The book: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle might be the Murakmi-est of Marukami’s novels. It ticks off a list of several recurring motifs in his writing, including vanishing women, passive men, symbolic cats and sudden shifts into the realm of bizarre magic realism. There’s a bone-deep melancholy to the allegorical tale of an unwittingly unraveling marriage. But Murakami makes a fascinating choice to pair the intimate tale of two people falling out of love with a digression into the history of Japan’s atrocities in Manchuria during World War II, something the Japanese tend to gloss over. Early on, the protagonist meets an elderly veteran of Japan’s China campaign who recounts the horrors he’s witnessed committed by every nation involved, the horror of which still haunts him and erodes his confidence in his country and culture. Murakami pairs a couple whose breakdown in communication ruptures their marriage, thematically playing that off of Japan’s unwillingness to face to its own history of atrocities.
A representative passage:
Before long, the entire skin of Yamamoto’s right arm had come off in a single thin sheet. The skinner handed it to the man beside him, who held it open in his fingertips, circulating among the others to give them a good look. All the while, blood kept dripping from the skin. Then the officer turned to Yamamoto’s left arm, repeating the procedure. After that he skinned both legs, cut off the penis and testicles, and removed the ears. Then he skinned the head and the face and everything else. Yamamoto lost consciousness, regained it, and lost it again. The screams would stop whenever he passed out and continue when he came to again. But his voice gradually weakened and finally gave out altogether. All this time, the Russian officer drew meaningless patterns on the ground with the heel of his boot. The Mongolian soldiers watched the procedure in silence. Their faces remained expressionless, showing neither disgust nor excitement nor shock. They watched Yamamoto’s skin being removed a piece at a time with the same kind of faces we might have if we were out for a stroll and stopped to have a look at a construction site.
The album: Forward into Regression by Maruta
Florida’s recently reanimated Maruta take their name for the Japanese word for "log of wood," which was the derogatory term members of the infamous Unit 731 would use for the Chinese prisoners that they experimented on in ways that would appall Joseph Mengele. So that’s the obviously overlap. More importantly, I think, the concept suggested by the title Forward into Regression really captures something about the mindset of someone who is willing to commit the most horrific of atrocities all in the name of advancing their nation. There’s a point where violence becomes to repetitive that it becomes happenstance and that opens the doors to brutality like that committed by Unit 731, whose members never stood trial for their war crimes. The mental compartmentalization necessary to brutalize your fellow human beings while simultaneously sublimating your will to a leader you consider divine really shows the breadth of human insanity.
A representative song: “March Forward (Into Regression)”
Slave driver. Stand forth lead blind-fully, these chains of hope shall drag us with you. Drag us deep, into the ground, into the grave, into blissful obliteration. March without questions. Advance with no objection. Bound to your cables. Embodied entities in chain sequence. Move towards the ash, towards the crimson horizon. Mindless. Obedient. Devoted to follow. We march forward. Onward into regression.