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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Rabbit's Eyes

Haitani Kenjiro

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

To purchase A Rabbit's Eyes

Title: A Rabbit's Eyes
Author: Haitani Kenjiro
Genre: Novel
Written: 1974 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 199 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: A Rabbit's Eyes - US
A Rabbit's Eyes - UK
A Rabbit's Eyes - Canada
  • Translated by Paul Sminkey

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Our Assessment:

B : well-meaning, fairly effective

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 20/11/2005 Carl Shuker
The LA Times . 28/8/2005 Susan Salter Reynolds
The Village Voice . 16/12/2005 Robert Ito

  From the Reviews:
  • "And so, cringing, instinctive shrieks and disbelieving head-shakes at the prosaic atrocities soon begin to seem uncharitable and not in the spirit of this generous, naive and earnest little book. Be aware that this is Young Adult lit; most of the writing is terrible, but the very unselfconsciousness of the delivery adds a kind of prelapsarian rose to your cheek." - Carl Shuker, The Japan Times

  • "The narrative turns treacly when Haitani moves from the entomological to the sociological, from fly diets to hunger strikes and recycling drives, but it's sweetly earnest, forgivable melodrama, the humble insects serving as a metaphor for Japan's poor treatment of its lower classes and ethnic minorities. (...) A Rabbit's Eyes is a satisfying boy-and-his-pet tale, as well as a peek into the weirdly dichotomous world of Japanese schools, where Mary Kay Letourneau–esque flirting and student whackings happily coexist." - Robert Ito, The Village Voice

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:

       A Rabbit's Eyes focusses on a young first grade teacher, Ms.Kotani. She teaches at a school that is located next to a garbage disposal plant. Some of her students are the children of temporary workers at the plant, and live on the grounds there, but even households located further away are affected by the plant -- the stink and the ash it spews out -- and the children are all affected by it when at school.
       Ms. Kotani is eager but a bit overwhelmed. Other teachers range from the (for Haitani) ideal, Mr.Adachi, who knows exactly how to treat the kids and get the most out of them (and doesn't have much patience with bureaucracy), to some who are clearly not very good teachers.
       The main student-pupil relationship in the book is that between Ms.Kotani and Tetsuzo, a boy who says nothing and barely reacts to anything. His main interest is flies -- of which there are an abundant supply in the garbage piles, at least in the summertime --, and Ms.Kotani overcomes her squeamishness and fosters his interest, using it to get him to learn. It turns out he has quite a scientific approach anyway, keeping a wide variety of flies and knowing all their unique qualities. Eventually, his expertise even helps solve a company's fly problem, making him a local hero of sorts.
       The novel focusses on a variety of episodes, most dealing with school, but also extending a bit beyond. Pedagogic lessons abound, most notably when Ms.Kotani lets a mentally retarded girl into class. The other parents get very upset, since they believe the extra attention needed to take care of her will be detrimental to the other children, but having her in class turns out to be a great experience for all the children, who rally around the girl and learn valuable lessons from her presence.
       A variety of social and educational issues are raised, from the difficulties posed by the disposal plant kids serving lunch (since they aren't all quite as rigorous in their hygiene as the children of wealthier families) to the authorities' plans to move the disposal plant (which everybody approves of) and move the temporary workers and their families with it (which they are less thrilled about). Occasionally, Haitani overreaches -- a stab at reminding readers at how terribly the Japanese treated the Koreans seems particularly misplaced -- but for the most part these are nicely related learning experiences, clever and charming enough that their obviousness is forgivable.
       Ms.Kotani grows as both a person and teacher, pushed to trying things she never could have imagined and finding ways to get her students to learn. The cast of characters is interestingly varied, though the moppets are perhaps a bit too uniformly too good to be true, Haitani too certain of children's fundamental goodness which, at worst, must be properly guided by understanding adults (as Mr.Adachi is and Ms.Kotani becomes). By showing Mr.Adachi and Ms.Kotani having other, personal demons to wrestle with -- Mr.Adachi is something of a loner, while Ms. Kotani soon realises her marriage isn't really working out -- Haitani also adds another useful dimension to the book, and gives it a realistic feel.
       The writing isn't particularly elegant, the presentation often very obvious, and some of the lessons of a very specific and basic sort (Haitani the teaching professional offering what seem like lessons straight out of the manual), but the characters are endearing enough and the situations have enough drama to hold the reader's interest. And, though written in the 1970s and thus a bit out of date, it also affords an interesting look at Japan and the Japanese educational system, both quite different from what is found in most Japanese fiction accessible to English-reading audiences.
       Very well-meaning, not quite so well-written, A Rabbit's Eyes offers enough to be worth a look -- and should appeal to children, parents, and teachers, especially those interested in this foreign culture.

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A Rabbit's Eyes: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Haitani Kenjiro is a teacher and author.

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© 2005-2021 the complete review

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