Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is known primarily as the author whose books formed the basis of Kurosawa’s Rashomon. Originally published in 1927, Kappa was published just before he committed suicide, at the age of 35. Patient No. 23 tells his story to anyone in the asylum who will listen. On his way home through a valley, he falls into a deep abyss while chasing a nimble creature with a face like a tiger and a sharp beak. The creature was a Kappa, and when he awoke he was in Kappaland. One man’s initiation into the rites of this parallel world becomes the vehicle for a savage and funny critique of contemporary Japanese life and customs.
One of Akutagawa’s most famous novellas it springs out of necessity for a brilliant man to view its world through the prism of satire. Even though it’s basically a satire of Japanese society from the first half of 20th century, most of its themes, admonitions and ridicules are still quite valid today.
A brilliant development of characters (and in this case an entire imaginary culture) to such fullness, given the rather (spatially) limited medium of a novella.