Tuesday, July 28, 2009

『密室宣言』

「だが、それでも密室は性懲りも無く出てくる。なぜだと思う?」
「 さぁー。。。」 「それは密室が『トリックの王様』だから」、『名探偵の掟: 密室宣言』

"But despite that, locked rooms persistently keep popping up. Why is that?"
"Well..."
"It's because the locked room is 'the King of Tricks'", "Meitantei no Okite: Locked Room Manifesto"

While most people won't think there's any difference between one detective subgenre and another even know there are subgenres within the detective literature genre, they do exist and one is usually inclined to favor one subgenre over another. For me, when I usually talk about detectives, it is about books written in the style of Golden Age detective fiction. Golden Age detective fiction, which in Japan is called orthodox detective fiction is all about challenging the reader. The writer plays a fair play game with the reader, challenging him to solve the puzzle. In this style of books, logic reigns. More than any other genre, it asks the reader to be involved with the story, to actively think about what is written.

A locked room mystery is the ultimate challenge. A murder which occured in a closed space, without no apparent escape route for the murderer. The disappearence of someone from an constantly observed room. The body in a snowy field without any footprints of the murderer. Impossible happenings that did happen. And there is a perfectly logical rational explanation for it. Within Golden Age detective fiction, the locked room is truly "the King of Tricks". Which explains why books like this one are written:

有栖川有栖の密室大図鑑 (Arisugawa Arisu no Misshitsu Daizukan ("Arisugawa Alice's Great Illustrated Guide to Locked Rooms", also known as "An Illustrated Guide to the Locked Room 1891-1998")

I had been looking for this book by detective writer Arisugawa Alice (self-chosen romanization after the Wonderland character and he also uses a logo with a Cheshire Cat) quite a while and I luckily managed to pick it up the very last day in Japan (though I had decided earlier that week not to buy books anymore because of the weight of my bags and stuff...). It is a guide on the 50 most important and interesting locked room mysteries starting from 1891. Arisugawa describes the historical context, how the locked room looks like and luckily does not spoil the solution to it. Though books like this have been written earlier (like Locked Room Murders and Other Impossible Crimes which due to current market prices, is too expensive to acquire), this one is interesting in two aspects. One is that it includes illustrations of all the locked rooms mentioned in the book.

Roughly speaking, you could divide locked rooms solutions in two kinds: the mechanical one and the psychological one. The first one are the rope and needle solutions, for example MacGyvering intricate mechanisms to close doors from inside. The psychological tricks, which are my favorite, are used to make a room seem locked and make use of habits and blind spots of the human mind. The rope and needle solutions though often gain much from illustrations, detailed maps, because explanation in text is often not enough to truly get the picture (that's also why I think mechanical solutions work better in manga or TV-shows). Of course, there are stories where it doesn't make sense even with illustrations. The Chinese Orange Mystery, I still don't understand you.

Anyway. Illustrations. Good. The second interesting point about this book is that it also offers Japanese examples of the locked room mystery. For a fan of Japanese detective fiction not actually living in Japan, it's hard to find out which books are good, which writers are popular et cetera. Where in the West, "we" all know that Carr's The Hollow Man, Gaston Leroux' Le Mystère de la chambre jaune and Futrelle's The Problem of Cell 13 are famous and why, it's hard to find that sort of information on Japanese detective fiction in languages other than Japanese. As detective fiction is one of the best selling genres in Japan and many books are published every month, it is difficult to find out what's good, what's not and these kinds of books, though very specialistic, are great time savers. Of course, you'll have to be a specific sort of reader at any rate to even consider buying these kinds of books.... (actually spent some hours in Japan trying to create a locked room in my Weekly Mansion room. With rubber bands and strings and stuff. It's hard. Of course, this book is not nearly as geeky as the book by Arisugawa on how to make locked rooms yourself. Which I also have.)

The locked room mystery might not be the favorite sub-subgenre of everyone, but you can hardly deny its popularity. Ever since its creation, it has taken on many, many forms. And after more than 100 years, we still see new variations on the locked room. Hail "The King of Tricks".

Today's song: 浅野真澄 (Asano Masumi) - 論理の旋律は必ず真実を奏でる (Ronri no senritsu wa kanarazu shinjitsu wo kanaderu ("The Melody of Logic always plays the Truth")

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"To say goodbye, is to die a little."

