A much-publicized crime that occurred in 1997, the so-called Tōden OL murder case, has served as a significant node in the discussions on gender, sexuality, and work in postbubble-economy Japan. Critics have pointed to the female victim of the murder as an icon of feminine malaise, erupting amid an ongoing erosion of existing sexual contract in the society. The essay examines this construction of “Tōden OL” with and against Kirino Natsuo's fiction best seller, Grotesque, loosely inspired by the case. While Grotesque draws on and contributes to debates over the case, it also avoids invoking Tōden OL as a straightforward figure of feminine suffering and easy empathy. Moreover, the novel explores Tōden OL in relation to not only a gendered but also a classed subject position—an incarnation of values, dispositions, and proclivities of mainstream Japan that took shape not so much in the postbubble 90s but in earlier decades, during the heyday of the so-called general middle-class society (ichioku sōchūryū shakai).

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