Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Boy (2007)

Author: Takeshi Kitano | Translator: David James Karashima | Page Count: 185

He probably couldn't run fast enough and had been caught.  I suddenly became really worried.  I was completely alone.

Takeshi Kitano is best known as a filmmaker, but in Japan he’s also a famous comedian, writer, critic and painter among other things.  It seems as if he’ll turn his hand to whatever best enables him to communicate with an audience.
Boy was the first time any of his fiction was translated into English.  It was published in Japan many years ago as Shonen (1987), so it wasn't a new work.

Two of the three stories are told first person and revolve around something I know a lot about: having a brother.  My own brother was a huge inspiration and defining presence in my life as a child.  I’d not change a thing about our time together, even the bad times, because they helped me become who I am.  That same connection is part of the glue that binds the first two stories together.

All three utilise a specific aspect of adolescence as a foundation.  There’s a school sports day that’s memorable for more than just the runners.  There’s a shared, inherited interest that gives two brothers a deeper understanding of each one’s nature.  And finally, there’s a tale that explores the tentative first steps of a youth experiencing the duality of love for the first time.

The language used is simplistic and beautiful; there’s nothing wasted.  The urge to fill the narrative with more complex allusions must have been difficult to quell.
However, that same simplicity may disappoint readers hoping for something closer to his violent film work.  If I had to compare it to one of his films it’d be Kikujiro (1999) but even that is far off the mark.

What the two mediums do have in common is an understanding of the value of expression.  Kitano is a ‘show-don't-tell’ kind of filmmaker and he uses that same principle in his writing.  Little gestures filled with deeper meaning are littered throughout and may go unnoticed if you don’t pay careful attention.

2½ bars of magic chocolate out of 5

Note: You can find spoiler-free, mini-reviews of some of Takeshi Kitano’s films at our sister site, In a Nutshell.

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