Coin Locker Babies
Front cover of the 1995 1st ed. English hardcover
|Cover artist||Manabu Yamanaka|
|Publisher||Kodansha International (JPN)|
|1980 (1st edition)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Pages||393 pp (English hardcover 1st edition, May 1995)|
|ISBN||4-7700-1590-9 (English hardcover 1st edition, May 1995)|
|LC Class||PL856.U696 K613 1995|
Coin Locker Babies (コインロッカー・ベイビーズ Koinrokkā Beibīzu), 1980, is a novel by Ryu Murakami about coin-operated-locker babies, translated into English by Stephen Snyder. The translation was published in 1995 by Kodansha (講談社 Kōdansha) International Ltd and republished in 2013 by Pushkin Press. A Bildungsroman novel, Coin Locker Babies is known for transcending genres, containing elements of social commentary, surrealism, dark comedy, philosophy, noir and horror in a cyberpunk setting.
It is the surreal story of two boys, Hashi and Kiku, who were both abandoned by their mothers during infancy and locked in coin lockers at a Tokyo train station in the summer of 1972. Both boys become wards of the Cherryfield Orphanage in Yokohama, where the tough and athletic Kiku comes to the defense of the slight, and often picked on, Hashi. They both experience difficulties, and are given mental treatment involving playing the sound of an in utero heartbeat to them, a sound they will later search for after having forgotten it.
They are adopted by foster parents, the Kuwayamas (the wife is Zainichi Korean) who live on an island off Kyushu. At the age of 16 both find themselves in a diseased urban wasteland in Tokyo named Toxitown. Hashi, whose voice has a profound effect on those who hear it, becomes a bisexual rock star, employed by an eccentric producer named D. Hashi falls in love with his (female) manager Neva and they marry. Kiku becomes a pole vaulter and with his girlfriend Anemone, a model who has converted her condo into a swamp for her crocodile, searches for a substance named DATURA in order to take his revenge upon the city of Tokyo and destroy it. Along the way, however, in a search for Hashi's real mother, D finds a woman and arranges a meeting with Hashi on live television. Kiku watches and sees Hashi break down, and goes to help, but ends up shooting the woman, who is actually his own mother. He is sentenced to five years in prison.
While Kiku is in prison, Hashi's music career grows, but he starts going mad from the stress, eventually trying to kill Neva to try and hear the sound he heard as a child. While in prison, Kiku embarks on a naval training ship, which is caught up in a storm and has to put in to land. Here, he and some other prisoners, Hayashi and Nakakura, make an escape and are picked up by Anenome. They travel to the island of Garagi, where Kiku had read about a large quantity of DATURA being buried in the sea. They go to the dive site and find the DATURA, however Nakakura takes some in and attacks Kiku and Hayashi, killing Hayashi before Kiku kills him. Anenome and Kiku then 'bomb' Tokyo with DATURA. The book ends with a scene of Hashi, now in a mental hospital, escaping to find the city destroyed. He takes in some DATURA and has an urge to destroy a woman he sees nearby, grabbing her by the mouth and trying to rip her apart, when he realises that she is his mother.
- One of the two coin locker babies in the novel. His name is commonly shortened to just Kiku. "Sekiguchi" was the name his mother had written on the box before she left him in the locker. The name Kikuyuki came from a list used for naming abandoned children. He was placed in the Cherryfield Orphanage after being discovered, which is where he meets Hashi, who shares the same history. Kiku is the tougher of the two, often defending Hashi in the orphanage. He later goes on to be an excellent pole vaulter, but finds himself in Toxitown in search of DATURA.
- The second of the coin locker babies. Most often referred to as just Hashi. He was found in the locker after a blind man's dog began howling at the smell coming from inside the locker. He is the thinner and weaker of the coin locker babies, and as a child would create strange sets out of common objects. He also finds himself in Toxitown, where he is to become a singer under his manager, D.
- Shuichi and Kazuyo, the husband and wife who eventually adopt both Kiku and Hashi. Kazuyo is of Korean origin. They live on a small island off the coast of Kyushu.
- A model in Tokyo who becomes an interest for Kiku. She has turned her condo into living quarters for her crocodile, Gulliver. She eventually accompanies Kiku on his quest to find DATURA, and is supportive of his idea to destroy Tokyo.
- Commonly just called 'D', which is said to stand either for Director or, as D insists, Dracula. D is Hashi's manager who is preparing to debut him as a singer, using his unique background for publicity.
- Neva is a thirty-eight-year-old woman who lost both her breasts to cancer. She starts off as Hashi's stylist but later becomes his manager. Consequently, they start falling for each other and are married. She later becomes pregnant.
- Kiku's real mother. Mr. D finds her through an investigator after charging him to secretly look for Hashi's mother. However, Hashi finds out his mother is already deceased so the woman can only be Kiku's mother. An altered Kiku tries to shoot everyone in sight and ends up shooting Kimie, accidentally but fatally.
A film version began development in 2005, with a screenplay by Sean Lennon to be directed by Michele Civetta. The film was originally to star Val Kilmer, Tadanobu Asano, Asia Argento, and Lennon, but production never got off the ground. In 2015 it was reported to be in development again with the same script and director, now starring Vincent Gallo, Liv Tyler, Argento and Lennon.
- The creators of the game Silent Hill 4: The Room stated in an interview that this book was an influence for that game.
- The character Anemone from the series Eureka Seven, and her pet Gulliver, were named after the character and her pet alligator from the novel.
- Famous Japanese rock band, the pillows, were originally called "The Coin Locker Babies", after the title of the novel. The name was used from 1986 to 1988 before a major shift in the band's line-up.