January 14, 2008

The Hold (1996 story)

Written by Koji Suzuki.

Despite a steady income as a fisherman, Hiroyuki Inagaki's life is a nightmare of alcohol and anger. His once abusive father has gone senile and slumps around the house, munching on a steady diet of jelly rolls. His daughter has developed a speech impediment that's keeping her from school. And his son, Katsumi, is a quiet, apologetic boy who fears water - blasphemy to a fisherman!

As the story begins, Hiroyuki's dragging his son around their small fishing town in search of his wife, Nanako, who seems to have left the night before. Hiroyuki can't quite remember what happened. He was drunk at the time. I think that, coupled with Hiroyuki's sudden dread of his boat's hold (aka "the well" - a familiar Suzuki image) pretty much solves the mystery of where she went. But that's not the main thrust of the story, so its predictability doesn't do much harm.

No, this is a tale of cyclical abuse. Hiroyuki, who was abandoned by his mother and abused by his father, finds himself abandoned by his wife and the abuser of his boy. It's obvious and a little heavy-handed on Suzuki's part, but still well told, with Hiroyuki's fear and doubt regarding his own son's upbringing constantly buried by flashes of irrational rage. My problem is the ending. For two reasons.

One, the cyclical violence is further explored as Hiroyuki comes to a bizarre revelation about the disappearance of his mother and the reason for his father's senility. I see where Suzuki's going, trying to further the karmic metaphor, but it's forced.

Second, a gripping, psychological study lapses, in its final two pages, to the supernatural. Suzuki was on a roll. Sure, it's not the most original story ever told, but Hiroyuki, while an unsympathetic ass, is interesting fodder for examination and, as with all Suzuki tales, the characters are grounded in a rich, detailed, real world. Most of that is lost with a final, parting image which throws everything for a loop.

Those issues aside, it's still a good story. Wouldn't hurt to check it out.

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