From a baby witnessing an affair to a clock that shows how much time you have left to live, Bullseye! is unique collection of short stories by Yasutaka Tsutsui. The author is credited with being a founder of post-modern science fiction in Japan with his satirical and dark stories that often comment on what is typically considered as “taboo” subjects. The stories present a fresh outlook on the human condition conveying dark humor and satire into commentary with at times absurd details and eccentric plots. Each story is more surprising than the last with endings that you won’t see coming.
These stories make an impression and stick in your mind as the dark satire takes a unique approach with stories that are slightly weird. Tsutsui has an interesting way of flipping human experiences into a whole other light. The president and other important figures call for a demonic entity in “Call for the Devil” which dives into the idea of selling ones soul for riches. Perspectives are warped in “The Onlooker” which details a passionate affair from a third party point of view that comments throughout, revealing at the end to be a baby. The baby pities them but also seems a bit bored by the notion of the affair.
It’s the seemingly ordinary stories that shine as they subtly comment on the longing and boring aspects of life. “The Good Old Days” has an nostalgic feel about it as the dad comes home from work to listen to the kids complain about how the new TV hasn’t arrived yet. Then the whole family gets together and starts sharing stories about magic and adventure, but also seems to be poking fun at several different aspects. This normal reality falls into the same theme as “Running Man” which finds a man out running when he meets a girl and the two fall in love. The routine his life takes on shows how almost boring life can be when there’s no surprises in it.
Many of the stories feature normal people perceiving strange or dangerous events in a casual or almost blasé attitude. The most unique of these finds a man losing his wife and baby to a “Vanishing Dimension” thanks to a toy monkey. After failing in his attempts to save them, the story ends with how one day someone would move into the house and find his eternally young wife and child. There’s a magical and grim aspect to it that is similar in style to the fairy tale style of “The Night they Played Hide and Seek” which finds children playing at night until one of them disappears. The story has an eerie vibe to it that stays with you even when it’s over. For those that crave a literary read with absurdity and commentary on social topics Bullseye! is the perfect fit.