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Literature / An Invitation From Thanatos

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Originally published as "タナトスの誘惑" (Thanatos no Yuwaku, translated as "The Seduction of Thanatos"), An Invitation From Thanatos is an Urban Fantasy short story by amateur writer Mayo Hoshino, written for the Japanese short story site Monogatary on July 13th, 2019. In a world where people are enthralled by the desire for life (Eros) or the desire for death (Thanatos), the story details the last day of an ordinary man and his lover, who is obsessed with death and has repeatedly attempted suicide, and the end of their complicated relationship.

The story is better known for being adapted into the ultra-popular song Yoru ni Kakeru (Racing into the Night), created as a collaboration between Vocaloid producer Ayase and vocalist ikura under the group name YOASOBI. The song has gone on to amass over 230 million views on YouTube and win numerous awards, including going double platinum and winning Song of the Year from MTV Japan. Ayase released a Hatsune Miku Cover Version of the song on his album "Ghost City Tokyo", and the song was prominently featured as part of an Ayase collaboration with Project SEKAI.

To celebrate the release of their 10th album on July 1st, 2021, YOASOBI has published an English translated version of the original short story, as well as an official English version of Yoru ni Kakeru called Into the Night with translated lyrics by Konnie Aoki.

Since the story is so short, spoilers will be unmarked. You Have Been Warned.

This short story (and its adaptation) contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Situation: It's unclear if the protagonist's lover even exists in the first place, at least in a physical form.
  • Barefoot Suicide: The heroine is seen barefoot when she jumps off the roof at the end of the music video. The protagonist, however, has his shoes still on.
  • Deadly Euphemism: The last line of the story. Also serves as the inspiration for the song adaptation's name.
    In order to escape the frustration this world causes us, we set off running toward the night sky.
  • Downer Ending: It is presumed that in the real world, the protagonist ultimately dies alone and (likely) unloved.
  • Driven to Suicide: Anyone enthralled by Thanatos. The protagonist notes that the heroine has attempted suicide no less than four times. In the end, the protagonist finally breaks and he jumps off the roof with her, and it later turns out the protagonist was the person enthralled by Thanatos and the heroine was Thanatos itself.
  • Interrupted Suicide: The protagonist has intervened on the heroine's attempts to jump off a rooftop at least four times prior. They finally jump together on the fifth time.
  • Love at First Sight: What the protagonist claims his relationship with the heroine was when she moved in next to him. This is what convinced him to save her from her first suicide attempt (or at least, the first one he saw her do).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The song is surprisingly catchy for being about, well, suicide.
  • Never Say "Die": The song never explicitly mentions "death" or "dying" even though the original story uses "God of Death" and "suicide" quite liberally. Ironically, the video also makes the fates of the two protagonists significantly more explicit.
  • Prelude to Suicide: The heroine always sends the protagonist a message over LINE when she's about to jump. Of course, she doesn't actually do so in previous attempts, because she wants the protagonist to jump with her.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: While the protagonist thinks that he does not believe in the God of Death, he notes that anyone enthralled by Thanatos perceives the God of Death in the form of the person's ideal companion. The protagonist states that his girlfriend can often be seen staring into space for long periods of time, apparently seeing visions of her God of Death. When his frustration reaches its limit, he begins to think that she is his own God of Death, the possibility being she indeed is.
  • Together in Death: Averted. Later on the protagonist and their lover jump off the roof and died for real, but it's heavily implied their lover did not even exist and they were the only person jumping. In the music video, after the heroine jumped off the roof with the protagonist, she was completely alive and intact but the protagonist was unambiguously dead, implying that she was really just Thanatos taking the form of his ideal person.