The Decay of the Angel


A messy, half-baked beginning, but the story comes together and held my attention after Honda adopts Tōru Yasunaga and the boy gradually reveals his wickedness. The tetralogy was a sometimes frustrating and dull read for its tiresome philosophizing and, as Donald Richie pointed out, for Mishima's tell-don't-show approach, but then there were descriptions that dazzled and wholly unexpected turns. I found the third of the four novels, The Temple of Dawn (1970), most compelling (except for Honda's long rumination over his various theories about reincarnation). I disliked or despised a few of the characters, especially the reincarnations, Kiyoaki, Isao, and Ying Chan, and also Tōru. Suicide is a theme in all four books. After reading these, there's something sad or more hopeless about Mishima that I hadn't felt after reading his other works.