Daniel Stafford's Reviews > In the Miso Soup

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami
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's review
Jun 23, 2010

really liked it

** spoiler alert ** This is a philosophical novel. I do not believe that In The Miso Soup is intended to be a thriller, and if it is perceived as such, that is due to the reader's own volition.

I believe that the issue presented in this small novel that is about a Japanese sex trade tour-guide first-hand experience with a serial killer is isolation.

The novel is not about the human monster that murders. The novel is about what this monster sees when he looks as other people; and how other people refuse to see what is inside themselves.

The way it is set up is the narrator is a sex trade tour-guide in a less-than-savory part of Tokyo. He is young, but has been doing this long enough to support himself and be good at what he does. Often (his count is about two hundred) he gets foreigners, mostly Americans, looking for a sexual adventure. One night, he gets a man by the name of Frank.

Frank, as it turns out, is a serial killer. After much is-he-a-murder is is revealed in a very violent episode of the book.

To me, the gore is secondary. However, the gore is necessary to involve the narrator in seeing that those getting murdered before his eyes, though not people he actually liked, are composed of the same flesh and blood as he: they have organs that he also has. As they cease to function, that which is inside him still function; and this is only due to the fact he has not been killed. He has been allowed to live.

After this scene of violence, the narrator and Frank leave the establishment, and thus begins the philosophy.


Frank grew up no knowing how to relate to people. As soon as it was determined that he was a killer (at an age for him that was well within his childhood), he was shuffled from prison to mental institution. He was lobotomized and medicated. But, he was never shown how to rehabilitate. He was never shown that he, too, was human.

As an adult, Frank was driven to kill again. The idea surveyed is that Frank started to see within others their own isolation – and their rejection of others. To Frank, others were just as bad as he was, if not worse.

A comparison is made: Frank is a Virus while others have devolved. Frank goes on to tell our narrator that viruses are necessary for human evolution; for what doesn't wipe out the species will encourage evolution.

The other issue is Japan. Frank explores that Japan has never been fully occupied. Even after the two bombs were dropped, the United States never fully occupied and conquered Nippon. There are a great many Western influences within Japan, but the isolation still seems to hold sway. Frank sees this as a problem with Japan; and, so does the narrator. This is were the semblance of a friendship takes root between the narrator and Frank the serial killer.

And it is with that dull glimmer of a friendship that Frank sees that there are those who are worth not killing, and truly savoring their lives as something good because they do not keep themselves in isolation.

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