Shadow Shinjuku

A Japanese Crime Thriller

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Pub Date 23 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2022
Ryu Takeshi, Purple Crow Press

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The streets of Tokyo are different at night. There is darkness behind the glitter and the neon lights, and people who prefer to stay in the shadows, to dwell in the underworld – whores, gangsters, the homeless, the lost. People like Sato. He’s part of this world, he always has been, but a feeling of change is lingering in the heavy air of the bustling city. A feeling brought to life by fateful encounters of solitary souls.

Shadow Shinjuku is a dark, yet magical journey into the depths of Tokyo’s nightlife and the depths of the human soul. Ryu Takeshi’s first novel is both a crime thriller and urban fantasy. It's a unique and mesmerizing blend of the imagery of Japanese animation and film, the colors and details of street photography, and the mystical lyricism of soulful music. But above everything, it is a gripping story that doesn’t let go.

What readers are saying:

***** - "Let Ryu Takeshi take you on a ride in his mystical, yet so relatable world, where one seeks to find the answer to the human psyche, and if we really are masters of our own destiny."

***** - "I truly enjoyed reading shadow Shinjuku. It’s a combination of modern fantasy story a bit like Haruki Murakami and classical gangster/yakuza story. The author builds very credible, nuanced and multi layered characters and combines magical elements with real life elements skilfully without any friction."

***** - "Shadow Shinjuku is very entertaining, but also deep and emotional at the same time. Its strength is its impeccable pace, but also the captivating story, and the atmosphere the author managed to create and sustain throughout the book."

The streets of Tokyo are different at night. There is darkness behind the glitter and the neon lights, and people who prefer to stay in the shadows, to dwell in the underworld – whores, gangsters...

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ISBN 9798201273422
PRICE $4.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 16 members

Featured Reviews

I can easily see this becoming a Hollywood movie, but I would also be very nervous about this becoming a Hollywood movie and not making it justice. I really enjoyed the escenary it described, I could see it very vividly. I think the main character, it's depth and development through out the story was very interesting and I like how it touches on the subject on how to define good and bad and puts on the table the idea of it depending on point of view. The magical, mystical elements of the story were very intriguing and it kept your attention untill the very last sentence. Really looking forward to read more about this world since I already downloaded Abalone and reading more about the author in general.

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Shadow Shinjuku was a book it took me a little while to get into. For the first third I wasn't sure what to make of it, but then the story really took off and I became more deeply involved with the characters and the action. I've gone with 'fantasy' as the genre in my note above; however, it's hard to decide how to class this story as it's a blend of gangster drama with elements of fantasy/magical realism woven through. It was once the fantastical elements started to come to the fore that the book engaged me, as, from that point onwards, I was interested to see how events would play out. Shadow Shinjuku certainly offers something a little different and it's worth persevering through the opening sections to get to the main thrust of the story. I would read more from this author in the future, and this book gets 3.5 stars from me, which I will round up to a four.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Since this tale takes place in Tokyo - within parts of the Yakuza - you can expect a lot of Japanese culture. It speaks highly of Rye's talent that he's able to capture the reader effortlessy within this world, in a way that even a westerner like me can find his way. Well done!

There are a lot of movies about Yakuza and Ninja and their likes out there, and I must admit to being partial to those sometimes. Even when they contain some supernatural elements (Ninja Assassin, anyone?) - so this book is right up my alley! If you like these themes and philosophical observations, you can't go wrong with Shadow Shinjuku.

Just like Tokyo is a mixture of the modern and the classical, Sato will experience things that defy a clear categorization. And so this tale blends Yakuza life with philosophy and the supernatural. The resulting blend does, in itself, again deny every categorization. It's a novel, sure. But what kind of novel exactly?

Certainly it's a good one. And the tapestry of tales from the past, the philosophy about life - in general, and specifically about life in Tokyo's underworld - do well to hide the fact that there isn't much going on at present. Not much action, I mean - and the one instance of violence you're going to encounter in the first half feels so remote, so distanced. It's more art then violence.

As things tend to be for simpletons the world around - I'm talking about us, guys -, everything starts to change when we meet that one girl. (It's not limited to romantic relationships though, it could be a relationship of some other kind; just für the record.) In this case, that girl is the daughter of Sato's boss. And Sato learns he is but meant to be the bodyguard of his boss, as he thought - instead, he's going to be guarding her.

»We crave normality in our lives, but we ridicule it at the same time and strive to be different from everybody else. It's confusing. Jesus must've been confused. I'm confused.«
-- Ren

What starts out as a Yakuza crime novel quickly turns into a journey, not only throughout Tokyo at night, but to a man's soul - or even his abyss, if you would like. And there are many more abysses along the way. And slowly, while Sato tries to keep control of what's happening around him, his life starts to unravel instead. And he finds that there are more people like him out there, people he sometimes think of as denizens of shadow Shinjuku. (Shinjuku is a district of Tokyo.)

There is one interpretation I'm going to share with you, because I was dwelling heavy about it. In Sato's world, some people (including him, Ren and others) are kind of removed from the world; maybe by unlocking something dark deep within them. They are not able to see their mirror images, but can instead use some mirrors as portals to other places. Combine that with Sato's love für the night, and I was thinking about some kind of vampirism. (Without blood drinking, but as some kind of symbology.) Then I thought about the meaning of mirrors in Japan, and according to a site I found:

- In Japanese culture, mirrors are one of the strongest symbols of power and are revered as sacred objects that represent the gods. -

That's curious, but it fits the narrative - those people have awakened something inside them that broke their bond to the divine, unhinging them from our world removing them from the eyes of the gods - which vibes with the pop culture idea of Cain as the first vampire, who was removed from God's Eye by way of his mark. Of course, that's just my interpretation. Food for thought. And like a vampire craves blood, these people have their cravings, too. Don't we all?

»We need stuff, hell, we <em>crave</em> stuff to manage our fears somehow, our weaknesses, our fragility. And it's true for all of us.«
-- Kobayashi


In the end, this tale is a spiritual journey. There are beautiful words, almost poem like, blended with philosophical ideas and counterbalanced with the ugly and mundane. If this would be a movie, it would be art cinema, and it worked be worth the ticket. And add it is with true art: You have to experience it for yourself. I recommend you do.

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A worldbuilding masterclass that developed the manner of contemporary crime thriller that plumbs the depth of nightlife in Tokyo. There are elements of Big Hero 6 that looked at the changes of our reality.

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This book was absolutely fantastic. I've already added it to our list for order this year and will recommend it to students.

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