The Other Murakami
Ryu’s work, unlike Haruki’s, is not generally described with adjectives like lyrical and epic. Try more like lurid and nightmarish. The kind that make you want to stop reading but grotesquely carry on reading. I picked up In the Miso Soup for a quick read at Kinokuniya as a filler before I dove into thicker books but ended up loving his work so much that I might binge read them sometime soon.
I was also not surprised to see a connection between him and Takashi Miike. The connection? Odishon. One of my favorite movies by Miike was an adaptation of Ryu Murakami’s novel of the same name.
Gaijin in Nippon
The insular nature of Japan arises from its geographic and historical cultural isolation. Kenji, a 20 year old “sex guide” to foreigners in Japan, takes us through Tokyo’s nightlife with surprisingly insightful commentary. He admits he cannot answer questions like
Why does Japan have so skewed a work life balance?
Why do rich school girls indulge in “compensated dating”?
Why do the Japanese ape America so much without understanding any of the cultural origins of say hip hop, or brands, or even places (The character asks if the Japanese know why Times Square is named so and receives a blank look)?
There is also a good deal of under the cover insights into how the Japanese view the Gaijin. As a well intentioned but inferior and even unsophisticated individual. Of course, all this is just one take, and that too not exactly by the cream of the society.
Dredging the pits of human insecurities, Murakami plays on loneliness. It is truly a scary thought to be lonely. Frank is a loner. He does not understand himself. And everything that he feels Japan feels. It is unable to understand what is melting away within it’s buildings. It does not understand why it stifles its inhabitants and kills them slowly. It is unable to empathize.
And like any country, it terrifies, endears and confounds.
Either ways Ryu Murakami is great pop angsty psycho thrill material.