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Popular Hits of the Showa Era

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Popular Hits of the Showa Era PDF, ePub eBook In his most irreverent novel yet, Ryu Murakami creates a rivalry of epic proportions between six aimless youths and six tough-as-nails women who battle for control of a Tokyo neighborhood. At the outset, the young men seem louche but harmless, their activities limited to drinking, snacking, peering at a naked neighbor through a window, and performing karaoke. The six "aunt In his most irreverent novel yet, Ryu Murakami creates a rivalry of epic proportions between six aimless youths and six tough-as-nails women who battle for control of a Tokyo neighborhood. At the outset, the young men seem louche but harmless, their activities limited to drinking, snacking, peering at a naked neighbor through a window, and performing karaoke. The six "aunties" are fiercely independent career women. When one of the boys executes a lethal ambush of one of the women, chaos ensues. The women band together to find the killer and exact revenge. In turn, the boys buckle down, study physics, and plot to take out their nemeses in a single blast. Who knew that a deadly "gang war" could be such fun? Murakami builds the conflict into a hilarious, spot-on satire of modern culture and the tensions between the sexes and generations.

30 review for Popular Hits of the Showa Era

  1. 5 out of 5

    K. A. O'Neil

    I never would have thought so just by looking at it, but I believe this is what I've been looking for. It's offbeat and familiar and hideous and alluring in perfect balance. It's the literary love of my life. When I showed Scott Fitzgerald the divorce papers, he was like "Really, Katie? For a 200-page Japanese novel from 1994?" "It was just translated to English last year," I told him, a single tear sliding down my cheek.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    The Publisher Says: In his most irreverent novel yet, Ryu Murakami creates a rivalry of epic proportions between six aimless youths and six tough-as-nails women who battle for control of a Tokyo neighborhood. At the outset, the young men seem louche but harmless, their activities limited to drinking, snacking, peering at a naked neighbor through a window, and performing karaoke. The six "aunties" are fiercely independent career women. When one of the boys executes a lethal ambush of one of the w The Publisher Says: In his most irreverent novel yet, Ryu Murakami creates a rivalry of epic proportions between six aimless youths and six tough-as-nails women who battle for control of a Tokyo neighborhood. At the outset, the young men seem louche but harmless, their activities limited to drinking, snacking, peering at a naked neighbor through a window, and performing karaoke. The six "aunties" are fiercely independent career women. When one of the boys executes a lethal ambush of one of the women, chaos ensues. The women band together to find the killer and exact revenge. In turn, the boys buckle down, study physics, and plot to take out their nemeses in a single blast. Who knew that a deadly "gang war" could be such fun? Murakami builds the conflict into a hilarious, spot-on satire of modern culture and the tensions between the sexes and generations. My Review: Six dreadfully bored, dreadfully sociopathic young twentysomething men find each other, and for want of anything better to do, start hanging out. They drink, they eat, they talk at but not to each other, and no one bothers to listen because no one has anything to say that means any-damn-thing in the others' solipsistic brainiverses. Six dreadfully bored, dreadfully ugly and unloving, unloved thirtysomething women find each other, and for want of anything better to do, start hanging out. They drink, they eat, they talk at but not to each other, and no one bothers to listen because no one has anything to say that means any-damn-thing in the others' solipsistic brainiverses. One day, one of the men decides, after a horrible sleepless night, to kill one of the women. Thus begins a kind of grisly tontine scheme of murder and reprisal that ends in the death of an entire Tokyo suburb. Ick. I feel defiled. There is nothing believable about this book, thank goodness, because if there *was* I would be forced to sharpen my longest knife and go out randomly slitting the throats of passers-by. Ryu Murakami, it would seem, is the Dennis Cooper of the Japanese literary scene, exploring the revolting images that modern Japanese society casts in the funhouse mirror. He's won a boatload of prizes for doing this. All I can think is, Japanese society being so buttoned up and tightly controlled, this kind of transgressive hooliganism carries more of a shock-and-awe sensation than it does in our American laissez-faire emotional environment. All it does for me is make me feel like I've spent several hours with the most absurdly overacting players of overwritten parts in an overwrought melodrama that, while effectively satirizing the anomie and autarky of armed camps that constitute modern societies, loses a lot of its force and impact to sheer overexuberance. Thank goodness it's short. Fifty more pages and I'd have to mail-bomb the publisher's offices.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    This book is awesome! I picked it up expecting a daft switch-off read, and that's exactly what I was provided with, and a whole lot more :-) Best way to describe it: The only other Ryū Murakami book I read was Piercing, which is more of an intimate psychological study, whereas this book is clearly overblown fun and contrasting the two books really shows his versatility as an author. Funny, crazy, and better yet, probably some parable for modern Japanese society that I don't really care to investigat This book is awesome! I picked it up expecting a daft switch-off read, and that's exactly what I was provided with, and a whole lot more :-) Best way to describe it: The only other Ryū Murakami book I read was Piercing, which is more of an intimate psychological study, whereas this book is clearly overblown fun and contrasting the two books really shows his versatility as an author. Funny, crazy, and better yet, probably some parable for modern Japanese society that I don't really care to investigate! Comes highly recommended by me, whoever I am :D

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ruby Tombstone [With A Vengeance]

