There will be spoilers for the novel or novel series Soul Vibration.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to death, homophobia, violence, medical drama, assault, stalking, harassment, cyberbullying, car accident, manipulation, suicide, slut-shaming, and ableism (use of the r-slur), as it appears in the novel or novel series.
Chi Nan has always dreamed of working in the music industry as a singer-songwriter. He got his first taste of that world when he went on a singing gameshow where he was praised by Salinger, his idol and the bassist for one of the top bands in the world, Lotus. Not long after his run on the show, Chi Nan gets the opportunity to put out an album. However, in the middle of his budding career, he is diagnosed with an incurable ear problem, slowly but surely deteriorating his hearing ability. Unable to reliably continue his career, his agent drops him, and Chi Nan is at a loss.
Desperate to at least stay in the industry, Chi Nan ends up finding a gig as an assistant for a musician. It just so happens that the musician is the one and only Salinger. Chi Nan jumps at the opportunity to assist his idol and quickly learns what it’s like for a prodigy in the music industry as Salinger is bashed, harassed, and even harmed by the media and public. Chi Nan doesn’t care what anyone else says about Salinger. Chi Nan loves him exactly as he is. The question is, how does Salinger feel about Chi Nan?
This is a slow, slow, slow burn. If you’re expecting a fluffy, sexy, or whirlwind romance, you’re in the wrong place. There is very little in the way of romance until the third volume. I kind of liked it because of that. I have been reading so many whirlwind romances where the couple is already in love or having sex, so this was a really nice change of pace. It also felt much more organic and realistic, especially since the two in love are described as quintessential straight guys. So, I imagine it would naturally take time for their feelings of friendship or kinship to evolve into something more, if at all. Admittedly, though, by the middle of volume two, I was ready for something to happen romantically between these two. Anything. Unfortunately, it isn’t until the last couple of chapters (or “tracks,” as they are dubbed in the novel) that we get a confession and any semblance of real romantic progress.
That’s not to say it’s devoid entirely of romance or fluffy moments. However, they are not very forward. Both Chi Nan and Salinger are very soft and indirect in showing their affection, Salinger even more so. I did like that it didn’t fall into the trope where the love interest only shows kindness to the one he loves. Salinger is thoughtful and kind and an asshole to everyone, which is part of why it is hard to call any of the things he does for Chi Nan a romantic gesture until the very end. It was super sweet having them write songs together, play songs together, and go out for walks. It was very soft and slow, which was a lovely change of pace. The focus is definitely on their lives as musicians, songwriters, and Chi Nan’s struggle with losing his hearing and, inevitably, his dream of playing alongside Salinger.
Unfortunately, as with much of the danmei I’ve read, this suffers from poor translations and editing (think Lip and Sword). The first volume isn’t too bad, but as the volumes progress, it gets progressively worse, with nearly illegible passages by the end. It’s really sad because some passages in this are truly beautiful and well-written. Still, the entire series is so poorly edited that it makes it hard to enjoy the nice passages amid all the typos and grammar problems. I also hate reading song lyrics in any novel. It often comes off corny to me, and this was no exception, though I am sure the poor translation didn’t help in this case.
Finally, as with most danmei, there are a couple of extras at the end, which were really, really rough. Some were styled as interviews with only dialogue and no exposition. Others were just text conversations. I would have much rather had extras with Salinger and Chi Nan actually being forward in their relationship, especially since the main story ends with the confession and not much more beyond that. I was actually really hoping we’d get some sex scenes since the skinship is nonexistent in the rest of the story, but that could just be my degeneracy talking. I am sad to report there is no sexy time between Chi Nan and Salinger in the series.
I enjoyed this. It was a nice, gradual story of two men, a fan and his idol, growing to love each other while dealing with the unfair hands the world deals them. I wish these danmei would get better translations because I can see potential in many of these passages, but the editing just muddles it all up. I want to continue supporting them because I want more brought over, but it’s hard to recommend them when they aren’t given the time and attention they deserve when translated over. Regardless, this is a very soft story. I can’t wait to read more like it.
Have you read Soul Vibration? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!
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