I know Takeshi Kitano mostly as an actor and filmmaker. His bios told me he was also well-known in Japan as an author, but since my Japanese is limited to “Byoin wa doko desu ka?” I haven’t been able to enjoy his writing until recently. His first book of fiction to be translated into English has been published by Vertical, Inc.
The title is simply Boy. It’s a collection of three independent stories about boys in Japan having varying degrees of difficulty in growing up. In Japanese the title is Shonen (which Manga fans might recognize from the title of the boys’ cartooon magazine, Shonen Jump).
Kitano is perhaps best known here for his breathtakingly violent yakuza films like Violent Cop or Brother. But I think of him mainly as the star, writer and director of one of my top ten favorite films, Kikujiro, a non-violent (mostly), sentimental and very funny film about a low-life who has to protect a young boy on an eventful cross-country journey in search of the kid’s mother. The deadpan humor of the stories in Boy, reminded me of Kikujiro. Also the sentiment: In the second story, two brothers are forced to rely on each other’s companionship when they are ostracized and bullied in their new school after a move from Tokyo to Osaka. They take comfort in their shared interest in astronomy passed on to them by their late father. They’ve covered the walls and ceiling of their bedroom with pins dipped in phosphorescent paint to form constellations which appear when the light is turned out. Their name for the bedroom is “Nest of Stars.”
The dust jacket has a bunch of holes neatly punched through it. The cover under the desk jacket is printed with a cartoon tableau of parents and children. When the dust jacket is slipped over the cover, the holes frame individual kids.