Ring (Suzuki novel)
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (February 2010)|
Cover of the first American print edition by Vertical, Inc.
|Original title||''Ring (リング Ringu )|
|Published in English||2003|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||Spiral (Rasen)|
Ring (リング Ringu ) is a Japanese horror novel by Koji Suzuki, first published in 1991, and set in modern-day Japan. It was the basis for a film of the same name (1998's Ring), and two remakes: a Korean version (The Ring Virus) and an American version (The Ring).
Plot summary 
After four teenagers mysteriously die simultaneously in Tokyo, Kazuyuki Asakawa, a reporter and uncle to one of the deceased, decides to launch his own personal investigation. His search leads him to "Hakone Pacific Land", a holiday resort where the youths were last seen together exactly one week before their deaths. Once there he happens upon a mysterious unmarked videotape. Watching the tape he witnesses a strange sequence of abstract and realistic footage that ends with the warning "You, who watched this tape, are going to die in one week from now. There's only one way to survive. And that is—" but the end of the tape has been overwritten by an advertisement. The tape has a horrible mental effect on Asakawa, and he doesn't doubt for a second that its warning is true. The only problem is he has no idea how to avert his fate.
Returning to Tokyo, he enlists the help of his curious friend Ryūji Takayama, a self-professed rapist who apparently (most likely due to some psychotic defect) has no fear, and who admits he would see the end of the world if he could, out of curiosity. As soon as Asakawa explains the story, Takayama believes him and wants nothing more than to see the tape. Asakawa shows it to him and although Takayama remains cool and nonchalant, he agrees there is a powerful aura around it and asks Asakawa to make him a copy to study at home, which Asakawa does.
Now, both men share the seven day deadline and must fight against the clock to unravel the mystery of the tape, Sadako Yamamura, and the potentially life-saving riddle.
- Kazuyuki Asakawa: The book's protagonist, he is a Tokyo newspaper reporter whose reputation was somewhat tarnished in the past in connection with a fad for UFOs and ghosts. He has a wife, Shizuka (the Vertical, Inc. English translation of the novel incorrectly renders her name as Shizu), and daughter, Yoko.
- Ryuji Takayama: Asakawa's friend whom he enlists to help him solve the riddle of the tape. He was a doctor but later became a Philosophy professor of a famous university due to the time the story occurred. Being of an odd mental disposition, and is also something of a genius, Ryūji usually stated that the purpose of his life is to gaze at the end of humanity. Ryūji also claims to be a rapist, although whether these claims are true or not is unclear, as it maybe just a little hoax he used in order to befriend the quiet Asakawa. He was actually a lonely person who struggled to live peacefully within society. Ryūji will have even more significant roles in the sequels Spiral and Loop.
- Shizuka and Yoko Asakawa: Asakawa's wife and daughter respectively. When Shizuka unknowingly watches the cursed video with Yoko on her lap, they become Asakawa's primary motivation for solving the riddle of the tape.
- Sadako Yamamura: The book's unseen antagonist who vanished thirty years ago; also the person behind the incident of the cursed tape. She was, in fact, a hermaphrodite with special powers similar to ESP. Due to, and despite her hermaphrodism, she was said to be extremely beautiful.
- Shizuko Yamamura: Sadako's mother, who possessed powers similar to her daughter's. She threw herself into the crater of Mt. Mihara after a demonstration of telepathy, which she failed due to the present reporters' ill wishes, and was branded a fraud.
Differences between film and book 
There are many key differences between the Ring novel and the 1998 film adaptation. Most notably, Asakawa in the novel is a man named Kazuyuki, while in the film, Asakawa is a woman named Reiko (whose name may have been a nod to Kaoru Futami's girlfriend in Loop). Kazuyuki has a wife and daughter; Reiko is divorced (from Ryuji), and she has a son named Yoichi.
- Ryuji from the book was a snarky wiseguy who enjoyed black humour, and even claimed to have raped three girls. Ryuji from the film was a stoical, somber grouch, and there was never anything in the movie about rape.
- In the book, when someone who had watched the cursed tape reached day 7 (without having copied the tape and showed it to someone else), they die from a myocardial infarction (a heart attack). At the time of death, they will experience intense anxiety, and should they glance into a reflective surface, they'll hallucinate themselves as hideously deformed and aged. The cursed tape in the book is a psychically engineered instrument that transmits a virus (the Ring Virus) to those that watch it.
