Customer Reviews


42 Reviews
5 star:
 (10)
4 star:
 (17)
3 star:
 (12)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than a crime novel, intriguing and atmospheric
Like many people I am reading an increasing number of crime novels from nationalities other than British and American. Therefore when I saw Villain I was intrigued to see what a Japanese take on the genre was like. It also helped to see that the translator is Philip Gabriel who has translated several of Haruki Murakami's novels. I will admit that it took a while to get...
Published on 18 Aug. 2010 by I Readalot

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather disappointing
I had high hopes of this book - it sounded insightful and engrossing, with a fine evocation of some important aspects of Japanese society and other very thoughtful reviewers here think highly of it. In the end, though, for me it didn't quite manage to be any of these things.

The book is slow in pace, which I often like and which can be very effective, but here...
Published on 26 July 2011 by Sid Nuncius


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than a crime novel, intriguing and atmospheric, 18 Aug. 2010
By 
I Readalot (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
Like many people I am reading an increasing number of crime novels from nationalities other than British and American. Therefore when I saw Villain I was intrigued to see what a Japanese take on the genre was like. It also helped to see that the translator is Philip Gabriel who has translated several of Haruki Murakami's novels. I will admit that it took a while to get into this but I was hooked from about page 30. However it is not fast paced and if you are looking for that type of crime then this is probably not for you.

Near the beginning we learn that a young construction worker has been arrested for the brutal murder of Yoshino Ishibashi. Is he guilty? If he is why did it do it? We are then taken back in time and through multiple perspectives the story unfolds, basically ending where it began.

The murder of Yoshino is the crime that carries the narrative, but Villain is more than a crime novel. It is a story of disaffected youth, the generation relying increasingly on modern technology to meet people and, through boredom, a desire for excitement, moved to take risks. It might be set in Japan but these young people could come from almost anywhere in the developed, technologically advanced world. It also emphasises the increasing emphasis on appearance, the wanting to look different but still fit in, in particular with regard to hairstyles - Yoshino's parents run a barber shop - Japanese youngsters are inclined to be more extreme than many of their western counterparts.

It also explores the way that Japan is changing. Japan is influencing western culture while at the same time the younger generations in Japan are becoming increasingly 'westernised', turning away from the traditions and ritual of their parents. In consequence the different generations find it hard to communicate, to understand each other. Parents becoming oblivious to what their children are really like and how they spend their time.

At the end of the novel I felt as if I was being asked to decide for myself who the real 'Villain' is. Is it the murderer, or one of the other characters, including the victim herself? Or is the real 'Villain' the technological, fast moving society itself, with many youngsters spending more time 'talking' to strangers online then they do in real life. I also found myself wondering about Yuichi's actions towards the end, why does he really behave in this way?

You can read this as a straight crime novel, albeit more a psychological exploration of why the crime was committed than 'whodunnit', but the more I think about the actions, motives and behaviour of the characters the more interesting and intriguing this novel becomes.

Villain is a dark novel but at times it is also very moving and emotional, particularly the last chapter. I will definitely read the next novel by Yoshida, I hope someone is in the process of translating it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Completely different, 14 Nov. 2010
By 
Pen pal "Topaz" (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
It was very interesting to take a glimpse at a totally different culture through the pages of this novel. We all live in such a cyber society these days, but the Japanese even more so than us it seems. The feelings of isolation and loneliness and quiet desperation from some of the characters is quite frightening. There is also the juxtaposition of old world versus new in the depiction of the generation gap between grandparent and grandchild -the different values and the increasing alienation. In amongst all this we have a murder and a strange kind of love story. Strange because it is not really conventional, but intense all the same. You feel in this book that everybody is searching for something and it really epitomises the emptiness of lives increasingly spent in seclusion, or in shallow behaviour. To talk too much about the plot itself would give too much away, and to my mind ruin the experience of reading the book. Who is the real villain in this book, are the people involved totally to blame, is society to blame, where does all the anger come from, is its source external or internal,and how far will people go for love?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and gritty with an emotionally heavy storyline..., 23 Oct. 2011
By 
Chris Hall "DLS Reviews" (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First published in Japanese under the title 'Akunin' back in April of 2007, Japanese novelist Shuichi Yoshida saw his novel later becoming translated by Philip Gabriel for its English language re-release in August of 2010.

DLS Synopsis:
On a cold winter's night, on the quiet mountainside road known as the Mitsuse Pass in Southern Japan, young and moderately attractive insurance saleswoman Yoshino Ishibashi is found murdered along the deserted roadside. Signs of strangulation can clearly be seen on her discarded body.