    This is a really fun read, yet very different to the other Ryu Murakami book I have read, Piercing. PHotSE sits further toward the "light entertainment" end of the spectrum, but I enjoyed it very much all the same. The storyline centres around two groups of very dysfunctional people: a group of young men who are socially...... retarded, and a group of catty, self-absorbed 30-40ish women (oba-sans). In both cases, the members are disconnected from each other as well as society. When war erupts be This is a really fun read, yet very different to the other Ryu Murakami book I have read, Piercing. PHotSE sits further toward the "light entertainment" end of the spectrum, but I enjoyed it very much all the same. The storyline centres around two groups of very dysfunctional people: a group of young men who are socially...... retarded, and a group of catty, self-absorbed 30-40ish women (oba-sans). In both cases, the members are disconnected from each other as well as society. When war erupts between the two groups, however, the members unite against a common enemy, finding what they've been lacking in their own lives. Murakami writes with his usual humour, insight and irony, not to mention a strong dose of violence and gore. "If you were drinking at some oden stand you've never been to before, and some homeless guy comes by and sneaks a skewer of oden, and a thug with no pinky finger beats him half to death, this is the kind of song you'd want to be listening to." PLAYLIST for Popular Hits of the Showa Era I've had to use a bizarre mixture of YouTube clips and Spotify tracks, (including two which are cover versions), but here are the songs from each of the relevant chapters. Please enjoy! Chapter 1: Season of Love - Pinky and Killers: Koi no Kisetsu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvzCgx... Chapter 2: Stardust Trails - Kikuchi Akiko – Hoshi no Nagari ni http://open.spotify.com/track/2tzsBvG... Chapter 3: Chanchiki Okesa - Minami Haruo – Chanchiki okesa http://open.spotify.com/track/1hS8Lrz... Chapter 4: Meet me in Yurakucho - Frank Nagai – Yuurakuchou De Aimashou http://open.spotify.com/track/0wCkEo8... Chapter 5: A Hill Overlooking the Harbor - Hirano Aiko – Minato ga Mieru Oka http://open.spotify.com/track/3ShKCyD... Chapter 6: Rusty Knife - Angel's Music Box – Sabita Naifu [Originally Performed by Yujiro Ishihara] http://open.spotify.com/track/7kA2YfC... Chapter 7: After the Acacia Rain - Sachiko Nishida - Acacia no Ame ga Yamu Toki http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs-hVl... Chapter 8: Love Me to the Bone – (originally performed by Takaya Jou) - Shinsei Band – Hone Made Aishite http://open.spotify.com/track/3kUBnGQ... Chapter 9: Dreams Anytime - Sayuri Yoshinaga & Yukio Hoshi - Itsudemo Yume wo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N4BAo... Chapter 10: Until We Meet Again - Kiyohiko Ozaki - Mata Au Hi Made http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw43SD...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Puerile and violent. Should be five stars from me then. The plot is an absurd face off between six nerds and an equal number of "aunties" - unmarried ladies in their thirties -which descends into a maelstrom of death and chaos. The action escalates until a fuel air bomb takes out a whole district of Tokyo. Not sure why but this just didn't grab me. I think it was because Murakami tries too hard to be wacky. It may be the translation - who knows.

  6. 4 out of 5

    তানজীম Rahman)

    This is it. The blackest black comedy I've ever read. Goddamn is it brutal, and funny. And it's amazing how Ryu Murakami made me care about two very Japanese subcultures that I previously had no idea about.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This is an extremely dark comedy, focusing on two groups; the first young men in their twenties to early thirties who sing karaoke and talk without listening to each other. The second set is a group of middle-aged women, who sing karaoke and talk without listening to each other. Notice a pattern? Good because these two groups act the same, but follow a different thought process as to why they act this way. Murder brings them together. After one of the young men senselessly murders one of the wome This is an extremely dark comedy, focusing on two groups; the first young men in their twenties to early thirties who sing karaoke and talk without listening to each other. The second set is a group of middle-aged women, who sing karaoke and talk without listening to each other. Notice a pattern? Good because these two groups act the same, but follow a different thought process as to why they act this way. Murder brings them together. After one of the young men senselessly murders one of the women, this unites both groups. The men look at this random act of violence as a way to take control of their lives. The women now seek revenge on the person who murdered their friend. For the first time both groups listen to each other and begin to communicate… all for the sake of violence. There’s a lot going on in this book. It’s a nihilistic meditation upon modern life in Japan; it’s about conflict between generations… it’s also about karaoke, because everything always comes back to karaoke. Mostly it’s a book about horrible people. Completely and totally unlikeable monsters who talk about revenge making them feel “all gooey” inside. People who decide to look for inspiration for their methods from the Japanese Imperial Army, terrorists and Nazis (I did not make this up, it’s flat out stated by one character). I'm also probably a horrible person for saying this, but the book is also very funny. It’s completely against all good taste, but it’s a shockingly funny read. There are scenes (in particular when the group of guys go to buy a pistol at a hardware store) that genuinely had me laughing out loud. I debated with myself whether to give this one a 3 or 4 star review, as the truth is somewhere in-between. I decided to go with a four, as I genuinely kept laughing throughout, and any time the book slowed down, something ridiculous would happen to bring a smile to my face. his is certainly not a book I can suggest to everyone, but if you're the sort who laughed at American Psycho or delights in the films of Takashi Miike, this is certainly worth a look.

