Yusaku Kitano :: Mr. Turtle


Mr. Turtle
by Yusaku KITANO

Translated by Tyran GRILLO

In a world of humans, what's a cyborg turtle to do?

It's a fair question in the bizarre, compelling story of Mr. Turtle.
Yusaku Kitano's science fiction masterpiece, originally published under the eponymous title Kame-kun, renews the visionary integrity that won it the Nihon SF Taisho (Japan's equivalent of the Nebula) Award in 2001 as it finds its way into English at last. Kitano's protagonist is a hero in a half shell of an altogether different sort, a killing machine designed for combat who wants only to enjoy the simple pleasures of his daily life—working a blue collar job, going to the library, and typing on his laptop—even as he is haunted by vague memories of a war on Jupiter.

In order to determine his future, he must piece together his past, navigating an unsympathetic society toward revealing the novel's philosophical heartbeat. A character study of surreal wit, Mr. Turtle delivers action and insight, all the while crafting an homage to its chosen genre unlike any other.


  • ...a cyborg turtle in a near-future Japan, where creatures like him are tolerated but never truly accepted. Mr. Turtle himself never speaks; our access to his mind is through the close third-person, and this accentuates the loneliness that permeates the story.
    Rachel Cordasco, Three Percent
  • Kitano loves layers, and there are many to upturn in this deceptive tale of a cyborg turtle’s existential awakening. ... It’s hard to think of a similar story about artificial intelligence that is as deceptively simple.
    Cameron Allan McKean, Japan Times
  • Deceptively simple fable-like animal tale takes some mind-bending turns and leaves you wanting more.
    —4.5 stars, Alan, Goodreads Librarian
  • Kame-kun is one of the most endearing characters you’ll come across in speculative fiction... and he never says a word. Reserved, polite, uncertain, haunted—Kame-kun is all of these things because he is out of place on so many levels. [...]Kitano’s writing style is addictive—measured, controlled, but with an ebullience just simmering under the surface.
    — Rachel Cordasco, Speculative Fiction in Translation
  • Kame-kun—sentient being ? thinking machine ? —has his own existential identity crisis, the fundamental question of: "Why am I a turtle ?" gnawing at him.
    ...a curious existential-technological work. There's quite a bit of charm to the novel, and a darker serious side lurking below. ...an agreeably odd read.
    Michael Orthofer, The Complete Review


  • Rachel Cordasco, of the Speculative Fiction in Translation website, recently posted a short interview with Mr. Grillo, discussing Mr. Turtle and other things.
    Interview: Tyran Grillo


  • Pages: 184
  • Trade paperback 5" x 8" (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN:
    Softcover: 978-4-902075-80-9
    Ebook: 978-4-902075-92-2
  • Cover: Mike Dubisch

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About the author

Yusaku Kitano (北野 勇作; 1962—) won the 4th Japan Fantasy Novel Grand Prize in 1992 with Mukashi, Kasei no atta basho (Where Mars Used to Be), and has won a devoted following in the SF community for his examinations of a range of social and personal issues, all cleverly cloaked in humor and gentle storylines.

About the translator

Tyran Grillo’s passion for East Asian languages began in high school, when he encountered Japanese popular (and not so popular) music. Once he began his studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he earned both his B.A. and M.A. in Japanese Language and Literature, an interest in song lyrics developed into an even more intense love of poetry and literature. A desire to translate was always at the heart of these endeavors and led him to publish two translations—Hideaki Sena’s Parasite Eve and Koji Suzuki’s Paradise—with Vertical while still an undergraduate, followed by Taku Ashibe’s Murder in the Red Chamber (Kurodahan Press). Most recently, he has published translations of novels from Yoshiki Tanaka’s seminal Legend of the Galactic Heroes series with Haikasoru. He currently lives in New York City, teaching as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, having completed his Ph.D. in Japanese Literature at Cornell University in 2017.