As the police begin their intensive investigation, popular college student Keigo Masuo quickly becomes the prime suspect. The last anyone saw of Yoshino was when two of her close friends left her on the night of her murder to meet with Keigo who, as Yoshino informed her friends, she was starting an intimate relationship with.

But no one can locate the young college student. The last his friends have seen of him was a few days ago. However, as the police investigate the circumstances surrounding the young girl's death, they discover that she had been frequenting online dating sites, from which she had already met up with a few men.

Gradually, a not-so-innocent picture of the young Yoshino's private life begins to unfold. Claims of prostitution begin to emerge across the media, shaming her distraught parents further. And then, slowly but surely, the light of suspicion begins to fall instead towards a timid twenty-seven-year-old construction worker named Yuichi Shimizu who Yoshino was beginning a secret relationship with.

It quickly becomes apparent that Yuichi was also there that night. The young couple had arranged to meet for a late-night date. But Yoshino had told everyone she was meeting with Keigo - who it now looks as if is on the run. Further still, when the police begin to look into Yuichi's connection with the victim, they find that the young car enthusiast has taken off with a lonely shop assistant named Mitsuyo Magome in tow, leaving behind his confused and disbelieving grandmother.

Somehow all of the pieces of the puzzle must come together to reveal what really happened to Yoshino that night. The two young men on the run must have their reasons for running, and have their own stories to tell of what part they had to play that fateful night. Everyone has their own motivations for the actions they take. Events happen that twist and turn the course of life's direction. None more powerful than with true love. And so as the families try their best to pick the shattered pieces of their lives back up, the hunt is on for the real killer of Yoshino Ishibashi, and hopefully an explanation as to why?...

DLS Review:
Having been translated from a Japanese novel, the first thing that jumps out at the reader is the sudden exposure to the lifestyles and broad culture within Japan, with the novel having been written originally for a Japanese audience, the text takes certain cultural and logistical references for granted, which a more European reader is often largely unfamiliar with. However, this doesn't seem to erect any real barriers with the understanding, clarity or enjoyment of the tale. If anything, it adds a culturally-intriguing quality to the storyline as well as enhancing the overall backdrop for the plot.

After laying down a broad cross-section of many of the principal characters involved and that of their immediate families, the author works through a brief sketch of the run-up to the murder, all in a mildly understated fashion. From here, the tale then reverts back to the characters involved, and how they each interacted with the murder victim before her death and then their resulting lives afterwards.

An air of mystery lingers over the two principal suspects, with the author gradually unravelling the actual events that really took place prior to the murder, which ultimately reveals Yoshino's true killer. And in doing so, the reader is repeatedly thrown off-guard, with numerous unforeseen motivations and unexpected emotional twists becoming the most impactful elements to the tale.

Emotionally, this is certainly a complex novel. Love and the birth of close relationships become a driving factor behind the development of the tale. Indeed, behind much of the novel's structure is a very subdued coming-of-age storyline that flickers between a gritty reality and a passionate conception of a developing relationship.

The subject of sex is explored in a very coarse and raw fashion. Much of this is due to the recurring ties with prostitution, the more sordid sides to online-dating, and indeed the nervous sexual exploration of Yuichi Shimizu. 'Love hotels' are introduced to the less aware readers (myself being one), as well as a brief glimpse into the emotionally stagnant environment of brothels and their workers.

Much of the novel is very hard-hitting with its modern-day grittiness. It's often bleak outlook is atmospheric as well as unsettling. Where the novel's real strength lies is with the bonds it forms with the readers as well as the raw emotions that are exposed in all their fragile glory throughout the tale's length.

The ending is very suiting and (once again) emotionally powerful. Its quiet subtlety fits in perfectly with the latter progression of the tale, rounding off the novel with a well-executed final message, and a last exposure of exactly what sort of individuals the characters truly are.

The tale was later adapted into the 2010 film of the same name, which was directed by Lee Sang-il. The film received high acclaim and went on to win a total of five Japan Academy Awards in 2011.

The novel runs for a total of 295 pages.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cleverly constructed and thought provoking novel, 26 Aug. 2011
By 
John M "John M" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Firstly, let me say this book wasn't quite what I was expecting. Don't read it expecting it to be a thriller or even the 'half police procedural' that it says on the cover. Some readers expecting a high tension pot-boiling thriller are likely to be disappointed. However, those that enjoy a well crafted and written novel will no doubt not be.

