For those of you that are looking for something to do with your spare time other than watching anime, or you need to find a book to read at the beach or pool, every now and then I’ll do a book review of some title related to Japanese/Asian culture. So, the first review follows.
So, my first book review will be of Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, Haruki Murakami is a very popular Japanese writer, over 14 of his books have been translated and published in English. After Dark is what I’ll call a light/summer read, it is 244 pages in length, and is available in paperback, ISBN 978-0-307-27873-9, price 13.99.
After Dark’s story takes place in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward, in the “after dark” period (the period between when the last trains and buses stop running for the night and the first trains and buses begin to operate just before daybreak) the story takes place over only about 6 hours.
At it’s heart After Dark is a story about two sisters longings for human connection, the story is told form the perspective of the younger sister, Mari Asai, 19 years old, and a college freshman. We first meet Mari at a Denny’s restaurant around midnight, where she is smoking a cigarette, drinking coffee, and reading a book.
We get to know Mari and her story through a bunch of chance encounter she has with the various residents and night dwellers of the Shibuya ward; a old double date of hers, a love hotel manager, a Chinese prostitute, and many other interesting characters that reside in the area. But, one of the most important characters is the city itself, vibrant, electric, massive, and foreboding, it almost seems like at times it is willing to devour Mari without a second thought.
Like I said earlier, this is a story about two sisters longing for human connection, and it is also a story about running away. Mari the younger sister, plain looking as she would describe herself, but others tell her she’s cute, spends her nights almost invisible to the city around her, until a chance encounter with a old double date forces her to realize what she is fleeing from and what she must do to establish the connection that she so desperately needs.
Then we have the older sister Eri Asai, 21 years old, beautiful to the point of almost being unearthly, a model and photo book girl, ever popular, but her life is never her own. One day, two months after eating dinner with her family, Eri tells everyone that she’s going to sleep now and goes off to bed to and has not woken since. She eats, washes, uses the restroom and shower but never when anyone can see her, 99% of the time she slumber like sleeping beauty.
Through Mari’s chance encounter with Takahashi, Mari comes to understand things about herself and her sister that they should have said to each other but for one reason or another never did, and through this new understanding they might be able to establish the connection that they both so desperatly need.