After pondering for awhile, I bought this on April 26, 2013.
After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Original Language: Japanese Version: English Translator: Jay Rubin Year Published: 2007 (originally 2004) Publisher: Vintage Books
This is the first book—of many to come, I believe—of Haruki Murakami that I have ever read. I have always been curious about Murakami ever since I heard about his books quite years ago.
Am not going to spoil the whole plot of the story here. Since I am not spoilsport and I loath it when I read spoiler without some kind of warn, this is my warning: the review below may contain sort of spoiler, please proceed at your own risk.
What I like about After Dark is…
that it is definitely a page-turner kind of piece. I just couldn’t stop when I started, like at the end of every page I was not satisfied enough to want to stop; they—the characters—kept me thirsty and longed for more. I took my time in absorbing and reconstructing every bit of words into the world inside my head, because the story itself is one that needs concentration, quite a handful of imagination and wistful thinking. I stopped timely at the end of every chapter, especially due to the fact that within new chapter the point of view, settings, and ambiance changed.
One that captivates my attention so much in the story is a character named Tetsuya Takahashi, an oddball character who tends to ramble a lot and is kind of air-headed, but surprisingly insightful and observant. He is a tall, skinny guy, and a law student who plays trombone and jams with his band in the middle of the night in a basement of an empty building. He is also a friend of Kaoru, manager of Alphaville, a love hotel where Takahashi has been working odd jobs (such as washing floors and installing security cameras) for about six-months.
He is very interesting in my opinion, maybe it’s due to the fact that he reminds me of Aiba Masaki from Arashi, a 5-member J-POP group. Really, it is so very easy to imagine Aiba as Takahashi since they are so alike in character, even the description of tall and skinny physique match! Plus the fact that Aiba also play a wind instrument, although instead of trombone, Aiba used to play saxophone, not sure if he still play it now since last I heard he stopped when he got Pneumothorax.
This is Aiba Masaki on a photo shoot. Credit: Kootation.com
Back to Takahashi, I find that his view for certain trivial things is also endearing in a way. Like how he takes his time to look through menu of Denny’s (a 24-hrs family restaurant) although he is not going to order anything than Chicken salad and crispy toast, the only thing he thinks worth eating at Denny’s. His reason is that he is being considerate, since, let me quote him:
“Wouldn’t it be too sad to walk into Denny’s and order chicken salad without looking at the menu? It’s like telling the world, ‘I come to Denny’s all the time because I love the chicken salad.’ So I always go through the motion of opening the menu and pretending I picked the chicken salad after considering other things.”
That, and man, he is even more amusing when he complains about how Denny’s never make his crispy toast crispy enough.
“No matter how much I scream at them to make my toast crispy as possible, I have never once gotten it the way I want it. I can’t imagine why. What with Japanese industriousness and high-tech culture and the market principles that the Denny’s chain is always pursuing, it shouldn’t be that hard to get crispy toast, don’t you think? So, why can’t they do it? Of what value is a civilization that can’t toast a piece of bread as ordered?”
Such a lovable character! His dialogues always make me smile, really. Very interesting. But under all that easy-going and simpleton facade, it’s not surprising that he has his own darkness. He has been living in a kind of broken-home family, his father was used to be a criminal. When Takahashi was 7 year old, his mother died from breast cancer and his father had been in jail at that moment, so he lived alone for awhile, with a family that halfheartedly cared for him and a helpful neighborhood. His father remarried four years after and Takahashi had a step-mother who cared for him like he was her own son, but that was not enough since
“… once you become an orphan, you’re an orphan till the day you die.”
There are other things about this Takahashi character, however I am afraid my explanation for them would be insufficient, so I shall stop here.
Of course other characters in After Dark are as interesting as Takahashi is. Like Mari Asai, also an oddball character like Takahashi, although this girl is not a simpleton like him. She is interesting in the way he is not, she isn’t a talker, she doesn’t like chicken which is served in chain restaurant because it’s full of weird drugs, she also doesn’t like tuna fish because they contained mercury, and she thinks if there’s a problem with chickens, there must be a problem with the eggs, too, however she likes omelets. She is different in character and builds if compared to his beautiful sister, Eri Asai, who has been asleep for about two months and doesn’t show signs of waking up in the near future. Mari explains that in their house Eri is the delicate Snow White while herself is the hardy shepherd girl. To be honest, After Dark revolves around these two sisters.
There are also Kaoru, an ex professional wrestler who, as told above, works as Alphaville manager; a worker in Alphaville, Korogi, not her real name since it means ‘cricket’, but she has been running from certain people for awhile, so it’s best that she is not using her real name; and Shirakawa, a man in his late thirties, working as computer expert in Veritech, has a wife who understands his midnight-working-schedule although they never meet in the house because of the schedule. In the story, he is buying a beautiful 19-yo prostitute from a Chinese gang and then beats, robs and leaves the girl naked in the love hotel for suddenly having periods before he gets what he wants.
After Dark is about how lives in this certain area of Tokyo start when darkness is about the darkest, how these characters of different lives and importance then tangled in a web of occurrences. This—borrowing The New York Times term for this book—hushed ensemble piece gets me standing on my tip toes, thrilled and excited for what might happen next. At one side, every thing looks realistic and ordinary, something that easily found and occurred in life, but then I take a look to the other side, After Dark transforms into a mystical and mythical creature that is about to spread its wings into the night—enchanting might be the correct word to appraise After Dark.
Although the ending gives me more questions instead of answers, I thoroughly enjoy it. A great read, indeed, especially with how Murakami describes the setting in detail and how I can catch glimpses of characters’s depth or ambiance of the setting from the song played in the background of the story. The later—the way Murakami uses songs to describe a character and mood setting—seems to be one of his characteristics in writing, though.
Anywow, if you are interested in a book with suspense and witty humor and don’t mind the kind of cliff-hanger ending, this book is the right one for you. So! This conclude my take on After Dark.
I am currently in the hunt for other Haruki Murakami’s book. Until next book, then! 😀
NB: Man, it’s almost a week since I finished the book, and I am totally craving for a sequel of After Dark, which I doubt will exist in this world. Someone write a fanfic of After Dark universe, please? D: