Friday, September 04, 2009

The Cage, by Kenzo Kitakata

(hb; 1983, 2006: translated by Paul Warham)

From the back cover:

"Kazuya Takino leads a quiet life running a supermarket in the Tokyo suburbs. But when an extortionist tries to force him out of business, he finds himself drawn into the yakuza underworld -- a world he once called home and though he had left behind. Pursuing him is Detective Takagi, an aficionado of French cigarettes and modernist poetry, the most decorated inspector on the Tokyo police force. As the shadowy Maruwa gang engages Takino in an escalating cycle of violence and retaliation, Detective Takagi can only stand by and watch as the beast within Takino is lured further and further out of his cage."


The Cage is structured by a less choppy, easier to follow narrative style than Kitakata's Ashes, but its tone is still yakuza-tough; a nervous energy inundates Kitakata's word choices. The Cage's gets-under-your-skin intensity kept this reader on delicious edge throughout, all the way to the violent, sweaty, gore-soaked finale.

The root-for-the-anti-hero finale may prove semi-predictable to those familiar with classic noir, but it's homage-worthy just the same.

Readers who might've been put off by the jump-cutty style of Ashes should give this one a try: it's more noir-traditional, with more than a few character-based twists up its blood-spattered sleeves.

Worth owning, this.

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