4 Psychological Thriller Novels Where Sanity Is Tested

When people face strange and trying situations, watch as their mental state blurs into chaos. Here are 4 novels where the protagonists must face death, and mind and sanity will be put to the test. Can they overcome the challenge?

4. ドアD (Door D)
Japanese Level: ☆☆

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Yuna and her 7 university tennis club friends were kidnapped and woke up in an unknown room. With only one locked door, and water filling into the room fast, they must figure out a way to escape before they all drown.

There’s a lever that opens the door. But it only holds the door open while pulled. One person will have to remain.

And this is just the start. Through a series of death trap rooms, and chances of survival slim, each other’s humanity will be tested. Will the group make it out alive? Will anyone make it out alive? And what awaits upon getting through the final door?

First Page

Doa D

3. スイッチを押すとき (When I push the switch)
Japanese Level: ☆☆

4 Psychological Thriller Novels Where Sanity Is Tested - 2

In order to stop the increase in suicidal youths, a disturbing government project was enacted. Chosen youths are separated from society, sent to facilities and put in general isolation where they are to live out their lives and be monitored nonstop.

Children are given switches, and when pressed, they are able to kill themselves. Their activity, when and what causes them to press the switch, is watched and studied.

Youhei is a new worker at one of the facilities and put in charge of a rare example. 4 children who have bared the isolation for 7 years, and still have never pushed the switch, despite everyone else around them having already done so. After getting to know these children, and their reason for living, he makes it his mission to save them, and get them out of this insane experiment. Will he succeed, or will they give in to the hopelessness of it all and finally decide to leave this world?

First Page


2. スピン (Spin)
Japanese level: ☆☆

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6 young guys who met on the internet, but never in real life, decide hey want to “shock the world.” There plan is to simultaneously hijack 6 buses in 6 cities and head to Tokyo Tower to meet up for the first time.

Shuichi was just fired from his part time job. He also just narrowly escaped after a shoplifting attempt due to his frustration with the world. The store clerk chased him out of the store, but Shuichi narrowly escaped on a bus. A soon to be hijacked bus.

What is the fate of the 6 buses, all the passengers on board, and poor Shuichi.

First Page


1. リアル鬼ごっこ (The Chasing World)
Japanese level: ☆☆☆

4 Psychological Thriller Novels Where Sanity Is Tested - 4

It’s the year 3000. Japan has turned into some dark and twisted despotic kingdom.

The king one day makes his orders clear:

Kill everyone with the last name Satou over a period of 17 days. Anyone who makes it past that is allowed to live.

Most of the original millions Satou population is exterminated. Every day is the same. Run. Or die. Tsubasa Satou was nearly ready to give up, but decides that for the sake of his little sister, he will do anything to make sure they survive.

Will he make it to the end? Will he make it to the king? And what is the real meaning behind this insane ruler?

First Page

Real Oni Gokko

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


4 Psychological Thriller Novels Where Sanity Is Tested — 14 Comments

  1. Daaaaamn, Amazon.jp reviews of リアル鬼ごっこ are brutal! One-and-a-half stars out of 800+ reviews. I didn’t actually bother to read any, but I assume there are some pretty disgruntled Satous out there.

    • Haha, well you would be annoyed too if your name was killed off.

      A lot of 山田悠介 (Yamada Yuusuke)’s works get highly criticized online because his ideas can seem a bit outrageous and his writing is way too simple. The fact that his works sell so much despite this negative criticism just fuels even stronger criticism.

      For the most part, I find his stories interesting though, and really easy and straightforward to read, despite being kind of trashy.

  2. One of the first novels I read (this was a couple of years ago) was Yamada Yusuke’s 自殺プロデュース, which is sort of embarrassing in a way, but I found it to be fast paced, eerily interesting, and quite easy to read. It wouldn’t be something you would want to call “literature” per se, but I think you will be entertained, making it easier to delve into reading novels in Japanese.

    • Nope, literature isn’t a word that would ever come anywhere near his work. But as you said, it is an entertaining and easy dive into novels.

  3. Awesome, thanks for the reviews! It’d be great if there was an example paragraph or something too, so we could hear the writer’s style too. I don’t know if that’s possible, but a special request to think about maybe?
    スピン sounds pretty cool. I’ve read some manga with that kind of plotline too…I think the Japanese just lean towards stories about suicide and the brokenhearted outcasts rebelling against society with a big crime.

    • The current batch of novels I’ve been reviewing I read a fairly long time ago, so I don’t have the books anymore. But once I start to get into some new novels, I’ll definitely try to include a tiny sample text.

      • That would be really nice to include with the RECs. Even if it is just a picture or scan of the page.

  4. I really like these articles. Thankyou for the included sample text.Made me decide to pick up the satou book, even though it’s level was a bit above what I like to read normally. Cheers!

    • リアル鬼ごっこ actually gets easier as it starts. The few page intro is probably the hardest part of the book. But I think it’ll be a fun challenge for you.

  5. I finished reading スイッチを押すとき a few days ago, and it was probably the saddest thing I’ve ever read. Definetely recommend it though, it’s a page turner for sure.

    • It definitely was sad. Most of Yamada Yuusuke’s novels seem to be. He has created a universe of 絶望!

      His books are fairly easy to read though right? Going to check out his other books?

      • Yes definitely good books to start with, it was the first novel I’ve ever read. Door D looks pretty interesting so I’ll probably check that out when I have some book money.

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