Square One Is Terrible, But It’s A Fantastic Example Of How Not To Write A Novel

Square One.

I hate this novel.

I really do.

I didn’t get to stress this enough in my previous post, and I can’t repeat them enough. I’d scale Mt. Everest if shouting from its peak was the best way to let the world know what an awful piece of garbage this book is. Way back when when I first began writing about this essay, my original intention was to carefully dissect this book and demonstrate its shortcomings, kind of like a surgeon teaching a medical course, but screw that. I’d rather rip out this thing’s intestines out, wring them, hang them up to dry over a fire, crush them, then stuff the remains into a box to be tossed into the Mariana Trench so that there’s no chance of the world ever having to lay eyes upon this horrible piece of work forevermore. As fun as it would be to take a chainsaw to this, I ordinarily try to be constructive in these blog posts, as it’s my firm belief that even the worst stories have lessons to be had, so take Square One as an example of how not to write a novel, even though there’s already a novel on that subject.

In case you skipped over Act I or made the intelligent decision to not commit the synopsis to memory, Square One is about Akari Ise as he follows his dream of becoming a mangaka. He submits a draft to be considered for serialization but gets rejected. However, it nets him a job as an assistant for a mangaka who already has four assistants but apparently needs another.

Yeesh. I haven’t even finished the synopsis and already we have problems.

First off, why does one mangaka need so many assistants? Some real-life mangaka do have as many as five or six assistants, but Square One’s first chapter is Akari figuring out what he’s going to be doing since there’s nothing for him to do. Backgrounds are covered, screen tones are covered, colored pages are covered, shortening the script so that it fits in the speech bubbles is covered—Hold on, why wasn’t the script written with a comic page in mind, and why is it one assistant’s job to do that? Doesn’t that duty belong to the editor, who won’t allow work on a chapter to start until he gives it the go-ahead? This assistant is still doing rough draft work when everybody else is working on the final manuscript.

This is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg, and it’s not even the first thing I noticed that was wrong with this novel. That honor belongs to the typo I found on the Amazon preview. I found the appearance of a typo on the first pages quite concerning, but I shrugged away it away with the concern of a shopaholic who buys first and worries about how they’re gonna be able to afford all these brand new shoes later.

I was once a naïve little human being who believed that all books were professional pieces of work in which no typo existed ever. Then I read Square One.

Jokes aside, typos aren’t that rare in novels, but I find that there are two kinds. The first are like praying mantises. Rare creatures that seem hideous to glance upon at first but are remarkable sights once the initial shock passes. And then there are your typos that are like ants, in how where you find one there’s approximately 4,098,685,145 more hiding underneath your floorboards. Square One has the latter in no small abundance. Just how there are scouts, workers, and fighters in a single ant colony, Square One also has grammatical errors, punctuation errors, sentence fragments, words that aren’t used correctly, and inconsistent verb tenses. It’s mentioned in the afterword—or Author’s Note, as Square One calls it—that it had a mate who was nice enough to read over its chapters and offer his two cents but apparently not kind enough to point out the obscene quantity of lingual errors. I’m not sure where Square One gets off thinking it’s too good for basic revisions, but it’s an attitude it carries as we move down our metaphorical iceberg.

We’re not in the water yet, believe it or not. If the synopsis was the tip of the tip and typos were the tip, we’re not three centimeters beneath that point. Square One is the debut work of the author, but I have reason to suspect that this book was the very first thing they’ve ever written. See, there are two telltale signs of an amateur author.

1.) Their allergy to the word “said.”

2.) Their love affair with adverbs.

The characters in Square One rarely ever say anything. Instead, they taunt, reprimand, and assert. If I had a dollar for every time someone said something, I think I’d have exactly one dollar. It’s distracting and occasionally quite annoying how petrified Square One is of the word said, like there’s a superstition where if it’s used more than three times in a single novel, all the dialogue tags in the sequels will be magically changed to ejaculated.

“The killer’s right there!” he ejaculated.

