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The Tokyo Soundtrack novel by Furukama Hideo

The magic of youth against "the absolute repetitiveness, the compulsion" of the school and of adult life.

by Francesco Pacifico

The jacket flap couldn’t avoid to mention the word "distopia", inevitable in those contemporary novels written in fear of a climatic, economic and totalitarian catastrophe; but Tokyo Soundtrack is many other things, and it’s a novel from 2002. Furukawa's Tokyo - "a suffocating membrane", "an island of heat" where the inhabitants exhausted by the crisis write on the walls "Glory to the Emperor, foreigners go home!"- comes after one hundred and fifty pages: the two young heroes begin their adventure on certain remote Japanese islands during the nineties.

@chris jongkind

Touta and Hitsujiko are two fairytale foundlings, and as in a manga they have exceptional talents: he for survival, she for the dance. The book opens with a double shipwreck that brings them by different ways, as they just became orphans, on an apparently uninhabited island. From there begins a progressive rediscovery of civilization, which has as its second stage an island community still traumatized by the American occupation of the Second World War. The adventure then continues in the twenty-first century, in a militarized Tokyo made up of segregated or self-segregated zones, bands of beasts or homeless people, private militias financed by lottery winnings. Here the two boys do not live their coming of age novel, rather a surreal and passionate battle against adulthood.

@kentaro takahashi

Hitsujiko has always danced to find the emotion of void that she felt when her mother launched herself from a ship, holding her. “She felt with all her being the death drive of the world. That's why she began to move and wanted to discover the very essence of the movement". Standing in front of the conformist and violent society of adults, she thinks: "This world is unbearable, I will destroy it with the dance!”.

"This world is unbearable, I will destroy it with the dance!"

It’s a book that often becomes an allegory, and the relationship between letter and symbol is not always clear: "In the spirit of that little boy, in his sensibility, the music had been silenced and buried under a huge boulder. The music was dead”. You can read telepathic dialogues like: “Did you kill the music?" " I destroyed it in joy". The central theme is the magic of youth against "the absolute repetitiveness, the compulsion" of the school and of adult life.

@chris jongkind

While using so many kinds of entertainment fiction, Tokyo Soundtrack is impossible to consume as pure entertainment, because everything is brought to paroxysm. In many elaborate paintings, like altarpieces, an anti-narrative strangeness triumphs. Among other things, there is a crow who learns to speak watching films shot by young trans. His upbringing is one of these long, alienating scenes. Leni, the trainer, is a Lebanese from Japan for whom "it was enough to consider himself a girl in order for everyone to consider him as such. No longer a him but a she. He had acquired a special technique, or rather a formidable power. His conscience controlled his aura."

Hitsujiko instead creates an army of rebellious girls who dance and break up the social fabric by spreading panic among the respectable parents. There is Yuko, who "favored between the young neo-dancers the appreciation of the culture of delay as a method to escape from the problems of adolescence." Fuyurin wants to save the girls who have the "mania to cut their wrists".

Here the boys educate the adults and change society: it brings to mind, today, the media battle of the survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, who are becoming protagonists of the debate on the possession of firearms in America. In Tokyo Soundtrack, the magic that kids bring to the world triumphs over the most prosaic demands of the adult world. The adults in this book are oppressed, beaten, mediocre.

This disconcerting fable, which tests the way in which a Western mind faces a story, is made even tastier by the little circulation of this book in the West, and by the fortune of being able to read it, in its madness, as something that remains to us completely alien despite being assembled starting from the grammars of entertainment that we interiorize every evening from the streaming entertainment platforms.

(This article was originally published on Repubblica, which we thank)