Thursday, August 07, 2008

Real World

It seemed as if someone just slapped down a mangled moral, a last-minute life lesson, a gambatte goodbye without any of the gambarimasu groundwork. Circumstantially, I thought it was fine. The action, the events keep your attention, and this novel would certainly pass an entrance exam for a plausible finishing college. However, it was the closing statement, the final judgment that just didn't fit. It just didn't belong.

The release of this book couldn't come at a more appropriate time. As Japan's youth slowly slips down the superficial, consumer-driven rabbit-hole, out from the hole jumps a book attempting to explain and expose the misanthropic mindset of a misunderstood generation.

Every character who recounts their motive for becoming involved in a murder is under the legal drinking age. Each of the characters struggle with an intrinsic mistrust of the adult world, in which they feel more fear toward than a teenaged murderer.

This book criticiizes all the needless pressures that Japanese society places on young adults; cram schools, university exams, advertising, commercialism, unrealistic expectations of success, et cetera. Of course, this book mirrors a horrendously realistic vision of young sociopaths. Usually, that word, sociopath, evokes fear, thought of as only describing murders, criminals. However, the term includes a much broader spectrum of those who behave in an antisocial manner that lacks tender feelings for others, that lacks remorse or warmth. This book accurately reflects the multiple levels of sociopathic behavior of seemingly normal people.

By depicting a true to life crime that has been occurring more and more often in Japan, Real World unfortunately does reflect the real world. Merely months ago, surely after this novel had been finished by the author, a man from my prefecture went on a stabbing spree in the busy area of Akihabara, a famous tourist site called "electric town". After they apprehended the killer, and investigated deeper into his personal life, they found that he was tormented by his ideas of personal failure which are believed to have come about by once being a high achiever in high school. Like the Akihabara stabber, the characters in Real World have much self-directed anger for failing to live up to the high test scores of their past that had once promised them success.

This book is an amazingly swift read, for the mere fact that it's difficult to break away from. These kids in the story, the same age and situation as the kids I teach everyday, kept me involved with every turning page. Worried for their state of mind, concerned for their mental health, I can't help but wonder if this world view is indeed inside any of my students' real world. It is hard to imagine it to be true considering the childlike innocence and kawaii-obsession that sprawls across their desks during our once-every-two-week English lessons. I don't spend enough time with them to know otherwise, nor do I speak their language well enough to detect anything other than the image they portray as their school persona. The Japanese are masters at making personas.

Besides my interest in understanding the high-school aged psyche, I also couldn't resist the fact that my friend, Dave, who recommended me this read mentioned the existence of Homodachi. Considering the overall tone of the book, I suppose I couldn't expect that even the queer reflections of Japanese society wouldn't expose the underbelly of the Nichome scene. Having spent much time in that district, in those bars, I can't say that I've ever witnessed any hints of what I read in this book. I have never encountered any trannies on their aggression-filled offnight. I couldn't even imagine it, as they've always only shown me their demure, Diva-esque class. However, much like how I can't claim to understand the kids I teach, I also cannot claim to understand the strangers I meet in bars. Really, all this book has shown me is there might be a world that could be real....only perhaps I'm too foreign to recognize it.

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