Title: Help! My Little Sister is Disappearing! Author: Azure Whitewood Publisher: Azure Whitewood / Amazon Language: English Format: Paperback Pages: 205 Genre: Slice-of-Life, Supernatural Publication Date: January 19, 2019
Hinata Shiraishi has a little sister named Asuka. One day, Asuka was sitting in class when her teacher looked at her and questioned why she was there. He believed that this student was in the wrong class. Slowly, Asuka began to become ignored as if she wasn’t even there. Hinata’s best friend Kaito still remembered her until one day, even he didn’t know who Asuka was.
Asuka had disappeared and Hinata was the only one who could see her!
Hinata made it his goal to figure out just what happened to Asuka and how to reverse the phenomenon that happened. This all began when Hinata met a girl named Rin who had been absent from school. It turned out that Rin suffered from the same fate as Asuka. As the phenomenon continues to grow, the mystery does as well.
From a story standpoint, I found the premise rather interesting. The story starts off as a supernatural mystery with Asuka disappearing from everyone’s sight but her brother’s. Then when you discover that it happened to Rin, it’s not just an isolated incident. There are moments where breakthroughs happen and when they do, the mystery begins to slowly unravel itself.
While the book does a great job of telling an interesting story, I felt that the actual pacing of the book suffered due to the order of events. It starts off establishing the mystery and progresses to how to solve it. Then, the book seems to take a break from its main story altogether and focuses on character development, backstories, and side stories. Once it finishes that, it resumes the main plot once again. At times, I was reading these side stories and felt that, while it was cool to see other characters getting attention, I found myself wondering what happened to the main plot?
Once the reason behind the phenomenon was revealed, the book felt like it was rushing to a conclusion. While I believe the solution was rather feasible, I think that the author could have pulled back on the in-depth development in favor of fleshing out how to arrive at the solution a bit more.
There was a pretty sizeable cast of characters for this light novel but it was a bit obvious who was a main character, who was supporting, and who was “just there.”
Starting off with Hinata, I felt he was a pretty solid main character. He played the typical strong older brother type with him doing anything he could to find out what happened to Asuka. In addition, he has the ability to rally others to his side which helped him get to the bottom of the mystery. A character like that who can pull others in as well as stick by his values is a good character that people can relate to. Even if the reasoning behind Asuka’s situation paints him in a different by bringing to light a sensitive topic. I guess once readers get to that point, it’s a question of moral beliefs. Whether or not that erases all of Hinata’s actions up until the end is up to your own opinion.
Asuka herself felt like the typical little sister. She is energetic, always loves her big brother, is always excited to be around him, and does all the “cute little sister” things you would expect out of the character archetype. Sometimes this archetype comes off as highly annoying but I didn’t really get that vibe from Asuka. I felt that she was well-balanced in such a way where you actually felt bad for her. Again, much like Hinata, once you learn of the cause of her phenomenon, whether or not you still feel that way about her is up to your own opinion.
Kaito is Hinata’s best friend is a bit of a womanizer but not of his own volition. He gained a reputation for himself by dating a couple of girls and now girls simply date him because he’s popular. Nothing ever lasts with him but he holds onto hope that he will find the right one who wants something long term and actually loves him for who he is. I think there was a HUGE missed opportunity here with Kaito. Imagine what it would have been like if, one day, all girls couldn’t see Kaito because of the way others saw him for dating so many women? That would have been a great addition to the story but it never happened. Instead, Kaito ends up being a supporting character and while he is a good friend to Hinata, I feel that his development detracted from the main portion of the story. I felt there was a better way to bring Kaito and Kanna together without having to cause the main plot to take a detour.
For example, since Hinata was good at bringing people together, what if Hinata began to call meetings to figure out the phenomenon and both Kaito and Kanna was a part of them. The story could continue forward while you could build upon their relationship. Then have Kanna confess to Kaito as part of the final moments of the book, bringing their story to a close alongside the main plot. I think that would have reduced the unnecessary detour and kept things flowing at a smoother pace.
Speaking of Kanna, she is one of three members from Asuka’s after school Tea Club along with an idol named Yui, and a girl from a rich family named Koharu. Kanna is a normal girl but she suddenly goes into an anxious train wreck whenever she’s around Kaito. She has a huge crush on him and really wants to be with him but she gets so tense, she can never function properly. It’s kind of cute if you ask me and I thought Azure did a good job portraying that. It worked well with what we got but it probably would have worked well in any situation.
Koharu just seemed like a fly-on-the-wall character that was used for a plot device. Hinata had a plan to reverse the phenomenon so this all took place at Koharu’s parent’s private resort. Here, we have Koharu struggling with her own emotional feelings in which Hinata offers up some advice. Then her situation gets resolved at the end of the book. I felt like this character’s development was handled well when it was handled but the problem here is that until the end of the book, Koharu just felt like a character that was there for the sake of being there. I felt that her development and backstory came to little too late to have much of an emotional impact.
Yui was the most important out of the three as she became the catalyst to breaking the phenomenon. Through Yui’s ability to see Asuka and Rin once again, Hinata begins to understand how things need to go for everyone to be able to see them. As for Yui herself, she’s an idol singer but she doesn’t act like such. She’s very down-to-Earth and shows that celebrities are human, too. Out of all the characters, I liked Yui the most because I felt that she was the most balanced from her personality, to how she helped Hinata with his cause and everything else she brought to the table.
Finally, we have Rin… the second to suffer from the disappearance phenomenon. While Rin did a good backstory, she felt like she was put on the back burner a couple of times, spending most of her time hiding away at Hinata’s house. Then again, what else was there to do with her? We received her story and that also provided clues as to what linked both of their situations together. In that sense, she played an important role. Outside of that, Rin felt like an average character. She didn’t have much personality and when you found out about her situation, you realized it was all just a huge misunderstanding. Still, it’s another touchy subject but with the way the phenomenon was triggered, it felt like it’s the kind of subject that would fit perfectly with the story.
While I enjoyed the premise and ideology of the story, I felt that this shouldn’t have been a one-volume series. It had the type of story that could have spanned a few volumes had more and more characters succumbed to the phenomenon. It could have turned into a deep psychological thriller if each and every person’s cases were examined to try and find that common link. In addition, the kind of character development we received was good enough for a multi-volume series. The development could have tied into the phenomenon, thus added to the drama and mystery. I felt that there was a huge opportunity here that was missed with the story but that doesn’t mean it was bad by any means… just rushed when it didn’t need to be. The fact that I would have loved to see this story extended shows how much I enjoyed it and wanted more of a good thing.
There were some things that broke the enjoyment though such as the lack of artwork and/or detailed descriptions. I barely got a sense for what the characters looked like as the descriptions were rather vague in most cases. I had to use my imagination to try and picture who these characters were and what they looked like. While art goes a long way, you can usually forego that with some better detail in the writing itself.
Speaking of the writing, there were numerous grammatical errors throughout the book that I felt were a bit jarring. I felt that the book could have used another editing pass or two to bring the quality up just a little bit. It didn’t take away from the quality of the story, though but it was a bit jarring when you’re trying to suspend your disbelief.
All in all, I enjoyed the book and think its good for a quick read as it clocks in just a tad north of 200 pages. I just wish the idea was expanded upon some because it could have really made this story shine brighter.