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Literature / Starting Over

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"This is the story of how upon reaching my twentieth birthday, I was sent back to the age of ten, and lived to be twenty once more."

"Starting Over" is a short story by Sugaru Miaki, originally posted on 2channel in 2012. A man is sent back in time ten years to relive his life. But before long, things get problematic.

The story was novelized in 2013. Both versions have been translated into English by vgperson. The short story can be read here (or in the original Japanese here), and the novelization can be read here.


(Because the protagonist is unnamed, he will be referred to as "the MC" below.)

Starting Over provides examples of:

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  • Amnesiac Hero: Played with. The MC can remember his first life, but only in the abstract. For example, he can remember "The starry sky on the day we camped at the lake during the summer when I was twelve", but he can't picture any of it in his head, nor remember the name of the lake or the campsite. He can remember that his girlfriend "always had sleepy eyes, but it only looked that way because of her long eyelashes", but he can't picture her face or remember her name. It's like he has aphantasia and anomic aphasia, but only for his first life memories. This ends up being the linchpin of the plot. The greatest divergence between his first life and his second life occurs because he misidentifies his girlfriend.
    • Even aside from this, his memory is as imperfect as anyone else's, so his memories of his first life were never complete to begin with, and they continue to fade as the years go by. In the novelization, he mentions that if he isn't paying attention, he can even forget that this is his second time.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    "I wonder why I felt so happy then all of a sudden? Our stand-ins would continue to take our spots, there was no making up all the classes I'd missed, my parents were going to get divorced any moment now, my sister was depressed, my best friend was going to kill himself, and right now I was about to freeze to death - but I was happy. Whatever happened from here on out, I felt like I could handle it."
  • Bookworm: The MC's sister — vital, athletic, and outdoorsy in his first life — is eventually a gloomy, reclusive bookworm in his second life.
  • The Bully: In both versions of the story, the MC is bullied by his best friend from his first life. In the novel, he mentions a school trip where he was bullied by other kids as well.
  • Butterfly of Doom: The MC has trouble pinpointing exactly where things went awry, but at some point his second life starts diverging, and the divergence only grows as time goes on. In the short story, he remarks that "The butterfly effect is to be feared."
  • Christmas Songs: The final stages of the story take place during the Christmas season, so the MC starts hearing them everywhere. Of course, they just depress him because he's so lonely and cynical.
    • Although the John Lennon song "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" is never directly mentioned, the reference is implied when the story ends on Christmas day, with the song upcoming on the Lennon Legend album that the doubles are listening to (and which the story's title, "Starting Over", is derived from).
  • Delayed Ripple Effect: The MC's second life doesn't go wrong right away. It starts out fine, then some small discrepancies creep in. By about 5 years in, things have well and truly tanked.
  • Doppelgänger: The MC sees his first-life girlfriend dating a man who looks and acts just like his first-life self (even has the same birthday), and comes to believe that this man is his doppelgänger. After reading up on the phenomenon, however, he concludes that he himself must be the doppelgänger. He hopes that this includes the idea that meeting face-to-face will kill the "original", so that he can take over his life. Later, when they do end up meeting face-to-face (and in the novelization, they even have a full conversation), nothing happens; so either they aren't "really" doppelgängers, or that point about doppelgängers isn't true in that universe. In the end, it isn't really clear whether they're truly doppelgängers in any supernatural sense; though it should be noted that the novelization downplays the idea. Apparently they do objectively look similar, though, since the MC's double acknowledges it himself.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Eventually, the MC realizes that he's been directing his affections and efforts towards the wrong woman — his real girlfriend's double. In the novelization, this is made even more explicit when he realizes he did the same thing with his best friend, which led to worse outcomes for both of them.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The MC does this quite a bit, especially when his misery reaches a peak in the final stages of the story.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The MC ends up living through a decade of misery and failure and loneliness, realizes seemingly too late where it all went wrong, but then finally manages to find some happiness and closure, and the determination to make the future better. This all applies to Hiiragi as well.
  • Evil Doppelgänger: If one views the MC and his double as true doppelgängers, then the MC is undoubtedly the evil one. He is a living example of how poorly his original self could turn out given a different environment, and he's so bitter and envious of his double that he intends to murder him so he can take his place.
  • Fantastic Angst: While the specific problem of "trying to relive your life only for it to go horribly wrong" is Supernatural Angst, the more general problem of "having a happy and promising life go horribly, irretrievably wrong" is something that all too many people experience in real life.
  • For Want of a Nail: In spite of his best efforts, the MC makes a few slip-ups in his second life that lead to it becoming drastically different in all the worst ways.
  • Grumpy Bear: The MC becomes this at a few points, most notably around Christmas, when everyone else is happy and spending time with loved ones, while he's lonely and miserable about his failed life.
  • Ineffectual Loner: His sister's visits get him into reading, while enlisting Hiiragi's help is what allows him to save their doubles. He doesn't accomplish anything noteworthy while trying to do things on his own.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: In the short story, the MC notices that his little sister ends up a much gloomier person in his second life, and concludes that this must be due to his negative influence the second time around. In the novelization, it goes even further: His and his sister's more negative personalities end up affecting their parents, who start drifting apart, fighting, and contemplating divorce; and the person who was his best friend in his first life, without his friendship the second time around, ends up becoming a horrid bully in middle school, and a suicidal basket case by adulthood.
  • It Was with You All Along: The MC tries desperately to end up with his girlfriend from his first life, only to discover that the girl he's been pursuing wasn't his original girlfriend at all; a classmate he's had since elementary school was his original girlfriend all along.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The MC and his sister become more or less this the second time around, being mostly glum and selfish, but showing glimmers of kindness and compassion.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the first scene, when the rewind first happens, the MC tells his 7-year-old sister exactly what just happened and what his plan is, knowing full well that she'll neither understand nor remember. In the final scene, 10 years later, they have a very similar conversation, with many sentences echoed word-for-word; but this time the conversation is about how his plan turned out, and what he learned from it.
  • Mental Time Travel: The story begins when the MC suddenly finds himself a 10-year-old again, reliving Christmas exactly as it was back then, while still remembering his first life.
  • Murder by Inaction: When the MC realizes that the doubles are going to die unless he intervenes, he means to let it happen, both because his bitterness towards them makes it hard to have any sympathy, and because he feels that he'll be happier if he can't pursue a forlorn hope. He ultimately changes his mind, though it takes a bit longer in the novelization.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: The MC seriously considers doing this to his double, to the point of stalking him. He doesn't go through with it.
  • New Game+: The MC compares his reset to this, "carrying on the memories and abilities from the previous playthrough to do it all again." Sadly, it doesn't end up being as much of a boon as he would've liked.
  • No Name Given: Not a single character is ever referred to by name in the original short story. In the novelization, however, everyone but the MC and his sister is Named by the Adaptation.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: The MC seems to be the only person who remembers "the first time". Though it turns out that Hiiragi, his real girlfriend, remembers too.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: It's not clear that this is what the reset was for (or if indeed it was "for" anything at all), but it's what the MC decides to use it for in the end. In the novelization, he wonders if perhaps this is why he was reset to begin with, and this interpretation is more strongly implied by a couple of new details.
  • The Slow Path: Whether it's going well or not, reliving the past ten years of his life is this for the MC.
  • Stopped Caring: "To give a few examples, let's see. I was bullied by my best friend from my first life, I was severely rejected by my girlfriend from my first life, and I failed the exam for the high school I attended in my first life… and so on." Given how well his life had gone the first time around, and how much effort he put into making sure nothing changed, this is more than enough to turn the MC into a bitter loner who's completely stopped trying.
  • Supernatural Angst: The specific problem of "trying to relive your life only for it to go horribly wrong" is not something anybody experiences in real life.
  • Titled After the Song: The story is named after the song "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon.
  • Title Drop: In the denouement, the MC mentions the song the title is based on: "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon.
  • Too Happy to Live: At age 20, the MC is living a life he is incredibly happy with. He's attending the university he wanted; he has a wonderful girlfriend, many friends, and a bright future in store; and he's having the time of his life, fully aware of how good he's got it and how fortunate he is. Most of us only dream of having such a perfect life. So of course, he gets reset back to age 10, all his efforts to recreate his first life fail hard, and he ends up a miserable shell of his former self.
  • Trapped in the Past: This is how the MC regards the reset, since he has no desire to change anything, and therefore must go through the slog of reliving the next ten years exactly the same way as last time. Of course, it doesn't quite work out that way…
  • What You Are in the Dark: The MC is the only one who knows that his double and his girlfriend's double are about to die. Or at least, he's the only one who knows that he knows. If he simply let it happen, no one would ever be the wiser. But ultimately, he decides to intervene anyway.
    "Today is too happy a day to overlook such a tragedy."


