The empty box and the 0th Maria is a Japanese light novel series by Eiji Mikage, it’s his 4th publication and the first one to feature illustrations. Eiji was actually very excited about the fact that this series has illustrations; in fact in his afterword in volume 1 he said that to be honest, he was worried at first that his readers’ opinions would change due to the illustrations, but when he received a copy of a rough sketch, he changed my mind. It was the sensation of his own characters no longer remaining his property alone. It was the sensation of having his characters escape from his control. He didn’t see how his characters were drawn until he was almost finished writing, so the influence was relatively small, but he was going to lose this ‘independence of my characters’ in his future works. He’s eager to know what the outcome will be. Little is known about our author but he is actually famous for dropping out of college to write, he once said in an interview that he is now ‘currently struggling at part-time jobs to make end meet’, not quite the role model right? The first volume was released on January 7, 2009. Currently, there are 6 published volumes. All published by MediaWorks under their Dengeki Bunko label.
The series’ main characters are Kazuki Hoshino who is obsessed with his ordinary everyday life and loves idle chatter with his friends and Umaibōs, a Japanese snack. Aya Otanashi an anti-social beauty, and Kazuki’s friends composed of; Daiya Oomine, Haruaki Usui, Kokone Kirino and Kasumi Mogi. There’s also a mysterious character who goes around giving away <boxes> that may grant your <wish>. But like a deal with the devil, you don’t really get what you really wanted. The story begins with our ordinary Kazuki Hoshino, on his not-so-ordinary day of March 2nd, in his not-so-ordinary classroom. There is a currently a very beautiful transfer student who introduces herself as Aya Otanashi and without hesitation announces her intent to ‘break’ our MC, but that’s not whats strange about it. Aya Otanashi has been transferring to this school, and has been introducing herself to the same class on this day, March 2nd, for no less than 13,118 times. That’s about 438 months and close to 37 years.
Kazuki Hoshino, Volume 6, with his hand stabbed trough
She has been repeating this day over and over and unlike the other victims of this event she seems to remember what happened ‘yesterday’ meaning she is aware of the iterations and doesn’t seem to forget when the supposed nesxt day comes. The reason why Aya can remember all of this was explained to Kazuki during the 2,601st repeat. Aya who just introduced herself asks her classmates to write her name in a piece of paper, which confused them, no one complained except for Daiya who walks out of the room because he considered it a waste of time. Kazuki was, however, very bothered about this and for some reason his head keeps telling him that there’s more to this than meets the eye, Aya is trying to say something and is testing them if they can find it out. Then it hits him, he suddenly remembers a name, a name different from the one that the strange beautiful girl in front of the class announced, a name that came out of the blue and has nothing to do with himself and anyone he knows, the name that he vaguely remembered was, Maria. Kazuki was slightly dumbfounded of what came to his mind. Maria of all things, but what if that’s the answer she’s looking for? Kazuki takes the risk and wrote the name Maria on a piece of paper, stand up and heads over to Aya. He was the last one to hand over his paper; he then nervously gives the paper to Aya. She accepts it wordlessly and emotionlessly. Then she looks at what’s written there. And her expression changes. Dramatically. She stays like this for a moment with her eyes wide open then, she suddenly laughs burst into laughter. Kazuki has no idea that what he did convinced Aya that he is an <owner> of a <box> and that his <wish> is what caused this time-loop. She calls Kazuki by his last name still lightly laughing, but Kazuki unwittingly retorts, which he regretted immediately. Because as she stops laughing she scowls at him as if he was her arch-enemy, she then answers back in a low, chesty voice. She seemed to be frantically suppressing her anger. She then seizes Kazuki by the collar and without ever letting go drags him all the way to the back of the school building. She then rants about how he kept ignoring her for the last 2,600 repeats and questions him on why he seems so unaffected and composed. But Kazuki only shows a stupid and bewildered look. Aya then suspiciously asks him if maybe he is not aware. Aya first doubts Kazuki, but is eventually convinced that he has no idea what’s going on and what caused it to happen. She then starts explaining that this day has been repeating for over 2,600 times, that he caused this, that the only reason she remembers is through willpower, and that he must be the <owner> of the <box> because he was able to remember the Maria which she mentioned during the previous repeats. As Aya was explaining Kazuki for some reason feels weird and strangely convinced he knows that whatever Aya is saying is the truth, he then asks how to end this nightmare and Aya tells him that he has two options; either give up the <box> to Aya, which she declared was her goal, or to “crush the <box> along with its <owner>”. Kazuki then tells her that he doesn’t know how to remove the box from his body but Aya tells him not to worry and that he hasn’t really forgotten how to remove the box and can still remember it somehow, she also says that she is willing to wait no matter how long until he remembers just so that she can obtain the <box>. But all of this effort would have been for naught during the 27,753rd repeat when our main character, Kazuki Hoshino, is run over by a truck and is killed but no <box> was observably destroyed and the repeats just continue on. The next day and the 27,754th repeat Kazuki wakes up still feeling the pain of his organs being ruptured by his bones, with the realiztion that he is not the <owner>, he goes and discusses this to Aya, they then end up teaming up to find the true <owner>, but they never expected who it was. After the 1st volume the series’ plot continues on a very straight and linear way but it starts treading a dark path. It becomes engulf in a series of betrayals, murder, and a little more betrayals. The endings may be somewhat light, because our hero is saved to live another day. But if we look on how the story progressed and how some of the lives of the side characters were affected it transforms the story into a very tragic one.
The 3rd and 4th volumes of the book revolves around a murder-survival-last-man-standing game involving the main character and his school mates
In my opinion the series is very good, the story is very mature, surprisingly because the elements used are usually the ones used when catering to young people, for example, the characters are high-school students, the villain is a mysterious character who has some super power, etc. It also amazing how there is always happening, the story is always in action, and due to the amazing twist you encounter through the story the reader is always kept on the edge of their seat in anticipation thinking who did what and what caused what. The plot has only one major arc, but even so, the variety comes with the characters. The characters are so involved in the story that almost every one of them could be considered a main character who’s impact to the storyline is great. In the end I think it’s a very good book and I would recommend it a lot. The story is very exciting, there was never a dull moment, the writing was simple, easy to understand yet very good and the characters well shaped, you’ll just love them, even the minor characters, villains, and converted villains. I’d recommend this book for the thrill seeking crowd who’s looking for something new.
Utsuro no Hako to Zero Maria Volume 1: The Rejecting Classroom
Utsuro no Hako to Zero Maria Volume 2: 7 days in the Mud
Utsuro no Hako to Zero Maria Volume 3: Game Start
Utsuro no Hako to Zero Maria Volume 4: The Game of Idleness
Utsuro no Hako to Zero Maria Volume 5: The Wish-Crushing Cinema
Utsuro no Hako to Zero Maria Volume 6: Curtain Call