"I do not care to be in love with myself and there is no longer anyone else for me to be in love with.", "The Long Goodbye"

For me, a detective has to be logical and rational. At the end of the book, I want the detective to tell me who the murderer was and how he commited it. The more logical, the more rational, the more mathematical the explanation, the better. A + B = C and therefore X has to be the killer. Especially Ellery Queen's early novels excel in the logical deductive explanations (for example, to include even more letters, in The Tragedy of Z).

And then, we have the hardboiled detective. With the private eye as the protagonist. Slow investigations are not his thing, he'll go out and hunt for clues in the city wilderness. He faces danger and will be double-triple crossed several times during the story by everyone, he will fall in love with some smart dame, but he'll probably not end up with her and with some optional bits of social criticism here and there, the detective will in the end solve the case, usually by a healthy mix of (verbal) violence and his sharp wits and tongue. It is a detective all right, but it could hardly be further away of the logic school than this. And that's why for me, hardboiled detectives are very low on the read list. Actually, I had not even read one till last week. Except for that one book that started out as a classic detective in a great setting, but cheated me with a hardboiled solution.

But I digress, so, Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, featuring his private eye detective Philip Marlowe. It managed to confirm everything I thought about hardboiled detectives. Which is partly good, partly bad. The bad for me is that hardboiled detectives aren't about challenging the reader, they are about following the quest of the knight/detective in search for his Holy Grail (which might be in the form of anything), vanquishing all kinds of small bads on his way there. A hardboiled detective story is just a knight's tale. There are no great puzzle plots to be expected here, no fact A + fact B = fact C mathematical explanations. Just a piling up of trouble. I suspect a lot of readers of the logic school might have the same 'problem' with hardboiled detective fiction.

The good though is the atmosphere of a hardboiled detective story. Which is very, very awesome. You'll get sucked in right away because of the piling up of trouble. It is a knight's quest and because you'll never know what's around the corner you keep reading. And in the case of Chandler, it's also written very good and very, very quotable. Witty, flowing dialogue that everybody should've read once in his/her lifetime. And I guess, the lack of a complex puzzle plot makes it more accessible for readers not acquainted with detective fiction.

Still, I think the genre works a lot better in other media than books. Because I have been enjoying the genre in movies a lot (also heavily influencing film noir). The Maltese Falcon, with Humphrey Bogart as private eye Sam Spade hunting for the titular bird is a great movie. Matsuda Yuusaku as the private eye Kudou Shunsaku in Tantei Monogatari ("Detective Stories") managed to inject the hardboiled genre with a healthy dose of comedy, which made it a great show. Games? Even better. Grim Fandango is one of the best and one of the best quotable games ever. Period. Tantei Jinguuji Saburou ("Detective Jinguuji Saburou"), a long Japanese adventure game series featuring a private eye situated in Shinjuku, Kabuki-chou (where else?), even manages to slip in some Golden Age puzzles within its hardboiled stories. For me, the hardboiled genre benefits greatly of audiovisualization (...that's probably not a real word) and it's then when I can forget it's not a 'proper detective', as the atmosphere is just too great to ignore.

Naturally though, if we would combine the best parts of all detective subgenres in one story, the Earth would instantly cease to exist.

Today's song: 大内義明 (Oouchi Yoshiaki) - Ballad of the Silver Bullet

Thursday, July 23, 2009

「俺たちが知ってる真実なんてのはなぁ、ほんの一部だ。」

「真実なんてのはなぁ、ほんとは存在しないんだよ。あいまいな記憶の集合体で、それがぁ真実の顔をしてどうどうとのさばっているだけだ。」真山徹、『ケイゾク』

"
The truth doesn't exist. Just vague collective memories posing as the truth.", Mayama Tooru, "Keizoku"


And as if to mock me, the next detective I watched after writing that last post did involve esotoric mumbo jumbo. And supernatural stuff. Somehow, I should've known things never turn out the way I hope them to be. Beautiful Dreamer.

Culprit: the 1999 Japanese TV-series Keizoku ("Continuing"), in which a career policewoman and top-of-the-class Tokyo University graduate (but oblivious to common sense), Shibata Jun, is assigned to an unit within the force responsible for handling old unsolved cases. As the Rules of Detection dictate, Shibata of course manages to solve cold case after case. Including the infamous 300 million yen robbery (But thinking it's too much trouble to go over the case again, they leave it be.).

