TOUTED as Japan’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” this strange and powerful little novel takes the reader into the heart of the country’s industrial working class. Like Magnus Mills’ quirky blue-collar Glaswegians, Haitani’s elementary school kids play dirty, fight rough and constantly terrify their teachers with both their soft-heartedness and their bad behavior.
Tetsuzo, a first-grader, has grown up parentless in the shadow of the garbage disposal plant behind the school. Many of his classmates also live surrounded by chimneys and ash and frequently disappearing parents. Their 22-year-old teacher, Ms. Fumi Kotani, grew up privileged and strives to understand her students.
Tetsuzo, who will not speak a word in class, raises flies. Thanks to Ms. Kotani’s support, he becomes a local hero. “A Rabbit’s Eyes” has an almost awkward authenticity. Here lurks Japan beyond manga.