Previous Posts: Book Reviews: July 2012

Book Reviews: Pro Bono (Seicho Matsumoto)

It all starts when near-penniless Kiriko makes the trip to Tokyo to enlist the help of lawyer Kinzo Otsuka. Kiriko is a hapless woman trying to scrape together a legal defense for her brother; he stands accused of a murder...

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It all starts when near-penniless Kiriko makes the trip to Tokyo to enlist the help of lawyer Kinzo Otsuka. Kiriko is a hapless woman trying to scrape together a legal defense for her brother; he stands accused of a murder for which there seems a preponderance of solid evidence to send him to the gallows. Otsuka, on the other hand, is everything she’s not: well-heeled, surrounded by peers who appreciate his hard work, enjoying the affection of a woman who runs a classy French restaurant.

Kiriko presents herself in Otsuka’s office, minutes before he’s about to run off and enjoy a tryst with his ladyfriend, and he finds himself having to give her one piece of bad news after another. It’s not just that she can’t afford him, but that he’s also convinced she wouldn’t be getting significantly more robust legal representation by paying for a “name” lawyer. And no, he won’t take her case on pro bono. She tries to change his mind, and her single-mindedness instead leaves a impression with a journalist who’s been sniffing around for a story that might look good in the issues-and-controversy magazine he writes for. But even he has to admit the deck is stacked heavily against Kiriko’s brother — and the whole thing seems to end with a thud when the brother is convicted and dies in prison before his execution.

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Tags: fiction Japan mystery review Seicho Matsumoto thrillers Vertical Inc. writing

Book Reviews: Sakuran: Blossoms Wild (Moyoco Anno)

The anti-"Memoirs of a Geisha". Moyoco Anno's manga, source for the film of the same name, is a brassy and sassy tribute to a milieu that often only gets the sleeve-wringing weepie treatment.

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A while back I reviewed Sakuran, the motion picture, and I called it “the antidote to Memoirs of a Geisha”: funny, sassy, bold, and bitter, where Geisha was just wistful, sodden, and romanticized in all the wrong ways. The same good things could be said for the manga that was the source for Sakuran, now out in English thanks to — who else? — Vertical Inc., who are increasingly becoming to manga what Criterion or perhaps Kino International have been to film.

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Tags: books Japan manga Moyoco Anno review Vertical Inc.

Book Reviews: A Guru Is Born (Takeshi Kitano)

"Beat" Takeshi Kitano's novel about religion and hypocrisy is a quiet little masterwork that invites multiple readings and interpretations.

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Takeshi Kitano (or Beat Takeshi to his legion of fans) nominally gets notice as a filmmaker, but he's written a bevy of books — some fiction, some non- — slowly finding their way into English. Boy was a good taste of his talent; A Guru Is Born is even more ambitious and rewarding.

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Tags: fiction Japan review Takeshi Kitano Vertical Inc.

Book Reviews: The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 2 (Shuzo Oshimi)

Further adventures in antisocial dating, in this sharp little psych-thriller series.

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The second volume of this mix of antisocial-kid thriller and outsider-kid romance ratchets tension further as bookworm Kasuga is pulled all the more violently between the innocent girl he's had a crush on (Saeki) and the sociopath girl who's yanking his puppet strings (Nakamura). Against all odds, Kasuga manages to take Saeki out on something resembling a normal date ... even while the whole time the poor kid's wearing Saeki's gym clothes under his own, as part of his contract with Nakamura. In the end he collapses all the more definitively on the side of the devils, although how he does this or to what end I won't ruin here — seeing how it unfolds is a major part of the book's substance. Further proof that psychological torment is far more effective (and affecting) than the physical kind, although one wonders if in the end Oshimi's going to be best known for introducing a new subgenre of manga for American readers: mental-torture-porn. But his yarn-spinning is tight and deft enough to make concerns like that secondary.

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Tags: Japan manga review Vertical Inc.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Book Reviews category from July 2012.

You can see alphabetical or chronological listings of all entries in this category.

Book Reviews: May 2012 is the previous archive.

Book Reviews: September 2012 is the next archive.

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