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Japanese Literature
GOTH A Novel of HorrorGOTH A Novel of Horror
Goth: A Novel of Horror
Japanese Literature Book Review

Word through the grapevine was: there is a new book out that I must read. It's good but read at your own peril. No one would tell me why but they warned me it will mess with my head. I would not recommend this book if you are not old enough to buy books with money you earn yourself. I would not recommend this book if you have a weak stomach, heart, or mind; there is ABSOLUTELY NO SWEETNESS here to save you. I would not recommend this book if you have a problem with keeping up with convoluted timelines and plots. If you are not ready to graduate from lots of pictures, very little reading to pure unadulterated reading, get your butt into gear; I'm graduating you anyway just for this book. Relatively light in weight, Goth is still not hardcore reading, so don't worry; no 500+ pages for you yet. I don't need to torture you when the book will do it so much better than I ever can.

Our main character doesn't have a name. All we know is that he's a very intelligent second year high school student. He has a sister and parents like any normal teenager but they don't really know him. He has friends at school like any normal teenager but they don't really know him. If he allowed anyone to really know what he was like, who knows what they'll do? Who can understand that he is fascinated with instruments of death? Who can understand that he likes to visit places that people have died in? Who can understand that he has no feelings other than curiosity and the satisfaction of fulfilling it? Who can understand that the only reason why he allowed someone to live was because her scarred wrist looked much better on her alive than dead?

Maybe he found the one person who can understand him: Morino Yuro. Long black hair, porcelain skin, and a beauty that has attracted many boys in the school, Morino's seeming fragility hides a secret. She can calmly pepper spray anyone anywhere and then beat them into a pulp with a desk. She can see through our main character's act. It's as if they are kindred spirits in the sense that they both have no feelings other than curiosity and the satisfaction of fulfilling it. Unlike him though, she can't fake emotions. She can't fake a smile for a joke, enthusiasm for anything that isn't related to death, casual conversation to put others at ease, or anger at anyone that is harming her. Also unlike him, Morino has a tendency to attract the most abnormal people. It's ironic that she is a natural prey that all these predators are attracted to and she is being protected by one predator that has marked her as his prey and no one else can take her life but him.

It is a good thing that Goth is not a manga. I don't think there is enough red ink at any printer that can completely color these stories and if red ink isn't used, black ink being used would mean that the entire page that you see would be black. Our main character and Morino frolic through rooms covered from ceiling to floor with blood. They explore a forest of diced up organs and body parts that are nailed to trees, decorated as if those parts are Christmas decorations on a Christmas tree. How would you fare as Morino takes you on a journey towards death? She's stuck in a coffin underground with only two hollowed out bamboo sticks to breathe from. Would you choose what she chose: to end your own life by stabbing your neck with a mechanical pencil instead of slowly starving to death? Would you throw a knife to a killer to finish the job just to see the death throes of a man?

How did the publisher describe Goth? "Two high school sociopaths become fixated in a local serial murderer. But rather than trying to prevent and solve the next murder, their obsession grows, taking them on a descent into a maniacal darkness." They got most of it right except one part: their obsession doesn't take *them* on a descent into maniacal darkness. It takes *us* there.

Reviewed by Carolyn Whu, January 2009

 Breaking into Japanese Literature
Breaking into Japanese Literature
Japanese Literature Book Review

Even those who have mastered reading and writing Japanese find the challenge of reading traditional literature to be a daunting task. This book features seven graded stories covering a variety of genres with the original Japanese story in large print, an easy-to-follow English translation and a custom dictionary — created for maximum clarity and ease of use.

Kurosawa fans will enjoy this book...For Kurosawa fans, this book has the original stories that inspired Rashomon and Dreams. It also has some unique extra features: mini-biographies to tell you about the authors' lives and works, individual story prefaces to alert you to related works of literature or film, and original illustrations to fire your imagination. Furthermore, MP3 sound files of all the stories are available via the web.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2004

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
by Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (Translator)

Japanese Literature Book Review

In this book bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters.

Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century.

Reviewed by Michael Pinto, October 2002

Animated Classics of  Japanese Literature
Animated Classics of Japanese Literature
Anime DVD Review

What's an anime DVD doing in a literature section? Welcome to Animated Classics of Japanese Literature, a great way to introduce yourself to Japanese culture by learning some of their classic fables and great literature. You'll find these DVDs to be entertaining as well as educational.

Animated Classics of  Japanese LiteratureThese animated tales both inspire and act as a "Cliff Notes" version of each story without detracting from the feel of the original work. These are excellent stories and skillfully executed, as only the Japanese could do. In a country where 75% of the population reads manga, it is hardly surprising to discover this treatment of traditional literature. We're just surprised it didn't happen sooner!

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, February 2004

Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters
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A Life In Four Chapters

Film Soundtrack Review

Regardless of what you think of Paul Schrader's 1985 film of the life of Japan's celebrated twentieth-century author Yukio Mishima, there is no denying that the Philp Glass score composed for this work is perhaps the best work of his career. It literally steals the show and yet also grounds the movie.

Utilizing a string quartet and abandoning his synth, the result is warmer, richer music, but still with the trademark minimalist Glass sound that is essentially 4 notes over and over. The title track is earth-shattering, hypnotic and haunting, something you'll hear in your head forever.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, December 2004

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