Reviewed by Steve Fahnestalk
“Hideki Desu,” by Mark Lee Pearson, surprised me. Since the title character, Hideki, is described as "a short, serious kid in a white button-down shirt and large horn-rimmed glasses,” I immediately had two thoughts: Hiro Nakamura, from the TV series Heroes; and, Oh, cripes, another Japanese story by someone who has only read manga and seen Japanese movies.
To the first thought, I can say, "well, maybe, in a way,” but to the second, "no way!" Pearson is obviously familiar with Japan, and that knowledge adds a certain vividness to the story that can't be gotten out of books and movies; only first-hand knowledge will serve. (When you know what you’re talking about, it really shows.)
Gaijin (foreigners) are needed in Japan, because every Japanese sarariman (literally, "salaryman") wants to learn English as a way to make more money, but Hideki has a novel way of doing so… he eavesdrops on gaijin dreams. Our unnamed gaijin protagonist meets Hideki on a Tokyo train platform and from then on things become more surreal than even a westerner familiar with Japan can imagine. "Hideki desu" means "I'm Hideki"—and by the end of the story you won't have a clue who Hideki really is. Nicely done and quite fun to read, and you don't need to know a word of Japanese to enjoy it.