A Riot of Goldfish

Kanoko Okamoto

First Sentence: Today again Mataichi scooped the tiny fish one by one into a shallow bowl and examined them carefully under a magnifying glass.

This is the story of Maitichi, the son of lower class goldfish sellers, who falls in love with the beautiful daughter of his wealthy patron. Maitichi is sent off to study goldfish breeding on the condition that he return and help his patron make his fortune. When he does return however, Masako is married with children and Maitichi has missed his chance with her. He then decides to devote his life to producing one ideal, perfect goldfish, to mirror Masako’s beauty. As the years go by this proves to be a lot more difficult than Maitichi had hoped. Overall I enjoyed this book as a short read but I don’t think I’d be recommending it to a lot of people. It’s a nice little fable with a sweet ending, but ultimately Maitichi has very few redeeming features and the writing doesn’t exactly leave a lasting impression. In fact, if it was any longer (it’s only 50 pages), I might not have finished it…

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Last Sentence: Meanwhile, just beneath the surface of the water in front of him, the fish, like a new star that Mataichi had spotted, puffed out its chest with perfect composure and led a crowd of leftover goldfish in a glittering procession as the sun glinted gorgeous off its fins.

Last Sentence explained: Year follows year yet Mataichi never manages to breed the perfect specimen he is hoping for. One year however there is a flood that sees his fish ponds overflowing and Mataichi himself is swept down to the lowest pond. It is here that he has left his discarded attempts at perfection to fend for themselves, and in this pond Mataichi discovers the ideal goldfish he has been striving for all this time, a fish that has been born naturally, without any human intervention whatsoever. There are several different ways you could read into this but I believe ultimately it is saying that nothing is as beautiful as nature itself, and no matter how hard we try to replicate this we will never succeed. As i said, this is a nice little fable, but aside from this moral lesson, there is little else on offer. The final sentence itself is probably the most memorable of all. And the title. That’s a great title!

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