「Ring」 by Koji Suzuki: The Book Which Spawned the Film That Terrorized My Childhood Nights

Ring (リング), first published in 1991, is a Japanese mystery horror novel written by Koji Suzuki (鈴木光司 / Suzuki Kōji) and translated into English by Glynne Walley. It is the first book in the Ring Trilogy followed by Spiral (らせん / Rasen) and Loop (ループ / Rūpu). The story is the basis for several TV and film adaptations both nationally in Japan and internationally.

Rating: 😀 😀 😀 😀 (4 out of 5 grins)

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As a kid, I watched the 1998 film adaptation numerous times. It frightened me every single time. I remember that I would be scared to even go to the washroom at night, imagining Sadako coming out of the toilet bowl to kill me. Nevertheless, Ring remains one of my favourite horror films of all time, although I must confess that I’m not as impressed by it anymore compared to when I was a small girl.

I also watched the 2002 American film adaptation, and I’m not sorry to say that I’m disappointed with it. It just doesn’t have the creep factor that the Japanese 1998 film have, you know?

It’s only recently that I learned that this iconic horror story which crept people out all over the world was based from a book series. I know,  I know. I can almost see your shocked face and voice telling me, “How could you not know about that, Arria?” Oh well. I don’t know everything.

I was at an amazing book sale and by coincidence, I came across the book Ring by Suzuki, translated by Walley. The cover wasn’t really eye-catching (see cover image near the top of this post), but the title and the Japanese name of the author were enough to make me stop and examine it. I read the back blurb and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the Sadako story that terrorized my childhood nights! It was the first time I discovered that the films were based from books.

Of course, I immediately read the book upon returning home. Comparing it to the 1998 film, I was shocked that the main protagonist is male instead of female. The original character in the book is a male reporter named Kazuyuki Asakawa while in the film, it`s a female reporter named Reiko Asakawa.

Another difference that surprised me is how in the original novel, Kazuyuki Asakawa and Ryuuji Takayama are friends, but in the film Reiko Asakawa and Takayama are former wife and husband. I think I prefer the change in the film because it makes the relationship between them more intimate and easier to sympathize with. In the novel, it was a bit difficult for me to understand the closeness between the friends Asakawa and Takayama. Takayama is portrayed as a vile character who rapes women and obtains enjoyment from scary and dangerous situations. However, when he died at the end, this portrayal is questioned. We are left uncertain of the truth surrounding his real self.

Anyway, I’m not going to list all the differences between the novel and the film. This post is not about that. This is about my discovery of the novel, which I’m already going to tell you that I enjoyed immensely.

It reminds me a little bit of Haruki Murakami’s surreal fantasy style of writing.  But of course Murakami and Suzuki are different. Most of Murakami’s works emphasize the human psyche affecting the events compared to Suzuki’s Ring, wherein a specific external power, namely Sadako, is the cause of the major events in the story.

Since I haven’t read the novel in original Japanese, I can’t comment about the accuracy of the English translation by Glynne Walley. All I know is that the translated novel makes sense and effectively conveys the creep factor of the story. It was a smooth read, so kudos to Mr. Walley!

I enjoyed this novel Ring. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in the trilogy, Spiral and Loop.  Although the novel Ring didn’t scare me as much as its 1998 film adaptation, it’s still a subtly frightening book that I highly recommend.

Have you read Ring by Koji Suzuki yet? Have you watched the film adaptations?


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31 thoughts on “「Ring」 by Koji Suzuki: The Book Which Spawned the Film That Terrorized My Childhood Nights”

  1. I watched The Ring before and ya know what? I never got scared of it. It was just some stupid long haired, unwashed girl coming out of the screen if ya did not have anyone watch that crummy cursed video tape for a week. Resident Evil 2 was way scarier than that as far as my memories were concerned. Hmm… If my scary prof is Assessment would square off against Sadako, I bet she will bury Sadako in the depths of hell, har har…

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    1. It’s worth a try to watch the original Japanese Ring movie, and then the American version. Both are scary, but the Japanese has a stronger and creepier atmosphere. I also hope that you get to read the books. You’re very welcome. I’m glad that you like my post. Thanks for dropping by. Cheers!

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  2. I really love the book series! Bought them during my university studies, and just recently I persuaded my girlfriend to start reading them too. So far she’s nearly done with Spiral and she’s enjoying it so much that I may go back to them soon myself!

