Published by Grove Press on June 13th 1996
Genres: Historical, Japanese Literature, War
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids recounts the exploits of 15 teenage reformatory boys evacuated in wartime to a remote mountain village where they are feared and detested by the local peasants. When plague breaks out, the villagers flee, blocking the boys inside the deserted town. Their brief attempt to build autonomous lives of self-respect, love, and tribal valor is doomed in the face of death and the adult nightmare of war.Amazon •
Mature-Content Rating: Sexual Themes, Language, War Violence, Underage Nudity
“I walked howling like a beast, shedding my tears on the snow. The dirty water coming in through my cracked soles soaked my chilblained toes and made them itch terribly, but I fiercely pushed my shoes into the ankle-deep snow and made no attempt to reach down and scratch them. If I had bent down I couldn’t possibly have straightened up and started walking again.”
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids takes place during the Showa period in Japan. It’s a time when Japan had moved into totalitarianism, ultranationalism and fascism; coupled with the threats of the Great Depression and WWII.
The book looks at fear during a war, and what a close-knit group would do to outsiders, even children, in order to survive. It’s about social order and youthfulness when everything is chaotic and constantly shifting.
To start off, the group of boys had completely lost their trust in adults before they even arrived in the small country village they were evacuated to. As “reformatory” boys they were treated as the lowest class. Younger kids were allowed to mock them and they were blamed for any troubling matters that happened while they were near.
In the village Oe shows a group of boys not only learning to survive but coping with being abandoned, gaining a first love, battling fear of the plague, and death. Two brothers are among the fifteen boys abandoned in the village and Oe depicts a strong brotherly bond between the two- the older brother having a strong sense of responsibility to the younger. Also among the ones left behind is a Korean boy living on the outskirts of the village abandoned due to his heritage, a village girl that refused to leave her dead mother’s side, and a solider being hunted for running from his duties.
Overall Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids is a heartbreaking novel that is most defiantly not for the faint of heart. It shows a darker side of human nature with the mentality of ‘taking care of our own’ and leaving the rest of the world to crumble.