Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Real World by Natsuo Kirino can be labeled a psychological thriller, but I think it goes a bit deeper than that. It is a coming of age story that focuses on the expectations and pressures placed upon teens in contemporary Japan.

The central plot is the murder of a mother by her son, but the real story is the response to this murder by a clique of four teenage girls. Full of angst and despair, they become involved in the aftermath of this horrific event.

The story is told by five alternating first person narratives, that of a boy (the murderer) and four girls (the clique). This constantly shifting point of view is quite jarring, but in the context of the story this is probably a very appropriate technique. The story is jarring. The events in the story are so extreme that they seem unreal, but those events are more real than the superficial everyday lives of the adults.

There are two worlds in Real World. The superficial adult world and the angsty, nihilistic adolescent world. The adults can not connect with each other because of superficiality. The teens struggle to escape the superficial burdens of adulthood being forced upon them creating alienation and hostility between the generations. The teens are unable to connect with each other as they hide their true selves thinking that no one would truly understand them. There is a complete disconnection between any of the characters. I kept thinking of E.M Forster and "only connect" as I read Real World. I know I'm taking that phrase out of context, but if the characters could only connect ....

The atmosphere of Real World is oppressive. I would label this novel as extreme noir and, unlike Out, Kirino never breaks up this story with black comedy. The nihilism in Real World was almost unbearable and I really couldn't wait to get to the end of the story. I am glad I read to the end though ... there is a glimmer of hope.
This counts toward my reading for Japanese Literature Challenge 4


  1. Oh, my -- I hadn't heard of this one before! There is something about these stories that just pulls you right in -- I am running over to Paperbackswap to check it out! Thanks for putting this on my radar!

  2. Interesting. Certainly sounds like a challenging read, one that a person would have to be in the right mood for. But such a cool way to tell the story; I like the kadleidoscopic effect.
    Thank you.

  3. I want to read this!!! I like Natsuo Kirino ever since I discover OUT, unfortunately, my library only have OUT on its shelf.

    Your review makes me want to read it even more

  4. I might be getting this confused with another book, but I think Bellezza reviewed this earlier this year and your term "oppressive" coupled with her thoughts have me wanting to stay away from this one. It sounds really frightening, actually.

    I picked up Out this weekend and don't know what I'll get to it but look forward to it. I can handle dark with a touch of dark comedy at least.

  5. Coffee ...: Hope you like it!

    ds: Definitely need to be in the mood for this one, I thought.

    novroz: I liked Out a lot more than Real World. I'm sure it was because the noir was mitigated by some dark humor.

    Trish: Hope you like Out! I was hoping to like Real World more than I did. Just a preference thing.

  6. I read OUT by this author a couple of years ago and was really impressed with the writing and the author's ability to pull me into the story. I definitely will have to look into this one. Thank you for your great review, Terri.

  7. Like this book, but prefered out. Enjoyed your write up. Thanks, parrish