Mishima, the would-be samurai who committed suicide nearly half a century ago, turns to modern pop culture in this sardonic novella.
Rikio Mizuno is in his early 20s, but in some ways he’s still a child; he needs constant care and feeding and attention, in the way of—well, a pop star, in this case a budding film idol. Mishima, who had tried his hand at film acting and evidently didn’t think much of the experience, opens this slender story on a note of complaint on Mizuno’s part: “The fans were relentless. They leaned with all their weight over the rope lines, reaching to get just a little closer to me, cheering and screaming to catch my attention.” What’s a fellow to do but retreat into the willing arms of his assistant, who isn’t so very good-looking, her ankles “like knots in old wood,” but who’s always on hand? In Mishima’s world-weary view, the political power on a film set runs downhill from producer to director to star to supporting actors like snow melting into the sea, the players interchangeable features on a landscape; Mizuno would be disgusted at the sight of those ankles were he able to feel disgust, but, he says, he’s abandoned “that sort of reflex to the real world, the world I had forsaken.” Mizuno may live in his own world, “all hollow, all façades and make-believe,” but the others on the set are grounded enough in the here and now to keep him hopping—the director, for one, who is a master of filming scenes out of order but with the same set: “When we’re tight on time, he has no qualms about burning through shots from completely different sections of the movie." Time, Mizuno learns, is not a star’s friend. If Mizuno’s problems are of his making, Mishima’s stance seems merely ill-tempered, and the weightless story is mercifully brief.
A minor work by Mishima, whose Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea and Death in Midsummer remain classics of modernist Japanese literature.