Title: Runaway Horses
Author: Yukio Mishima
Translator: Michael Gallagher
Runaway Horses is a novel by Yukio Mishima, and the second installment in his Sea Of Fertility tetralogy. Coming out in 1970, Runaway Horses would take the countdown to two more remaining years of Mishima's life, with his infamous submission of Decay Of The Angel, the final chapter of the Sea of Fertility and his life.
Those looking for a reprisal of themes and motifs found in Spring Snow, the first novel in the Sea of Fertility, will be hard pressed to find them in Runaway Horses. While Spring Snow was mainly a nihilistic romance novel, Runaway Horses is a fanatic political manifesto, putting forth Mishima's personal ideology and even furthering the extent of foreshadowing the Sea of Fertility would display through out it's chapters. However, this does not mean that Mishima's excellent understanding of love is devoid from the novel, as, in fact, it does play a pivotal role toward the dramatic conclusion of the novel.
However, those looking for the same fluid and absolutely beautiful writing style that was displayed in Spring Snow will be happy to see that Mishima once again tops himself with his unique and magnificent rhetoric. Michael Gallagher does an excellent job capturing the absolute dreamy and sometimes surrealistic style that Mishima displays in most of his novels, but to the extent that it is nearly perfect, unlike the botched attempts by other translators.
In Runaway Horses the Sea Of Fertility really starts to gain galloping speed. Where Spring Snow could be viewed as a thesis, Runaway Horses is truly the first half of the body for the Sea Of Fertility essay. It is here in Runaway Horses that we find Shigekuni Honda will be the protagonist for the remainder of the tetrology, and not anyone from the House of Matsugae, to which Kiyoaki, Honda's best friend, belonged to before his untimely death, or Satoko, the girl Kiyoaki died for in Spring Snow.
Opening the Runaway Horses in 1932, we are once introduced to the aforementioned Shigekuni Honda. Since Kiyoaki's death some 20 odd years earlier, Honda has climbed up the Japanese judicial system after attending law school at Tokyo Imperial University, and then rising to become an associate judge to the Osaka Court of Appeals. This is a far cry away from his role in Spring Snow, where he played a character who was highly nihilistic and shared a similar short life expectancy to that of Kiyoaki, all though still highly interested in law for different reasons.
It is Honda's high ranking position in the Osaka Court of Appeals that allows him to attend a kendo match out in the countryside one day during the spring. At this kendo match Honda meets a young man who immediately strikes him as someone of grave importance, both because of his perfectly fit body and his excellence in kendo; striking down his opponents one after another and eventually becoming the champion of the tournament. Towards the end of the day, and after the conclusion of the tournament, Honda goes to a waterfall near the site of the tournament where the kendo players bath in the water to purify themselves after the match. It is here that we are introduced to the fine young man and his significance.
The first important thing regarding Isao Iinuma, the young kendoist, is his name. Shigeyuki Iinuma was Kiyoaki's tutor and general servant throughout Spring Snow, but eventually was expelled from the House of Matsugae after Shigeyuki had a love affair with one of the maids of the House, Mine, and Isao is Shigeyuki's son from the couple. This automatically strikes Honda as very strange, since he had neither seen nor spoken to Shigeyuki since his expulsion from the House, or since the death of Kiyoaki. However, the next thing to strike Honda, with even a more deadly blow, comes when Honda sees the naked, young Iinuma purifying himself in the falls.
Three moles grace the skin of Isao Iinuma, in the exact location where Honda once say three moles on Kiyoaki while sunbathing in Spring Snow. This leads Honda, a devote Buddhist, into speculation of Isao Iinuma being the reincarnation of his former best friend Kiyoaki Matsugae. This is not only important to Runaway Horses, but is also essential to the remainder of the Sea of Fertility, establishing a recurring plotline of Kiyoaki's soul being reborn in each novel with the death of each protagonist in the previous one, while also putting Yukio Mishima's religious beliefs into the forefront of his novels.
Honda and Isao, along with Isao's father, eventually come into a situation where they converse and automatically hit things off. Shigeyuki Iinuma invites Honda for dinner at their house in Tokyo, to which Honda agrees since he has a few more days off from the House of Appeals. It is after their dinner that Isao begins to speak with Honda, after Shigeyuki and Honda have played catching up, where they talking lightly about Kiyoaki and the scandal that drove Shigeyuki out, and eventually Isao loans Honda a book to which he is extremely fond of, and takes his personal philosophy of life from, The League of the Divine Wind.
The League of the Divine Wind takes up nearly seventy-five pages of the four hundred page book, and it details a coup attempt against the deteriorating Japanese government and the declining power of the Emperor. In it's account a group of nearly two hundred samurai, armed only with their swords, attack the Japanese military and various high ranking officials. However, they ultimately fail, and the surviving insurgents commit seppuku in reverence to the Emperor.
When the ending of The League of the Divine Wind comes, Runaway Horses changes from focusing on Honda to focusing on Isao. Inspired by the purity of those from The League of the Divine Wind, Isao begins to create his own militia of sorts, and begins plotting a similar attack against Japan. While loaning out The League to his classmates and speaking with them about such things, Isao gains twenty fellow comrades, all of whom are prepared to strike at Japan's growing capitalist sectors at any moment.
The group, after learning how to make adequate bombs, sets out to destroy the bank of Japan and various capitalist leaders in Japan. However, after a few rows in the group several members leave the organization, including one high ranking military official who agreed to give the group support, and the group is brought down to ten. Because of their decline in numbers the group changes their plans to individual assassinations of the capitalist tycoons via sword.
Sadly, the group is brought down by a raid only a few days before they planned to make their attack.
What follows is in intricate web that brings together many surprise characters from Spring Snow. Honda quits his position in the Osaka Court of Appeals and devotes his time to helping out Isao in his case, ultimately becoming his lawyer. In pursuit of help to get the young revolutionaries out of jail, Honda approaches Prince Toin, whom Satoko, Kiyoaki's lover, was supposed to marry until she fled to a convent where she became a nun. Prince Toin was never aware of this, and Honda considers telling him in an attempt to gain his help, but it never comes to that, as Isao and his friends are released because of their age and sympathetic supporters.
The most heart-achingly beautiful aspect of the novel comes whence Isao is released from prison, yet still wishing to fulfill his assassination attempt of the most prominent capitalist in Japan, Busuke Kurahara. After sneaking off with his sword, Isao arrives at Busuke Kurahara's mansion, and slips in undetected to kill Busuke. After this Isao rushes out to a beachside mountaintop, and while the sun is coming out he commits seppuku.
Runaway Horses is the perfect follow up to Spring Snow and it is highly recommended. The good thing about all of the novels in the Sea of Fertility is that they can be enjoyed on a individual level, but, of course, for maximum bliss the series should be read chronologically.
The Sea of Fertility
Back :: Here :: Forward