Horror Review: In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

In the Miso Soup
2 of 5 stars
Kenji is a young guy who makes his money by giving visitors of a certain umm, ilk, shall we say, tours of Tokyo’s sex industry. His latest client is a chubby American named Frank. Frank wants to see all the sights and have all the sex, all of which is nothing unusual, but Kenji quickly realizes there is something a bit “off” about dead-eyed Frank. And it’s probably not a coincidence that dead bodies start turning up as soon as Frank comes to visit . . .

Night one is slightly strange but when Kenji finds what he thinks is a piece of flesh (arggg!) on his property, he knows it came from that weirdo Frank. But he’s promised him three evenings and, hell, a buck is a buck, right?

Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? I mean, how could you go wrong with seedy sex clubs and a serial killer on the loose? How could that story possibly bore even the most jaded of readers nearly to death? But for some reason things went wrong. The first half was deadly dull. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen. Frank, who claims to be missing a bit of his brain (lobotomy, perhaps?), stares into space for eternities and Kenji mostly muses to himself on the state of people in the sex trade industry and worries about being late to visit his girlfriend. They club hop and have a few tedious conversations and Kenji muses on the reasons why wealthy young girls decide to become “compensated dates”. Things get vaguely exciting when Kenji finds that itty bitty ominous patch of flesh but that’s the only intriguing thing that happened for pages on end. I also felt disconnected from the prose and the characters and, I cannot lie, I pretty much sleepwalked through many of the pages. When the action finally started, it woke me up with its shocking detail but then it all became an exercise in frustration because it sucked all of the potential thrill and mystery straight out of the story. I really think that chapter should’ve been nearer to the end of the book. Also none of the questions about character motivation I had while reading (and, oh boy, did I have many) were answered and that annoyed me more than words can say.

Basically I never felt any sense of dread or fear or anxiety or anything but a little bit of boredom for nearly the entire novel. I’m glad it was short because, meh, it was so disappointing. Most everyone likes this book except for me. I’m beginning to think I need to give up reading and pick up a new hobby.

If you’re interested in reading a book about the desperation and darkest corners of Tokyo I’d recommend reading Out by Natsuo Kirino instead of this one.


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