Ring (Suzuki novel)

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Ring 1st American Edition.jpg
Cover of the first American print edition by Vertical, Inc.
AuthorKoji Suzuki
Original titleRing (リング, Ringu)
TranslatorRobert B. Rohmer
Glynne Walley
Cover artistChip Kidd
PublisherKadokawa Shoten, Vertical, Inc.
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Followed bySpiral 

Ring (リング, Ringu) is a Japanese mystery horror novel by Koji Suzuki first published in 1991, and set in modern-day Japan. The novel was the first in the Ring novel series, and the first of a trilogy, along with two sequels: Spiral (1995) and Loop (1998). The original Ring novel sold 500,000 copies by January 1998, and 1.5 million copies by July 2000.[1] Ring was the basis for the Ring franchise, including a 1995 television film (Ring: Kanzenban), a 1998 theatrical film of the same name (Ring), a television series (Ring: The Final Chapter), and two international film remakes of the 1998 film: a South Korean version (The Ring Virus) and an English-language version (The Ring).

Plot synopsis[edit]

After 4 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 both abstract and realistic footage, including an image of an injured man, which ends with a warning revealing that the viewer has one week to live. Giving a single means of avoiding death, the tape's explanation ends suddenly, having been overwritten by an advertisement. The tape has a horrible mental effect on Asakawa, and he does not doubt for a second that its warning is true.

Returning to Tokyo with no idea how to avert his fate, Asakawa enlists the help of his curious friend Ryūji Takayama, an apparent psychopath who openly jests that he engages in rape. As soon as Asakawa explains the story, Ryūji believes him and insists on seeing the tape. Asakawa shows it to him, and he agrees that there is a powerful aura around it, and asks Asakawa to make him a copy to study at home, which Asakawa does.

Racing against the deadline, both men begin investigating the tape. By following the imagery from the tape, Ryūji deduces that the rapid strobe seen during certain sequences show the recording device was "blinking". The duo then connects this, as well as the significance of certain tape images, and learn of Sadako Yamamura, a young woman capable of technopathic feats (such as projecting mental images onto televisions) who mysteriously vanished 30 years previously. Believing that Sadako is connected to the tape, Asakawa also soon learns that, after carelessly leaving the tape in his home, his wife and infant daughter viewed the tape and now have 1 week to live.

Learning of an isolated sanatorium Sadako frequented when her father contracted tuberculosis, Asakawa arranges a meeting with Nagao Jotaro, a doctor at the now-closed hospital. Recognizing him as the injured man from the tape sequences, Ryūji aggressively presses Dr. Jotaro for answers; the doctor, buckling under pressure, explains that he was infatuated with Sadako and raped her in the woods near the hospital. Infecting her with smallpox that he unknowingly contracted, Jotaro was injured during a struggle (during which he learned Sadako was intersex), resulting in the doctor throwing Sadako into a nearby well before crushing her with rocks.

Believing that Sadako's rage and psychic powers resulted in the images projected onto the tape, Asakawa and Ryūji head for the well where she was killed. Figuring that the well is located beneath the lodge where the tape was located, the duo locates the well. Asakawa lowers himself inside, finding Sadako's remains. Recovering and giving her remains a burial, Asakawa passes his deadline, confirming that his curse has ended. When Ryūji dies of a heart attack the next day, however, the true nature of the tapes are revealed: Sadako's rage caused her psychic powers to combine with the smallpox virus in her body, creating a paranormal phenomenon that is activated when the tape is viewed. Demanding the viewer replicate the tape, the curse is propagated like a virus through tape copies, sparing anyone who copies it; since Asakawa duplicated the tape at Ryūji's request, he now must make his wife and daughter do the same.


  • 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 may be a hoax used to befriend the quiet Asakawa. He was actually a lonely person who struggled to live peacefully within society. Ryūji has 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, intersex with special powers similar to ESP. 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.


Following the publication of the book several adaptations were made,[2] including a manga adaptation of the novel which was released in 1996 by Kouhirou Nagai.[3] In 1999, a second manga was made by Misao Inagaki which took elements from the novel, film and television versions of the Ring.[3]

Differences between film and book[edit]

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. Kazuyuki is a newspaper proofreader, demoted for reporter over a failed story about the supernatural involving Ryuji; Reiko is a TV reporter.

