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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Mishima Yukio

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To purchase Star

Title: Star
Author: Mishima Yukio
Genre: Novella
Written: 1961 (Eng. 2019)
Length: 89 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Star - US
Star - UK
Star - Canada
  • Japanese title: スタア
  • Translated by Sam Bett

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid small story, capturing stardom exceptionally well

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 27/4/2019 Nicolas Gattig
Publishers Weekly . 30/1/2019 .
TLS . 26/7/2019 Damian Flanagan

  From the Reviews:
  • "I am thrilled to report that Yukio Mishima’s novella Star (...) isn’t merely a treat for completists, but a happy reunion with a genius. (...) It takes barely a page to recognize Mishima territory, a dreamscape of haunting motifs: Tortured narcissists ! Violent fantasies ! Sadomasochism with middle-aged women ! (...) The prose here is classic Mishima: hypercharged and manically subjective, with spurts of poetic delirium. Thanks to Bett, however, a feisty American idiom is sprinkled throughout the dialogue, which matches the movieland backdrop." - Nicolas Gattig, The Japan Times

  • "Even decades after its original publication, this nimble novella about the costs and delusions of constant public attention will resonate with readers." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Whatever performances humans might put on, there was for Mishima one sure reality: the inescapable, all-conquering forward momentum of time. Mishima felt both oppressed by and vastly respectful of time -- he was notoriously scrupulous and obsessive in his daily time management and acutely aware of the power of time, in the grander sense of the epoch, in determining the culture in which we live our lives." - Damian Flanagan, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       Star is short even for a novella, but quite effective as (self-)portrait of a pop star -- one that feels strikingly current and familiar, too, despite having been first published more than fifty years ago.
       Star is narrated by Rikio Mizuno -- "'Richie' was the cutesy nickname favored on set and by my fans" --, an incredibly popular film star. He is just twenty-three -- but that's: "an age when nothing is impossible", and he works practically non-stop. In Star, he describes the filming of a movie in which he plays a yakuza, and though filmed and recounted partially out of sequence, that unfolding story (and its melancholy end) both contrasts and overlaps nicely with Rikio's own.
       Rikio's anchor is his loyal assistant Kayo, a: "constant companion, day in day out" who attends to all his needs on set and, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, is also his devoted and unlikely lover off-set. She's unattractive, with a pair of silver front teeth and looks: "at least forty but was barely thirty". But she is the one person who understands the odd world Rikio inhabits, and whom he can share it with.
       How very unreal Rikio's world is is made clear in the enthusiasm of the fans he relates, in their letters and actions, their passionate obsession -- which, unsurprisingly, he can do little with -- and in his forays into the real world. He is a true pop star, drawing crowds and gawking onlookers wherever he goes; it's practically impossible for him to move without attracting (everyone's, it seems) attention. There's also a constant flow of stories fed to the press -- with Rikio even encouraged to invent, so that even his past becomes an indistinct blur: the only thing that matters is presenting a certain image, not any actual truth.
       Irreality streams even into the filming: Rikio at least has the hold of knowing what to expect in each scene as they film it, so: "In the flow of unreal time, I expect things to proceed as planned" -- but an actress upends these expectations, overwhelmed by his persona (she calls out: "My real name. Not my part's name") she then is driven to desperate action, a glimpse of an otherwise elusive reality for Rikio.
       It's Rikio's birthday during filming, and with his college buddies bugging him "about having a birthday party, as an excuse for a reunion" he invited ten or so of them to dinner -- but the demands of filming mean he'll miss his own celebration. It goes with the territory --indeed, it's practically expected:

If anticipating my arrival was a part of the festivities, then surely my absence was part of the feast. It's better for a star to never be around. No matter how strict the obligation, a star is more of a star if he never arrives. Absence is his forte. The question of whether he'll show up gives the event a ceaseless undercurrent of suspense. But a true star never shows. Showing up is for second-rate actors who have lost their edge. Tonight I'd come home to find the living room table heaped with dirty plates, a sign that everyone had gone home satisfied, and with that I'd climb the stairs and fall asleep.
       Rikio, too, eventually has something of a crisis. Exhausted by this life and pose, in every way, he finds himself: "So tired I didn't know if I wanted to sleep or wanted to die". Sensible and sly Kayo knows what support he requires -- and reminds him of the odd role he inhabits, being a 'star':
     For a start, being seen is everything. But the powers that be are well aware that being seen is no more than a symptom of the gaze. They know that the reality everyone thinks they see and feels draws from the spring of artifice that you and I are guarding. To keep the public pacified, the spring must always be shielded from the world by masks. And these masks are worn by stars.
       In a nice concluding section, Rikio encounters an even bigger star: "Ajirou Kokura. The original lady killer. The cornerstone of our studio. A star among stars". Rikio can't help but notice that the star has aged, that the sheen was coming off:
     His handsome face had become a dingy plaque, a place to hang a mask. The mask of the handsome face that he had lost.
       And, of course, he then can only imagine his own inevitably identical fate -- "I was struck by an unfathomable terror and looked back into the mirror" --, following in exactly those footsteps .....
       Mishima nicely captures this alter-world of stardom, his observations convincing -- down to one about the consequences of getting used to stories being filmed out of sequence:
     If you get too used to living life this way, the steady flow of real time, where there is no turning back, begins to feel boring and stale. Let's say I meet a girl. The fact that I can't just skip everything up until the moment I'm sleeping with her makes me antsy, and it seems unreasonable that I can't just jump ahead to the point where I'm already sick of her, or back to the freedom that I had before we met.
       Star is a compact, short tale, but Mishima presents a full and convincing character- (and condition-) portrait in this sharp little novella.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 February 2019

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Mishima Yukio (三島由紀夫) lived 1925 to 1970.

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© 2019-2021 the complete review

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