“My cat wouldn’t stop scratching my leg this morning,” she ejaculated.

“Mommy, will you read me a bedtime story?” he ejaculated.

I suspect all the time set aside for revisions and edits was used to come up with alternatives for said. With screwed up priorities like this, it should come as no surprise that Square One goes that extra kilometer to give similar treatment to the word asked. Unlike with said, I do require at least two hands to count the number of times asked is used in a dialogue tag. However, it seems to regard asked like a deformed pet dog. It feeds it and takes it out for walks, but it’d rather not acknowledge its existence, which is why it sometimes comes home with poodles called questioned and, my personal favorite, interrogated. In Square One, one does not ask a man for a glass of milk, he interrogates him for it, possibly while he’s blindfolded, gagged, and bound to a chair. I’m not entirely sure, the book never specifies.

Of course, this is all hyperbole on my part. A search for said on Kindle pops up over 500 results, but said is an “invisible word.” The reader doesn’t notice it, and the same logic can apply to asked, which comes up over 300 times in the same search. So even though said is used more than any other speak-related verb, it doesn’t feel like it, which is why I’ve devoted the last couple of paragraphs to complaining about it.

I’m going to dedicate one more paragraph to dialogue tags and the fact that Square One uses them for literally every quote, and that only might be a hyperbole. The book has a large main cast, so it’s necessary to point out who’s talking, but it’s not uncommon to see tags used in this manner:

“I sometimes lie down on my bed and pretend to be a carrot,” he said to Bob.

“What a coincidence. I do the same, except I pretend to be a potato,” Bob said.

It’s times like these when I suspect that Square One thinks I’m stupid. Funny. That’s the pot calling the kettle a filthy whore, but we’ll get to that later.

For now, let’s move on to adverbs, and boy, oh boy, adverbs. We are walking on broken glass now. Authors like Stephen King will lead you to believe that adverbs are evil things that shouldn’t be handled without holy water and a crucifix, but they have their time and place. As you might be expecting by this line in the post, Square One uses its adverbs at all the wrong times in all the wrong places. For example, if our above man being asked for milk—who may or may not be tied to a chair, the jury’s still out on that one—yells that there’s no milk left, he doesn’t just yell his answer, he yells it loudly. Thank goodness that adverb is there or else I might’ve thought he had yelled queitly. Don’t wanna imagine this whole scene wrong.

At this point, reader, I bet you’re thinking, “It’s the first thing the author’s written, so of course it’s going to be bad.” True. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from someone else’s mistakes or correct them. It’s helpful to be able to look at the faults in another work so that we know for sure we’re ballsing up if we find ourselves pulling the same move.

That covers all of the little things in Square One. We’re about ready to go diving into the water to see the bulk of this iceberg, but before that, we’ll get our feet wet with a couple of slightly less little things I want to go over that have no other place in this essay, I’ll be fitting them in here in no particular order.

OVER THE TOP REACTIONS!!

This isn’t as common as the colony of typos or the characters trying their hardest to not use said for fear of ejaculating from more parts than their nether regions, but it was present enough for me to remember it just so I could complain about it in this essay. I don’t remember any specific examples (and I’d prefer not to), but every now and then, the characters like to react in the most over-the-top manner to the most mundane and non-threatening pieces of news, as though someone had told them their roommate’s a unicorn. If someone told Akari they were heading to the store to pick up milk, Akari would be like, “You’re going to the store what?!”

If that wasn’t jarring enough, this book likes to randomly switch the perspective mid-scene, but I don’t mean like how the Isolator likes to ping pong between the protagonist and antagonist’s perspective in the middle of a battle. As much as that tends to kill the pacing in the first volume’s fights, it at least has the common courtesy to have breaks in the paragraph to let us know we’re jumping heads. Square One foregoes this, going from Akari’s first-person narration in one paragraph to a third-person omnipotent narration in the very next paragraph. The first time it happened, I was like, “Wait, what? What in the world happened?” and then Caitlyn had to recheck the Amazon blurb to make sure she hadn’t purchased a psychological thriller.