  • Ryuji from the book was a snarky wisecrack who enjoyed black humour, and even claimed to have raped three girls. Ryuji from the film was more stoic, somber and grouchy and he never claimed to rape anyone.
  • 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, which she contracted when she was raped and murdered by Dr. Jotaro. The smallpox virus then mutated into a conscious virus capable of spreading via psychic means. In the film, Sadako's vengeful ghost is the villain. When Sadako was alive, her evil clone was the villain.
  • 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. However, he's more calm and rational than Reiko, who often faints over nightmares of Sadako and gives up when trying to uncover the mystery.
  • 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 dead...", of which Asakawa thinks to mean, "Watch until the end, or else you will be eaten by the dead...." He was probably wrong. The message at the end: "The one who saw these images is destined to die in one week at this time. If you do not wish to die, do what will be said from now on. That is...", 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. The line that says: "If you keep doing nothing but shoumon, boukon will come." a.k.a. "Frolic in brine, goblins be thine" (Shōmon bakari shite iru to, bōkon ga kuru zo (しょうもんばかりしていると、亡魂が来るぞ), lit. "If you keep doing nothing but playing in the water, a monster will come for you.") is one of the lines uttered by the old lady in the book, while it's a subliminal message of the Towel-Headed Man scene in the film's videotape. There are, however, shared elements, such as the moon-like view of Sadako's murdered from the well which is in the beginning of the film tape and in the end of the novel tape, immediately before the final written message.
  • In the film, it is Sadako's father, Heihachiro, that kills Sadako by hitting her in the head 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 intersex in the book. She has Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, meaning she has testes, rather than ovaries, but her body does not respond to testosterone. No mention of CAIS is made in any of the films, and presumably she is not intersex in the film.
  • 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).
  • In the film, Tomoko has her friend Masami staying over when she dies at the beginning. In the book, Tomoko dies alone.
  • In the film, Tomoko is last seen in the kitchen but her corpse is found in the closet in her room, with her mouth wide open. In the book, she is also last seen in the kitchen but that is also where her corpse is found, with her hands pulling her hair in fear.
  • In the film, the victims of the videotape die with their mouths widely open. In the book, they die of heart failure and most commonly appear pulling their hair in fear.
  • In the film, Reiko gets a hint of where the videotape could be located by the fact the urban legend points to the Izu peninsula and to the first four victims' photographs she obtains using Tomoko's receipt that show their faces blurred after a night in Cabin B4 on the Izu peninsula. In the book, the Cabin B-4 is on the South Hakone peninsula, part of the Villa Log Cabin resort, and the lead that takes Kazuyuki there is a Villa Log Cabin membership card found in Tomoko's room that she had borrowed from a friend of hers.
  • In the film, the cursed video is slightly over a minute long and starts at the very beginning of the tape. In the book, it is about 20 minutes long (according to Ryuji's breakdown list) and starts about 20 minutes into the tape (Asakawa says that at the end of the video, the tape is at 1/3 of its length, and it is a 120-minute tape).
  • In the film, the investigation starts the day after Tomoko dies and the existing urban legend surrounding the cursed video shared by her surviving classmates. In the book, it starts a month later and is prompted by a taxi driver explaining to Asakawa about the death of Shuuichi Iwata who died while on his motorbike at exactly the same time Tomoko died. Nobody started an urban legend about the cursed video.
  • In the film, Sadako appears to Ryuji the day after he watches the videotape (but is not identified as such). This does not happen in the book but does in the 1995 TV movie.
  • In the film, Sadako appears to Ryuji when he dies, crawling out of the TV set. In the book, Ryuji merely sees a reflection of himself horribly aged in the mirror. However, in the 1995 TV movie, Sadako also appears, albeit not crawling out of a TV set, instead she merely materializes to out of thin air as Ryuji is slowly dancing with Mai Takano, and is only visible to Ryuji (we see it cutting to Mai's POV for a while and we see that the place where Ryuji sees Sadako is empty).
  • The well in the book is a stone well that looks like a "pile of rocks", making in closer in appearance to the wells in The Ring Virus (1999) and The Ring (2002), than to the well in the 1998 film.
  • In the film, it's Shizuko that predicted the 1950s Mt. Mihara eruption. In the book, it was Sadako that predicted it.
  • In the book, Shizuko's public ESP demonstration involved predicting the out come of two rolling dice but she was unable to do it correctly because of the combined negative will of all the people present. Sadako, however, had much more powerful ESP and saw the dice, hence why the dice also appear on the cursed video. In the film, however, Shizuko has to predict the kanji written on a sealed piece of paper and write them down, and she actually does it correctly, but is branded a fraud for no apparent reason, and Sadako kills the reporter responsible for that, something that does not occur in the book.
  • In the film, the phone only rings at the Izu cabin, which leads Reiko and Ryuji back there. In the book it is initially not made clear but the Loop novel subsequently makes it clear that the phone rang for everyone. What leads Kazuyuki and Ryuji back to South Hakone is finding out, by means of Yoshino's investigation, and their interrogation of the man who raped and killed Sadako that it happened there, when in place of the Villa Log Cabin resort was still a sanatorium where Ikuma was being treated for tuberculosis. This is in turn prompted by Kazuyuki's intuition that to find Sadako they should work their way backwards from where Kazuyuki watched the tape, in order to find out why the tape appeared exactly there. And that was because their original attempt to work their way forwards from Sadako's birth reached a dead end because no one knew of her whereabouts after her disappearance from the Hisho Acting Troupe.


  1. ^ "The "Ring" Master: Interview With Hideo Nakata". Offscreen. July 21, 2000. Archived from the original on February 10, 2001. Retrieved February 10, 2001.
  2. ^ Kalat 2007, p. 41.
  3. ^ a b Kalat 2007, p. 56.
  • Kalat, David (2007). J-Horror: The Definitive Guide to The Ring, The Grudge and Beyond. Vertical Inc. ISBN 978-1-932234-08-4.

External links[edit]

  • Vertical Inc. - Publisher of English translations of the Ring novels.
  • SaruDama - Contains reviews of Ring and other Suzuki novels.