Title: 『空飛ぶタイヤ』 (そらとぶたいや)
Author: Jun Ikeido (池井戸潤)
Published by 講談社文庫
This novel was published in 2006 and is inspired by a real accident that involved Mitsubishi. In 2002, a 29-year-old mother was killed when the wheel of a Mitsubishi trunk broke off and hit her. Her two children were injured. This happened just two years after Mitsubishi publicly recognized that it had covered up vehicle defects to avoid recalling them.
You really don’t need to know about the Mitsubishi scandal to enjoy 『空飛ぶタイヤ』, and even if you are not an avid reader of economic news, I heartily recommend you to give this novel a try.
Our main protagonist is Tokuro Akamatsu who owns a small transportation business. One of his trucks loses its wheel which leads to an accident similar to what happened in 2002. The novel takes us in a epic battle with Akamatsu’s small company on one side and Hope Motors Corporation, the giant automotive manufacturer, on the other side.
The topic of a small business and employees fighting for justice is appealing in itself, but in Jun Ikeido’s novel, it becomes a most exciting quest filled with emotional moments. I cannot remember the last time I felt so emotionally involved in a novel. I was both trembling with rage and shedding tears of joy with Akamatsu.
Another thing that I loved in this novel is how much we learn about how a big corporation works. Seeing how different services compete inside of Hope Cars was both an interesting insight and a nice addition to the plot. Similarly, the delicate position of Hope Bank, which belongs to the same group, spiced up the story while opening my eyes on things I never really thought of before.
I also found that the characters were more interesting and complex than in the other book I read by Ikeido, which was 『アキラとあきら』. In Akira, the characters were either good, nice and brilliant or ill-intentioned and stupid. While the novel was excellent, the characters’ actions were dictated by their nature (good or bad) rather than circumstances or inner struggles. In 『空飛ぶタイヤ』, the characters are more complex, and while there is still a good vs bad frame, there are more interesting characters who are torn between their own interests and what they know to be just.
Overall, 『空飛ぶタイヤ』 is one of the most engrossing novels I have read in Japanese so far, the characters and the whole story feel very real, the novel takes you on an emotional roller coaster filled with tension and suspense. The book reads like a thriller, but what makes it so gripping is that it deeply cares about people.