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  • Ages 12 and up
  • 21ST CENTURY CLASSICS

Koteki no kanata

[Beyond the Fox Whistle]

Written by Uehashi Nahoko
Illustrated by Shirai Yumiko

Rironsha, 2003. 342 pp. ISBN 978-4-652-07734-3.

Also published in: Chinese (traditional and simplified characters) and Korean

Nobi, a young fox spirit, is a sorcerer’s familiar. Injured while ripping out the throat of a human at his master’s command, Nobi is chased by hunting dogs into a field at dusk. He is discovered on the brink of death by Sayo, a girl who lives with an old woman in the forest on the village outskirts. Sayo whisks Nobi away in her arms to a residence that local villagers are strictly forbidden to enter. To her surprise, someone is already there: a boy named Koharumaru, who has been locked away inside for years.

    The thrills start early in the story and keep pace throughout, as Sayo, Nobi, and Koharumaru—each grappling with their own dark circumstances—are caught up in a magical feud and bitter territorial struggle between the rulers of two neighboring countries.

    The “fox whistle” of the book’s title allows the sorcerer to control Nobi. Foxes remain magically bound to the sound of such whistles until their death. Sayo also possesses magical powers, bestowed on her by local tutelary deities after she recovers memories of her mother’s brutal murder. The sorcerer tries time and time again to kill her, but Nobi defies his master’s orders and keeps Sayo safe.

    The reader eventually learns that Koharumaru is the illegitimate son of one of the feuding lords. Sayo and Nobi, finding themselves on opposing sides in the ongoing battle, feel an impossible love for each other that resonates through the narrative, culminating in a scheme surrounding Koharumaru’s succession to power. As the story nears its climax, a tragic end seems inevitable.

    What will become of the love between a girl with magical powers and a fox cub forever at the mercy of a sorcerer’s whistle? Uehashi Nahoko writes in crisp prose that heightens the tension and immerses the reader into the world of the story. In the stirring final chapter, cherry trees bloom across the spring hillsides like clouds, their petals dancing through the air in a moment of dreamlike serenity. Not only does this create a captivating contrast with the rest of the story, it is also a breathtaking display of Uehashi’s ability to bring narrative elements into harmony. (NA)
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Uehashi Nahoko

Born in Tokyo in 1962. Made her debut as an author in 1989. While conducting research as a cultural anthropologist, has written numerous stories. Has won awards including the Mildred L. Batchelder Award and the Michael L. Printz Award of the American Library Association and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing as well as the Noma Prize for Juvenile Literature and the Iwaya Sazanami Literature Award. Her works include the Moribito [trans. Moribito] series started from Seirei no moribito [trans. Guardian of the Spirit], Kemono no sōja [trans. The Beast Player], Shika no ō [The Deer King], Koteki no kanata, and Tsuki no mori ni, kami yo nemure [Sleep in the Moon Forest, Kami].

Shirai Yumiko

Born in Ehime Prefecture in 1967. Manga artist. In 2008, published Tenkensai [trans. Tenken], originally published in a coterie magazine, after receiving an Excellence Award in the Japan Media Arts Festival Manga Division. Her manga works include Ūmuzu [trans. Wombs], Ūmuzu kurēdoru [Wombs Cradle], Iwa to Niki no shinkon ryokō [Iwa and Niki’s Honeymoon], Osaka kanjō kekkai toshi [Osaka Loop Boundary City], and Rafunasu [Rafnas]. Tenkensai has been published in the United States, and Ūmuzu has been published in France, Thailand, Taiwan, and Italy.

Translation rights inquiries

Rironsha Co., Ltd.
(attn. Foreign Rights)
Email: rights@rironsha.co.jp
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