Tokyo may still be thriving, but in Japan’s rural hinterlands, the country has already plunged into a state of advanced senescence. At the start of Kazuki Sakuraba’s “Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas,” the book’s narrator surveys her hometown and struggles to reconcile the stories of its prosperous past with its humdrum modern reality: “a black, dried husk of a city, where the fires stopped as the times changed, a dead place covered in red rust, transformed into an enormous ruin.”
Spanning half a century, “Red Girls” traces the postwar fortunes of a fictional village in Tottori Prefecture, the sparsely populated region where Sakuraba herself grew up. Blending family saga with history, allegory and dashes of magical realism, it aspires to transpose Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” to the Japanese countryside. If the execution is a little wonky, the ambition is worth commending all the same.