The series begins brilliantly with Golden Age detective problems like locked room murders, disappearances and alibi deconstruction stories, all glued together through Tsutsumi Yukihiko's distinctive directing, with strange camera-angles and movement, great rapid-fire dialogue and non-sequitur humor between rookie Shibata and the hardboiled Mayama. Keizoku is an improvement on his older detective drama adaptation of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo ("The Case Files of Young Kindaichi") and a foreboding of Tsutsumi's masterpiece detective-comedy Trick (which is so awesome, it's hard to explain. You really have to see it to understand the bizarre comedy there).

Too bad it all goes down-hill in the second half of Keizoku, where a case involving a strange serial murderer becomes the focus and it ends in a violent extravaganza of betrayal after betrayal, cops hunting cops and the appearence of a mindclouding, mindswapping, body-changing supervillain. Actually, I don't know precisely what that power was of the last criminal and according to the Keizoku: Phantom special, neither does the director, but it sure wasn't realistic. Of course, that was nothing compared to the Opening of the Gates of Hell in the Keizoku: Beautiful Dreamer movie. That was really trippy. I think Tsutsumi tried to do something different with the Japanese (detective) drama, but did it in a way which made it simply incomprehensible. And made a fairly good detective drama into a weird supernatural police series.

And to paraphrase Dr. Fell from The Hollow Man, I have no problems with detectives being improbable, as long as they are not impossible.

Today's song: 大野克夫バンド (Oono Katsuo Band) - 太陽にほえろ!メインテーマ (Taiyou ni Hoero! Main Theme ("'Howl at the Sun!' Main Theme"))

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Reality is seen in dreams. What you dream at night is real."

「愛。こんな精巧な美術品を作り上げたヤツがそんな形のないモノを信じてるはずがない。形のないモノは醜い。」、平井太郎、『乱歩地獄』

"
Love. Somebody who made such a beautiful piece of art surely doesn't believe in an intangible thing like that. Love is intangible and ugly.", Hirai Tarou, "Rampo Noir"

I am great with books. Can easily spend a whole day reading books. Multiple books are no problem either. Movies however are another story. I seldom have the patience to sit through a whole movie in one session (which is kinda a problem when at the cinema...), I just can't keep my attention to it the full two-and-a-half hours movies nowadays take (Cue the "In the old days..." story). Though I have problems keeping my attention to things in general. Happens in conversations often. Yeah.

But anyway, somewhat related to the whole Kyuushuu thing, have I been watching movies based on Edogawa Rampo's work lately, which provide me with 1) not so insanely long movies (or at least segmented movies) and 2) strange visuals which leave me wondering what the heck I was watching. Not the why-did-I-waste-my-time-on-this wondering, the Gee-wiz-this-was-entertaining-but-what-was-that wondering.

(Exception: K-20: The Legend of the Mask (K20 - Kaijin Nijuu Mensou Den, 2008, Satou Shimako), which was a Japanese take on the Hollywood superhero movie based on the Monster with 20 Faces character of Edogawa's Boy Detectives Club series. Entertaining adventure movie. And no strange visuals which leave me wondering what the heck I was watching)

One of the most famous movies based on Edogawa's work is The Black Lizard (Kurotokage, 1968, Fukusaku Kinji). Mainly due to two things: famous writer Mishima Yukio (the one who commited ritual suicide) penned the screenplay and played a (small) part in it. And two, it's a very campy movie. Not as campy as 1960's Batman, but it runs dangerously alongst the border. Partly because The Black Lizard, a female thief, is played by Miwa Akihiro, a cross-dressing actor. Partly because of the corny dialogue. Largely because of the snake throwing henchman. Besides the campiness though, it is a pretty faithful movie adaptation of the book. Which itself was pulpy, so that explains a lot. Not the snake throwing henchman though.