That should cover it for the slightly less little stuff. There’s not a doubt in my mind I could flaws to nitpick if I reread the novel, but I don’t hate myself enough to do that, so we’ll be at long last moving on to the bigger stuff, and it is some pretty big stuff. Forget the iceberg metaphor, it’s a landfill in the middle of a typhoon.

You know, it’s occurred to me that I never did finish the synopsis. Ah, no point. Once you get past the setup, there’s no central plot to describe. Chapters are essentially short stories as Akari goes about his days of working as an assistant while trying to get published at Banban Comics. Nothing wrong with this. Volumes of My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected are for the most part collections of short stories, but the biggest difference between the two is that reading the latter doesn’t feel like I’ve come down with gangrene.

Pick a chapter, any chapter, of Square One and compare it to the chapter Despite it all, Yoshiteru Zaimokuza wails alone in the wasteland. in volume 3 of My Youth Romcom. Despite it all is about the characters playing a card game, which on paper sounds like a contender in the running for world’s snooze-worthiest book chapter. But what’s actually on the paper is a livelihood kindled to life by the narrator’s witty and sarcastic tone along with the characters’ unique personalities. Square One’s chapters, meanwhile, are dull. Bland. Lifeless. Lacking personality. Lacking focus. Stuff happens, but it’s not interesting stuff or stuff presented in an interesting manner.

I do have to give Square One credit for sprinkling in drama here and there to slap me awake, but all the drama’s swirling around the minor characters, while everything’s rainbows and unicorns in Akari’s world, so when the book shifts from Akari’s hero’s journey to some guy’s smoking grievances, it doesn’t feel like I’m reading the same story. I suspect scenes like these are set up for resolution in later volumes (of which none have been released at the time of writing this), but their relation to the immediate plot is faint at best, so most of the time, they’re little more than filler, which Square One has an unhealthy obsession with, to the point where someone should recommend it to a psychiatrist. It tries to dress up these scenes as relevant because they contain a rival character or whoever but are pointless once you realize they’re just some d-bag yelling—loudly, I might add—at the main cast for the umpteenth time or an editor trying to get his mangaka to do her job.

While we’re on the topic of the characters, this book has too many. Waaaaaay too many. There’s Akari, the three assistants he works with, the assistants’ employer, the assistants’ employer’s sister, two rival mangaka, a prodigy mangaka introduced later on, Akari’s dad, Akari’s mom, Akari’s little brother, Akari’s editor, Akari’s editor’s assistant, the editor-in-chief (excuse me, the editor-and-chief, as Square One calls him), the other editors working beneath him, and any other minor characters I may have forgotten. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if I’ve forgotten about a paragraph dedicated to the rat living in Akari’s bedroom walls.

There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of characters, but Square One doesn’t know what to do with 97% of them. I’m not saying that we need the backstory of every background character, but it spreads itself too thin by trying to give everybody a moment in the limelight. The one time it does give one of its characters more than five seconds of time, the result is drama that feels forced, rushed, makes no sense, and falls flat as a whole.

Chapter 5, Individuality, is primarily about one of the assistants running away from home due to her parents not agreeing with her career choice as a manga artist. The premise itself is oozing with interpersonal drama between a child and her parents, but it’s nothing more than a backdrop to the characters as they go about their daily lives, because they treat it as a minor nuisance. The most dramatic thing to happen in this chapter is when Akari lets the girl stay at his house for the night but finds her missing the following morning. The only reason this moment is dramatic is because the characters forgot what century they were living in. Nobody thinks to call or text Akari to let him know that she walked to another assistant’s place without bothering to leave a note, and he doesn’t think to call them to ask why they didn’t text or call to let him know where she is or why she didn’t leave a note, so he runs through town looking for her in a panic, all because she didn’t leave a note and because nobody else bothered to text or call him to let him know she’s safe.