  8. 4 out of 5

    christa

    I think that I have read enough Ryu Murakami at this point to safely consider myself a connoisseur without sounding like too much of an asshole. This Japanese horror writer always manages to tickle my gag reflex or give me school bus giggles. He is lurid. He is inventive. He is hilarious. However, if I wasn't a Murakami-sseur, I'm not sure his most-recently translated to English novella "Popular Hits of the Showa Era" would inspire the sort of supple roots, oaky after taste-style of fandom I've I think that I have read enough Ryu Murakami at this point to safely consider myself a connoisseur without sounding like too much of an asshole. This Japanese horror writer always manages to tickle my gag reflex or give me school bus giggles. He is lurid. He is inventive. He is hilarious. However, if I wasn't a Murakami-sseur, I'm not sure his most-recently translated to English novella "Popular Hits of the Showa Era" would inspire the sort of supple roots, oaky after taste-style of fandom I've developed. In fact, I'm not sure I'd bother following his career. Luckily, I count his novel "In the Miso Soup" among my favorite books of all time and was appropriately stunned at the first sentence of "Coin Locker Babies" so I know how to sift out the moments of gold in this sort of crudely-drawn semblance of a story well enough to consider it a fine read. The story stars two dueling factions: A herd of 20-something misfit boys who hang out on Saturday nights and watch the neighbor lady get naked, have Rock/Paper/Scissors contests and then jet off for the finale: A fully costumed and instrumentally outfitted go-round of karaoke; A herd of late 30-something women known as The Midori Society, a faction of divorced or otherwise single women united by the same last name, although not related. One of the boys commits a random act of fatal violence against one of the women, and the other women find a clue to the killer's identity at the crime scene. They kill him back while he's mid-stream in public urination. A junior college girl -- who is the butt of most of the story's humor because of the grim effect she has on people who encounter her ("It seemed as if even her voice were sprinkled with disease dust ...") -- witnesses the second crime and soon Team A and Team B are trying to off each other in new, exciting, bigger and badder ways. One of Murakami's trademarks is the barf-inducing death scene where a throat is slit and spills blood the color of soy sauce or a crazed fiance goes Pampered Chef on a guy's Achilles Tendon. There is so much back-and-forth death and retaliatory death in this book that he dulls the descriptions, only once really going crazy on the way a bullet hole can rip into a face ("twisting the face like a wrung rag"). He seems to replace it with humorous set-ups to the deed: The women meeting with a military specialist. The men renting a helicopter. So the premise is good. The story is a little random and frequently veers into a silliness that doesn't seem to translate. But there are these two-to-three sentence gushes, quintessential Murakami, that make "Hits of the Showa Era" worth reading. After you're already a fan, though.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    A band of failed adolescents engage in a bloody feud with a pack of shallow middle-age women, with both sides finding meaning in escalating acts of savagery. So many books have explored this sort of territory, murder as a reaction against modernity, that it seems almost to be a noir sub-genre, but rarely can I recall an entry this strong. Murakami is genuinely funny, a distinction few of his competitors can claim, and although his characters are utterly awful they’re also sympathetic enough that A band of failed adolescents engage in a bloody feud with a pack of shallow middle-age women, with both sides finding meaning in escalating acts of savagery. So many books have explored this sort of territory, murder as a reaction against modernity, that it seems almost to be a noir sub-genre, but rarely can I recall an entry this strong. Murakami is genuinely funny, a distinction few of his competitors can claim, and although his characters are utterly awful they’re also sympathetic enough that you feel complicit in their crimes. Strong recommendation, if the subject matter doesn’t immediately put you off.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    "They always say that when human beings are extinct, the only living thing left will be the cockroach, but that's bullshit. It's the Oba-san" (Oba-san refers to middled aged women in Japan) This totally irreverent, violent and somewhat bizarre novel has some incredibly funny moments. A group of young males, misfits in their own right, gather weekly for a party in Nobue's apartment to drink, giggle hysterically, munch on snacks, lust after a woman in an apartment across the street and put on costu "They always say that when human beings are extinct, the only living thing left will be the cockroach, but that's bullshit. It's the Oba-san" (Oba-san refers to middled aged women in Japan) This totally irreverent, violent and somewhat bizarre novel has some incredibly funny moments. A group of young males, misfits in their own right, gather weekly for a party in Nobue's apartment to drink, giggle hysterically, munch on snacks, lust after a woman in an apartment across the street and put on costumed singing shows on a deserted beach. When one among them finds himself following an Oba-san after a drunken night with his friends, he is filled with a rage that has him reaching into his belt, pulling out a knife and slashing her throat. This action though, starts a chain of events nobody could have predicted. A group of middle aged divorced women discover that one of their own has been senselessly murdered when one of their members comes across the victim's body. Finding a clue among the blood soaked clothes, she takes it to the group and they vow vengeance. What ensues is a strangely compelling war between two improbable gangs. As the body count rises, so does the violence and the methods of exacting revenge. The at-times brittle prose only adds to the tension and the schizophrenic kaleidoscope of sights and sounds that fills the mind while reading this novel. This book is also a study of loneliness and how groups sometimes form of individuals who want to be in company but aren't all too interested in understanding the personalities of the individuals in the group. But sometimes all that's needed is a single catalyst to convert individuals into a cohesive group. It was fascinating watching the evolution of the group take place, even as I found myself chortling at some of the inappropriately irreverent sentences.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    LOVED this book. The writing is really well done, from the character buildup, to the noticeable changes in style to go along with each character's personality (especially the crazed Ishihara), to the vivid descriptions, to just the overall concept of an escalating blood feud between a group of thirty-somethings Japanese housewives and a group of twenty-somethings apparently deranged and lunatic deadbeat guys. Oh and it's a feud that ends with an entire city being burned. What's not to love about LOVED this book. The writing is really well done, from the character buildup, to the noticeable changes in style to go along with each character's personality (especially the crazed Ishihara), to the vivid descriptions, to just the overall concept of an escalating blood feud between a group of thirty-somethings Japanese housewives and a group of twenty-somethings apparently deranged and lunatic deadbeat guys. Oh and it's a feud that ends with an entire city being burned. What's not to love about it? Of course, deeper things could be said about the book (heck, the apparently "normal" housewives are the ones who decided to bring a rocket launcher to a knife fight... a meticulously planned rocket launcher that is- so who really was the more crazy group in the end) but really I'm perfectly happy reveling in this one at a shallower level. Not quite just face-value but not really trying to grab something too profound out of it. This one is pretty much pure pleasure reading done with an artful and entertaining hand. As long as you're ok with a book pretty much full of psychos and incompetents, then this one will be an enjoyable read for sure. Also, one of the best physical non-descriptions of a person I've read in a long time is found in this book: "It was a face that instantly robbed those who gazed upon it of a good thirty percent of the energy they needed to go on living." Oh yeah, you don't even know a single detail about the facial structure, but I'm pretty sure that you've already got a good idea from that description alone.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    Popular Hits of the Showa Era is the story of surreal conflict between two groups of the marginalized in the Japan of the late '80s. It starts as the tale of a group of dissolute young men, who have taken to gathering together once a week for what might charitably called parties, at which they interact very little yet still feel some sense of camaraderie. A chance encounter on the streets leads to a conflict with another group of outcasts. These are six women in the thirties, all divorcees, who Popular Hits of the Showa Era is the story of surreal conflict between two groups of the marginalized in the Japan of the late '80s. It starts as the tale of a group of dissolute young men, who have taken to gathering together once a week for what might charitably called parties, at which they interact very little yet still feel some sense of camaraderie. A chance encounter on the streets leads to a conflict with another group of outcasts. These are six women in the thirties, all divorcees, who also experience life with some detachment. As the conflict escalates, both sides resort to ever more extreme tools of destruction. Greatest Hits is a fairly bizarre, darkly humorous tale of the marginalized finding some connection to life through rather extreme acts. Not for the faint hearted.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hesper

