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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Innocent World

Sakurai Ami

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To purchase Innocent World

Title: Innocent World
Author: Sakurai Ami
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 124 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Innocent World - US
Innocent World - UK
Innocent World - Canada
  • Japanese title: イノセント ワールド
  • Translated by Steven Clark

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Our Assessment:

B : exaggeratedly sensationalistic, but with some decent touches

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 10/6/2005 Victoria James

  From the Reviews:
  • "Her novel, though, is overwritten and sickly-sweet." - Victoria James, The Independent

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:

       Innocent World is almost anything but. The narrator is Ami Tamaizumi. She needs to earn some extra cash and so she forms a Telephux Club with some friends ("Basically, it's an underage prostitution business").
       Ami's expectations of and views on sex are a bit naïve:

     I saw having sex with complete strangers as being no different from masturbating. Never in my dreams did I fear it would change me.
       The main reason she needs money is to continue seeing her lover. The problem is her lover is her mentally retarded older brother, Takuya -- sent to live with relatives after their parents caught on to what was happening between them.
       Ami is cramming to get into university -- i.e. still pursuing the traditional and expected Japanese path to success -- but it's not only her Telephux jobs that get in the way of that. She's not very close to her parents (her mother's disgust at having conceived a retarded son is just the most prominent of many things pushing them apart), and she soon makes a discovery that distances her even further. Snooping around among her parent's things definitely leads to no good: discovering her father's hard-core porn magazines ("foreign ones in translation") when she was in second or third grade has coloured her fantasies ever since, and finding some of her mother's documents (interestingly also foreign) leads to even more confusion (and, ultimately, more inappropriate sex).
       Innocent World is an odd mix of innocence and (spiritual and moral) corruption. "Normal sex" is an almost meaningless concept to Ami: "Wondering what that meant, I'd felt confused." The rare apparently normal coition in the book resulted in failure (i.e. Takuya). After that, nothing was normal again -- not Ami's conception, and certainly not Ami's sex-life. Her acts of incest are, perversely, the most pure of the sexual acts in the book. Between her Telephux jobs and another very unpleasant situation she gets herself into, these are the rare redemptive ones. Nevertheless, even sex with her brother has consequences, further complicating her life.
       Protective of her brother (despite the fact that he seems well taken care of where he is), Ami's relationship with him is tender but disturbing, though she doesn't seem able to see that. She also has other family and identity issues to deal with, and here too does not choose the obvious path -- but Sakurai does suggest that this is the way she finds herself and (some sort of) redemption.
       A very short book, Innocent World is heavy on the sex and short on character development and some of the personal relationships. Ami's parents fare particularly poorly, and seem to have unlikely little influence on their daughter. Despite the occasional scene-setting overwriting -- "The room undulated darkly like the sea ebbing in the night" -- Ami is a quite compelling narrator. Her world is definitely screwed up, but she manages to present it as a given, and even if it's not quite justifiable it certainly does not come across quite as reprehensible (except for mom) as a summary of what goes on might suggest.
       Disarmingly over the top, Innocent World is about as delicate an incest/prostitution ring/gang rape novella as one is likely to find. Certainly unsettling, it's also a rare book where the sex is sensationalistic but, surprisingly, rarely comes off as gratuitous.
       Definitely not for everyone -- and certainly not for the kids (PG-15, at least) ! -- but of some interest.

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Innocent World: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Sakurai Ami (桜井亜美) is a Japanese writer.

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