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“In this gloriously over-the-top tale, Aoyama, a widower who has lived alone with his son ever since his wife died seven years before, finally decides it is time to remarry. Since Aoyama is a bit rusty when it comes to dating, a filmmaker friend proposes that, in order to attract the perfect wife, they do a casting call for a movie they don’t intend to produce. As the résumés pile up, only one of the applicants catches Aoyama’s attention―Yamasaki Asami―a striking young former ballerina with a mysterious past. Blinded by his instant and total infatuation, Aoyama is too late in discovering that she is a far cry from the innocent young woman he imagines her to be. The novel’s fast-paced, thriller conclusion doesn’t spare the reader as Yamasaki takes off her angelic mask and reveals what lies beneath.”
A lot of people have reacted the way I did once realizing what book I was reading. ‘Woah is that like, the Audition? That movie is based on a book?!’
I also didn’t know until about a year and a half ago, and was immediately intrigued. Then especially moreso about how short/small the book is. [It’s less than 200 pages]
If you’re familiar with the movie, then you immediately know what you’re getting yourself into.
If not, essentially as the synopsis explains, a windower [Aoyama] of 7 years has decided after his teenaged son’s good wishes, that he wants to get married again. However, instead of entering into the dating game like a normal person, or even an arranged marriage [still an option in Japan in the 90’s apparently], he wants to have it completely structured a certain way. He wants to ‘study’ the women and ask them questions, and make sure that they’re ‘classically trained’ as his previous wife was. But he doesn’t like speed dating either, so his friend that is in show business [that he has minor ties to] supposes that they make up a fake movie premise that they have no plans to make real, and host an audition for the role of the leading lady. Except for instead of ever getting a role, the women applying are to be mused over and selected that Aoyama thinks would be a fitting bride, and pursued.
He has an interest in one specific applicant. Asami. She’s a beautiful and elegant woman and former ballerina who is demure and shy, as he prefers. What he doesn’t realize however, is that from years of physical [and hinted sexual] abuse from her family and a severe injury that prevented her from going pro in ballet; she is a very broken, very ill, and very unhinged woman. We as the reader learn that she is, utterly and completely, a psychopath. Aoyama’s deception is discovered and Asami exacts her revenge in a very gruesome manner.
For readers that haven’t seen the movie, I don’t want to give much more than that. It’s a very short and sweet book and can definitely get through it in a single sitting.
However, once I finished the book I wanted to go back and re-watch the movie since it’s been probably at least 10 years since my last viewing, so from here on is going to be a movie vs book comparison. Spoilers head, so I’ll make it this color to show what’s spoiler and return back to normal text color before the end.
So first thing’s first, the main character Aoyama is supposed to be presented as this super nice guy who you’re supposed to feel for that is a lonely widower who was super faithful of his dead wife.
However, it’s shown he’s actually not a very nice guy at all – in completely different ways in the book vs movie and especially when they’re presented. In the book, in the very beginning it’s explained that Aoyama was a chronic cheater that always left his wife alone to take care of their son while he went out chasing tail. He was lazy and relied on his wife’s family’s money because he didn’t put effort forth into his job. His lack of wanting to marry again for so long wasn’t out of faithfulness to the memory of his wife, or guilt of how he was a cheater during their marriage, or even to respect his son’s feelings – it was because he didn’t want to deal with dating or women again. In the movie, we don’t learn that he’s a womanizing asshole until towards the end that he’s slept with his [married] housekeeper, a woman at his job that he lead on for a long time, and even was hinted at making moves on his teenaged son’s girlfriend [who is also a teenager]. While what happens to him is way overkill when it comes to what he ‘deserved,’ it shows that Asami’s actually not all that crazy when it comes down to that she realizes that she isn’t/probably won’t have Aoyama’s dedicated love and is one in a long line of women that has been used and deceived by Aoyama.
Speaking of Shige, the teenaged son – in the movie’s he’s a dinosaur fanatic who is charming with the ladies and even has a girlfriend. In the book, he’s popular but still a computer nerd that wants nothing to do with girls. It leads him to be suspicious of how hard his dad has been falling for Asami despite them not having known each other all that long. The connection between father and son is also much more fleshed out in the book where the movie instead focuses on the audition and the slow burn relationship between Aoyama and Asami.