    I initially had this dim notion the review would be some sort of thing about societal abandonment and meaning, blah blah, replete with A Clockwork Orange references, blah blah blah, but with as much forthright and hilarious nihilism as this novel has, I just can't. It would be criminal. Instead, I offer you the soundtracks to the first and final chapters: "Season of Love" and "Until We Meet Again". Oh, Ryū Murakami, I think I love you.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Honestly: Just sort of a stupid, seemingly pointless little novel-- and crass to boot. The prose is clumsy, and the story-- about a group of terminally bored Japanese who turn to shocking acts of violence and terrorism as their one source of real engagement with the world-- fails to make any substantive point or even be entertaining, feeling instead like a sort of "exploitation" story, only devoid of any style or humor. To give you an idea of how dumb this book is: There are multiple scenes that Honestly: Just sort of a stupid, seemingly pointless little novel-- and crass to boot. The prose is clumsy, and the story-- about a group of terminally bored Japanese who turn to shocking acts of violence and terrorism as their one source of real engagement with the world-- fails to make any substantive point or even be entertaining, feeling instead like a sort of "exploitation" story, only devoid of any style or humor. To give you an idea of how dumb this book is: There are multiple scenes that document, in considerable detail, rounds of paper-rock-scissors. For real.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Simon Fletcher

    When it comes to contemporary Japanese lit the name that often rises to the top is Murakami and that position is well deserved. Less well known though is another Murakami, Ryu Murakami. This Murakami is however a very different beast from Haruki Murakami. This Murakami is one slick, sick individual. RMs books are bleak, dark, subversive and at times laugh out loud funny. Not for everyone this but hey if you want something outside of your normal comfort zone this is it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Darryl

    This is an absurd comic novel and cultural satire set just after the completion of the Showa Era, which refers to the reign of Emperor Hirohito from 1926-1989. The first set of main characters are six young men, who are each nihilistic misfits that have been largely abandoned by their families and the larger society, but find common ground in each other and a shared interest in mindless violence and an elaborate and somewhat disturbing karaoke ritual. If you can visualize a group of Beavis & This is an absurd comic novel and cultural satire set just after the completion of the Showa Era, which refers to the reign of Emperor Hirohito from 1926-1989. The first set of main characters are six young men, who are each nihilistic misfits that have been largely abandoned by their families and the larger society, but find common ground in each other and a shared interest in mindless violence and an elaborate and somewhat disturbing karaoke ritual. If you can visualize a group of Beavis & Butthead clones on steroids, you've got them pegged. They have little emotional connection to anyone, and they harbor an inexplicably deep hatred of Oba-sans, or aunties, the seemingly ubiquitous dowdy women past their prime period of attractiveness. As one of them says, "They always say that when human beings are extinct, the only living thing left will be the cockroach, but that's bullshit. It's the Oba-san." One of the young men, filled with unfocused rage and vengeance, approaches an Oba-san who is unknown to him, and murders her in broad daylight. The woman is one of the members of the Midori Society, consisting of six thirtysomething women who all share the same last name and the same fate as unmarried, undesirable, purposeless and unfulfilled women who are equally as nihilistic and amoral as the young men. They learn who the killer is and take their revenge on him, which sets off a war between the two factions that is a cross between a bizarrely funny Looney Tunes cartoon and a mindlessly and increasingly violent B movie. Despite all of this, I actually enjoyed this novel, which I found to be a biting critique of the nihilism, crassness and commercialization of contemporary Japanese pop culture, one in which its admirers seek instant gratification and bear no concern for the consequences of their behaviors or actions.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Translated by Ralph McCarthy in an arrestingly stilted, surreal way (with an almost fansub-like reliance upon, and reference to, Japanese honorifics, pet names and the occasional bit of leftover vocabulary that I managed to take in stride but I could imagine being a little off-putting to someone unfamiliar with the language) this might be the strangest Ryū Murakami book I've yet read. The back of the American edition, at least, holds rather massive spoilers, considering the book is fairly short, Translated by Ralph McCarthy in an arrestingly stilted, surreal way (with an almost fansub-like reliance upon, and reference to, Japanese honorifics, pet names and the occasional bit of leftover vocabulary that I managed to take in stride but I could imagine being a little off-putting to someone unfamiliar with the language) this might be the strangest Ryū Murakami book I've yet read. The back of the American edition, at least, holds rather massive spoilers, considering the book is fairly short, so I'm glad I went into it more or less blind. Like Piercing and In the Miso Soup, it has a kind of rollercoaster feel, of being on a journey that is rapidly escalating out of control - though in Popular Hits, the heights that journey reaches are way beyond anything in those other works that I've read thus far. Bizarre, hilarious, and difficult to put down.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dain Claudiu