Horrors of Malformed Men (Kyoufu Kikei Ningen: Edogawa Rampo Zenshuu, 1969, Ishii Teruo) on the other hand is completely Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome. The mishmash of pretty much all the famous Edogawa Rampo stories (but mostly based on The Strange Tale of Panorama Isle) has actually never, ever had a home release in Japan and got its very first release worldwide in 2007. Known as a precursor to Pinky Violent movies, Horrors of Malformed Men does not make that much sense, but hell, it's captifying due to what's shown. From an island of naked women to monsters, a strangely dancing madman, several dancing madwomen, People-in-Chairs, Wandering-in-the-Attic, Siamese twins, Batman Gambits and..... way beyond the borders of campiness, it's just Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome. Watch it.

Rampo Noir (Rampo Jigoku, 2005, Jissouji Akio, Kaneko Atsushi, Satou Hisayasu, Takeuchi Suguru) a more recent anthology of four movies (Canals of Mars, Hell of Mirrors, Caterpillar and Crawling Bugs) by four directors based on Edogawa's work similarly uses its visuals to provoke the watcher, though this is more so through design. Which is gorgeous. This was a high-budget production which really shows in the movie. Combined with great stories which in turn were adapted great for the screen, this is best Edogawa-based movie I have seen till now (And because despite appearances I never just randomly quote or write stuff as bridges, I also like this movie because it is split in four parts. Which means I can watch in four sessions. Which is not a strain to my attention span. Which I like very much.).

Finally, I have both read and seen Moju: Blind Beast this week. The novellete was published in the United States by Shinbaku and tells the story of a blind sculptor who kidnaps a model to his lair. And dismemberment and murders and evil-blind-man-on-rampage adventures ensue. It is truly a work of erogurononsense, that is, a story that uses erotic and grotesque imagery to shock the reader. It succeeds in its purpose. Moju is that and nothing more than an erugurononsense work, but it's fantastic in that aspect. Blind Beast (Mojuu, 1969, Masumura Yasuzou) is maybe even better as visual imagery help very, very much. The workshop of the blind beast, filled with giant hands, ears, lips, breasts and giant naked women is something to be seen. Or felt, if blind. And this movie makes great use of its length. The novelette tells us a lot more than the movie, but most of Edogawa's novelletes tend to get gimmicky and pile ups of shocking moments which in the end just cheapen the whole experience. The same with Moju: Blind Beast. Movie Blind Beast however tells us a gripping story with great visuals and shots without weakening even once during its play.

And with this it has been more than enough of Edogawa Rampo for a while. Back to normal sane detectives where people just get murdered and don't enjoy it. Where murderers don't paint their victims in all the colors of the rainbow. Murderers just murder, victims just die. Rational, logical murders.

"Rationality, that was it. No esoteric mumbo jumbo could fool that fellow. Lord, no! His two feet were planted solidly on God's good earth" , Ellery Queen, "The Lamp of God"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"It would be better to die than eke out an existence in this dreary world"

"...but no matter how entertaining they were, he regarded human beings as the most idiotic of all living things. Every-where you looked, you found the same thoughts, the same expressions, the same words, repated over and over again. Despite his change of lodgings and encounters with new people, Saburo sunk back into the bottomless depths of ennui before the week was over.", "The Stalker in the Attic"

During my year in Kyuushuu, I am supposed to write a research essay in Japanese. The research plan has already been filed in, which I focused on Japanese detective fiction. While I am pretty sure the research scope has to be narrowed down quite a bit, I intend to keep the foundation intact, that is, Edogawa Rampo will play a big role in it. I first got to know about this writer due to the manga Detective Conan. With my interest piqued, I searched for English translations of Edogawa's work, which with recurring themes as mirrors, identity crises and people unable to cope with the dreariness of reality were so engrossing I really wanted to do research on him and his work.

While one of the giants in Japanese literature, not that many of his works are translated in English. A pity, but it does mean I might still get a chance to translate stuff from him in coming years. Which will probably take some time, as Edogawa Rampo is a pre-World War II writer, which means his writing style, especially concerning the usage of kanji is quite difficult, with Edogawa using kanji for words which in modern Japanese are written in plain hiragana, as well as the usage of old kanji. Which explains why I still rejoice when I hear new English translations of Edogawa's work appear. Apparently, a new translation (Mojuu, "Blind Beast") was released during the time I was in Japan, so I'll have to pick that one up too, but for now, a overview of what is available in the English market.

Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination
(Tuttle Publishing, 1956)

The very first translation of Edogawa Rampo's work. Or can it even be called a translation? Trivia for aspiring-translators: the translator of this work couldn't read Japanese, but could speak Japanese. Edogawa couldn't speak English, but could read English. Combined with the Power of Friendship though, this led to an very unique translation effort.

Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination is a short story collection which includes 11 of Edogawa's most famous works. It also offers a good selection of the types of stories Edogawa wrote, ranging from mystery-crime stories, dreamy stories to sadistic horror erogurononsense stories. If anyone wants to get an introduction in Edogawa Rampo's work, this should be it. Over 50 years after its first publication, this is still the best Edogawa work available in English.

Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome because: Wife abuses crippled husband who has no limbs. Mirrors are scary. Scary man hides in chair to get physically close to people and steals stuffs. What makes it even more Batshit-Edogawa-Crazy Awesome: it happened in reality.

The Boy Detectives Club (Kodansha, 1988)

Quite an obscure translation, as this is an English translation meant for the Japanese market (i.e. for English students). This is a translation of the second book in the Shounen Tantei Dan ("Boy Detectives Club") series (yes, the title would suggest it's the first book), which is a series of books targeted on kids. Which by the way are the only books written by Edogawa I can read without going crazy due to dictionary rage.

The series chronicles the detective Akechi, his sidekick Kobayashi and the Boy Detectives Club and their battles against The Monster with 20 Faces, a disguise-expert-thief. This book is pretty much the same as the first book in the series. And probably the sequels. Adventure stories with the kids as protagonist and Arsène Lupin-esque capers of The Monster with 20 Faces. Or it's someone else who turns out to be the Monster in the very end. Enjoyable, but quite different from Edogawa's other works. However, these characters are probably the most famous of all of Edogawa's creations, with many Japanese manga, movies and TV-series either being based upon or borrowing from the Monster with 20 Faces and Boy Detectives Club.

Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome because: Kids Have Guns. No, wait, I mean, Akechi willfully gives guns to kids to threaten somebody they hate. Even famous detectives must have their moments of insanity. And Amano Yoshitaka of Final Fantasy fame drew the cover of this release.

The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows (Kurodahan Press, 2006)

This bundle features two of Edogawa's more famous works. The Black Lizard tells the story of the detective Akechi and his battles with the woman-thief The Black Lizard (as in a female thief. Not a thief of women. Though she does that too). Very pulpy. It was also made into a 1968 movie (Kurotokage), which probably only because Mishima Yukio wrote the screenplay and played a part in the movie, was actually released on VHS in the United States. The movie was also very, very pulpy.

Beast in the Shadows, a story about a man helping a woman who suspects her husband is planning her murder, is more interesting as it mingles several of Edogawa's recurring themes like sexual deviation, doubts about identity, crime and the mingling of reality and dreams. Combined with an excellent preface attached to this book, this was an excellent release of Kurodahan, paving the way for more recent Edogawa releases.

Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome because: People hide in chairs. Again! And everyone disguises as everyone! Nobody's identity is sure! And Wandering in the Attic.

The Edogawa Rampo Reader (Kurodahan Press, 2008)

Edogawa Rampo wasn't just a writer of mystery novels, he was also a prolific essay writer. Ranging from expositions about what kind of tricks appear in a detective novel to expositions about the wonders of lenses and film, he wrote a lot and The Edogawa Rampo Reader is the first English publication that includes several of his essays. The other half is made up by stories, of which I personally love "The Stalker in the Attic", the story of a man who has enough of this world, until he discovers he can crawl up to the attic of his lodge house and spy upon the other tenants for some needed thrill in his life. Crazy voyeuristic crime story.

Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome because: Killing dwarfs. Hypnotic mirrors. And people wandering in attics, peering into private lives from above.

It is kinda sad to realize that this probably doesn't even amount to 10% of Edogawa's total work, which in pocket form was a) impressive and b) kinda expensive and hard to carry back home. As a pre-war writer who still inspires manga-artists, movies, bands and real crimes in Japan, why is so little of his work translated?

Today's song: Shogun - Bad City (Opening theme of "Tantei Monogatari")

Sunday, July 12, 2009

「頭脳明晰、容姿端麗、神出鬼没の名探偵」

ケモノ道でケモノに会って いばらの道にもバラが咲いて
いつかきっといいことあるって 信じて頑張って
来週も 再来週も 何度も倒されて 笑われても
僕は ああ 負けたくないんだ


"On a beasts' road you'll meet beasts, but even on thorny roads roses bloom
One day something good will surely happen." Believing that, I try my best,
Be it next week or the week after that, no matter how many times I'm knocked down and laughed at,
I just... don't wanna lose.


