Friday, October 19, 2012


In the manga Flowers of Evil by Shuzo Oshimi, the protagonist Kasuga is repeatedly told by his classmate Nakamura that he's a pervert. Kasuga insists that he isn't, even though he had impulsively stolen the gym clothes of the girl he loves. Who is right? The end of volume two may provide an indication. But earlier in that volume there's a very revealing clue, though only those who read Japanese can pick it up.

The bottom panel on page 82 depicts a bookshelf in Kasuga's room. For several of the books on it, enough of the spine is showing that we can determine the title and/or author. Most of these are unexceptionable books for an intelligent, literature-loving high schooler to own.* But the book in the most prominent position, adjacent to Kasuga's dialogue balloon, is Kachikujin Yapuu, also known as Yapoo the Human Cattle.

Yapoo the Human Cattle, by Shozo Numa, is a "classic" Japanese novel of male masochism. It's about an aristocratic German woman and her Japanese fiance, who fall into the hands of a future interstellar empire in which descendants of East Asians are regarded as subhuman and permanently treated as animals or in even more degrading ways. In the course of the book the Japanese man is reduced to the status of an animal, and his fiancee comes to think of him as an animal. (In fact the book is even more extreme than this description makes it sound, but I think I've said enough to make my point, and I don't want to turn reader's stomachs unnecessarily.) This sounds like something you would find in the darkest corners of the internet, but a number of Japanese critics and writers have taken it seriously as literature. (For an example, see here.) It's been repeated multiple times since it was first published in 1956, and is still in print.

In view of the way Oshimi calls attention to Kasuga's ownership of Yapoo the Human Cattle, my answer to the question posed in the title of this post is "Yes, he probably is."

*The author of the book to the right of the photograph is the French novelist J. K. Huysmans, not J. K. Rowling.

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