Five Japanese quarter-lifers disclose secrets and glimpses of their dark sides in a chilly slice of vérité from Yoshida (Villain, 2010).
An assailant is roving the streets near the Tokyo apartment at the center of this novel, Yoshida’s second translated into English. But the residents have other things on their minds. Ryosuke is a college student trying to work up the nerve to make a move on a friend’s girlfriend. Kotomi is having an on-again, off-again relationship with a young actor who’s suddenly become a star. Mirai is a hard-drinking woman who’s spliced together a tape of rape scenes from various movies, a horrid inversion of the cheery climax of Cinema Paradiso. Satoru is a prostitute with a penchant for breaking into homes, and Naoki is a film buff whose concluding revelation clarifies much of the preceding story. Yoshida is cannily aware of the ways that people in their late teens and 20s play-act at personalities, taking on ideas and tossing them aside. (And, being originally published in 2002, the novel is a reminder that such narcissism isn’t a function of social media.) The downside of writing about such personalities in process, though, is that emotional footholds are hard for the reader to locate; Parade dedicates a section to each of the five players, but each has a quotidian flatness. The most intriguing of the group is Mirai, who’s the savviest about calling out the white lies and bragging of her roommates, but she’s oblivious to the reasons behind her own alcoholic self-annihilation. “The only way I can be a true humanitarian in Japan today is to be snide and disagreeable,” she says. Why so snide and disagreeable? Yoshida might argue that providing a pat answer would undercut the mood of alienation. But as it is, the book is dour and distant.
A monochromatic sketch of emotional disconnect.