Yosuke Fukamachi hates his birthmark. His birthmark has plagued his face and has become the source of many problems in his life. Before his high school life starts, he receives a strange call from a public telephone booth. The caller challenges him to a bet.
She will remove the birthmark on his face on the condition that he is able to win the heart of a girl he knew long ago, Yui Hajikano, within fifty days.
He reluctantly accepts the challenge and within the next day, his birthmark has disappeared. He experiences a normal high school life for the first time, however Yuu Hajikano is nowhere to be seen.
Later that night, he finally encounters her.
Right when she was about to commit suicide with the very same birthmark he had on his face.
The Place You Called From is a two volume story by Sugaru Miaki about how a boy is given the initiative to win the heart of a girl that was completely out of his reach. With themes of appearances, inferiority, and insecurity, the story has our main character majorly reflect on himself and his actions in order to chase after the girl he loves, albeit worded instantaneous at times. As for the plot, the supernatural elements combined with lore inside the story makes the light novel intriguing in both this mystery-like premise and the world setting.
Ever since Yosuke was born, the combination of his quick-temper and his unsightly birthmark has turned him into a delinquent. In an attempt to recreate himself, he studied to attend Minagisa First High, a famous college prep school. After accepting the bet from the caller on the phone, he quickly realizes that his birthmark on his face is gone. Yosuke attends school expecting the worse, but he’s welcomed by his classmates Chigusa Ogiue and Nagahora. That night however, the girl he was searching for, Yui Hajikano, is trying to commit suicide. Yosuke stops Yui, but then he gets once he tries to talk to her, he gets rebuffed and she escapes.
For the entire story, we get to see Yosuke decide which of his two desires to pursue: to experience an ordinary high school life without his birthmark or chase after a girl he deemed out of his reach since the fourth grade. The novel spends a fair amount of time telling us about the relationship between Yosuke and Yui. Having Yosuke tell us his stories with Yui is a good way to create a strong juxtaposition between Yui’s current state vs how Yosuke remembered her. However, the way the light novel transitions to these backstories can be blunt and instantaneous.
I didn’t mean to cause any trouble, having already been in one big fight today. But when he started ridiculing my birthmark, I found myself fighting.
Unluckily, the one I punched seemed to be experienced in hand-to-hand combat, and the next moment I was lying on the ground.
Lying down face-up, I looked at the stars for a while. I checked my back pocket and found my wallet missing as expected, but the cigarettes in my inner pocket were safe. I took a bent cigarette out of the crumpled box and lit it with a lighter.
Suddenly, I thought of Yui Hajikano.
Going from a delinquent on the street to an outgoing high schooler makes Yosuke seriously consider his life. He does a lot of self-reflection throughout the novel, mulling over his appearance, his emotions, his actions, and even his values. As a result, the tone gets depressing from time to time, even more so if you relate to his inferiority complex. On the other hand, the way he acknowledges his weaknesses leads to early development and allows him to refocus on what he wants to pursue.
Going to the opposite end of the spectrum, Yui Hajikano is made to appear as a perfect being.
She was a pretty girl. Both Hajikano and I got people’s attention, but for completely opposite reasons. I for my ugliness, and her for her beauty.
From her pinky promises to her happy smiles to her comforting comments, Yui means a lot to Yosuke. So when she’s on the verge of killing herself, the story gives Yosuke and us the initiative to figure out why Yui turned out the way she did. There are some hints spread throughout the novel to help us figure out why, but her actual confession is only a small part of her entire issue and the novel leaves her situation unclear until the next volume. So until then, their relationship is stuck in a rut and with the twist the story adds in later on, the situation is looking pretty dire for Yosuke.
On the other hand, Chigusa Ogiue is still available if Yosuke decides to abandon Yui. Chigusa Ogiue is the first classmate that makes contact with Yosuke. Her presence in the novel serves to complete the love triangle with her subtle advances on Yosuke. However, she’s also willing to help Yosuke out when asked about Yui, which makes her intentions strange when she reveals her insecurities to him. It’s like if Chigusa is playing a back and forth game of teasing and friendliness in order to win his heart in the end. It seems as if there’s more to Chigusa than what the story and Yosuke gives us, and she will likely play a big part in the next volume.
If my birthmark were to come back tomorrow, what would Chigusa say when she saw my face? Would she still be able to guarantee to me “You will be fine, Fukamachi”?
Speaking of big parts, the lore within the story has a lot of significance with how much the novel references elements from it. The Place You Called From occasionally brings up their folklore, The Mermaid of Agohama. To summarize, it’s a combination of The Mermaid of Yaobikuni and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. From the many references of mermaids to the Miss Minagisa contest to the caller’s haunting implications, the folklore will serve to be very important in the next volume.
I was naive.
When the woman on the phone explained the bet, she – perhaps intentionally – failed to mention an important point. She never mentioned anything about the penalty that would be given to me if I lost the bet. She knew that if she had mentioned it, I wouldn’t have been on board.
Remember the story of the mermaid. Not The Mermaid of Agohama. Not Yaobikuni. But Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale.
The Place You Called From is only one half of the entire story as the volume drops off on a cliffhanger. There are many questions unanswered from Yui’s current situation to the identity of the caller to Chigusa’s true intentions to the mysterious meaning of the Tale of Yaobikuni. This volume sets up the events and the relationships for these self-conscious characters in this romance light novel series.
Rating: Postponed till next volume.
Author: Sugaru Miaki