携帯小説 Cell phone novels

keitai shousetsu, or “cell phone novels” is a trend that started in Japan, but has slowly gained a wider fan base all around the world. Authors of these cell phone novels, often using a pen name, write short chapters, usually about 100 Japanese characters, and send them to subscribed readers either by text, e-mail, or posts on dedicated websites. Originally cell phone novels had to be kept short in order to save on text costs, and to avoid having to scroll down on your phone a lot. Over time, some keitai shousetsu were so popular that they were then published into books. If you’re into J-drama, you may have heard of or even seen 恋空 koizora (Love Sky). Well believe it or not, koizora was originally a keitai shousetsu posted on mahou no irando. If you’re interested in these novels (and can read Japanese) visit the website 🙂

However, non-Japanese readers, fear not, as there is now an iPhone app that has brought over keitai shousetsu to the western world: eMobo. It’s a free download, and has hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of these short novels. Some of the novels are also Japanese ones translated into English. I’ve just downloaded the app, and not knowing where to start, I had a look in the “Most popular ” section (as you do). Number 1 on the list was  Secondhand Memories by Takatsu, which I have now started reading, and so far so good.

What I find interesting about this literary genre is the shortness. And because each chapter is so short, and only released perhaps on a weekly basis, it’s important for the author to keep the readers so engaged they can’t wait till the next chapter. The language needs to be concise and to the point, yet descriptive enough to fuel our imagination. Which is why keitai shousetsu is has often been described as poetic.

But according to some, with the release of the eMobo app, the chapters can be longer, and because of that, keitai shousetsu is losing some of its original charm.

Will the ability to write longer passages ruin the distinctiveness of this genre? Or on the other hand, strengthen it, and give it more room to evolve?

(Feature image source)

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