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Natsuo Kirino's Grotesque: A Psychological Thriller that Exposes the Dark Side of Japan

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino: A Dark and Disturbing Novel of Crime and Society

Grotesque is a 2003 crime novel by Japanese writer Natsuo Kirino, most famous for her novel Out. It was published in English in 2007, translated by Rebecca Copeland. Publisher Knopf censored the American translation, removing a section involving underage male prostitution, as it was considered too taboo for U.S. audiences. Grotesque is a novel that explores the hidden and twisted aspects of Japanese society, such as prostitution, classism, sexism, and violence, through the perspectives of four different characters who are connected by two brutal murders.

Natsuo Kirino Grotesque Epub File

The Narrator

The unnamed narrator is the older sister of Yuriko, one of the murder victims, and a former classmate of Kazue, the other victim. She is a bitter and lonely woman who hates her sister for being beautiful and herself for being plain and smart. She reveals her resentment and jealousy towards Yuriko, Kazue, and other women who have achieved success or happiness in their lives. She also exposes her dysfunctional family background and her struggles with work and relationships.

The narrator tells her story in a cold and detached tone, often digressing into irrelevant details or sarcastic comments. She does not show any sympathy or remorse for the deaths of her sister and friend, but rather uses them as an opportunity to vent her anger and dissatisfaction with her own life. She also does not hesitate to lie or manipulate others to get what she wants, such as adopting Yuriko's son, Yurio, whom she later exploits as a pimp. The narrator is a complex and unreliable character who challenges the reader's trust and empathy.


Yuriko is the younger sister of the narrator and a stunningly beautiful woman who becomes a prostitute at a young age. She writes a diary that chronicles her life from childhood to adulthood, detailing her experiences with men, sex, money, and drugs. She shows a cynical and manipulative attitude towards others, especially her sister, whom she despises for being ugly and boring. She also reveals her insecurity and loneliness behind her glamorous facade, as well as her desire for love and acceptance.

Yuriko's diary is a contrast to the narrator's story, as it offers a more emotional and intimate account of her life. Yuriko does not hide her feelings or opinions, but rather expresses them with honesty and vulnerability. She admits that she uses her beauty as a weapon and a shield, but also acknowledges that it has brought her more pain than pleasure. She confesses that she has never felt truly loved or valued by anyone, not even by her own family or herself. Yuriko is a tragic and sympathetic character who elicits the reader's pity and compassion.


Zhang is a Chinese immigrant who is accused of killing Yuriko and Kazue in a similar manner: by strangling them with a necktie and mutilating their genitals. He writes a report that explains his motives and actions, as well as his background and personality. He claims that he killed Yuriko and Kazue out of revenge for their mistreatment of him as a customer and as a human being. He also portrays himself as a victim of discrimination and injustice in Japan, where he faces racism, poverty, and exploitation.

Zhang's report is a defense of his crimes, as it attempts to justify his actions by blaming his victims and society. Zhang does not show any remorse or guilt for his deeds, but rather expresses his anger and resentment towards those who have wronged him or looked down on him. He argues that he was only acting in self-defense and retaliation, and that he was doing what anyone in his situation would do. He also asserts that he is not a monster or a psychopath, but rather a normal and rational person who was pushed to the edge by his circumstances. Zhang is a controversial and provocative character who provokes the reader's curiosity and horror.


Kazue is a former classmate of the narrator and Yuriko at Q High School, a prestigious girls' school that fosters a strict social hierarchy based on appearance, wealth, and academic performance. She writes a journal that reflects her life as a successful career woman who works at a large corporation but also moonlights as a prostitute to pay off her debts and satisfy her sexual needs. She shows a conflicted and contradictory attitude towards herself and others, as she tries to balance her professional and personal lives, her ambitions and insecurities, her pride and shame. She also reveals her dissatisfaction and frustration with the society that expects women to conform to certain roles and standards, such as marriage, motherhood, beauty, and obedience.

Kazue's journal is an insight into her psyche, as it exposes her inner thoughts and feelings, as well as her actions and reactions. Kazue does not conform to any stereotypes or norms, her own choices and actions. Kazue is a realistic and relatable character who illustrates the reader's dilemmas and challenges.


Grotesque is a novel that explores the hidden and twisted aspects of Japanese society, such as prostitution, classism, sexism, and violence, through the perspectives of four different characters who are connected by two brutal murders. The novel exposes the dark realities of the lives of the narrator, Yuriko, Zhang, and Kazue, who are all victims and perpetrators of their own circumstances. The novel also challenges the reader to question their own assumptions and judgments about these characters and their actions. The novel suggests that there is no simple or clear-cut answer to the causes and consequences of crime and society. The novel also encourages the reader to empathize with the characters' struggles and dilemmas, while also criticizing their flaws and mistakes. The novel ultimately invites the reader to reflect on their own values and choices in relation to the society they live in.


Here are some frequently asked questions about Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino:

  • What is the genre of Grotesque?

Grotesque is a crime novel that also incorporates elements of noir fiction, psychological thriller, and social commentary.

  • What is the theme of Grotesque?

Grotesque explores various themes related to crime and society, such as identity, alienation, power, gender, class, violence, and justice.

  • Who is the protagonist of Grotesque?

Grotesque does not have a clear protagonist, but rather four main characters who share their stories and perspectives: the narrator, Yuriko, Zhang, and Kazue.

  • Is Grotesque based on a true story?

Grotesque is not based on a specific true story, but it draws inspiration from real-life cases of murder and prostitution in Japan.

  • How does Grotesque end?

Grotesque ends with a twist that reveals that Yurio, Yuriko's son whom the narrator adopted, is actually Zhang's son and the product of rape. The narrator decides to have sex with a client for the first time in her life, but it is unclear if she actually does it or imagines it.



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