A fantasy set in modern Japan, about a young woman and the kami who takes a strong interest in her.
Sep 29, 2009: “Tamao” is a delicate, slow-flowing story about a modern Japanese woman who brushes against the supernatural in an old Shinto shrine. She awakens something even older than the shrine and maybe something in herself.
Akiko Tanahata has an office job, a small apartment, an ambitious boyfriend and a mother who worries she’ll never get married. While walking home she gets caught in the rain and decides to wait the storm out in a nearby shrine. When she enters the main building she finds herself in another shrine, on a sunny day, and she glimpses something she can’t believe in, but that she won’t be able to forget. From that moment on she’s haunted by the image of what she saw in the shrine, and she’s drawn back there.
The writing is very graceful, with a slow, dreamy quality. The story unfolds slowly in short sequences. Small details are added in each part, gradually filling in Akiko’s backstory as well as that of the Shinto shrine and its kami. The Japanese terms are not always explained right away, but the cultures, both modern and old, flow throughout. The descriptions are vivid and sensual. The supernatural elements often appear on the edges of Akiko’s senses, more atmospheric or part of the setting rather than as a character or part of the story. There are a lot of dream sequences and images being reflected in windows. This may change later in the story. I stopped to write this review after the first 30 episodes. There is the sense that something is trying to communicate with Akiko. It’s not clear yet whether or not it is benevolent.
If you enjoy fantasy with an Asian flavour, “Tamao” could well be your cup of tea. The pace is slow but the story flows well. The main character is sympathetic, if not your typical strong heroine-type. It’s a very intriguing idea and I’ll be interested in returning to the story and seeing where the author is going with it.
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Jul 30, 2009: I read lots of fiction online, and I thoroughly enjoy tamao . . . Especially as I started reading it on a trip to Japan about 6 months ago. He always updates on time, and the story is really unusual. Occasionally the story gets over-involved with describing one aspect of the plot (taking 6 or 7 updates to describe a similar series of events when two or three would suffice), but it’s still a great read and I love his imagery. The heroine of the story is fantastically flawed (read: very human), which always [more . . .]
Jul 21, 2009: I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Tamao since coming in around chapter 4 (and rapidly catching up the archives). The characters are real and believable, the narrative voice is non-intrusive, and the supernatural aspects flow quite naturally from the settting – heck, they are the setting, in large part. The supernatural action is by turns creepy, somewhat frightening and extremely cool. The author has an excellent eye for visual description, which really enhances the story – more than once I have wished that I had the talent to adapt this story into [more . . .]
Nov 6, 2010: I loved this story (not least because I adore snakes, but ahem). I loved it so much, in fact, that I zipped through the entire thing in one night—which is saying something, considering the length—and feel strongly enough about it to leave my first review here.
That said, I very nearly did not get past the first episode.
But let’s start with what I liked first.