Under the dying sun
Suicide and the Gothic in modern Japanese literature and culture
in Suicide and the Gothic
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This chapter discusses the changing representation of suicide in selected Japanese literary and visual texts, focusing on four twentieth- and twenty-first-century novels (Kokoro by Natsume Soseki [1914], The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe [1967], Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami [1987], and Gray Men by Tomotake Ishikawa [2012]), selected films and manga. The chapter argues that the discussed texts have departed from the historic/nationalistic notion of suicide as noble death in favour of a more Gothic positioning of the theme. This Gothic dimension is realised predominantly through the construction of the characters and the bleak landscapes they inhabit. Alienated from society; often living in self-imposed exile; prone to depression, or other forms of mental illness; trapped in toxic, dysfunctional relationships and elaborate masochistic rituals, these melancholy individuals accept suicide with fatalistic abandon as an inevitable conclusion to their insignificant lives, or embrace it as the ultimate act of non-conformism and defiance against authority. The chapter also examines apocalyptic visions of ‘nightmare Japan’ in films like Sion Sono’s controversial Suicide Circle (2001) and the manga it inspired (Furuya  Ukamaru, 2002), where suicide becomes symbolic of the ways that adults have failed the younger generations.

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