    My god if there isn't anything in the world quite as mad as "Popular Hits of the Showa Era". It doesn't take very long before revealing itself to be, all in all, f...ing insane and it only gets way, way crazier with each page. I laughed too much reading this book raising some serious ethical questions about myself. Is far beyond horrifying and one begins to understand the voice of Ryu Murakami as the whirling howl of all consuming rage that the time left in its wake. I'm saying nonsense much lik My god if there isn't anything in the world quite as mad as "Popular Hits of the Showa Era". It doesn't take very long before revealing itself to be, all in all, f...ing insane and it only gets way, way crazier with each page. I laughed too much reading this book raising some serious ethical questions about myself. Is far beyond horrifying and one begins to understand the voice of Ryu Murakami as the whirling howl of all consuming rage that the time left in its wake. I'm saying nonsense much like this book... but, god damn, I loved it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Philippe Malzieu

    A true novel of Murakami Ryu, full with noise and fury. The history is completely improbable. 6 thirty year old women make the war with 6 post-teenagers. That finishes with blow of bazooka in a quasi destruction of Tokyo. It is a kind of exercise of style, a literary manga often (involuntarily) funny. Murakami is able to write in a classical way with success as in Raffles hotel. But it is in excess and baroque disproportion he takes all his scale. This novel is one of his best.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Layne

    Ridiculous plot, not as scary or suspenseful as his other works.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    Dark comedy done right. Witticism bordering on nonsense interweaved with gore - this read was almost self-indulgent for me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sam Reader

                   Okay, the rundown is as follows: This is a wonderful satire of two groups of disaffected people who somehow find their way in the world through karaoke and murdering each other. While this is well-written, it's more about the relationships between the two groups, whose dwindling members are experiencing life and bringing each other closer by slowly picking off the other side. The murders are a very small part of it. The characters are overly-cartoonish and sociopath                Okay, the rundown is as follows: This is a wonderful satire of two groups of disaffected people who somehow find their way in the world through karaoke and murdering each other. While this is well-written, it's more about the relationships between the two groups, whose dwindling members are experiencing life and bringing each other closer by slowly picking off the other side. The murders are a very small part of it. The characters are overly-cartoonish and sociopathic, but if you can get beyond that, then there's a rich, very twisted comedy hiding between these covers, and one I suggest people read.            On the other hand, the characters are all cartoonish sociopaths with no real moral compass, the novel doesn't give us anyone to root for on either side, and the whole thing seems a little too over-the-top for its own good. It's like a roadrunner cartoon disguised as social satire. When the devastating consequences of the actions taken in the book finally come to a head in the final chapters, it comes as something of a shock-- no one's really been chastised for their behavior before now, they've merely existed in a cartoon, and to suddenly have psychological and physical consequences reached at that point kind of seems needlessly cruel. Even for characters as unsympathetic as this.             But in the end, I enjoyed it. As nasty and twisted as it was, it's an interesting way of looking at the social issues in an urban environment, and a good satire of those "life-affirming" books where the heroes are brought closer together by some kind of event. Also, I didn't quite see the ending coming, and that's always a plus as far as I'm concerned. More as always, this time with spoilers, below. "Dumkopf! We blow them all up!" -Ishihara               The first time I found this book, I was in Honolulu. I'd thought about picking it up, as it was about karaoke and my "release valve" at the time was to get drunk, headbang a lot, and sing karaoke to songs by She Wants Revenge and A Perfect Circle. I debated picking it up, but eventually dawdled and settled for the ebook copy. Which I then proceeded not to read anyway, as there was too much going on for me to settle down* and read many books. When I came home, I couldn't find the book at any libraries nearby, and got into my usual pattern of reading books for the purposes of review, rather than reading books for pleasure and then reviewing them after I finished them. But eventually, the library furthest from my house finally came through, giving me ample opportunity to pick it up and finally, finally read the damn thing. And it is...um...well, it's not the book I expected, but it's still an amazing book.                 Popular Hits of the Showa Era follows six young men, all with personalities somewhere between cartoon characters and outright sociopaths as they engage in several nights of partying and singing karaoke. The festivities begin one night when, during the nightly party (an event where everyone brings snacks and hangs out with each other, lost in their own little worlds), a woman begins undressing at her window in full view of the group. This, for some reason, energizes the group and brings them closer together, and that night they give an energetic karaoke performance on the beach near their hometown of Chofu City. With the new energy and feeling the group has, one of the members becomes so invigorated that when he goes off alone to walk home, he stops along the way to slice a woman's throat and leave her to die.   And then things get weird. Um...weirder.               The woman, an unmarried middle-aged woman named Midori, was part of a similar group of six thirtysomething women called the "Midori Society" for their shared first name. Upon discovering that one of their number was killed by a young man, the five of them carefully plot and execute their revenge, At the same time, the young man is celebrating with his five friends, telling them he feels like a real urban hunter for slicing this woman's throat. The two groups collide over a series of eye-for-an-eye murders, each death bringing the surviving group members closer together, their karaoke nights turning into both parties and war councils as they plot the demise of whoever killed their friends. This culminates in an impossible and ridiculous finale that I really don't want to ruin for you, but let's just say that you can eventually see it coming and it's so absurd that it belongs in a cartoon more than any book.               But the book isn't really about that. It's about how these people are brought closer together and how their own bizarre insularity and antisocial tendencies eventually cause catastrophe. The book plays out as some twisted life-affirming bonding scenario where the groups come closer together over hating and murdering the hell out of each other until it reaches a certain boiling point and the whole odd structure comes tumbling down. It's less about a series of murders set to catchy pop tracks sung by amateurs, and more a critique on society. And at its core, it's about severely damaged people who come together...and really perhaps shouldn't be coming together. And Murakami knows just how to make it interesting.               I suppose the thing I like most about this book is once again the feel. Murakami's good at doing a feeling, and he keeps the tone just on the side of terrible to know that what these people are doing is very, very wrong, but also just enough that we enjoy it. It's like some kind of demented cartoon, a kind of literary Love Your Neighbor. The characters are all kinds of demented, and as their numbers dwindle they get more and more grotesque and cartoonish. Even the book itself contorts to fit its protagonists, becoming more and more of a parody of the kind of books one might find. A continuing segment about a young woman who sees ghosts becomes a running gag about a wall that the young men feel supernaturally compelled to urinate upon. A character described as having a "terrifying face" causes characters to react with petrifying levels of fear. And of course, the ending mirrors a final burst of explosive mania, the characters' emotions finally coming to a head and destroying everything around them because they couldn't control them. And one of my favorite scenes occurs when the protagonists go to buy a gun to take out one of the Midoris, and go to a hardware store where a man tells them he's only selling them a gun because they're "the right kind of people".                  The imagery also supports the tone and feel of the book. At first, the images are somewhat basic...the first two murders, while unusual in their execution, are sparsely described. The later murders escalate, and are described in loving detail. Both the young men and the Midoris are described in such a way that they feel more like people wearing exaggerated masks than actual humans, which helps lessen the blow of the gruesome things the two groups do and say. There's a much-needed air of detachment around the imagery, but at the same time it manages to be fairly visceral and disturbingly graphic, sometimes even pairing romantic inclinations with the violent intents of its inhabitants.                And finally, the themes and the way Murakami conveys them are also excellent. In the book, without giving too much away, Murakami manages to poke fun at both the disaffected nature of urban life, and the generation gap, all while using cartoons and tropes to further his goals. At one point, the Midoris discriminate against recurring character Junior College Girl simply because she's young, saying that she's probably promiscuous, just because she's younger than them. Similarly, the young men discriminate against the older women, thinking because they're in their thirties and alone, they must desperately need men (to their credit, the Midoris aren't really helping the case that they don't). It's no mistake that an older man gives the younger men their Tokarev for the book's third kill because "They look like nice young men" (para.). Even the last kill is motivated a little by youth-- the surviving young men launch one last all-or-nothing attack on their enemies. It's this attention to the point he wants to bring across-- all while telling a good story, mind-- that pushes Murakami that little extra ways over the edge.               But the book is not without its faults. The disjointed narrative and occasional magical realism most of Murakami's works suffer from is here in force, and the ending, where realistic trauma suddenly ensues on the part of the survivors, followed once again by an over-the-top climax, feels a little like cheating. Also, both sides get off far too easy, as their seemingly premeditated acts of violence are carried out with very little thought to getting caught. The ending leaves very little resolved, preferring to end on simply a shrug and a question when it should have had a more resolute statement.                But in the end, those aren't the point. The point of the book is the struggle, the journey, not the destination. Wanting a resolution in a Ryu Murakami book kind of seems like the wrong thing to do, honestly, and the book, despite its minor stumbles, is quite good. If you have some time, get this out of the library or inter-library loan it. It may not be worth buying after a read, but it's at least interesting enough to deserve a look. NEXT WEEK:  Damned by Chuck Palahniuk AND AFTER THAT: Invisible Monsters: Remix by Chuck Palahniuk UPCOMING POSSIBILITIES INCLUDE: Donnybrook by Frank Bill The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami Drood by Dan Simmons AND MANY MORE                   *I still have to reread and possibly finish the review of The Pilo Family Circus at some point. 