馬場俊英 (Baba Toshihide)、ファイティングポースの詩 ("Song of the Fighting Pose")
(Ending theme of Meitantei no Okite)

When I started this blog, I expected to write more about Japanese detectives, but mainly because Tokyo was superspecialawesome, I didn't have the time (nor energy left) to read as many detectives as I should have. Which means I have a large backlog now. Which means I have a lot to read. Which is nothing to complain about. So, until I'm back in Japan in October, this blog will mostly about (Japanese) detectives. And slightly related stuff. 日本だからできる。

And today, we begin with:

名探偵の掟 (Meitantei no Okite, "The Laws of the Great Detective")

Before, I only knew the writer Higashino Keigo from the Galileo series, a pseudo-scientific detective with the physicist Yukawa, nicknamed "The Freak Galileo", as the protagonist, revealing seemingly occult happenings as products of the many laws of nature. I enjoyed the series, enjoyed the quite moving Yougisha X no Kenshin ("The Devotion of Suspect X") even more, but with the dodgy exception of the last one, Galileo isn't an orthodox detective. Far from it.

Thus, I was more than pleasantly surprised when I read Meitantei no Okite by Higashino, as it is an excellent parody on the Golden Age detective novel (in Japan known as the orthodox detective novel), as we know from writers as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and G.K. Chesterton. The idea behind the book is that the protagonist, the great detective Tenkaichi Daigorou is aware he is the protagonist of a book. He knows he is a great detective (introducing himself as 'the great detective with a bright mind, far-reaching knowledge, versatile talents and unparalled activity'), he knows every cliche in the genre and he knows those cliches are bound to appear in his world. While the people in the stories might think Tenkaichi is some kind of nut, the great detective works hard to comply to all the rules of the orthodox detective novel in order to please the reader. Because those laws are like promises to the reader, which never ever should be broken.

And Tenkaichi succeeds. Every chapter of the short story collection is built around one of the cliches in the genre, ranging from a locked room murder to the disappearing murder weapon, from the detective falling in love with a suspect to the dying message. And while the stories comply to the cliches, the solutions still manage to surprise everytime (don't forget, this is a parody!). The book kind of reminds me of Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime. But Okite is better.



In April 2009, a Japanese drama was broadcast based on this novel, starring Matsuda Shouta as the great detective Tenkaichi Daigorou (Matsuda Shouta's father by the way, played the detective Kudou Shunsaku, protagonist in the legendary Tantei Monogatari series and the image of Japanese badassness). Minor changes included the... inclusion of female detective Fujii, who according to the genre rules, is a love interest for the detective Tenkaichi. Maybe. Anyway, the drama didn't disappoint (including original cliches not found in the book). As there's another Tenkaichi book (see the next part), I am hoping for a (movie) sequel.

The best point of the book (and the drama) is probably that it's quite accesible for both fans and people not in the know. Another (great) Japanese detective parody drama
33 pun Tantei ("33 Minute Detective") pretty much expected people to know the cliches and built upon that, which makes it a little harder to follow at times. Meitantei no Okite on the other hand explains the cliches to the unknowing, while still managing to be ridicilously funny for those who don't need extra explanations.

Selfnote: 「密室宣言ートリックの王様」、「以外な殺人ーフーダニット」、「屋敷を孤立させる理由(わけ)ー閉ざされた空間」、「最後の一言ーダイイングメッセージ」、「アリバイ宣言ー時刻表トリック」、「『花のOL湯けむり温泉殺人事件』論ー二時間ドラマ」、「切り裂きの理由ーバラバラ死体」、「トリックの正体ー???」、「殺すなら今ー童謡殺人」、「アンフェアの見本ーミステリのルール」、「禁句ー首なし死体」、「凶器の話ー殺人手段」

名探偵の呪縛 (Meitantei no Jubaku, "The Curse of the Great Detective")


In this novel-length... novel, the great detective Tenkaichi appears again! Or does he? A writer in our world wakes up one day to find himself in the identity of the great detective Tenkaichi Daigorou, who is called to a strange little town. A mysterious town indeed, as it is a town where no one has ever heard of the word "detective novel" and no such novel even exists in their word! But with "Tenkaichi" appearing in the world, strange, detective-like incidents start to happen. Like murder.

