An unspecified disaster has rendered Japan into a nightmarish world where the old are cursed with perpetual youth and the youth with early deaths. It is a world devoid of wildlife, a closeted and parochial world which Japan has cut itself off from; foreign languages are largely banned and the memories of anything vaguely foreign, from food to culture slowly fades from the consciousness of the people. Although Tawada is able to skilfully construct a dystopian future where free thought is gradually impinged by an increasingly draconian government, where the relationships between people are gradually sundered beneath a hazy sea of indifference and where the world as we know is transformed into one devoid of any sense of humanity, this is also the weakness of the novel, as the characters, perhaps intentionally, read as hollowed-out human beings, two-dimensional husks of humanity whose thought are so surreal and strange that the reader struggles to build any empathy for them.
The dystopia depicted by Tawada isn’t one of great violence, but one where humanity is slowly losing its sense of self beneath a fog of increasingly supercilious and surreal set of emotions. Tawada’s novel is an interesting, if ultimately unsuccessful take on the dystopian novel.