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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Shinjuku Shark

by
Osawa Arimasa


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Shinjuku Shark



Title: Shinjuku Shark
Author: Osawa Arimasa
Genre: Novel
Written: 1990 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 285 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Shinjuku Shark - US
Shinjuku Shark - UK
Shinjuku Shark - Canada
Der Hai von Shinjuku - Deutschland
  • Japanese title: 新宿鮫
  • Translated by Andrew Clare

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Our Assessment:

C+ : character/series with some potential, but still very rough here

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 20/1/2008 Mark Schreiber


  From the Reviews:
  • "Shinjuku Shark does have its moments, although its contrived dramatics should not be mistaken for realism. (...) Although the translation gets a passing grade, too much of the dialogue comes across as stiff and artificial (...). Along with better editing, the narrative would also have benefited from more careful proofreading and fact checking (...). While a disappointment, this one still gets my recommendation, with reservations" - Mark Schreiber, The Japan Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Shinjuku Shark introduces Samejima, a police detective who doesn't follow tradition and convention -- which makes him stand very far out in a Japanese police force (and society) where adherence to particular forms and motions is near-universal. He's: "a detective who didn't grant any concessions", and since no one will or can work with him:

He was forced to become the only lone criminal investigator in the Shinjuku police force. On the face of it, he had colleagues and a desk in the detectives' office, but in reality Samejima was alone.
       Naturally, he's also very good at what he does:
     After three years of going it alone, Samejima claimed the record within the Shinjuku police force for the rate of major arrests made, with the result that he'd come to be known as the "Shinjuku Shark." It was a nickname born of the fear felt toward the lone wolf detective who approached his prey silently and attacked without warning.
       The novel begins with him obsessed about tracking down Kizu, a criminal whose specialty is constructing guns (hard to come by in Japan) and especially ones that are not recognisable as such but rather disguised to look like other objects. Samejima hadn't been able to find his workshop last time he put im in jail, and now that Kizu is out he's sure he's back at work -- and that innocents are dying because of the guns Kizu is putting into circulation. The rest of the local police, however, is soon embroiled in another case, as a serial killer has started targetting cops. But the forensics indicates an unusual weapon was used to fire the fatal shots .....
       Samejima also has a private life, kept very separate from his job. His girlfriend Sho is a singer, and Samejima even helps her write some of her lyrics.
       Conveniently -- far too conveniently --, all these story-lines overlap. So while Samejima starts out doing his own thing -- hunting down Kizu -- in the end he is, of course, smack in the middle of the serial killer investigation as well. To add more spice to it all Kizu is homosexual, so Samejima has to hunt down leads in that milieu, and then, beside the various police dynamics at work (with most -- but not all -- finding it hard to work with Samejima (or get him to work with them ...)), there's also the yakuza lurking all about (but they at least know their place and are, like the police, fairly predictable).
       The final major component of the novel is the setting, Shinjuku, shown as a wilder part of Tokyo dripping with sex and crime, especially in its small clubs catering to a variety of tastes: "Shinjuku was, after all, different."
       Osawa's lone-wolf shark isn't entirely convincing, but he's an interesting enough character and not completely by-the-book (of how not to be by-the-book ...). The police procedural parts of the novel are more or less fine, too, for the most part, though some of the ballistics-explanations drag on to little purpose. It's all pretty contrived, but Osawa has a decent sense of pace and lets the story, unlikely though it may be, unfold fairly well. But Osawa shows limited writing skills and the perhaps too-true to the original translation does him no favours either.
       When Samejima recounts his day at work to his girlfriend it includes stilted exchanges such as:
     "You were almost killed ?"
     "Yeah. He said he was going to castrate me and then rape me. And while he was raping me, he was going to blow my brains out."
     Sho shook her head. "Wow, that's no fun."
       Even a bit of editing might have helped (though presumably couldn't have entirely salvaged) scenes such as:
     Samejima stood up and stared at Sho.
     "What." Smiling through her tears, Sho returned his gaze.
     "All I could think of was, thank God. You don't have a bullet hole between your rocket tits."
       Focussed on Samejima-as-outsider, Shinjuku Shark is of interest in showing some of the seamier sides of supposedly so orderly Japan -- especially as regards the yakuza and how they are tolerated. It's all fairly cartoonish here: over the course of a series Osawa may have built up something more substantial, but based on this alone the 'Shinjuku Shark'-craze in Japan is hard to fathom. The character has some obvious appeal, but at this stage it's still a very amateurish production.
       Readable, as a foreign curiosity, but beyond those exotic and different aspects to it, it's pretty unremarkable.

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Links:

Shinjuku Shark: Reviews: Osawa Arimasa: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Osawa Arimasa (大沢 在昌) was born in 1956.

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© 2008 the complete review

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