You are probably aware that the murder capitol of the world is Cabot Cove. Ever since The Manchurian Candidate I have cast a jaundiced eye at Angela Landsbury and the pokey gendarmes of Maine. But that was just fun entertainment (meaning there wasn’t a lot of blood and gore) and Cabot Cove has easily been replaced by the unnamed town in Japan frequented by Goth chicks and body parts stapled to a tree.
While seeking to throw some variety into my reading, I came across a recent volume titled Goth: A Novel of Horror by Otsuichi. I’ve got a soft spot in my scary parts for Japanese horror and this one seemed ideal for a midnight snack. It all takes place in a small corner of Japan where severed hands are buried in the backyard like kimchi and an occasional ear or nipple stapled to the side of a telephone pole is not an unusual sight. But after a half-dozen of these bloody dismemberments and three or four instances of being buried alive on the side of the potting shed, one does wonder why there are no traditional murders in this town: shootings, knifings, nunchuckings, poisonings.
I had several problems with Goth. First, although there are some character overlaps, they are not really relevant. Generally, Goth is just a loose collection of gory campfire stories. The one exception is a girl and a boy who are at least mentioned in each of the novel’s stories. This girl is at one time described as a Goth girl so there is a tenuous justification for the title of the novel. But does one girl dressed in black with long black hair and pasty looking skin qualify the novel as a gothic? Besides, the goth girl is also described as a real beauty being chased by all the guys. Really?
It seems like the key element in a Japanese gothic novel is a fascination with death. The structure in Goth probably is more well-suited for the Manga versions.
So Goth isn’t really a traditional gothic novel but might be more akin to a slasher movie. It’s at times entertaining and at other times boring. If you prefer reading about local murders where the corpus delicti has all its parts intact (or at least within a reasonable radius) then Goth might not be for you.
On the other hand, if you want to read some really upsetting Japanese horror fiction, can I recommend Ryu Murakami … try Audition.
Postscript: Reading the author’s comments, he says: “I named the book Goth for the entirely arbitrary reason that the lead female seemed to be sort of Goth-y.” … “It was not a well-considered title. As you will understand once you read the book, there is little to no description of Goth culture in the work itself. As a result, I have created a connection between Goths and murderers.”
That seems to me to be a dangerous connection. I never really felt the Goth kids down at Seaside Heights were considering ripping out my throat and nailing my innards to the pilings under the boardwalk. But then, there was that movie about the boardwalk (asphalt) in Santa Cruz.