Get past the lurid title, and Shocking Crimes of Postwar Japan offers a fair amount beyond the cheap frisson promised there. Part true-crime anthology and part social history, it uses the crimes in question as jumping-off points for insights into Japanese society, both conventional and criminal. The author, Mark Schreiber, has approached the subject as an insider. As a resident of Japan with a long journalism pedigree for many English-language publications there, Mark writes with the confidence and authority needed to make this more than just a rehash of what’s in the newspaper archives.
The opening and closing chapters are devoted to what is arguably Japan’s most infamous crime of late: the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo subway gassings, the details of which were still unfolding as the book was being written. For this reason the book doesn’t focus in much detail on that incident — a book like The Cult at the End of the World may serve the curious reader better — but it works as a useful way of bookending all the other material covered here. Japan’s just as capable as any other country of having its equilibrium punctured, no matter what the internal or external perceptions. Read more
No other country inspires the same morbid fascination as North Korea. Here is an utter basket case of a nation, a totalitarian state with absolutely zero personal, political and economic freedom. Its only hope for future growth lies in what few economic ties it can build with China and its southern cousin. Few people enter the country at all, and those who do are presented with a façade as elaborately choreographed and stage-managed as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Its general populace dares not speak to outsiders of its true sufferings for fear of reprisal. Some within its walls are not deluded by the official stories of the “imperialist warmongers” and bribe their way out to a better life. A very few enter the country of their own accord and are never seen again.
Even fewer still are brought there by force, and meet a similar fate. Decades ago North Korean agents kidnapped a thirteen-year-old girl out of her hometown in Japan, hid her from the world (and her parents) for decades on end, and only admitted to having done so after great pressure was brought to bear by both international leaders and other aggrieved relatives daring enough to be outspoken about their missing loved ones. The whole thing had the aura of a beach-read paperback thriller, not the true workings of international espionage. But it was true, and the fact it took as long as it did for the truth to come out bespoke of terrible cowardice on both sides. Bad enough that the “Democratic People’s Republic” kidnapped people for its intelligence efforts, but even worse that those who had children and siblings go missing were not helped by their own society. Read more
Sometimes it’s hard to remain a skeptic when all the evidence is splayed out right in front of you. The fanboy in me screams to accept the Guin Saga manga as nothing short of The Real Deal — a name-taking and ass-kicking comic adaptation of what has quickly become my favorite fantasy series. The art’s detailed and powerful, the action hits fast and furious, and the whole thing is over way too soon (always a good sign for me). So how come I still feel a little, I dunno … hesitant?
Chalk it up, I guess, to something you could call Geek Nerves. Within every fanboy lies a germ of terror that the things they most look forward to will be mangled horribly. The second-stage version of this paranoia is even worse: they’ll be mangled horribly but only in a way they find egregious, so they won’t even get to share the pain with their fellow fans (or anyone else). Or the work in question gets within 98% of its goal, only to take the remaining 2% and augur headfirst into a wall with it.Read more