I finished the book today and am kinda in doubt what to think about it. It is completely different from the previous book, but it was clearly not meant as detective parody in the first place. Where Higashino managed to express his love for the orthodox detective in
Meitantei no Okite by making fun of it, here he expresses his love by lamenting about the loss of the orthodox detective novel in the real world. It's the same, but different. I enjoyed Meitantei no Okite more, but Meitantei no Jubaku manages to hit sentimental notes in the heart of a orthodox detective fan.

In overall, Higashino manages to show his love for the orthodox detective novel in both of the Tenkaichi Daigorou books, but I
really recommend Meitantei no Okite, be it in book form or drama form. Or both. As a detective parody it succeeds tremendously. As a comedy series, it manages to be very accesible without making light out of the long history of orthodox detectives. Even better, it serves as quite an interesting introduction in what makes the genre great.

Currently reading: 横溝正史 (Yokomizo Seishi) - 金田一耕助の新冒険 (The New Adventures of Kindaichi Kousuke)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Magnificent Turnabout: Trial Part

『憎しみでもない。怒りでもない。残されたのは。。。愛』
"It wasn't hate. It wasn't anger. What remained was... love"


Books are heavy. A 2 minute walk to the post office behind the Weekly Mansion almost seems like Sisyphus' torment if you have to transport giant blocks of books in succession. But in other news, this will the final post posted from room 913 in the Weekly Mansion Ekoda. Been a great 3 months, imprinting all kinds of memories in me. Which knowing me, I'll probably forget very quickly. But anyway, let's begin the second and final part of the magnificent turnabout.

<Witness testimony: "Food! Food!">

As we've been living in Ekoda for 3 months, you'll gradually create favorite eating spots. Some go almost daily to the Mr. Donuts. Me and Benjamin 2号 had quite early found a great place to eat Chinese in Ekoda: Tokyo Ramen. It's built alongst the tracks of Ekoda Station, it's an immensely narrow place and kinda looks suspicious from outside. But I'll never forget the first night we ate there. Words won't do justice to it, but it included an old man who began a discussion with us about politics (in Japanese) and stories about eggs from old chickens and young chickens. The eggs at Tokyo Ramen are by the way service, so you can eat as many boiled eggs as you want. Sheer genius. Free eggs. Back on track, that same night included one crazy Japanese woman who talked with us and... well, she was kinda crazy. Great night. Other adventures there include hostile takeovers by the Chinese triad.

Anyway, Tokyo Ramen serves the best gyouza in all of Tokyo I think and I have eaten my share of gyouza (including jumbo gyouza) here. I'm gonna miss Tokyo Ramen and the two guys who work there. I am happy we actually took a picture of us all together. Tokyo Ramen, I salute thee.

Another place of eating interest is Yokohama Noodles Daikichiya, which is on the corner of this block. The food is not good and relatively expensive. But of interest are the seemingly totally random working hours. Sometimes it's open around noon. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's open around dinner time. More often it's not (yes, that is totally logical for a restaurant). Sometimes it's closed the whole day, while the next week it's open the same day. In 3 months I did manage to find a sort of logic in the working hours by feverishly making notes every time I passed it (which was very often, as it's on the way to the station), which I could now present in a surprisingly detailed Excel sheet and stuff, but that would be just a bit over the top. And the logic is very, very shaky. Suffice to say that Daikichiya is one of the mysteries I'll have to leave unsolved in Tokyo.

<Witness testimony: "My alibi?!">

Friday was the last day on the Japan-Netherlands Institute, where after some formalities concerning feedback and other wrap-up stuff before we leave, we all went to eat shabushabu, essentially similar to the Chinese hotpot. It was quite tasty.