It’s at this point where Square One runs out of melodramatic nonsense to continue padding this chapter out, so it has the characters take the runaway to her home, where they talk to her mother. Mother and child reconcile, child returns to working on manga, and then everybody forgets this chapter ever happens. A tale that should’ve resonated with some readers due to its theme of a disagreement between parents and child gone too far winds up as a hack-eyed mess that wants to be serious but isn’t taken seriously by its own characters, and is inconsequential in the end because everything goes back to the way it was before. You can’t even say there was character growth because nobody changes from these experiences.

For as bad as chapter 5 is and the quantity of common sense concerningly absent, it’s a display of brilliance compared to this book’s climax. Further discussion requires spoilers, so if you have a problem with that because you wanna read this novel for yourself, I recommend you check yourself into a psychiatric ward, because there’s no way any sane individual would want to read this book after the lashing I’ve been giving it.

The leadup to the climax is that Akari writes and draws his own manga for serialization at Banban. The editor he’s been working with submits it for consideration at the next serialization meeting, but then he’s removed from his seat at the meeting and replaced with some other bloke because reasons, and then Akari’s manuscript is rejected for actual reasons actually explained, none of which have a shred of intelligence or common sense applied. Let’s go over those reasons:

Reason No. 1: Working on two manga at once will cause the quality of either to decrease.

A fair argument. Manga is a demanding and arduous field where real-life mangaka spend every waking moment—and more—working on a series. But not only is working on two series at once the quickest way to cause the quality of either to drop, it simply isn’t possible. As I said, mangaka spend their entire days working on their series, and that “and more” I slipped in was my way of noting how it’s not infrequent for them to sacrifice sleep so that they can have more time to work. So when you get right down to it, this argument shouldn’t have been laid out in the first place. But even if Akari were some superhuman who could draw three series at once, if they’re concerned about a drop in quality in his work, why don’t the editors, I don’t know, remove him as an assistant so that he can work on his own series? However, they justify not doing this because they believe…

Reason No. 2: Removing Akari from One Percent will cause its popularity to drop.

For reference’s sake, One Percent is the manga Akari’s an assistant for. It’s a popular series whose popularity has risen since his addition, the contributing factor being his artwork. It’s never stated or hinted at how popular One Percent is or what its rank is (if the magazine it runs in even has rankings the way Shounen Jump does), but for illustrative purposes, let’s say it’s consistently ranked 5th out of 20 series. Since Akari’s inclusion, it jumps to 3rd. Not bad. But if Akari’s removed, we can assume that One Percent will return to 5th, maybe 6th if Akari’s new series is as popular as the editors are projecting. I’m no editor-and-chief, but I don’t find this to be too big of a sacrifice for adding another popular series into the mix.

So, based on that logic—or lack thereof—Akari’s manuscript is rejected. And let me remind you that that was only the leadup to the climax. We’re just now entering act III, but you might wanna watch where you step, because the carpet’s covered with the grey matter oozing out of everyone’s ears.

After the meeting, Akari’s editor runs back to him to break the news. Akari’s a sad panda, but his editor suggests that they challenge the decision by having everyone stay up all night to redraw the first 40 page chapter so that they can hand it in to the editor-and-chief first thing in the morning.

There are so many plotholes with this one scene alone I’m astonished that Square One was advertising itself as a book and not as a block of Swiss cheese. It’s astonishing. I was astonished. It broke my brain, so now I can’t think of a synonym for astonish. It was such as astonishing scene that left me so astonished that I had to check the Amazon page to make sure that it was a book I had purchased and not a dairy product. After confirming that what I was holding in my hands was, in fact, a novel, I had to ask Square One a question. Many questions, to be precise, starting with my minor curiosity of why did the characters have to stay up all night doing this?!

What was so imperative about turning in a manga chapter on Friday morning that they stayed up all night redrawing it? The excuse given is that Banban Comics closes for the weekend and won’t open up until Monday morning. So then why not turn it in Monday morning? Does the editor-and-chief hate Mondays with such a fiery passion that anything put in front of him will be used as kindling for a sacrificial bonfire? The editor-and-chief’s reasons for rejecting Akari’s work are based on the logic of an entrepreneur who knows how to run a casino into the ground, so I don’t blame the characters for fighting back, but you don’t protest your local government for raising taxes with pitchforks and torches and dousing yourselves in kerosene.

