Book Review: 'In the Miso Soup' by Ryu Murakami

"Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." - Unknown

Ryu Murakami forces the reader to be disturbed. Not just at the events of the book itself, but by their own reaction to those events. You are held captive by what he writes and the tension he builds and when you come up for air, you might even wonder how you read what you just did.

That is not to say that the book, In the Miso Soup, is relentlessly morbid. My description of it is not meant to deter anyone from reading it themselves, and I would absolutely recommend it.

Set in Tokyo, the book follows Kenji, an unofficial guide for the local nightlife and sex clubs who shows Frank, an American, around the city. However, over time he starts to fear that Frank may be the serial killer that has been horrifically killing locals.

/ Unsplash This book is unlike anything I have ever read. Horror, gore, suspense, and psychological thrillers have never been genres I have been particularly interested in, but consuming content like this book has opened my eyes to the value of these properties. Exploring media that is 'dark' is something I think everyone should do in order to understand their own limits and the strength of their morals.

It forces you to come face-to-face with yourself and with the aspects of a society that might be easy to skip over in favor of brighter, happy parts.

The book itself even touches on this idea: “People who love horror films are people with boring lives...when a really scary movie is over, you're reassured to see that you're still alive and the world still exists as it did before. That's the real reason we have horror films—they act as shock absorbers—and if they disappeared altogether, I bet you'd see a big leap in the number of serial killers.”

crowded movie theatre Photo by Erik Witsoe from Unsplash This book does not offer that level of comfort where you safely experience the scary thing and then go about your life. It touches on many of the societal problems in Japan and the demons within people that affect you long after reading it. It isn’t a safe experience. It’s an illuminating one, and it may cause a reader to have to examine themselves and others once the book is closed.

The complex relationship between Japan and America, homelessness, the prostitution of young girls, loneliness, and suicide are some of these larger topics of Japanese culture discussed that force you to look at the world externally and internally.

It's short and easy to read despite the heavy topics. You can tear through the book in one day, and that is perhaps the way it is intended to be read with its pacing. I recommend trying it, or any other book or piece of media that might disturb you.

Take a look at your inner darkness by reading this book.

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