its own right, but not for everybody.
Zeroth Maria is a psychological, thriller and drama type of story first. Other elements blend in, but they only elevate the overall feel of it. From the very first moment you “step foot” into it, you’re greeted with mysteries and a lot of psychological dilemmas. Dilemmas, mind you, that appear right up until the very end. And even then a little bit. Then, as you dive a little bit deeper, what’s awaiting you is a story so reliant on the characters and the inner monologue to explain everything, it’s unreal it didn’t really “fuck itself” in the process. It’s hard to talk about the story without spoiling it. It truly is hard. But it’s even better without prior knowledge of it in my opinion. To each’s own I guess.
HakoMari is a story focusing heavily on characters’ state of mind and how their personalities change and interact with each other. As such, by default, any series that tries to do so should have an amazing set of characters right? Right? Well..This series has them. Every character that is more or less relevant to the plot is developed in one way or the other. At first, only a handful of characters seem relevant. It all changes in latter books, where the cast gets expanded and more and more people start to appear that play major role.
Dialogue is fantastic. That’s about as much as I can say about it as to not discredit it in the slightest. I’ve heard about the comparison to -monogatari series, and while I don’t necessarily agree with it, I can totally see where it is coming from. The depth that went into it is incredible. Like with aforementioned -monogatari series, there is a lot of dialogue and, once again, if you’re not a fan of those types of novels it may be hard for you to read through it.
I talked about development before, but what about the “base” characters and their personalities? They are unique. They feel very much real, and you can easily identify yourself with any given one. Their interactions seem natural, and don’t look like a filler bit. Designs of characters are fantastic. Honestly, the cast is amazing and it’s hard for me to pinpoint a thing that was a weakness to them. Gosh..
HakoMari has a pretty generic art in regards to characters. What is does differently are the pictures that are related to the current events. Like the one above. It represents the first arc of the series. It looks weird, but after the first book you realize how much depth there is to it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s symbolic, but it definitely adds a lot to the mystery aspect.
Back to the characters’ art. I’ve said it generic, and I stand by it. It’s not outstanding by any means. However, I do fancy it myself and I especially like the covers of the volumes. God, are they pretty. Also, you can see the change of characters in the art. I don’t know if it was meant to represent the growth of the characters, or the artist changed his style a bit, but it looks like the former, and is fantastic if I’m correct.
Your “enjoyment” factor of this series will vary on many things. But I think most important thing to it is whether or not you actually enjoy the series that are heavily narrative driven. It’s not a stretch to say that the amount of inner monologue alone is enough to put off some potential readers. It’s definitely not a story you can read for the sake of reading. I know, every book should not be read like that, but let’s face the reality of things.
I believe HakoMari should be read with having all the attention given to it. Otherwise the potential reader – that being you – may, and probably will, miss on a lot of hints and clues, and get lost midway through, thinking it’s all a bunch of bullshit.
With that said, I enjoyed the hell out of this series. I went in expecting nothing, just a really weird title. What I got was something amazing, something I doubt I will forget really soon.
FINAL VERDICT – After 27754th time, it’s still a masterpiece.
Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria is a novel one of a kind in my opinion. It requires your full attention to shine, but if it receives what it requires, you’re in for a wild ride. A ride that is hard to forget and glance over.
Yes, if you don’t like those types of stories you will probably not like HakoMari for all the reasons you don’t like them in the first place. But, if you have no problems with that, I strongly believe you will fall in love with this series. After all, Aya Otonashi will break you sooner or later.