A review by surupa_m17
The Last Children of Tokyo, by Yōko Tawada


I think more than a review, this will be more of my advent into opinion writing, so bare with me while the point of this review gets a bit unclear. Yes, it is to give this beautiful piece of work a read, but it is also to draw attention to an important, but very often forgotten issue in the world, that of mortality and death, not only of humans, but animals alike.

Today we live in a world of medical advancements, technological uprising, a fast paced life, where humans don't have the time to catch up with their own breath, leave alone someone else, or take care of any harm they might be doing - to a loved one, to the society, to nature, environment - you get my point. It's not a surprise that our previous generation seems to live a life that ends at about 70-75, on an average basis, while the X and Y generations have this varying level of mortality. Some people can't cope with stress and even seem to pass away at 21. Life is more unpredictable now than ever.

So why does this particular Japanese fiction story hold so much relevance? For the simple reason - to start reversing what we're doing wrong. To help us assess and correct our actions. Not only the wrongdoings to our own health or well being, but also to the wildlife around us.

The story revolves around Yoshiro, a man well beyond 100, struggling to keep his great grandson, Mumei, alive everyday. They live in a world where all the generations after him have perished - be it due to contamination, catastrophe, etc. and the geriatric seem to be outliving for decades to come. There is no sign of animals, except for rental dogs and dead cats. Japan is in isolation from the world, with no human allowed in or out of the country. In such a situation, a visit to Mumei's dentist brings back memories of a time when Yoshiro remembered human beings of all kinds, the animals that inhabited the country, a time when life held meaning.

Believe it or not, this might actually be a truth a few more decades down the line. Maybe not as grave as this story was shown, but who knows? Loads of animals are nearing extinction, because of various reasons - natural and human made (poaching for example), and are now only seen and heard of in books and encyclopaedias. Human kind seems to be battling new illnesses everyday, and if not that, then we're battling each other (lets not even get started on the number of wars and fatalities, I'll lose count if I go on a world wide census). But the part that is most astonishing - is that we humans have ceased to bother, let alone do anything about this situation. Why?

Today I see a lot of people trying their best to regain some balance in this world. The other day I saw a video of many circus animals being released back into the wildlife or in sanctuaries, so that they don't have to face the insolence of humans anymore. I see quite a few videos of some people in some societies doing their best to either raise awareness or find solutions to a lot of epidemics that our causing loss to humanity, and no, I'm not just talking about medical illnesses, I'm talking about atrocities and harm done by some groups, for their own benefits or agendas, or sometimes for no rhyme or reason.

But is the solution to this entire problem of survival and respect, for mankind and nature alike, just in the hand of a couple of people? Shouldn't it be the collective responsibility of the global society? Of the citizens of the world? I guess time will tell.