That night, I attended a small signing event of erugurononsense manga artist Kago Shintarou, where he showed us several animations and short movies in his typical very absurd and very grotesque style, which were very entertaining. Kago is relatively famous abroad, but only 12 people, including two of us (the only foreigners), were present at this event. Though it was not like that many more people would have fitted in the cafe the event was held in. This cafe located in birthplace-of-punk Koenji was by the way quite hard to find, especially because our map was outdated. In the end, we had to look for the cafe through the block number and that is really not the way you want to look for places in Japan. The cafe itself was small, slightly sinister avant-garde cafe with loads of classic manga for sale and other stuff like Edogawa Rampo novels. Even though it was a signing event, it seems that only the two of us ended up asking for autographs in the end. As though the Japanese were too shy to ask for an autograph at such an event.

Saturday, after I visited the mostly awesome, but at some points kinda disappointing live-action adaption of Tezuka Osamu's MW on its first day (which I as a Tezuka fanboy really wanted to see), we all went to eat okonomiyaki and bowling afterwards to conclude the Leiden University Tokyo pilot project together. As we all went quite often to the okonomiyaki restaurant, we received the meishi of the owner, which was quite surprising and quite Japanese. Oh, and the final unsolved mystery: why is there always a 1000 yen shortage when there is a collective bill?

<Witness testimony: "It was premeditated!">

Mysterious and imaginative tales in Japan will stop for now. As I'll be in Kyushu later this year, this blog will probably return then once again. Return is certain, so I won't use the phrase 'goodbye'. I'll just say 'see you later'. This trial ends.

「帰ってくるよもちろんーだってここにはまだ謎がー、あいつの大好きなミステリーがまだまだいっぱい残ってるだから大丈夫、きっと必ず帰ってくる、いつかまた逢えるその日まで『サヨナラ』」、『金田一少年の事件簿:金田一少年の決死行』

"Of course he will come back, because there are still enigmas here, still so many mysteries left that he likes so much. That´s why it's all right, he will absolutely without a doubt return. Until that day we can meet again, sayonara", "The Case Files of Young Kindaichi: The Desperate Run of Young Kindaichi"

Today's song: 小幡美奈子 (Obata Minako) - There’ll Never Be Goodbye (Ending theme of "Metropolis")

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Magnificent Turnabout: Investigation Part

""Shichishito". The treasured Kurain Village heirloom whose name means "7 Branched Sword". It is said that this sacred sword represents life itself. Though the branches may appear infinite, the choices limitless... like our destinies, the sword comes to but one end. One merciless point. And when the silver cord, the fragile thread that binds us to this world, is severed... the illusion is revealed and the implacability of fate is finally laid bare.", Phoenix Wright, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations"


This last week is quite busy for probably all of us, as everyone has this or that that (s)he wants to do. I am also still contemplating whether to do some things or not. But with every day, departure is also coming close. "Though the branches may appear infinite, the choices limitless... like our destinies, the sword comes to but one end."

Went to Tokyo DisneySea this monday and it was awesome. Noteworthy was the Tower of Terror, which was that much scarier because we didn't really know what the ride was. By the time we realized what it was, it was already to late to make any mental preparations for it and it was one of the scariest things ever to happen. Anyway, as it was a Monday, it wasn't too busy either and we didn't have to wait abnormal times in lines, not even for the popular rides. Had a blast that day, with photo shoots with Jafar, traveling to the center of the Earth, going 20.000 Leagues under the sea, riding storms and tombraiding Aztec ruins.



Oh, and DisneySea exploded at the end of the day.

On Tuesday I went to the Bunkamura in Shibuya, a cultural center that offers musea, theater, galleries et cetera to visit the Visual Deception exhibition, paintings meant to fool the human eye. Had been wanting to go for a while now, seeing quite a bit of promotion in trains and at stations (and you spend a lot of time in those places when in Tokyo). I don't really often go to musea, heck, I have gone more often to musea in Tokyo now than the last 5 years combined. Anyway, the exhibition of course also included Escher's work and a lot of his work is actually owned by Japanese musea, which was kinda surprising. Afterwards we went to Nakano Broadway, which after so many visits is still a lot more enjoyable than Akihabara if you are interested in animanga/games, as it is not as crowded, while you can find a lot of obscure and rare stuff in all kinds of strange shops there.

Wednesday six of us spent the whole day in a small dark hot room obliterating our voices. Prior karaoke marathon records were easily broken.

Today's song: Greeeen - 愛唄 (Ai uta ("Love Song")) and Magical Trick Society - 追求~追いつめられて (Tsuikyuu~Oitsumerarete ("Pursuit~Cornered"))