This is a story set in the southern region of Japan around Nagasaki. It examines the events and lives of the characters surrounding the death of a young girl, Yoshino, whose body is found on a road in a lonely mountain pass showing she had been strangled. The events and characters surrounding her a carefully and cleverly revealed, showing she had a secret aspect of her life her close friends and family were unaware of. The book gives a very interesting perspective on aspects of Japanese life and attitudes, as we learn the identity of her killer, why she happened to be on the mountain road, and the reactions and fate of her kileer, friends and family. A very thought provoking, evocative and well crafted story that deals with aspects of responsibility and guilt.

The author is well known and celebrated in Japan, and I will certainly look out for more of his work in translation. Recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather disappointing, 26 July 2011
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had high hopes of this book - it sounded insightful and engrossing, with a fine evocation of some important aspects of Japanese society and other very thoughtful reviewers here think highly of it. In the end, though, for me it didn't quite manage to be any of these things.

The book is slow in pace, which I often like and which can be very effective, but here just seemed to drag for long periods. For example, endless descriptions of the intricacies of various local roads or listing exactly how many yen each course of a meal cost just seemed to me like tedious and pointless detail rather than building up a convincing backdrop. I found the characters (and there are many of them) rather thinly drawn and lacking real emotional depth, and although the story emerges gradually and rather skilfully, I found that the chopping between third person narrative and various first person internal monologues distracted rather than added to it.

I think part of the problem for me was the translation, which wasn't so much poor as inappropriate, in that it is very specifically American. I have no objection to this in principle, but it really got in the way of the evocation of provincial Japan. People go to the restroom and the barbershop, for example, which kept transporting me to the USA rather than Japan, and the young women sound like Californian airheads when they speak to each other. After being given a sinister description of the behaviour of the murderer, the narrative voice says, "That, indeed, was the kind of guy he was." This is a repressed, threatening, violent man and he calls him a "guy"? Things like this continually threw me out of the story, and although nothing is actually described as "totally awesome" I sometimes had the dreadful feeling that it might be.

So, I'm afraid I can't really recommend this book but do read the other reviews here before being put off by mine because there are plenty of others who liked it very much.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a Villain in all of us, 12 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book.

As with practically every read to come from outside the Western world, the story is alarmingly ambiguous and open, and affords the reader a chance to dislocate from the story template instilled into our minds by the sometimes garrotting Americanised culture that now blankets us all.

Villain weaves the story of many, many characters, the pinnacle of which lies with the Skyline driving Yuichi and the dormant Mitsuyo. This is indeed a crime novel - the synopsis of which is apparent right from the beginning - but this is categorically not a `whodunit': This is a tale of what people do when faced with a situation beyond their control, what they are capable of, and what they choose to believe in.

As such this is not an action packed book. It's a very, very slow burner, with arguably the first half of the book being `merely' set-up work for the story proper which commences around the page 150 mark. Rather than being `ploddy' and un-engaging; this build-up acts quite nicely as a chance for the reader to take this novel for what it is; a very Human story. It's different, believable and emotionally gripping.

There were points I found quite deflating however, and the story clunks into the wrong gear at points, but I enjoyed it through to the end, and the characters are very believable. Just don't expect to have a smile on your face throughout it. Villain, more so than anything else, is a window into the taboo chasms of how internally fractured we all are.

If you like crime with a palpable sense of reality and no `bells and whistles', this is definitely one to read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fatalism, 9 Sept. 2011
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Villain is a literary novel, originally written in Japanese, concerning a young woman Yoshino Ishibashi who is murdered one night in a remote and spooky mountain pass.

Unlike many thrillers, Villain does not concern itself with whodunnit. The culprit is quickly revealed and the novel centres far more on who he is, what makes him tick, and how he relates to those around him. In this sense, Yoshino is almost incidental - her murder is a salient episode in the Villain's life in terms of the personal consequence for him, but the act itself was no more meaningful than his prior relationship with a prostitute or with his subsequent relationship with a woman he met on the Internet.

The society described by Shuichi Yoshida seems to be very bleak. It is devoid of any real emotion or happiness. Connections between individuals seems to be at best superficial, often temporary and often inspired by connections made online. Contrary to expectations, most characters in Villain have money worries and prices are set out frequently. Many of the events that take place break down into individual (financial) transactions. This leads protagonists to find themselves evaluating whether they got good or poor value. It leads to a joyless life; a life of perpetual desperation and unsatisfied want.

