Koji Kojou is a mysterious man. As an author, he strives to write slice-of-life stories that are influenced by Japanese web novels yet manage to be distinctly western, perhaps even Midwestern. They tend to be short, sweet, and show characters willing to reflect upon themselves and grow from their pasts.
Which is interesting when compared to the man himself. “Koji” is not this author’s real name. I know because he mailed me something. I did my research, asked around, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty concerned. Apparently, by day he’s an accountant, but he’s been moonlight by night as an assassin. CRAZY I KNOW. Apparently, he works as an agent of some group called the National Railway Worker’s Union, where he used to be a simple flagman. But one day, the local Yakuza made the mistake of disrespecting the hit Anime K-on. The details are fuzzy, but the police AND the local Yakuza families are still in search for Koji, and he’s been forced to hide out in America biding his time for the day he can return, and he pays his dues by taking on assignments from Amtrak.
Or at least that’s what Confidence Man Chad Davis and esteemed Self-Help Guru Anthony Izer tells me. They could be lying. I don’t know.
What I do know is Koji’s most recent book 21 Days with Momo is out and not only is it pretty good (and rather cheap, at a mere $1 American for the Kindle version) but each sale gets Mr. Kojou closer to his goal of being with his girlfriend, Eriko, who lives overseas. Dead serious, that’s not a joke. So if you believe in the power of love, you should buy this book. You should also buy it because it’s a fun and clever slice of life short.
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21 Days with Momo is written as 21 days (plus two extra with the bonus chapters) of the main character Bart and his interactions with his coworker Momo. Clever how that’s named, right? Bart is kind of a wash out who expected to make more of himself after high school, but is putting forth more effort after having wrecked his car swerving to hit a bicyclist… who, it turns out, was Momo! Momo is from Japan and working at the local Asian market (which, like many Asian markets I’ve been to, is kind of generic and all encompassing.) The two are kind of awkward, in part because Bart hasn’t really found himself or his voice yet and Momo doesn’t speak English very well. The dynamic works well here because each “day” is framed by Bart’s keeping of a journal, as suggested by the self-help book “Make Friends & Get Rich, the Lazy Bastard’s Way!” by John Borko. (I think this is a play on a book that Anthony Izer is or was working on?)
Surprisingly, while the book’s premise could easily fall into the “romance” category, the book does a great job of focusing less on that and more on the differences between American society and Japanese, as well as some of the different words and phrases. Mondegreen English, different ways of preparing the same types of food, and a play on the wonder that is Bull-God Worcester Sauce (referred to in this book as “Shiba Inu” because Koji is afraid of using Trademarks) are all represented here in a way that’s both sweet and genuine. The chapters are light, focusing more on the mood and the “lesson” of each one, which works for this particular format. There’s lots of little relatable things in here too, like the frustration of trying to follow a recipe for the first time but it’s weighted down by three paragraphs of introduction before the ingredients are even listed. I also appreciated how the possible romance angle is subverted, focusing instead on a good solid friendship by two people from different walks of life who learn how to lean on each other.
I found myself thinking about myself a lot as I read this. I am, for better and for worse, not an accountant, let alone one that has the freaking Yakuza looking after him. But through his character Bart, Koji shows us that sometimes the best way forward is just to start with that first step, and to keep a journal where we list one thing we learned every day. I might try doing that.
But first I need to convince more people to buy this novel! It’s super cute, and if Koji is counting the cash from sales I don’t have to worry about him murdering me with a Chin Chin Densha. Hopefully.
21 Days with Momo is listed at 114 pages, which includes two “bonus” chapters and a light Afterword. It is $0.99 American for the Kindle edition, $6 on Paperback, and soon to be available on Bikkuri Book Club as part of their “pay what you want” model. Koji has a blog I’m sure he has forgotten about that can be found here; the artist of the cover page, Erena, can be found across social media that have been assembled at this link here.