Rasen / Spiral Review (Koji Suzuki, 1995)

Rasen / Spiral Review (Koji Suzuki, 1995)

English Title Spiral
Japanese Title Rasen
Kana Title らせん
Author Koji Suzuki
Release Date 1995
Publisher Kadokawa Shoten
Series Ringu
Sub Genre Science Fiction

To give Rasen a fair shot it’s important to take note of the year in which it was released. Published four years after its predecessor Ringu, yet three years before Hideo Nakata’s smash hit adaptation, Rasen is entirely Koji Suzuki’s baby, which as time has gone on isn’t the interpretation of the Ringu series that we (at least in the West) accept.

Ringu is Suzuki’s story, but Nakata’s film swayed heavily towards being something of a neo-kaidan, playing up Sadako’s role as a classic onryo and leaving much of the science fiction of a vengeful smallpox virus behind. It’s this split in ideology that made the original film a success, but also left the sequel novels at odds with the movies.

The Rasen movie of course released on the very same day as Ringu, was instantly forgotten to history. Aside from the dubious decision to release a film and its sequel on the very same day, Rasen is somewhat incompatible with Nakata’s idea of what Ringu is, and so we ended up with Nakata’s Ringu 2, and the Koji Suzuki penned sequel was then removed from chronology (at least temporarily).

So what is Rasen exactly? Rasen follows shortly after the events of Ringu. Ryuji is dead having succumbed to Sadako’s Curse, and by sheer coincidence, a school friend of Ryuji’s, Ando is tasked with his autopsy. Convinced that Ruiji is attempting to communicate with him in death, Ando takes it upon himself to investigate the mystery behind the cursed videotape as Sadako’s curse begins anew.

And whilst it’s unfair to attest to what a ‘Ring’ product should be to a 1995 Koji Suzuki, thee years before the movie adaptation codified what the series would forever be in the eyes of readers, the book still struggles to be a worthwhile read in its own right. The book straddles the somewhat paradoxical line of being far too reverent to the events of the Ring whilst completely disregarding its tone and mythology.

Yet despite this obsession with the mystery of Ringu, as with the rewriting of characters, Suzuki appears bored with the mythology of the first novel. Revenge and the supernatural make way for genetic explanation of the first novel, and using science that really doesn’t make much sense. This change isn’t completely out of the blue, with the possibility of the smallpox virus being a player in Ringu, but stripping away many of the onryo specifics of the curse is disappointing.

The biggest problem with Rasen however is that we essentially have a mystery novel in which the mystery in question is the events of the first book. The narrative follows new protagonist Ando as he attempts to uncover the events behind his school friend’s death, and yet the reader is already well aware of what happened. Rasen feels like little more than a decontextualizing of the Ring. And yet in adding nothing to new to the mythology the book is quite the slog to get through.

Towards the end of the book there is a passage which reads “Everything was just where the text said it would be. By virtue of having read Ring, Ando and Miyashita had already “seen” the place. From the smell of the air to the feel of the dirt beneath their feet, they had experienced everything as Asakawa had.” While the second half is stronger than the first it’s shocking how it includes multiple admissions of the reader having read all of this before.

This is intentional of course, with a document referred to as The Ring Report being referenced throughout. If Rasen has anything on its side it is its own meta textuality. Not only does the book reference back to Ring in a way that purposefully implicated the reader in its curse, but in a touch of its own clairvoyance, successfully anticipates the Ring phenomenon to come. Probably little more than wishful thinking on Suzuki’s part, but impressive nonetheless.

If this was with some deeper purpose I could understand, however it feels as though Suzuki really wanted to write his follow up to Rasen, Loop and have it tie in to Ringu, his biggest hit. This results essentially in a simple retcon book with barely any notable events of its own. Rasen is all about rendering the conclusions reached in Ringu as invalid, yet is obsessed with its events. By now you’re probably thinking I’m simply reiterating the same point over and over, simply in a different context, and you’d be right. This is basically the experience of reading Rasen in review form.

Rasen is a nugget of a great science fiction, body horror novel wrapped up in an unfortunate repetitious retelling of the first book. On its own, the last quarter could have made for a fantastic short as part of Suzuki’s anthology Ringu book, Birthday. Suzuki must have known this as that’s exactly what happened. By far the most successful horror sequence in the book shows up again as the first story in Birthday, only from a different characters point of view.

 

As a result, Rasen is a pretty hard book to recommend. While its meta textual approach is impressive, the time it takes to birth anything interesting is far too long. With the book’s new focus on science fiction and its sole horror scene being repeated in one of the sequel novels it’s also a hard one to recommend to fans of the movies. Expectations aside however, the book spends far too long investigating the events of the previous book to be interesting to even science fiction fans.

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About author

Craig Hatch
Craig Hatch 35 posts

Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.

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Editor review

Rating
2/5

2

Fair
2
Summary

Rasen is a nugget of a great science fiction, body horror novel wrapped up in an unfortunate repetitious retelling of the first book. While its meta textual approach is impressive, the time it takes to birth anything interesting is far too long.