Aficionados of Japanese novels will spot more than a passing resemblance to Natsuo Kirino's Real World where the focus of a murder was on the subsequent life on the run; the protagonist only felt really alive when competing in a real life (and short-lived) game of chase. If the idea behind Villain is borrowed, the execution does go beyond Real World. The characters feel more developed; there is more commentary on a soulless society; there is a more three-dimensional feel to the disaffected youth. There are also moments of great comedy - not least Fusae's ongoing battle with the health-food hucksters.

As thrillers go, Villain is slow moving and not especially thrilling, It deals in fatalism rather than dramatic tension. And the structure of five long, very distinct chapters makes it quite slow to take off. But when it does, it is a good literary novel that does offer some insight into a very different society to the Anglophone world. Some of the issues simply don't translate - apparently there is a dimension of social class in Japanese society which doesn't really come through. But that is a small thing; there is plenty enough that does shine through to make Villain a very well worthwhile read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deep and absorbing novel., 5 Aug. 2011
By 
J. Mcdonald "Yelochre" (Glasgow, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I began reading this thinking it was an ordinary crime novel, but as the narrative took shape I was rapidly sucked in by an extremely well-constructed piece of writing.
This is far more than a crime story - there are no smart detectives or complex police investigations here; the events are all focused on the side of the people directly involved - the families, friends, suspects, and the victim.
The picture that emerges of modern-day Japan is of desolate, empty lives; young people with shallow aspirations and older generations just going through the motions - alienation and loneliness are keynotes throughout the storyline and they are the elements that lead to the tragedy of the murder and its aftermath.
Yoshida weaves a very clever line; just when you think you have a character pegged, or the plot sussed, he will casually wrong-foot you; he engages your emotions with carefully constructed characters and incidents.
I was, at times, very moved by this book; it is a dark tale with an almost oppressive sadness underlying it, and yet the author manages to leave a glimmer of hope - there is a fortitude that emerges in the lives of some of the characters by the end, and I wouldn't want anyone to be put off reading it by its apparent darkness - quite the opposite - I was taken completely by surprise by this novel, quite the best I have read in some time. This has much greater depth than the "crime story" tag may lead you to believe - its not a quick thriller - it is a strong and literate novel that resonates long after reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Villain or victim?, 3 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
The last ten pages of this novel are quite intriguing. Is the killer actually a good guy, and others are at fault for his crime? Or is Yoshida satirizing the `blame culture'? It's somewhat ambiguous. One thing for sure is that this is no ordinary crime thriller. Anyone looking for dramatic twists will be disappointed, as there are only two suspects and one of them simply melts away. What we have is a rather fascinating insight into the everyday lives of ordinary people, their hidden desires and motivations. Nor is there any particularly notable suspense; the story just limps along, sometimes quite tediously, until the final ambiguity. Something that really spoils the narrative flow is the poor level of English composition. Philip Gabriel has quite a track record of translating Japanese fiction, but his phrasing in Villain is often clumsy and his dialogue highly unnatural. It's almost as if the manuscript hasn't been edited. This is undoubtedly the publisher's fault. But writing 'hikiji' for 'hijiki' (a kind of seaweed) is nothing short of careless - and coming from a Professor of Japanese, that kind of error is baffling. Perhaps Dr Gabriel wasn't particularly bothered about this one. A pity, as despite its failings, Villain has some worthy traits as alternative crime fiction offering a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Japanese - usually sordid, occasionally noble, never terribly desirable.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, riveting, 16 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Villain (Paperback)
This is not a crime novel. Crime novels, although entertaining, are often well executed works that take you by the hand and lead you through a journey of guesswork, and can often be summed up as a big puzzle.
This book is so much more than this.

If you enjoy Jane Austin, Gone With The Wind and such like, I believe that this is a book for you. From start to finish you live in a world populated by real people. People with needs and desires. Fallible, noble, contemptible, inspiring. These adjectives, and more, apply not each to a character, but all to almost every character. These are people as we know them, with circumstance and luck taking them to places no one would expect to find themselves.

My only reservation is the jarringly Americanised translation. For me part of the enjoyment is in experiencing a culture that I would not normally be able to access. Hopefully this novel will get the translation it deserves and I'll be able to re-read it in all its Japanese glory.

Having said this, don't let it put you off. It's a very rare event for me to be able to declare that a book has gone into my top ten all time favorites. This one has:)

I envy those of you who have this read to come.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Villain
Villain by Shuichi Yoshida (Paperback - 18 Aug. 2011)
£8.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews