Bokko-chan – Shinichi Hoshi

Apostolou- Best Japanese Hoshi- Bokko-chan

“Bokko-chan” (shortstory) by Shinichi Hoshi

From Apostolou & Greenberg’s The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (1989)
Originally from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1963

Original: Japanese, 1963
Translated by Noriyoshi Saito, 1963

“The story of a B-girl who didn’t have a heart of gold” (47)

Synopsis: An ingenious bartender creates a robot complete in female form whose charms could woo his patrons. Though lacking in conversational depth, the men in town grow fonder and fonder of the unknowingly robotic lass behind the bartender’s counter. Given drinks, which were then drained and served again, the little charming robotess makes him good money, but also breaks one young man’s heart to the point of contemplating murder.

Analysis: This is considered to be the first Japanese science fiction story ever published and while it may be over fifty years ago, it still reads like a piece of modern flash fiction and still has a brief but allegorical message.

The common man who flock to the bar are impressed with the ersatz female bartender simply because of her perfectly unblemished skin (having superficial beauty). Her physical presence draws in more men by the week; however, “like many great beauties, she was rather empty-headed” (48). Regardless, the men croon and attempt to woo her while she answers in nonsensical, reworded, rhetorical questions from her own program (lacking the beauty of intelligence). The bar’s owner saves her from more in depth questions so as not to disenchant the paying customers.

Superficial beauty versus the beauty of intelligence is, obviously, the focus of Hoshi’s story. The simple man has simple pleasures: the drinking of alcohol and the admiring of eye-candy. While some men attempt to lure her into a date, all the while being accosted by the protective bar owner, one young man became infatuated with her. Unable to emotionally connect with the construct, he has a final conversation with her which follows a predictable pattern. As she does not understand her words, she also does not understand the consequences, a fault which lies with the bar owner who plays the hearts of men for profit.


One thought on “Bokko-chan – Shinichi Hoshi

  1. One quick edition to your thoughtful review of this story. The June 1963 publication of “Bokko-chan” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is widely considered in Japan (and elsewhere, I imagine, I have found no other example to date) to be the first Japanese science fiction story translated and published in the English language. If we extend SF to fantasy and the grotesque, then translations of pieces by Edogawa Ranpo and others writers in those genres had likely come out before, but this was the first translation of a story by a leading member of a cohort of writers that had not existed before the war: Japan’s self-identified “science fiction writers.” Pre-war science fiction, much of it more Jules Verne than pre-war American pulp science fiction and some of it belligerent military science fiction as the prospect of war with the Western nations loomed, had a considerable following. Yet this translation of Hoshi Shin’ichi’s “Bokko-chan” paved the way to the current and long overdue wave of Japanese SF in translation.

    All best and thank you for an exceptional service to the community with this blog!

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