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(published in English as The Crab Canning Ship or The Crab Ship) is a novel by Takiji Kobayashi, written in 1929. Written from a left-wing point of view, it concerns the crew of a crab fishing ship's hardships as they struggle under capitalist exploitation. The book has been made into a film and as manga. It is a short work, totalling around 80 pages in its English language translation.

Synopsis

A crab fishing ship goes to the open sea off Kamchatkamarker (now in Russiamarker but then in the Soviet Unionmarker). The crew do not favour their prospects; one crewman declares "We're going to Hell!" The crew revolt against their sadistic captain and foreman, form a union and take over the ship. However the new order on board is suppressed by soldiers.

The book expresses its pessimism from the beginning, not only in the opening remark but in the description of the harbour of Hakodate being filled with rubbish, and the smaller boats being compared to insects.

Revival of interest

Interest in the book has revived recently as the 2008 financial crisis has led to economic pressures on many Japanese workers. Interest increased after an article discussing the book appeared in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper on 9 January. This was followed by further articles in other papers, which came to call the revival the "kanikosen boom". Headlines like "Kanikosen - Sad reminder, lamenting disparity, young people’s empathy" (Yomiuri Shimbun 2 May) reflected its popularity among many disaffected young Japanese workers.

The Shinchosha Publishing Company originally planned to release 7,000 copies, to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the author's birth. As of May, 50,000 copies have been printed to cope with demand. As of August 2008, the book was near the top of several of Japan's bestseller lists, a remarkable feat for a book of this type.

Other versions

In 1953 the film Kanikōsen was released, directed by Sō Yamamura and starring himself, Masayuki Mori and Sumiko Hidaka. It was awarded the best cinematography prize at the 1954 Mainichi Film Concours.

A manga version of the book first appeared in 2006.

A remake of the film Kanikōsen, directed by Hiroyuki Tanaka and starring Ryūhei Matsuda and Hidetoshi Nishijima was completed in 2009.

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