A collection of short stories following two Japanese students who have share a morbid obsession/fascination with killers and acts of violence, Goth by Otsuichi isn’t my first foray into the Japanese horror genre but it’s certainly one of the best I’ve read that’s not originally a graphic novel.
“We were cruel, reptilian high school kids.”
Each short story involves a boy who views himself as ‘non-human’, and Morino, a girl who’s human but masquerades as non-human due to a past tragedy. These two are the aforementioned students who share a morbid obsession/fascination with killers and acts of violence, and on the surface, they appear to be of the same kind. However, dig a little deeper and their differences in terms of being human VS ‘non-human’ becomes clear such as the presence of their fears and whatnot. This then, allows the reader to ponder on topics like human cruelty and violence (because the real monsters here are ‘non-human’ humans), psychosis, and as implied earlier, what it takes to be human.
What I greatly enjoyed while reading this collection is the way Otsuichi plays with the narratives. For most of the book, he sticks to the first-person narrative and that allows for brilliant twists to take place and be revealed later on. However, as this is a collection of short stories rather than a novel, there are moments where descriptions appear repetitive and redundant or lacking, but there are also moments where the prose is immensely beautiful.
Other than that, I really appreciate how the short stories here are more ‘complete’ in the sense that they aren’t simply just a ‘moment’ or merely focused on the creation of the mood rather than the plot. It makes them all the more intriguing, and it also provides more food for thought, clearly showing Otsuichi’s brilliance in making what’s supposed to be ‘non-human’ human.
That aside, one would think that Goth would be a terrifying read due to its genre, and it is because the detached way the boy observes the world is chilling. But, there are moments when I shed tears as well which I found surprising because I didn’t think I’d cry while reading horror. Though, recalling it now makes sense to me due to the human VS ‘non-human’ aspect of this book.
All in all, Goth is a book I’d highly recommend to those who are looking for another great Japanese horror in which the good and evil aren’t simply divided as though they’re just black and white, to read. However, do note that although the blurb of this book makes it appear like Morino is the main character, the narratives are never in her point of view. In fact, there are some short stories where she plays no more than the supporting character role.