This is one of those “wtf did I just read” kind of books. Because really… what the fuck did I just read?
This book had been on my wishlist for the longest time. Finally, I gave in and bought it full price at Kinokuniya Bookstore at Little Tokyo. It’s a small-ish book both in physical size and the number of pages. 224 pages. Easy-peasy, right? Oh boy, it packs a punch.
Kenji is a young Japanese man who works as a tour guide for English-speaking tourists who want a slice of Tokyo’s red light district. He meets an overweight American named Frank who hires him for three days of fun. Kenji, at first, found him “typically American” although a bit on the weird side. Frank kept on displaying strange behavior which led Kenji to believe that his client is hiding something. At the same time, a vicious serial killer has been terrorizing the very streets they were walking on.
You see where this is going, right? You’d think the blurb itself would give a spoiler. Well, it’s a short book so what else is there to blurb without giving key points away? Asnwer: A LOT. The blurb itself is an effective marketing device. If you like dark, sexy, and generally messed up things in your reading rotation, you need this on your shelves.
It goes straight to the point. We experience the story through Kenji’s eyes. He shares his opinions of Americans, Western people in general. He talks about how he came into this kind of job and why he does it. He has a 16-year-old girlfriend who was familiar with his trade. Then Frank enters the picture. Depends on when and how Kenji asks, Frank offers conflicting information about himself – about his background, his job, and just random stuff. He could be jolly one moment and terrifyingly quiet the next. Kenji begins to have doubts whether to continue on with the transaction but Frank insisted he’s okay and all he really wanted is to have sex. Each day starts out as business as usual but it leaves Kenji even more scared of his client than ever.
(If you don’t already notice, I’m having a hard time talking about this book without giving things away. You just have to trust me and the blurb on this LOL.)
The author (and translator) doesn’t shy away from the more sensitive and gory things. I found that these kinds of books always have “THAT. ONE. SCENE!” that is shocking and will make you pause and catch your breath. The one here was pretty huge and I can’t believe how the characters bounce back from it. On the surface, it’s your straightforward shocking horror. But the title itself, “in the miso soup,” begs a deeper meaning. It was like saying that people are just like the bits of seaweed and tofu in the broth of miso. If you can get over the shocking scenes, think deeper about the events, the characters… even their very detailed descriptions.
If this were adapted to a movie, I’d watch it in a heartbeat. Murakami’s other work, Audition, was made into a movie and it is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever watched. And it’s also one of my favorites. I’ve yet to read it though.
Rating: 4/5. Movie, おねがいします. 🙂