'Wonderful Fool' goes where Western novelists cannot. Endo just gets on with the story. He doesn't try to define or psychoanalyse Japan. He is not obsessed with geisha or tea ceremonies or ascents of Mt Fuji. However, in the minutiae of the narration, there is much over which Japanophiles can get excited. (Although it was written some 50 years ago, the novel reveals a fairly modern Japan).
The snapshots of Tokyo are great. We get a taste of seedy-Tokyo, gangster-Tokyo, business-Tokyo, after-work Tokyo and suburban Tokyo. Are these snapshots real or pure fiction? Who cares! They leave the Lonely Planet guide for dead.
Endo's action scenes are an unexpected treat and call to mind manga. There is something quintessentially Japanese about their delivery. The whole of the translation is the same. I love the choice of words and phrases - the English is flawless yet it has a ring of scholarly foreigness about it. Mixed with violence - which is graphic enough (shovels are brought down emphatically on heads, outstretched hands are stomped on) - is comedy. There are some extremely funny moments in this novel.
In addition, the story is layered perfectly and excitement mounts as the climax draws nigh. The end, unfortunately, is a bit of a let down. But since it's such an irrepresible book, and since I received such an entertaining insider guide through Tokyo, I got over this disappointment quite quickly.