Jun 14, 2015
If you're not familiar with Ringu, the novel, you're almost certainly familiar with it's legacy. Spawning the cult film adaptation by Hideo Nakata, and its American remake, The Ring. Ringu single-handedly set the stage for countless future horror films (both western and Japanese) to follow in its wake, and rocketed Sadako into a Japanese pop-culture icon. The franchise has had rocky areas, most notably the release of S and it's adaptation Sadako 3D which singlehandedly ranks as the biggest bastardization of a beloved character I have ever seen. Going back, though, before all of the CGI and questionable design choices (spider Sadako, why?), you'll find
a gem of a novel that stands out from the films in it's own right.
Ringu follows Kazuyuki Asakawa, a reporter. After a niece of his dies under mysterious circumstances, he begins to investigate. The story is vastly different from that of the film's, most notably instead of being purely supernatural, it mixes both supernatural and the all-too natural (to say what, exactly would spoil a major plot development). It's kind of like The Shining (book) vs. The Shining (film), both very different, but both still incredible in their own rights. The story is a solid mystery that unfolds itself slowly and skillfully, with twists and turns, but nothing coming quite out of nowhere. The story is perhaps not as scary as the films, being a mystery first and horror second, but the few creepy moments are done well. Each setting and person is described in detail, but without being too detail heavy (except during some of the science-y portions, into which sometimes a little too much explanation was put).
Art (8/10): Grading the art is nearly impossible considering this is a novel and not a manga, but the original cover designs are nice. Simple but serviceable. Although the cover for the first edition of the English translation is a little strange at first, it's charming in a strange 90's way.
Character (9/10): One of the advantages the book has on the film, each character is well developed throughout the book. There's no black and white morality and no character is "evil for the sake of evil." Even the most despicable of characters is given some semblance of humanity. Perhaps the most impressive characterization in the book, though, is that of Sadako. Instead of being the very incarnation of evil she's made out to be in the films, she's portrayed very tragically and very sympathetically, while still making her actions despicable and still making her a genuinely creepy character. The only caveat I have is that certain issues: rape, sexuality, abuse, which are present in the books are not portrayed perhaps as heavily as they should be.
Enjoyment (10/10): Probably a bit bias here because I am such a big fan of the original film, but the story is definitely not easy to put down and I enjoyed it immensely.
Overall (9/10): It's an excellent intro into the other two books and sets the stage well. It's more mystery-focused than the films and not as creepy as it could be. The handling of certain character issues may make some readers uncomfortable, as well. However, it's still an excellent horror novel and definitely deserves a read by any fan of the genre.
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