The body of a young girl is found at her home in Yokohama, contorted in fear, but the cause of her death is a mystery. Soon afterwards the bodies of three more teenagers are discovered - dead in chillingly similar circumstances.
Sensing a story, journalist Asakawa becomes fixated on unravelling the cause of this bizzare sudden-death syndrome. He discoveres that the four victims had shared a log cabin for one night, exactly seven days before their deaths.
In the cabin, Asakawa finds a nightmarish secret - a curious videotape which plays not a movie, but a strange collecrion of abstract, subliminal images, concluding with a portentous message:
'Those who have viewed these images are fated to die at this exact hour one week from now. If you do not wish to die, you must follow these instructions exactly...'
Then the tape cuts to static.
This slickly plotted page-turner reverberates with a terrifying supernatural twist. It inspired the cult Japanese movie and the US remake of the same name.
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.
While still being a pop-culture itemthis novel shows the big gap that exist between a LN and a regular novel. Just from this work come multiple movies and adaptations the skip big parts of the source material while usually a light novel results in 2 or 3 anime episodes, maybe 4 or 6 if they really stretch it out. While I really liked some of the changes made on the main character (making it a female, single parent, without any residual esper powers) I really disliked taking out the original side kick and reducing the supernatural to just Sadako.
While the movies are pretty accesible for
the international market the novel has certain sensibilities that would get lost in someone without a basic aclimatation to japanese folklore and plot tendencies. For starters there is a more extensive reference to supernatural elements in nautre (that in the original mvoie got reduced to espers and the sea, to make it only Sadako and her mom in the american version), it also has some morality issues like taking a rapist as a not so bad person that could get a pass in japanesse mature stories but would enrage anyone that expects more sympathetic characters (let's remember that before occidental culture got in there Japan considered that marriage got arranged or through rape, not cool but there's nothing we can do about that now).
The author is often compared with Stephen King and I feel the swinging quality makes it a proper comparison. Maybe it's a result of the translation but it can be a bit of a harder read than most of King's novels. Still, the prose is good by any standard, much above the reduction to dialogue and technical language that propels LNs, and the plot is complex enough to end up adapted into several different movies.
Nothing too new if you've already seen all the Ring franchise but the ignored elements ad change in tone make it an interesting item if you wanted more.