- In the film, Sadako emerges from the television to claim her victims. She apparently 'scares' them to death, or they die from exposure to her otherworldly shade. Obviously, the film takes a supernatural ghost-story approach, while the book works on a pseudo-science-fictitious medical-mystery approach.
- The character of Okazaki does not exist in the book.
- Sadako's powers and abilities differ between book and film. In the book, Sadako did possess nensha (psychic photography), and it was hinted that she had prenatural senses, clairvoyance, and mind control abilities. This is nothing compared to the Sadako in the films, who is tremendously powerful beyond all limits. Aside from nensha and clairvoyance, the Sadako from the movies possesses ultra-psychokinetic powers, teleportation, remote vision and travel, regenerative powers, healing abilities (used by the Good Sadako only; see the article on Ring 0 for more info), and even the ability to cheat death, in a way. Incidentally, Sadako from the books cannot kill people by simply willing it like film-Sadako can. Book-Sadako can evidently manipulate the Ring Virus at will, and psychically infect anyone she chooses.
- The true villain of the books is not Sadako herself, it is the Ring Virus, which was created when Sadako's dying will and psychic powers were fused with the smallpox virus. The smallpox virus mutated into a conscious virus capable of spreading via psychic means. In the film, it is Sadako's vengeful shade that is wreaking havoc although it is worth noting that in the book the virus was born from a fusion of Sadako's hate towards society, her psychic abilities and the smallpox virus, despite it not being Sadako herself who causes people to die.
- The cursed videotape remains a constant fixture in the Ring film franchise, while in the books, the curse evolves into other formats: from the tape, to the Ring Report, to the Sadako clones, to the Ring novel published by Asakawa's brother, and ends with the Metastatic Human Cancer Virus.
- Ryuji did not have a hint of ESP intuition in the book, although it is hinted that Asakawa gains a minor form of psychic awakening after raising Sadako from the well. In the final section of the book as Asakawa bids farewell to Ryuji at a train station, Asakawa notices a pain in his chest and the faint smell of citrus (the same symptoms Shizuko was said to experience during a premonition). Also, Ryuji was never attributed with ESP but was said to have very sharp intuitive skills naturally and Shizuko herself states that all humans are endowed with a small amount of power.
- Ryuji's genius and cognitive talents were never really emphasized in the film.
- The cursed tape in the novel is far different from the one in the movie. The book-version was much longer and more complicated. Also, the tape in the book has a message at the beginning and the end. The message at the beginning is something along the lines of, "Watch until the end, you will be eaten by the lost...", of which Asakawa thinks to mean, "Watch until the end, or you will be eaten by the lost...." He was probably wrong. The message at the end: "Those that have viewed this tape are fated to die at this exact time seven days from now. In order to survive, you must...", the rest of the end message is taped over, and it isn't until the end that Asakawa realized that the rest of the message was about copying the tape and showing it to someone else. These messages were not in the tape in the movie.
- In the film, it is Sadako's father, Heihachiro, that kills Sadako by braining her with a machete and pushing her in the well (though it is later revealed that Sadako didn't die right away, and was actually alive for about 33 years in the well, dying only a year before the events of the first film). In the book, Sadako is assaulted and raped by a doctor working at the facility her father is being treated at (for tuberculosis), who then tosses her into the infamous well. In the book she starved to death in the well full with hatred (although this was not revealed in the book 'Ring').
- Sadako is in fact a hermaphrodite in the book. She has Testicular Feminization Syndrome, meaning she is anatomically male and has a pair of testes beneath her vagina (she evidently does NOT possess a penis). No mention of TFS is made in any of the films, and presumably she is fully female.
- Sadako in the book also had a younger brother that died during infancy.
- In the book, an incident is mentioned where Shizuko (Sadako's mother) recovers a statue of En no Ozunu (an ancient ascetic rumoured to possess supernatural power) that had been tossed into the sea during the American occupation period. After she recovers the statue, her psychic powers are awakened. Incidentally, it is rumoured that En no Ozunu might be Sadako's actual father. Furthermore, in the films, it is hinted that Heihachiro might not be Sadako's true father, but that her real father was something inhuman. One scene in Ring 0 subliminally suggests that Sadako's father is the sea (or something from it).
- Vertical Inc. - Publisher of English translations of the Ring novels.
- SaruDama - Contains reviews of Ring and other Suzuki novels.