  • Canon Foreigner: Usumizu and Hashibami. (The short story mentioned someone with the same role as Usumizu, but he was only mentioned once and never appeared in the story.)
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The MC's plan for murdering his double is to push him off a bridge, cliff, or other high place, so that it'll look like he simply fell. There isn't much logistical difficulty to this, since Tokiwa has a habit of visiting such places simply to gaze at the landscape. But the MC always chickens out, and ultimately doesn't go through with it.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Everyone but the MC and his sister, in fact. The protagonist's double is Tokiwa; Tokiwa's girlfriend is Tsugumi, the MC's real girlfriend is Hiiragi; the MC's erstwhile bully (and his best friend in his first life) is Usumizu; and the convenience store clerk is Hashibami.
  • Reformed Bully: When the MC runs into Usumizu — who used to bully him — for the first time since middle school, he's friendly and cheerful. And when the MC mentions the bullying, Usumizu apologizes.
  • Shout-Out: Chapter 3 references a video game about time travel. Though the title isn't given, it's clear that he's talking about Chrono Trigger. (Technically the short story makes the same allusion, but since it doesn't mention that the game is about time travel, it could be referring to any 90s SNES game with a New Game+ mechanic.)
  • Throwing Out the Script: The MC practises a speech to explain to Hiiragi why they shouldn't rescue their doubles, but a few moments later he completely changes his mind, and instead delivers an off-the-cuff speech about his new decision.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never learn the fate of Usumizu, or the MC's parents. Since the MC seems determined to work towards a better future, one can probably assume that he plans to help them in some way.


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