My next question among many is, why did Akari have to redraw the entire first chapter? Didn’t he, you know, make copies before turning it in? The mangaka he works under has to make copies due to one of the assistants constantly screwing up the pages, so wouldn’t Akari have learned to do the same?

Something more important that’s missing from Square One are storyboards, a term which produces exactly zero results in a Kindle search, bee tee dubs. For those of you unaware of what those are, storyboards are the rough draft of a comic or manga page. The process goes that the mangaka will draft up a storyboard, their editor will suggest changes, the mangaka will make those changes, and they repeat this process until the editor okays the storyboard, after which work on the final draft can commence. This might seem like a slog to those who want to jump straight into a work, but this is done so that you’re not halfway through inking your final draft before realizing what you’ve got before you is a piece of total rubbish.

Apparently, it turns out, Akari is able to create the most incredible manga chapter not through perfecting his storyboards, but through his own motivation. First, there was the Power of Love, then we had the Power of Friendship, and it seems now that the new kid on the block is the Power of Motivation.

Ever seen a shonen battle anime or manga where the protagonist is down and three seconds from being out, but then through sheer willpower alone he regains his strength and goes on to whoop the bad guy’s ass? Supposedly, that’s what made the second draft Akari turned in so much better that the editor-and-chief accepted it despite rejecting the first draft for reasons unrelated to its quality.

Now, I’ll go ahead and give Square One some brownie points, because there is some truth to a work turning out better when you’re motivated to toil away at it vs. working on it because you have to. But that begs the question of why he was working on his manuscript if he wasn’t motivated to draw it in the first place. Why was he motivated the second round? So far as I can tell, he was recreating the exact same first chapter, the only difference being that he was doing it in a single night. If he works better under stress, that’s one thing, but even so, his work wasn’t rejected because it wasn’t good enough. How many times am I gonna have to explain Square One’s continuity errors before the bloody thing gets it?

But through the Power of Motivation, Akari creates something that Banban’s editor-and-chief accepts. Now, I’ve never worked a managerial position in my life nor have I been in charge of anything beyond pet fish, but isn’t it irresponsible for him to accept Akari’s work outside of a serialization meeting, where all decisions regarding a weekly or monthly magazine are made? He technically can do that since he’s the big man in charge, but if he accepts Akari’s work, he has to drop another artist’s series to make room for it. Can you imagine that poor soul’s reaction to hearing that his series isn’t getting cut this time but the following day catches the axe?

Now, everything I’ve said up to this point is how the real manga industry generally works. There’s no rule written on a giant piece of floating parchment paper in the sky saying that fictional manga publishers in fictional stories have to adhere to those exact practices. Not that Banban’s business practices are ever explained, but that’s beside my current point. It’s perfectly fine to deviate, but if you’re going to, make sure the changes you make are sensible. Most readers are willing to excuse some hiccups with their suspension of disbelief, but when you lean on that to the degree that Square One does, you’re gonna break it and crush your poor reader.

You wanna know another word that doesn’t appear in Square One? Contract. As in, Akari doesn’t have a signed contract with Banban Comics, so why the bloody flip is he bothering to resubmit to them? Does Square One take place in a dystopian future where Banban holds a monopoly on the manga industry? He’s part of an assistants program that Banban runs, but the fine print and legal details on this are non-existent, so I can only turn to real-life manga assistants as a model for what Akari can and can’t do.

Mangaka work for a sole publisher, but their assistants work for them, not a higher agency, so an assistant can submit their own manuscript to a publisher their employer doesn’t work under. I get it if it’s your dream to work for a specific company, but I also argue that it’d be sweeter revenge to take your work to another publisher that accepts it and hits it big as a result. Manga may be art, but publication is a business. It’s survival of the fittest. If a company is dumb enough to let a good series get away, that’s on them when they have to lay off half their crew because their competitor came out with money-printing machines they hold the patent for.