Then we have Asami. In the book it’s pretty much just left to the fact that she is deranged because an entire childhood of severe abuse, topped with the fact that the one thing that was her mind’s savior, ballet, was taken away from her because of an injury that left her permanently unable to do it any longer. The combination made her snap. In the movie there are more characters/fused characters added to her background story that try and make her a little more understood. We have her pedophelic and abusive ballet teacher that seems to be hinted at also being her Uncle but is then also mentioned separately? I think it’s purposely left vague to know if the teacher had always been wheelchair-bound or if he was one of Asami’s many victims. Despite much more information being given about her childhood and ballet however, the book actually fills in more about why she takes away the feet of her victims [It’s related to issues with her abusive stepfather, but also in reference to realizing that they can remain incapacitated and able to easily be abused, just as she she was able to be easily abused because she was a child.] In the movie as well, Asami is an awkward, shy, modestly-dressed woman; whereas in the book she’s much more of an assertive social butterfly and quite the fashionista. In the book she is also introduced to many other characters who all get weird vibes from her and try to warn Aoyama who refuses to listen because of his infatuation.
Then there’s the book vs director Takeshi Miike’s tendency to be over the top. In the movie, there’s the ‘bag man’ that is one of her victim’s kept captive that is missing his feet, one of his ears, multiple fingers, and lives on a diet of Asami’s vomit. Then there’s the eventual murder of her ballet teacher, and an unnamed woman that is connected to the ‘bag man’ that was murdered brutally. But in the book? The bag man victim doesn’t exist. Instead we are given hints throughout the book of her victims that have either gone missing altogether, found dead with their feet missing, or even meet one of her victims that were allowed to live. This victim is met out in public while she’s on a date with Aoyama. Upon seeing her, the former victim has a panic attack/seizure. In the torture scenes in the movie, she’s playful, girlish, delighted, and an obvious sadist while she takes out her revenge on Aoyama for his deception. [anyone who has seen the movie has her playful little noises forever burned into their nightmares]. She’s got a full outfit picked out for it, a black leather butcher’s smock, leather gloves, bondage belts, etc. In the book, she’s cold, calculating, and no-nonsense. She’s there to perform a procedure of revenge and then get out, and does so in a t-shirt, jeans, sneakers [the most ‘normally’ dressed in the entire book to that point, total opposite to the movie] and wears medical gloves and a medical face mask.
Then there’s her death, surprisingly, the book takes the switch and is crazy over the top while the movie is underwhelming. In the movie, she’s going after Shige who kicks her down the stairs and she breaks her neck and dies. In the book, she’s going after Aoyama on the stairs, but he kicks her in the eye with his leg stump after she removes his foot and the bone slams into her eye. This causes her to fall down the stairs where she hits and gashes her head, and dislocates her arm. She’s still able to get up, though her arm is hanging loosely at her side. Then Shige gets home, she goes after him. Shige throws one of his dad’s whiskey glasses in her face which further adds to her concussion and slashes her face with glass as it shatters, then in her concussed confusion, Shige grabs a knife and stabs her in the neck, and that’s how she dies.
Some other things to note is that in the book we have to sit and read through the description of how she tortures and kills the family dog and how Aoyama has to watch the dog look up at him with pleading eyes as it’s in pain and knows its dying and he’s not helping it. Thankfully in the movie , while we do see the dog has been killed, it’s not actually shown. There’s also a lot more red flags about Asami early on in the book that are left out of the movie. But the biggest thing I’d say is that in the movie, we know for sure that she learns of Aoyama’s deception with the audition, and that she’s upset that he loves his son and not just her. But in the book, it’s purposely left vague if she ever found out about the audition deception. The only confirmation we have is her being upset about Shige [Aoyama was purposely putting off telling her] and that Aoyama lied about only loving her is what set her off.
The main things I mostly get out of the difference between the two, is first – that the movie’s first half is honestly really boring. It’s supposed to build and build this tension and anxiety about her but re-watching it, that part kinda falls flat. The book actually builds that tension with the revealing of red flags about Asami very early and we’re given more rounded-out information about the characters that actually give them some depth. The latter half of the movie is way more over the top and much more in line with Takeshi’s Miike’s movie making style, whereas the book is much more realistic? Weirdly to say. Asami’s presentation in the movie is 100% over the top movie horror, but in the book her presentation is much more realistic of what could be an actual very ill woman who maims and murders.
I honestly don’t know how I’d feel about the book if I hadn’t already been a fan of the movie. It’s an easy, short and quick horror read which was nice. Mostly though, very few characters are likable. But if you like the movie, definitely worth the read.
I give Audition 4/5 Wire Saws
“Aoyama gazed for some time at the child’s face. It was the face of a human being who’d been constructed exclusively of wounds. Not time or history or ambition, nothing but wounds. The face of a person who could probably kill someone without feeling anything whatsoever.”
“Nice person, bad person – that’s not the level this girl is at. I can see you’re crazy about her and probably won’t be able to hear this Ao-chan, but I think you’d be better off staying away from someone like her. I can’t read her exactly, but I can tell you she’s either a saint or a monster. Maybe both extremes at once, but not somewhere in between.”