To talk about bullet trains in Brazil is to think either of Lula and Dilma’s dream of connecting Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, which never worked out —yielding two state-owned companies with smear losses—, or in a delirium of the folkloric Levy Fidelix and his aerotrain that would add Campinas, in the interior of São Paulo, to this southeastern connection.
The “Bullet Train” that now arrives in the country, however, is not quite a train, but an adequate reading for the Jundiaí-Jabaquara route, with a transfer in Luz — the reading is quick, but not so much.
Best-selling in Japan and the first book by author Kotaro Isaka to be published in Brazil, the book is sold as a mind-blowing thriller in the style of Tarantino and the Coen brothers — which may work as a “blurb”, but they are not the most accurate comparisons, yet. that the plot involves five unusual assassins behind a suitcase while traveling on a Shinkansen, the famous Japanese ultra-fast train.
But the cinematic verve is justified. In July, the adaptation starring Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock, directed by David Leitch —from “Deadpool 2” — and which boosts the launch of the Intrinsic publisher arrives on the big screen. Isaka says nothing about her, despite her pride in her success on American soil.
“It’s strange that now a book of mine becomes a Hollywood movie, it seems like a dream. But it’s not different from what I feel when a book is adapted to Japanese cinema”, he says.
With almost 40 books written in the last 20 years, it has more than ten adaptations in Japan and South Korea. Some are quite competent, it’s good to say, like “Fish Story”, from 2009, with a daring plot that anticipates the famous “Don’t Look Up” in more than a decade, and still stitches the apocalyptic drama with the post- War in Japan and the consolidation of US culture in the country.
“There are many directors I would like to see adapt a book of mine, but unfortunately Tony Scott, my favorite, is dead,” says the author. The highlight is for none other than the author of “Uncontrollable”, in which Denzel Washington faces a train about to condemn hundreds of thousands of lives.
The obsession with these iron snakes is still repeated in one of his creations. The killer nicknamed Lemon loves the children’s series “Thomas and His Friends”, starring talking trains, and makes a thousand references to it throughout the 460 pages of the novel. “In season [da escrita do livro, publicado no Japão em 2010]my son really liked ‘Thomas'”, justifies the author.
His partner in crime, Tangerina, is a literary man, who exchanges childishness for world literature, quoting from Tolstoy to Yukio Mishima. “What made me hesitate, at first, was the perception that this type of character, addicted to movies or music, is not a very original concept”, confesses the author, who at times would have a more fluid work if it were more synthetic. “Writing a book is ultimately about putting things together that make different impressions,” he believes.
Of this unusual mixture that gives its hints of humor, the most repeated quote is “To the Lighthouse”, by Virginia Woolf, whose multiple narrators mirror what Isaka uses as a narrative instrument. Each chapter deals with a different point of view, in different cars of the train, and, even with the abundance of characters, Isaka has the merit of not confusing the reader in a story that is beyond convoluted, with more dialogues than fights.
Lemon and Tangerine are hired to rescue the son of a crime boss in Japan and bring back the briefcase with the ransom. In this, another unlucky killer, Nanao, who will be Pitt’s character in the film, is behind the suitcase and is in direct contact with his intermediary, Maria Beetle, who names the novel in Japanese and will be played by Bullock.
He even manages to get his hands on the object a few times, but he never manages to get off the train that goes from Tokyo to Morioka. Gradually, everything goes wrong. In parallel, the alcoholic murderer Kimura goes after a boy known as the Prince, who almost killed his young son.
Hence, the main plot is often confused with the question that this parallel nucleus raises — in short, what is evil? According to Isaka, he may well be a high school student who understands the workings of the world and has no qualms about torturing peers or blackmailing adults.
“My first intention was for him to be like a metaphor for ‘the scariest thing in the world’, even more so than the killer himself”, defines Isaka. “I feel that horrendous events like wars are always caused by collective psychology, peer pressure. That’s why I decided to introduce a character that controls these human impulses of yours.”
This is all in front of a bunch of killers, which Isaka says doesn’t exist in real life. The interview took place before the assassination of Shinzo Abe — an unusual fact given the practically non-existent armed violence in Japan, where access to weapons is difficult.
“Many Japanese readers interpret him as a ‘nasty antisocial young man’ and in that sense I feel it was a failure on my part in his description.” Unfortunately, on the other hand, massacres carried out by young people disconnected from social reality have not gone out of fashion in the last 12 years.
Some of these ideas are very reminiscent of other Japanese works of recent decades, such as “Death Note” and “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, in which teenagers (not always with a well-defined moral compass) gain powers capable of saving or destroying the world.
But, as the reading progresses, the idea seems more and more sucked from the coldness of the Oedipal protagonist of Yukio Mishima’s “The Sailor Who Lost the Graces of the Sea”. If it’s worth comparing with Tarantino here, after all, it’s because of the cluster of quotes.
If “Trem-Bala” survives this trip through Brazil, and depending on its success on the big screen — whose trailer already advances a series of changes in relation to the book —, Isaka already has other published works that dialogue with this one, such as “Grasshopper” , or grasshopper, and “AX” —also with eccentric killers—, as well as others he defines as “more experimental”. Who knows, other titles on your menu will make you want to repeat the trip.