A couple of cleanup points.
MR3, part 2-c: Helter Skelter by Okazaki (cont.)
by Tom Crippen
meta-UPDATE: I analyze Helter Skelter‘s art, with a helpful image bank of the work’s visual characteristics, right … about … here.
UPDATE: Bill and Noah are agreed that the “To be continued” notice is a joke only. Ah well. The story still winds up in a very odd and unexpected place, the Asada-Ririko connection is not explained (as far as I could tell), and the story is apparently continuing full steam ahead even if the author never intended to tell more of it. So maybe we don’t have a fragment, but, uh, it ought to have been a fragment. Oh, never mind.
UPDATE 2: The dialogue in Helter Skelter is quite good, very much especially Ririko’s interview patter and the teen fans’ little exchanges. I have no idea who the translator is, but as well as being a public benefactor he/she has a good ear.
Given that the plot of Helter Skelter leaves us unimpressed, it’s worth noting that we have only the first half of the book. The first half of a routine action movie, to take one example, might be all you needed to tell that the second half would also be routine. But Helter Skelter has some odd things going on in its story, and during the second half they might have led the book into territory that created an entirely new context for the elements that Noah and I found so trite. Or maybe not. But we are forming our judgments about the story and theme on the basis of a very large fragment, not a whole.
When I say “some odd things,” I mean two things: 1) the nutty police detective, and 2) Ririko’s sadomasochistic affair with her gofer, Hada. The roles of the detective (his name is Asada) and Hada seemed clear enough thru the first few chapters. Hada was there to be a doormat and let us see what a beast Ririko was. The cop was there to delve into the dark doings behind Ririko’s creation, to bring about justice at the end of the story, and in the meantime to give us some relief from Ririko’s twisted bitchiness and that of her milieu. By chapter nine my assumptions had all been undermined. The cop wasn’t just a quirky Joe Sensitive with his own intuitive way of getting at a problem; apparently he and Ririko were supposed to share some sort of telepathic connection and to have known each other in past lives. Hada wasn’t just getting stepped on, she was also — how does one say? — getting into the relationship. This second point doesn’t receive a lot of airtime in the story, but stray captions and pieces of dialogue indicate that the erotic power games forced on her by Ririko added up to the best sex of Hada’s life.
To tell the truth, I don’t especially like either development and they don’t seem all that original. They strike me as baroque flourishes of the sort indy films over here use to tickle their audiences. But I didn’t see them coming, and the business with the detective certainly indicates that there’s a lot more we have to learn before we really have a line on Ririko.
The end of the first half, with Ririko still alive and beautiful years after her day was supposed to be done, points up a theme that is certainly present in the book but that I assumed was subsidiary. I mean the theme of the star as survivor who will do whatever it takes to stay on top and will not allow herself to be beaten. There’s a reason Mama chose Ririko for starmaking when there were so many other desperate, homely girls. Presumably, the reason is that Ririko just won’t quit, will not let herself sink. The theme is a perennial in star biographies and divasploitation, so seeing it here is not a surprise. But I assumed the main point was that the sinister beauty clinic had made Ririko and that the end of the story would come when Ririko and the clinic were both undone. Get to chapter 9 and those assumptions are in very poor shape.