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The Cage [Perfect Paperback]

Kenzo Kitakata
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 5 2006
Kazuya Takino leads a quiet life running a supermarket in the Tokyo suburbs. But when an extortionist tries to force him out of business, he finds himself drawn into the yakuza underworld-a world he once called home and thought he had left behind. Pursuing him is Detective Takagi, an aficionado of French cigarettes and modernist poetry, the most decorated inspector on the Tokyo police force. As the shadowy Maruwa gang engages Takino in an escalating cycle of violence and retaliation, Detective Takagi can only stand by and watch as the beast within Takino is lured further and further out of his cage.

A towering masterpiece of the hardboiled genre, The Cage is at once a searing portrayal of the violence of the Japanese underworld and a tender mediation of the ties of love and friend that can save men from madness-or plunge them deeper into it.

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Review

"...a decent dark Japanese underworld thriller." - The Complete Review

"I was extremely pleased with this book, as I was with "Ashes" and "Winter Sleep"." -Novedge

About the Author

Kenzo Kitakata is the undisputed don of hardboiled and mystery writing in Japan, where he has received numerous literary awards. The Cage won the Japan Mystery Writers Association Award and is his third novel to appear in English. His American debut Ashes was one of Las Vegas Mercury's 10 Best Novels of 2003, a BookSense Selection, and a Village Voice Summer Read.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Story's Strength is in the Plot March 30 2008
By Debra Purdy Kong TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Perfect Paperback
Supermarket owner, Kazuya Takino isn't overly happy with his life. His marriage has grown stale and running a supermarket for the past five years is hardly a thrill a minute, especially for a man who once belonged to a gang. When dead rats show up in his freezers and red dye in the jugs of milk, Takino treats this as more of an annoyance than a catastrophe. He's a resourceful guy and not one to back down from a fight. While he's sorting out business problems, Takino takes a mistress and tries to help old friend and former gang member, Takayasu, get a thug named Sugimura and his girlfriend out of Japan. And that's when things get complicated. Not only are the police after the escapees, but so is a powerful gang.

The underlying tone of emptiness, monotony, and disenchantment make this story part noir and part police procedural, as point of view switches increasingly to the detective who's investigating Sugimura's disappearance. Adding to the bleak tone and tension, is what's not being said between characters. Unfortunately, this also made it difficult to connect with them. Despite all of Takino's inner monologue, he wasn't a character I warmed up to. And given his actions, I didn't care what happened to him, or others, by the end of the story.

Also difficult was the similarity of many Japanese names. Takino, Takayasu and Takagi are three main character names which took time to sort out. And don't get me started on the numerous street and city names--they all just blurred together. Readers familiar with Japanese geography or the language won't find this a problem, and since this novel was translated to English, the primary audience was likely Japanese readers. If you want some insight to the country's middle-class life, gangs, and police methodology, then THE CAGE is worth reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Yakuza Story With Depth Sept. 24 2006
By Bruce Critchley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Perfect Paperback|Verified Purchase
The two main characters, one a gangster, the other a cop, are both just going through the motions of living. Their emotional lives are a barren wasteland. They are heavy drinkers, they have mind-numbing hobbies, and families that hold no interest for them. The cop feels he has great insight into the gangster, but that is only because the gangster's behavior is so overt. He doesn't recognize the same traits in himself, which makes for a nicely complex cat-and-mouse game.

The narrative tension builds gradually, but continues building right to the very last page. Along the way, we are served up a compelling plot, as well as rich insights into the details of life and crime in Tokyo. I caught myself humming audibly with anticipation as events came to their very satisfying conclusion.

I was extremely pleased with this book, as I was with "Ashes" and "Winter Sleep" (of which I am still the only reviewer as of today - hasn't anyone discovered Kitakata yet?) Please buy this book to encourage his publishers to hurry up an translate more of his work!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirring Crime Fiction from Japan March 11 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Perfect Paperback
Takino has lead a quiet life for the past six years. He runs a small, local supermarket in Tokyo with his beautiful wife. But he used to be yakuza. When an extortion racket comes round demanding he sell his store and his land, Takino can't comprehend what the fuss is all about. When digs deeper, he digs himself into a hole from which there is no escape.

