『白い衝動』by Katsuhiro Go

Cover of 白い衝動.
Title: 白い衝動 (しろいしょうどう)
Genre:
First published: 2017
Page Count: 346
Chihaya Okunuki is a school consellor. She is concerned when one of the students, Akinari, confesses having an impulsion to kill someone. At the same time, a man who has tortured three high-school students and only served 15 years in prison, has been released and is now living in the neighborhood. This sets the community on fire and everyone has something to say about the situation, while Chihaya struggles to maintain her ideals and conviction…

『白い衝動』talks about a lot of interesting topics like the re-integration of offenders in society, and questions like: is there something like pure evil? how far can we understand others?

I personally loved all these topics, and particularly the battle 包摂 (ほうせつ) vs 悪. Social inclusion (包摂) supports the re-integration of offenders into the community by working on changing the social factors that encouraged criminal behaviour. On the other hand, the idea that some people are inherently evil only leaves out one option: to chase these people out of the community because their behaviour is triggered by their evil nature rather than by social elements that could be improved.

I found this debate to be the most interesting part of the novel, but I found it to be oddly off balance. The novel creates a criminal that is very difficult to understand, let alone forgive. It also gives strong arguments and powerful lines to the advocates of the 悪 theory, and the novel makes it easier to side with them. The 包摂 theory, on the other hand, is only advocated by our protagonist, Chihaya, who works as a school counsellor. What I found frustrating all along, is that while social inclusion seems to be important for her, she makes a poor defendant of the cause. She never argues back when confronted with the characters who have different views, she actually rarely says anything to convince them or even explain the merits of social inclusion.

I found the character of Chihaya very frustrating at first, for various reasons, and I found it very difficult to understand her. However, the novel shows little by little that there is something more to the character that eventually would allow us to understand her actions and decisions. Unfortunately though, I did not find it convincing enough. What the novel reveals about Chihaya was just not enough for me to make sense of her personality, and the very end of the novel left me more frustrated with this character than ever.

Apart from this, I loved everything else in the novel. The story and all the other characters, the different positions and strong arguments held by all the spectrum of the community: school, parents, residents, family of victims and family of offenders, journalists… This is to me a really powerful book which has an engrossing plot that turns into a real mystery towards the end. Only the character of Chihaya and the social inclusion that she defends seem too pale in comparison with the colourful multitude of voices coming from the other characters.