Parade by Shūichi Yoshida: A Slow-Burn Psychological Exploration of the Darkness Beneath Monotonous City-Living – Book Review

Parade by Shūichi Yoshida is a Japanese psychological mystery story about four distinct individuals who all reside in a small two-bedroom Tokyo apartment. How these four came to be together is a matter of happenstance due to life’s quirky humour. They end up developing a friendship that they don’t even realise exists. Their connection to one another grows to be more attuned than they could have imagined.

You have Ryōsuke Sugimoto, a college student who ends up starting an affair with someone taboo. Kotomi Okochi is a young woman that devotedly sits by the telephone awaiting a former boyfriend’s call for random sex. Mirai Sōma is another young lady who goes out drinking every night, sharing late night theatrics with a bunch of gay men. Finally, there’s Naoki Ihara, the responsible one of the four-some, who works long hours as an aspiring filmmaker.

This hodgepodge of individuality forms the fleshy blob that resides in apartment 401. Day in and day out they share minute details of their daily lives—no matter how scandalous—like a distant relative asking for you to pass the butter at the breakfast table. While their conversations are casual and relaxed, beneath the glaze of each of them, resides dark secrets from their pasts that have been meticulously incubated through trials and tribulations of being an adolescent and then an adult. The result of this situation reveals itself through actions that are taken during the two-hundred-thirty some-odd pages of the novel.

The book is written in five chapters with each one from the perspective of one of the characters, and an additional enigmatic individual, a person that tosses the precarious balance that the four-some have developed into array, which then creates a cause-and-effect situation that makes the reading even more bizarre. Each point-of-view is expressed in great detail, taking into account the ambience of city life. Everything is very fast-paced and bustling amid the environment. There is a scene described where one of the roommates is watching the autonomy of cars stopping and going at a lighted intersection. This natural order of things is an element of the city that fascinates him; these cars moving and stopping without ever getting into an accident. Then there’s another scene that takes place in an office, where folx wearing suits, ties, and stockings shuffle papers and answer phone calls, illustrating the typical work-day of another character. These seemingly inconsequential bits come together to convey an in-depth examination of the monotonous functionality and routine of city living.

While this may sound boring, and it just may be for folx that prefer more speedy narrative progressions, but for those that don’t mind the methodical slow-burn, it’s quite engrossing. Even though I live in a small city (so to speak), I rarely step outside of my own home. To be able to get a glimpse of how things work in a totally different atmosphere than what I’m familiar with is very exciting, almost voyeuristic even.

The prose is judicious, intellectual, and scrupulous with anecdotes and life-lessons hidden away in drunken or vulnerable situations. On some level, I began to develop a love-hate relationship with each of the characters. I adored certain traits (e.g.: bluntness and kindness), but I couldn’t resist the urge to loathe the more idiotic choices these kids kept making out of fear and a strange sense of comfort. It can be heavily frustrating, yet simultaneously salacious and irresistible. It bitch-slapped me in the face with my own fears and denial about certain aspects of my life that I’m not great at dealing with head-on. It definitely makes you realise that you can’t know everything there is to know of any one person.

All in all, Parade is a deeply provocative novel with complex characters, and a slow-burn execution. The diligent way it’s written makes you want to focus on every word to get all parts of the larger picture, which isn’t a bad thing, but it can stir occasional disconnection and some restlessness during binge reading sessions. The book is also a bit anti-climactic. You go on and on absorbing information about four people, hoping for some kind of catastrophic explosion at the end, but it never arrives. When a shocking revelation finally drops, it’s done so in such a matter-of-fact and aloof way that it can leave behind a residue of mild unsatisfaction as well as some bewilderment. While it works for this book, it’s not something everyone can pick up and enjoy, and not something that will work for other books.

For readers that need more action, or fast-paced occurrences within a novel to hook your interest, then you should probably pass on Parade. The bulk of the “action” just won’t be worth it to you. Nonetheless, if you are the type of person who enjoys reading about wholly complicated people with some deep, dark shite hiding underneath their everyday masks of “normalcy,” then Parade will be a treat for your brain and I RECOMMEND it wholeheartedly.

Publication Date: July 2014
Publisher: Vintage
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Genre
: Japanese Literature
Page Count: 240
Content Warnings: Strong language. Sexual content including infidelity. Unwanted sexual advances. Mention of murder, muggings, and disappearances in local city. Passive aggressiveness and brief gaslighting. Some fatphobia, queerphobia, sexism, and misogyny. Drinking, smoking, and mild drug use.
Availability: In-print; eBook and Paperback editions available

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