  23. 4 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    Ryu Murikami has something of a cult following. Having read Popular Hits of the Showa Era, I am worried about the nature of this cult. The title is a wonderful joke and the premise has promise. The execution is too many executions. Just how bloody can droll be before the comedy is drained out dark comedy. The fall back case for too many books like this is that it is a commentary on these terrible times, or a satire of the Russia/US Arms race. Popular Hits is not focused enough or logical enough Ryu Murikami has something of a cult following. Having read Popular Hits of the Showa Era, I am worried about the nature of this cult. The title is a wonderful joke and the premise has promise. The execution is too many executions. Just how bloody can droll be before the comedy is drained out dark comedy. The fall back case for too many books like this is that it is a commentary on these terrible times, or a satire of the Russia/US Arms race. Popular Hits is not focused enough or logical enough to be much more than a too dark dystopia made to serve the overweening negativity of the dedicated punk goth rocker. Here the expression is made to evoke a now passé trend among some then older teens that pretended that everything and everyone is corrupt and terrible. The title is taken, first from the Japanese tradition of naming an era for each new Emperor. The Showa Era was the life time of WW II Emperor Hirohito who died, ending the period in 1989. Greatest hits is a play on the expression used for rock music and the shorter one for gangster hits, i. e. murder. The premise is that a group of supremely useless young Japanese males fall into one another’s company having in common except an interest in Karaoke and being stunned to immobility on those occasions when an unknown female undresses in her apartment window. For most of the book they will be described in terms rarely associated with functional humans. One of their number indulges a whim by murdering a randomly selected middle age-Japanese woman. In the language of Japan she is an obasan, or auntie. As it happens she was a member of a group of obsans who have in common being single and the same first name. What follows in an increasing grotesque campaign of revenge and counter revenge. It may be possible to force some kind of commentary on what is another wise well written novella. This attempt is merely the results of a rational mind seeking to rationalize ugliness.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nura

    Read Harder Challenge 2017 #13: Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location There’s one word to described this piece in Japanese, 気違い. It’s crude but I can’t think another that befitting. It’s absurdity could drown you into a dark tale with a touch of humor. It mention how Japanese people tend to mind their own business. It also tell about bonds that could be form only because of a silly reason. I dislike the way the oba-san portrayed. And out of spite, I was a bit hopeful th Read Harder Challenge 2017 #13: Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location There’s one word to described this piece in Japanese, 気違い. It’s crude but I can’t think another that befitting. It’s absurdity could drown you into a dark tale with a touch of humor. It mention how Japanese people tend to mind their own business. It also tell about bonds that could be form only because of a silly reason. I dislike the way the oba-san portrayed. And out of spite, I was a bit hopeful they would win the war. #I was reading the last chapter while listening Who Want to Live Forever by Queen. Somehow it also suitable with the mood. #The word pun made me want to read the Japanese version. I wish I could read kanji already. Sigh. # According to Wikipedia, Shōwa era refers to the period of Japanese history corresponding to the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from December 25, 1926 until his death on January 7, 1989. I was born on the last decade of showa era, and grown up having singing karaoke with my family every other week. But I only once went to karaoke bar in my whole life. #this is the song listed as title of the chapters Chapter 1: Season of Love - Pinky and Killers: Koi no Kisetsu Chapter 2: Stardust Trails - Akiko Kikuchi - Hoshi no Nagare ni Chapter 3: Chanchiki Okesa - Minami Haruo - Chanchiki Okesa Chapter 4: Meet me in Yurakucho - Frank Nagai - Yuurakuchou de Aimashou Chapter 5: A Hill Overlooking the Harbor - Hirano Aiko - Minato ga Mieru Oka Chapter 6: Rusty Knife - Yujiro Ishihara - Sabita Knife Chapter 7: After the Acacia Rain - Sachiko Nishida - Acacia no Ame ga Yamu Toki Chapter 8: Love Me to the Bone - Takaya Jou - Hone made Aishite Chapter 9: Dreams Anytime - Sayuri Yoshinaga & Yukio Hoshi - Itsudemo Yume wo Chapter 10: Until We Meet Again - Kiyohiko Ozaki - Mata Au Hi Made

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tjibbe Wubbels

    An engrossing and provocative tale about a group of apathetic young men and a group of bored and emotionally extinguished oba-sans (women in their late thirties) that start a war that goes from bad to worse. As a result of this over-the-top violence, the young men become less apathetic and the oba-sans can finally open their heart..."because, now, they did what they really wanted to do. Until now, they had never known what that would be. So far, there had never been anything they really wanted t An engrossing and provocative tale about a group of apathetic young men and a group of bored and emotionally extinguished oba-sans (women in their late thirties) that start a war that goes from bad to worse. As a result of this over-the-top violence, the young men become less apathetic and the oba-sans can finally open their heart..."because, now, they did what they really wanted to do. Until now, they had never known what that would be. So far, there had never been anything they really wanted to do."In particular, the portrayal of the thoughts and behaviour of the idiotic boys that are claimed to have "given up all positive involvement in life" is a pleasure to read. But there is a lot of humour in the descriptions of the oba-sans as well. According to a storekeeper, instead of cockroaches, oba-sans will be"the only living creatures left over once when humans have become extinct."And, as a guy who might know how to make an atom-bomb (!) puts it, you might even become one:"Oba-sans are (...) life forms that no longer evolve. And anyone can turn into an oba-san. Young women of course, but also young men, even middle-aged men - even children. You become an oba-san as soon as you lose your desire to evolve. It's a blood-curdling truth that nobody seems to want to face. Blood-curdling!"Horrifying! Is the book of eternal value? Not really. Did I enjoy reading it? Definitely.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nikmaack

