Copyright by Shueisha.
ZOO was made into a feature film in 2005 by directors including Masaki Adachi and Ryu Kaneda.
A man watches his girlfriend decompose, one Polaroid at a time. A salesman offers a euthanasia drug at an exorbitant price to a man on a hijacked airplane. An abused boy builds a house in the woods out of dead bodies. These are some of the stories in Otsuichi’s ZOO. Creepy, funny, strange, and sad, these stories will fire up your imagination. Let one of Japan’s brightest young authors into your mind. Welcome to the ZOO!
Again this morning there was a photograph in the mailbox. How many times now? This has been going on for at least a hundred days or more. I still haven’t gotten used to it and I can’t stop thinking about it. Every day I go out in the early morning cold and find a photo in my rusty old mailbox. This gives me simultaneous feelings of dizziness, light-headedness, abhorrence, and despair. I stand absolutely still, gripping the photograph tightly in my hand. Every morning it’s the same thing.
The photographs aren’t in an envelope or anything, and they haven’t come in the mail. They’re just there in the mailbox. The photographs are of a dead person. My ex-girlfriend. She appears to be lying in a hole someplace. The photographs show her dead body from the chest up. Her face is decomposing and there is no glimmer of her former self.
In each day’s ghastly photograph, the process of decomposition seems to have progressed just a little bit from the one found in my mailbox the day before. It’s gotten to the point where I can track the movement of bugs crawling across her face. As she rots, the bugs migrate to other patches of skin.
Shin’ichiro Yano was born in Tokyo in 1970. After graduating from a design school, he started making objects and held several personal and group exhibitions. He has been working as an illustrator since 2007, and his works have been featured in magazines and children’s books. He is living in the northern part of Kawasaki-city and thinking about war, peace, and humor.
Translated by Terry Gallagher
Otsuichi — a bizarre name often mentioned in bookstores, reviews, and word of mouth. Who is he?
It’s hard to describe Otsuichi in a word or two. He’s often called a cross-genre genius. Horror, mystery, science fiction, humor… many elements of genre fiction are blended in his world, and his peculiar ideas and images emerge there. He shows a masterful use of various moods and styles across his works.
Zoo is the collection of short stories including ten pieces written from 1998 to 2002, which brings together his versatile blend of styles. “Feels like releasing my personal diary,” Otsuichi said, “but it shows my multifaceted nature.”
Above all, ‘Seven Rooms’ has received an amazing response immediately after its first publication. “It is my favorite story in this collection,” he said. One day, a young boy and his elder sister have found themselves confined in a place like a dungeon, having no idea where they are and why. It turns out that there are six more rooms in the building. Gradually, they find out the rules of this inexplicable and frightening world, and the ending is touching and might even make you cry.
On the other hand, “Find the Blood!” is a mystery filled with humor. The protagonist doesn’t feel any pain as aftereffect of a previous car accident. One morning he awakes to find a kitchen knife lodged in his side, and his emergency blood transfusion set stolen. At the edge of death, he searches for the culprit and the blood. Both the zany humor and the fantastic setting are irresistible.
“I thought an absurd idea would be accepted by many readers if it was told with humor.” He uses different styles in order to make his works accessible to men and women of all ages. “As far as possible, I try to write a book which will be able to entertain wide audience.”
He debuted when he was 17 years old, winning the JUMP Novel Grand Prix for ‘Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse’ (published in the eponymous short story collection). “When I was a boy, I liked comics and games so much, but I shied away from novels because I thought they weren’t supposed to be suitable entertainment for children,” he said. ”But when I was a junior high school student and read my first light novel, I discovered how interesting novels are.”
Eventually, he started writing on his own. To his surprise, he was a commercial success with the second novel he’d ever written in his life. “There’s so much pressure, I thought I had to study more because I knew so little about writing, and I hadn’t read very many books.” Then he discovered ‘The formula of creating a story.’ “One day, I read a book called Introduction To Scenario Writing, which had concrete advice for scenario writing—how to develop a story, where to take a plot, etc.” That book, based on Syd Field’s The Screenwriter’s Workbook, is known as the bible for Hollywood screenwriters. “I almost shouted ‘eureka!’ From that book, I learned how to weave pieces of ideas into a story.” That is Otsuichi’s formula of creating a story.
He wrote at the beginning of ‘Zoo’:
The heart’s descriptions are continuous, and as the number of lines grow, the form changes. Through the many events that take place in a piece of prose, the hearts of various characters are not always the same. But abstracting the essentials from these sentences adds up to a complete description. To make it all hang together, we need to portray “change.” Between the first page and the last page, the hearts of the characters have to change into something different. This process of change emerges as a wave, and that is the form of a story.
The formula he’d happened to find became his best weapon. “I don’t think of myself as a genius and I don’t have any kind of divine creativity. I’m just creating stories using that formula. But I believe I have the good fortune of being struck with ideas.” But stories could never be produced by a mere formula. Maybe that formula was the key to unlock Otsuichi’s potential.
To create the stories that will be embraced by men and women of all ages–though he uses a formula, his works have great variety. What fantastic images he has. If you have read ‘Zoo’, you must feel the urge to ask others, “Which was your favorite story?”
“Much of Zoo is about death and trauma, and the ways that characters are warped as they try to cope with how they have been treated, and the consequences of their own actions… This is horror in the tradition in which a person is mentally and emotionally broken, and then given just a glimmer of hope.” – Amelia Beamer, critically acclaimed author of The Loving Dead