I flirted a few paragraphs back with how real-life mangaka spend every waking moment of their lives trying to invent clocks that make days longer than 24 hours, but I’d like to clarify the finer details of their work schedule. They have one week to storyboard, sketch, ink, and screentone one 19 page chapter. I don’t know how extreme that sounds to someone who’s never drawn, but that’s starting and finishing 2-3 pages per day, and that’s if you can manage storyboards in ten seconds. For reference, a western comic book artist makes one page a day on average. Most mangaka take longer than ten seconds for their storyboards—two to three days, to be exact—so that leaves them with no fewer than three or four pages to draw a day to make their deadline. Drawing’s not exactly a speedy process, hence all my talk about their work time spent drawing manga, their spare time spent drawing manga, and their sleep time spent drawing manga.

So, all these details out of the way, how in the bloody blue blazes is it possible for Akari to draw 40+ pages in not even fifteen hours? That’s 2-3 pages an hour. Square One attempts to sell this framework of five of the other characters playing as his assistants accomplishing this, but I’m not buying it. There’s a chapter in Bakuman—the series itself being an accurate if romanticized depiction of the manga industry, and, by the way, you should totally read it if you haven’t already—where the protagonist and his four assistants pull several all-nighters illustrating over 80// pages of manga, with one of them constantly worrying that they won’t make the deadline. At one point, he even specifically states that three days’ time isn’t enough to draw 45 manga pages. Yet Square One believes that very task is achievable in a single night. If Akari’s style were simple, I would be obliged to believe that he can at the very least sketch 40+ pages in such a short amount of time. But based on the testimonies of the characters, Akari’s artwork is phenomenal, which most likely means it’s technically impressive, and technically impressive artwork isn’t something you can dash off in twenty minutes.

This is a bit beside the point since I don’t care too much for release dates and this series has no obligation to them as a self-published work, but it’s presumptuous of Square One to assume a bunch of blokes can draw up 40+ pages of manga in one night when it can’t even keep up with the usual light novel release schedule of a new volume every 3-4 months.

For all the cat-of-nines I’ve been giving the climax, it’s one of the most remarkable examples of the idiot ball I’ve seen. It’s almost a work of art. I haven’t come across anything like it before or since. But as bad as it is, there’s one other thing in Square One that chafes my nether region more, as hard as that might be to believe, and it’s something that’s present throughout the novel, more so than the gajillion billion typos. And that thing I’m dragging this sentence out to add suspense for and will continue to do so until I run out of items to say is, in fact, not a thing but a person—though I’d prefer to refer to them as a thing—a person who goes by the name of…

This line added for suspense-building purposes.

Akari Ise.

I dedicated Part I to how Akari’s inborn talent can be used for fantastic narrative purposes, but now I’m going to pull an aboutface and dedicate the next several paragraphs to why I hate him.

You, lovely reader, should be aware by now that Akari is two things: stupid beyond comprehension and talented. But for as much his stupidity made me want to smash my Kindle over a opossum, it’s his talent that I hate more.

Akari’s naturally good at making manga, and in a story about making manga, that would make him an overpowered character. There’s nothing wrong whatsoever with the protagonist being overpowered, but Square One hypes its OP character up so much that once you realize he’s supported by toothpicks held together by soggy scotchtape, the entire structure comes tumbling down, impaling him to the point where he’s indistinguishable from a porcupine.

Akari’s style isn’t described in any sort of detail, and it’s frustrating to no end. I’m not asking for a five paragraph essay on what Akari’s art looks like, but one or two sentences on why it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread would be enough to shut me up. Is his artwork amazing because of its perfectionism like in the works of Katsuhiro Otomo? Is it amazing due to its surreal combination of photorealistic illustrations with cartoonish scribbles like in the works of Inio Asano? Is it amazing due to its technically simplistic yet gorgeous visuals like in the works of Haruko Ichikawa? Or is it amazing due to how awful the art is like in the works of ONE? I can only assume he’s just doodling stickmen punching each other in their groins and nobody has the heart to tell him he’s awful. It’s the best explanation I can come up with for how he was able to draw 40+ pages in the course of a mayfly’s lifespan.

Akari’s talents don’t stop there. Not only is he allegedly a top-of-the-notch artist, he’s allegedly the best writer since Dickens. The manga he submits that I’ve been raging about these last few paragraphs is an Isekai story about two main characters from two worlds, one that’s ours and one that’s fantasy, who can communicate and traverse the dimensional barrier via magical computer screen. I’ve got nothing against the setup, and so long as the product’s good, I don’t care for what the setup is, but his story in-book is described as a “fresh take” on the Isekai genre, a claim I wouldn’t buy even if it were a brick of gold and free. Outbreak Company had characters from both the real world and a fantasy world who were able to travel between the two, albeit with strict limitations. And if you want to argue that it’s an Isekai story, Code Lyoko did the same back in 2003, so calling Akari’s take on the Isekai genre “fresh” is like calling an Isekai story about a guy stuck in a fantasy world with his cellphone revolutionary.

I’ve been calling Akari talented, but the more appropriate word would be perfect. Everything he creates is a masterpiece, and every masterpiece he creates he does so on his very first attempt. There are no hours spent deliberating about his page layouts or days’ worth of notes outlining his stories. No time spent perfecting his storyboards—not that he even knows what those are—or looking at what he’s done so far and working out how it could be done better. No studying other mangaka to see what they do right or wrong, and no sketchbooks to practice new poses, perspectives, or styles. He just sits down and makes something for the other characters to praise him for. He’s not talented for the sake of commentary, sending a message, or making an entertaining character—Akari’s talented as an escapism device who creates the manga Square One wishes it could be.

Even if Akari were a likable character, the book he finds himself in is far from enjoyable. As a matter of fact, the book he finds himself in is a disgusting artifact best left in whatever landfill it was excavated from. It’s an arrogant, ignorant, despicable, infuriating piece of trash that thinks all you need in this world is natural talent, that doesn’t know what hard work is, that doesn’t know a thing about writing, that doesn’t know a thing about manga, and shows no respect for the industry it’s paying homage to or to the medium it’s written in, that demands your hard-earned money despite its unkempt quality, and I am appalled that it would dare call itself literature. Square One is garbage that thinks it’s gold. Greatness made with birthright rather than endeavor. It’s not a pig wearing lipstick, it’s a swine caked in makeup and dressing up in Victorian era robes attempting to pass itself for the Queen of England. It’s an escapism fantasy that doesn’t have the common courtesy to be decent, and there’s no enjoyment to be had from reading this.

This “book” closes out with Akari receiving the serialization he’s worked for, but not only does he have that job to focus on, he’s also still an assistant. But not only does his have his two manga jobs, he’s also beginning to attend college. Square One at this point is trying so hard to sell us on Akari’s greatness that it’s making him do the impossible after doing the impossible. This could make for a gripping drama where Akari tries and fails to balance his work life with his school life, but that’d be giving Square One far more credit than it will ever deserve.

Finishing this collection of wasted trees was probably the single biggest relief of my life. It was the sort of relief you get when you come out of the oven after accidentally locking yourself in there to cook for forty minutes. I hated that rubbish so much I wrote an Amazon review which was rejected on the grounds of being too savage, I guess.

After 6,000 words of bashing this murderer of perennial plants, I’m at a loss of how to finish this post. I feel like I’ve wailed on the pathetic final boss until it’s nothing more than a bloody mass writhing on the floor, and now that I’ve beaten it, the game just goes, “Well now, I’m not sure what we should do, so let’s just roll the credits, shall we?” I suppose I’ll just state the obvious, which is that I don’t recommend this impostor of fine art. There are so many good books to read. Go pick up one of those. Better than sitting in an oven with this destroyer of dreams & expectations.

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