    What the hell was that all about? The end. To describe this novel as pointless sounds like an insult. In fact, that appears to be the entire point of the book. I hate to give away any plot points at all, so I won't. But, basically, what do you do when nothing matters, and what will give your life purpose and meaning? Perhaps a violent and idiotic quest will help you be a better person? And so it is. With many references to Japanese bands I've never heard of, the novel unfolds. Very readable, with What the hell was that all about? The end. To describe this novel as pointless sounds like an insult. In fact, that appears to be the entire point of the book. I hate to give away any plot points at all, so I won't. But, basically, what do you do when nothing matters, and what will give your life purpose and meaning? Perhaps a violent and idiotic quest will help you be a better person? And so it is. With many references to Japanese bands I've never heard of, the novel unfolds. Very readable, with bizarre and psychotic touches, it slouches along on an inevitable escalating weirdness. Vaguely adolescent and stupid, it's still a fun book to read. Vaguely like a Japanese Fight Club, but also better than that implies. Should you read it? I don't know. I'm kind of obsessing over Ryu Murakami. And I'm not even sure why. He's violent and silly and sort of stupid. Does that sound like something you need in your life? There is a movie version of the book called Karaoke Terror. I find that hard to believe. And yet it is true.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cali

    Murakami delivers one of his many commentaries on Japanese society wrapped in dark, incredibly dark humour and satire. Having read his other book Into the Miso Soup I noticed that what both books have in common is that they do a good job at portraying the absolutely repulsive sides of people while also maintaining an air of comedy mixed in with this. In Popular Hits of the Showa Era some of the references to Japanese media such as the music mentioned may go over the heads of Western readers but Murakami delivers one of his many commentaries on Japanese society wrapped in dark, incredibly dark humour and satire. Having read his other book Into the Miso Soup I noticed that what both books have in common is that they do a good job at portraying the absolutely repulsive sides of people while also maintaining an air of comedy mixed in with this. In Popular Hits of the Showa Era some of the references to Japanese media such as the music mentioned may go over the heads of Western readers but the topics such as social isolation and the internal issues faced by different generations are something which many of us can feel sympathetic towards, even if the characters portrayed are gruesome, psychopathic, and easily dislikeable you end up wanting to read more about them. I feel that this is because in spite of all their flaws they're somehow relatable. A comedic and nihilistic but overall, enjoyable read from start to finish.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Graeme Strachan

    Ryo Murakami novels never fail to elicit a giggle here and there. Whether it’s his insistence on ridiculing the facets of Japanese culture that the rest of the world likely never considers, or engaging in pitch black comedy, he has earned his status as the enfant terrible of his land. In this case, his relating of the mundane insular self-importance of two groups of hopeless individuals, manages to be morbidly fascinating and grimly relatable to anyone in the west. While the murders occurring betw Ryo Murakami novels never fail to elicit a giggle here and there. Whether it’s his insistence on ridiculing the facets of Japanese culture that the rest of the world likely never considers, or engaging in pitch black comedy, he has earned his status as the enfant terrible of his land. In this case, his relating of the mundane insular self-importance of two groups of hopeless individuals, manages to be morbidly fascinating and grimly relatable to anyone in the west. While the murders occurring between the group of young “otaku” and the middle aged “Obasans” are as inventive as they are ludicrous and bizarre. All the while reflecting the petty oddities of human behaviour. While short, this book did take me a while to read, mainly due to me being busy, but while entertaining it’s not a compulsive read. But one that will put a smile on your face, if you can take the dark tone of the humour.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Keen

    “He was about to start laughing when a fist-sized chunk of concrete from the tetrapod came along at a hundred metres per second and shaved off his lower jaw-flesh, bones, teeth, and all-even as he too began an ascent that would peak at an impressive three metres.” This is the fourth book I have read by Ryu Murakami so far, and I would say the weakest out of them. This has all the controversial and confronting Murakami hallmarks, it’s brutal, violent and nihilistic and populated by a whole cast of “He was about to start laughing when a fist-sized chunk of concrete from the tetrapod came along at a hundred metres per second and shaved off his lower jaw-flesh, bones, teeth, and all-even as he too began an ascent that would peak at an impressive three metres.” This is the fourth book I have read by Ryu Murakami so far, and I would say the weakest out of them. This has all the controversial and confronting Murakami hallmarks, it’s brutal, violent and nihilistic and populated by a whole cast of mentally unhinged Japanese characters. It’s enjoyable, ridiculous, but also lacking something of more depth and substance. The violence gets so OTT, that it becomes ridiculous and at times laugh out loud funny. This is an enjoyable enough story, but not in the same league as “In The Miso Soup” or the outstanding “Coin Locker Babies”.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nuren Iftekhar

    "When you come right down to it, murder's the only thing that has any meaning these days" How do you even rate something like this. I didn't think much of it when I started but the nuances and the hilarity kept piling up and up until it literally exploded. The grim but jovial narration made me read through horrid descriptions of murders with a smirk. Inspite of underplaying the mindless violence, Ryu Murakami highlighted the morbid mindscape of that one sect of youth who never make for good prota "When you come right down to it, murder's the only thing that has any meaning these days" How do you even rate something like this. I didn't think much of it when I started but the nuances and the hilarity kept piling up and up until it literally exploded. The grim but jovial narration made me read through horrid descriptions of murders with a smirk. Inspite of underplaying the mindless violence, Ryu Murakami highlighted the morbid mindscape of that one sect of youth who never make for good protagonists. And that too without needing to brood for hundreds of pages like the other more famous Murakami. Brilliant brilliant read.

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