    I hope you enjoy the continuation and further development of the mystery that Spiral and Loop provide; I’d love to see you cover them both in the future!

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    1. Oh wow. So you read all of them? I have only read the first book so far, but it’s only a matter of time before I read the rest of the series. I can’t wait! And yes. I have a feeling I’ll enjoy the rest of the books. Kudos to you for persuading your gf to read the books. Indeed. I’ll definitely write posts about them when I get the chance to read the rest of the books. Big thanks!

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  3. Same as other comments above. Haven’t read the books, but seen both adaptations. And yes the Japanese has that dark, foreboding, unnerving atmosphere – whilst the American version (it ain’t bad) is more polished & toned down, which probably makes it inferior to the original. Heck this and the grudge freaked me out when I first watched them. These days it doesn’t scare me at all.

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    1. This is the book in the series that I’ve read so far, but of course I’m planning to read the rest. Indeed, that’s so true. Like what I said to another earlier comment, I think that if we haven’t watched the original Japanese film, we would’ve appreciated the American version more. But since we already watched the original, it set the standard for us, and we just can’t help to judge other versions that doesn’t reach its level as inferior to it. Ahahaha! The Grudge was scary. Agh. Just remembering these films is giving me the creeps. Thanks for dropping by. Cheers!

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  4. To date, the original Ringu has the most scary scene in it, that I think i have ever seen. I can still remember the first time I watched it and looking at it in absolute shock. The American version, though not necessarily bad, just doesn’t have the same vibe as the original. I guess that only the Japanese can create that incredible atmosphere. I haven’t read the book yet, but I think that after reading your review I might definitely try it out. I am currently reading Another by Japanese author Yukito Ayatsuji, and I highly recommend it as well. It also has a pretty tense atmosphere, and the Animeseries based on this book is one of the best things I have seen this year. I will do a review of the novel on my blog when I finish it, but the review of the anime you can already read. If you like Ringu, this one might definitely be worth checking out. Anyway…great review, thanks for sharing 😀

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    1. Oh my gosh. I totally get what you mean. Please note that I first watched this literally as a child. Imagine my terror when I watched the film for the first time. It was terrifying! Good point. I think that if I didn’t watch the Japanese version first, I would’ve appreciated the American version more. It’s just that we already have the original Japanese version as the standard and anything that doesn’t reach its level will be deemed inferior, even if the version isn’t necessarily bad.
      Oh, “Another”! Awesome. I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks. I think he write another novel turned into anime called “Juuni Kokuki”? I’ve been hunting for it for a while now. Yes, I’ll add this author to my to-hunt list. Thanks again.

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  5. Pretty much the same comments for me, regarding the movies (except the part about being a little girl). I got the first book soon after watching the original trilogy and was at first put off by the differences. As the pages passed though, the mystery grew, and by the end I was totally swept up by it all. It wasn’t long before I’d bought and read the other two books – both excellent. Also make sure to read the short story collection ‘Birthday’ which acts as an epilogue to the series. I haven’t read the latest two novels in the series yet – too expensive, but I would also recommend Koji Suzuki’s Paradise – kind of a love story about souls spread over hundreds of years.

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    1. Indeed. I know what you mean. Yes, I heard about “Birthday”. There’s also a film adaptation of it titled “Ring 0: Birthday”, which I also like because my favourite Japanese actress starred in it. I also didn’t know that it was based on a book. I’m currently hunting for the other books with this story. Thank you. Ah, “Paradise” sounds interesting. I’ll add it to my hunt list. Thank you!

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  6. I haven’t read the books, but I’ve seen both the Japanese and the American movie versions. The two movies definitely have two very different styles and I think the japanese version is much better and alot creepier.

    It has this slow pace that works really well with most japanese horror stories, which builds up this kind of scary atmosphere instead of relying on alot of jump scares like so many american horror movies.

    Just look at games like Silent Hill, which has a really scary atmosphere and story, but barely any jump scares and it works really well because you end up caring more about the story and the characters that way, instead of worrying about when the something is going to jump out from the next corner and yell in your face.

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    1. I know, right? The slow pace is definitely creepier because the tension really builds up to a point that it’s almost hard to take in, while in the American version, we have a lot of scenes of release. Excellent way to compare the two movies. Good job.

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