Daniel Lau finished up Hellstar Remina a few weeks ago, and while the finished product does a mad tapdance between hysterically funny/cheesy and a lackluster execution of intriguing ideas, the volume’s bonus story is pretty damn cool. You may remember that I have highfalutin ideas about Ito, and I think here we see him approaching something like Uzumaki‘s levels of subtle commentary after Remina‘s madcap frenzy of cultural pseudocriticism. (An aside: it occurs to me that it might be more profitable to read Remina as Ito’s rebuttal to the sort of glamorous, humanistic futurism hypothesized by Osamu Tezuka, but that would require more research on my part.)
Anyway, “Army of One” is doing some interesting things with the idea of hikikomori and the competing individual/collective social demands currently playing out in postmodern Japan. I don’t think the story is as good as Uzumaki but it strikes the right balance of creeping despair and ridiculous, almost comic grotesquery, the sort of metaphysical unease that I like the best about Ito’s work and about horror and/or art in general.
Hey speaking of metaphysical unease, my friend Ross wrote some words about Haruki Murakami, the most widely read Japanese novelist in the West since probably Mishima. They are good words! You should read them. And if you haven’t read Murakami, you should read him too.
Back when I was a lowly scrub who knew he liked English but didn’t know what he wanted to do with himself, I considered going into Japanese and doing some comparative lit stuff, mostly on the strength of what Murakami I’d read. This was foolish for a couple reasons, the most obvious one being that Murakami plays with Western writers a lot more (and a lot more openly) than other Japanese writers. This was also before I decided that he somewhat infuriates me with his method — which is to say, that he makes it all up as he goes along.
This is something Stephen King recommends. I don’t truck with it, personally, but it has the ability to turn out some good work. However, you see the same sort of problems in both King and Murakami’s work, namely, that the motherfuckers can’t end a book in any reasonable fashion. The difference is that King makes up monsters and spooks that dramatize or abstract certain American middle class malaises, the sort of things you’d get in John Updike; Murakami does this to some degree, but he also plays more subtly and loosely with his (technical literary term incoming) weird-ass shit, so you can read in a veneer of literary pretension (ie, magical realism) and often skew it as speaking more broadly about Japanese society in a very profound way.