Thursday, December 27, 2012

Monster (Noaki Hyakuta)

This is not the manga by Naoki Urasawa, but a 2010 novel by Naoki Hyakuta. A friend recommended that I should read something by Naoki Hyakuta, and I'd already seen the excellent movie adaptation of his high school boxing drama, Box! So I had pretty high expectations when I picked up a copy of Monster.

The titles Monster is an unattractive girl who suffers through a lonely childhood, shunned by family and friends. I was expecting a formulaic ugly duckling transformation. Years of hard struggle, until she finally climbs toward her goal and overcomes the obstacles in her life. I'm trying not to spoil to much, but at the end of the novel when the transformation is complete, the Monster remains, she is just a horrible twisted person. In fact, it's very hard to find any likable characters in this novel, there is one, but I'm not sure why he makes the choices that he does.

I must applaud Naoki Hyakuta for avoiding expectations, and providing a twist to the ugly duckling transformation, the same avoidance of the mighty ducks style "school kids overcome hardships to achieve sporting glory" in Box!

If you are looking for an insight into the seedy underworld of snack bars and prostitution in Japan, then Monster is an interesting read. I'm reminded of the Akutagawa Prize winning novel, Snakes and Earings by Hitomi Kanehara. The sole purpose of the books seem to be to shock the reader by giving a glimpse into the Japanese underbelly.

The movie adaption of Monster featuring Saki Takaoka in the title roll will hit cinemas in Japan in 2013.

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