Incredibly, Maki was still on her feet and still alive, her eyeballs swiveling wildly and her lips quivering as she wheezed foam-flecked blood from the wound in her throat. she seemed to be trying to say something....
It is just before New Year's. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo's sleazy nightlife. But Frank's behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain the suspicion-that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It is not until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great whale of an American will change his life.
I've never read any other Ryu Murakami books before. What I can say is that it is very very graphic. I'd compare it to the level of violence in "American Psycho". Even in all of this, it brings a hypnotic feeling along with that of unease. I felt like my soul need a little scrubbing after reading this....I think that's the only way I can describe it. Still, I feel in a literary sense, that it was quite good.
"In the Miso Soup" is a story about a Japanese man named Kenji who works as a "nightlife tour guide" for visiting tourists. He specializes in sex tours and helps tourists get into clubs that are normally not very friendly to the "gaijin" or foreigner. He advertises in only one magazine which a friend produces and that is a rather sleazy publication. Frank, an American man, on business in Japan calls Kenji with the intent to hire him. Frank plans to be in Japan for 3-4 days and wants to hire Kenji for the entire time. When Kenji first meets Frank, he feels as if Frank may not be what he claims to be, but, hey, money is money and if Frank wants to pretend, that's his perogative. He asks Kenji to take him to some peep shows to "warm up" or get aroused before fulfilling his needs. Things go along rather smoothly at first. But as the night goes on and he observes Frank, he becomes a bit troubled. So Kenji calls his girlfriend, Jin, and they discuss his observations and misgivings once he goes home. By the next day, still unsure of Frank, as the night progresses, he begins to wonder if Frank is capable of some horrendous acts that have taken place when Kenji is not with Frank. Kenji would like to end his employment but Frank is adamant and so he stays. But by then, he really learns about Frank and the true story unwinds in a tale of horror. This is most definitely NOT a cozy mystery.
Several years ago, I read Murakami's AUDITION, a very disturbing story about a young woman with a troubling past. After reading it, I happened upon a copy of Miso Soup at a thrift store and decided to read it as well. However, it has been sitting on my shelf for several years unread. I finally got around to reading it and it was just as disturbing, if not more so, than AUDITION. It's the story of a young Japanese man, Kenji, who has a business showing tourists around Tokyo's red-light district. He is hired by an overweight American tourist named Frank for three nights touring the sleazy areas of Tokyo just before New Year's. But soon after Kenji meets Frank, he becomes suspicious of his lies and behavior and thinks he might be a serial killer who is currently terrorizing the city. As Kenji and Frank tour various types of clubs and peep shows, Kenji becomes more and more sure that Frank is the killer. Be forewarned that the book contains some very graphic gore and violence but it also includes themes of how foreigners cope in other countries, sex, and how people relate to one another and ultimately delves into the mind of a very psychotic killer.
In the Miso Soup is an extremely apt title for this dark, disturbing journey through Tokyo's nightlife. Kenji, a young man who makes his living as a nightlife guide for foreigners, is hired by Frank to take him through the adult nightlife scene just before New Years. However, his client, an overweight American tourist, starts to creep Kenji out as an irrational suspicion that he is associated with some recent gruesome murders takes hold. Similar to Natuso Kirino's work, Ryu (not to be confused with Haruki) Murakami critiques the conformity of Japanese society, including "compensated dating," with more nuance and less vitriol. There's a sharp bend in the action which takes it to another level. I blazed through this story in two sittings within 24 hours.
A riveting psychological thriller that won't keep you up all night as the story unfolds in 180 pages, but will keep the lights on till the end. If you haven't read Ryu Murakami, this might be the place to start.
Kenji is a young guy who makes his money by giving visitors of a certain umm, ilk, shall we say, tours of Tokyo's sex industry. His latest client is a chubby American named Frank. Frank wants to see all the sights and have all the sex, all of which is nothing unusual, but Kenji quickly realizes there is something a bit "off" about dead-eyed Frank. And it's probably not a coincidence that dead bodies start turning up as soon as Frank comes to visit . . .
Night one is slightly strange but when Kenji finds what he thinks is a piece of flesh (arggg!) on his property, he knows it came from that weirdo Frank. But he's promised him three evenings and, hell, a buck is a buck, right?
Sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it? I mean, how could you go wrong with seedy sex clubs and a serial killer on the loose? How could that story possibly bore even the most jaded of readers nearly to death? But for some reason things went wrong. The first half was deadly dull. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen. Frank, who claims to be missing a bit of his brain (lobotomy, perhaps?), stares into space for eternities and Kenji mostly muses to himself on the state of people in the sex trade industry and worries about being late to visit his girlfriend. They club hop and have a few tedious conversations and Kenji muses on the reasons why wealthy young girls decide to become "compensated dates". Things get vaguely exciting when Kenji finds that itty bitty ominous patch of flesh but that's the only intriguing thing that happened for pages on end. I also felt disconnected from the prose and the characters and, I cannot lie, I pretty much sleepwalked through many of the pages. When the action finally started, it woke me up with its shocking detail but then it all became an exercise in frustration because it sucked all of the potential thrill and mystery straight out of the story. I really think that chapter should've been nearer to the end of the book. Also none of the questions about character motivation I had while reading (and, oh boy, did I have many) were answered and that annoyed me more than words can say.
Basically I never felt any sense of dread or fear or anxiety or anything but a little bit of boredom for nearly the entire novel. I'm glad it was short because, meh, it was so disappointing. Most everyone likes this book except for me. I'm beginning to think I need to give up reading and pick up a new hobby.
If you're interested in reading a book about the desperation and darkest corners of Tokyo I'd recommend reading Out by Natsuo Kirino instead of this one.