This is a brilliant noir crime novel set in 80s Japan. It's bleak and hardboiled. Well-paced, the book is a smooth read that builds to a crescendo of consuming (yet not senseless) violence. Highly recommended.
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow noir Sept. 7 2013
By Ed Battistella - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Perfect Paperback
The Cage by is Kenzo Kitakata's 1983 novel about a yakuza gangster, recently (2006) translated from the Japanese. Kazuye Takino is a former gangster, running a supermarket owned by his invalid father-in-law. Through a combination of events and character he finds himself drawn back in and eventually encountering Detective Tagaki, a poetry reading, brandy drinking detective known as The Old Dog. It's hardboiled, nourish fiction, which reminds me in some ways of Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key--the pacing, style and moral ambiguity of the characters. The story began slowly, I thought, but as the action unfolded and Tagaki was introduced (on page 90!), things picked up and moved to an interesting resolution.
4.0 out of 5 stars Listen and listen good: Japanese noir Jan. 14 2011
By TChris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Perfect Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you can get past the cliché-peppered prose -- everything from "listen and listen good" to a character who "cased the joint" -- The Cage tells an appealing story about Japanese gangsters and cops that's fun to read. I don't know whether to blame the clichés on Kenzo Kitakata (maybe familiar phrases from 1940's gangster movies aren't clichés in Japanese) or on a lazy translator (the more likely culprit), but they are an irritating impediment to full enjoyment of the novel's lively plot.

Takino owns a supermarket; his wife runs a coffee shop on the building's second floor. We suspect that Takino is a dangerous man with an interesting past when a supermarket chain tries to force him to sell his business -- an action the chain's representatives soon regret. Resolving that problem seems to give Takino a taste for the violence he thought he had left in the past. When Takino learns that his friend Takayasu is in a jam, he volunteers to help. The police are trying to find a yakuza named Sugimura because they want him to testify against the Maruwa gang concerning an apparent drug-related murder. For reasons that are not made clear until midway through the novel, the Murawa gang is also after Sugimura. To further complicate the story, Sugimura's lover Reiko is the daughter of a Murawa boss. Takayasu has agreed to smuggle Sugimura and Reiko out of Japan but he's being watched by the police and the gang. Takino takes over the job.

Kitakata reveals Takino's checkered past as the story unfolds. Although Takino's life as a supermarket owner is superficially bland (he drinks plenty of cold coffee and carves pipes out of briar in scenes that slow the action a bit too much), Takino occupies the remainder of his free time with a more interesting pursuit -- cheating on his wife. Readers who need to like the characters in order to enjoy a book might want to skip The Cage because Takino isn't a particularly sympathetic guy. He feels intense loyalty to his friend Takayasu but doesn't seem to feel much of anything for his wife or girlfriend. Apart from Takino, the characters (including a hard-drinking police detective, a private investigator who is a reformed criminal, and women who seem to specialize in worshiping their men without griping about what jerks they are) aren't particularly fresh. The main attraction of this novel is the plot, which includes some fast-paced action scenes, interesting twists, and a suspenseful climax.

Given the novel's uneven pace, lackluster characters, and trite noir prose, it's difficult to work up much enthusiasm for the novel, even though the story is good. I would give 4 1/2 stars to the plot, 3 1/2 to the characters, and 2 to the prose, for an overall 3 1/2 star rating.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Story's Strength is in the Plot July 14 2008
By Debra Purdy Kong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Perfect Paperback
Supermarket owner, Kazuya Takino isn't overly happy with his life. His marriage has grown stale and running a supermarket for the past five years is hardly a thrill a minute, especially for a man who once belonged to a gang. When dead rats show up in his freezers and red dye in the jugs of milk, Takino treats this as more of an annoyance than a catastrophe. He's a resourceful guy and not one to back down from a fight. While he's sorting out business problems, Takino takes a mistress and tries to help old friend and former gang member, Takayasu, get a thug named Sugimura and his girlfriend out of Japan. And that's when things get complicated. Not only are the police after the escapees, but so is a powerful gang.

The underlying tone of emptiness, monotony, and disenchantment make this story part noir and part police procedural, as point of view switches increasingly to the police officer in charge of investigating Sugimura's disappearance. Adding to the bleak tone and tension, is what's not being said between characters. Unfortunately, this also made it difficult to connect with them. Despite all of Takino's inner monologue, he wasn't a character I warmed up to. And given his actions, I didn't care what happened to him, or others, by the end of the story.

Also difficult was the similarity of many Japanese names. Takino, Takayasu and Takagi are three main character names which took time to sort out. And don't get me started on the numerous street and city name so they all just blurred together. If you're familiar with Japanese geography or the language, though, this won't be a problem, and since this novel was translated to English, the primary audience was likely Japanese readers. Still, if you want some insight to the country's middle-class life, gangs, and police methodology, then THE CAGE is worth reading.
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