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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Cage

by
Kitakata Kenzo


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Cage



Title: The Cage
Author: Kitakata Kenzo
Genre: Novel
Written: 1983 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 230 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Cage - US
The Cage - UK
The Cage - Canada
  • Japanese title: 檻
  • Translated by Paul Warham

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Our Assessment:

B : has attitude and atmosphere, but not always clear-cut enough

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       The Cage centres around Takino Kazuya. He used to be in a small-time Japanese gang, but he went straight a while back. He's married and runs a small supermarket, enjoying a modestly comfortable life. There's been some tragedy in their lives, but the Takinos are doing okay. At least it seems that way.
       When some small-time pressure is exerted on Takino -- a few threats to business and person -- his background turns out to be of some use, both in determining what's actually going on and in upsetting the plans of those out to get him. So the beast within (or at least the guy with the underworld experience) comes out. What they're actually out to get is the supermarket and the land, and Takino could actually make some decent money by selling out, but he prefers not to. Still, there's a gang involved in some of the dirty business, and upsetting them isn't the safest thing to do.
       Takino finds that he enjoys playing the old games -- the action and excitement. His restless nature is all riled up again, and life as usual just won't do any longer. He tried being a normal citizen, but the skin doesn't quite suit him. And so he goes off to find more trouble. He's not committed to changing (or ruining) his life yet, but he just can't continue the way things are going.
       He rescues a girl from her pimp and asks a friend (and old gang-mate), Takayasu, to give her a job at his establishment, and when he gets a sense that Takayasu is up to something he wants in:

     "I'm not saying I want to help you out," Takino continued. "I'm saying let me in on the action. That's all I'm asking."
       It's just being involved in something dangerous, and in beating an opponent in a sort of violent chess game that appeals to him. And Takayasu takes him up on the offer, and Takino sets about organising an escape for two people that both the Maruwa gang and the police are watching. He doesn't know anything about smuggling, but, hey: "It's more interesting than running a supermarket."
       Despite not knowing anything about smuggling, Takino is clever and does a good job. It's a fun set-up Takino organises, and a clever escape -- but he doesn't win many friends along the way. One person on his side is the thorough private detective Hirakawa, whom Takino has put on permanent retainer. But aside from the Maruwa gang, Takino now also has to face Detective Takagi, a hard-nosed cop known as 'Old Dog' who has his suspicions about him.
       It's Old Dog who has him pegged right from the start, observing when he goes to speak to Takagi in his supermarket office:
     "It's like a cage, isn't it ?"
     "You mean like for animals ? Well, we use this room as storage too."
     "I don't mean this room. I mean your life."
     "You sound like you know a lot about my life."
     "Not really. It's just a feeling I had. You're living inside a cage."
       Indeed, he is -- and that's what the novel is about of course, Takagi's struggle to free himself. But is risking his life enough to set him free ? Leaving his wife ?
       Kitakata offers a decent character portrait of a man who wants more out of life, even while he knows that path is one that leads to self-destruction. There's some good action along the way (though some of the gangster confrontations are close to laughable), and a decent if at times convoluted overarching criminal plot.
       The Cage is atmospheric, and the attitude is there, but it sprawls a bit messily about, and Takino's reverting back to his bad old ways so quickly (and wholeheartedly) isn't fully convincing. Still, a decent dark Japanese underworld thriller.

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Links:

The Cage: Reviews: Other books by Kitakata Kenzo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Kitakata Kenzo (北方謙三) was born in 1947. He has written an enormous number of novels.

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© 2006-2008 the complete review

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