Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Turnabout Corner

「望まなければ失わないのに求めずにはいられないよ」

"If you don't hope for it, you won't lose it either, but still, I can't stop looking."
Garnet Crow, 夢みたあとで ("After seeing my dream")

Resisting the urge to go insane and attack people, I arrived around 22:30 at the dorm without any sleep for more than 30 hours, so I was grateful that the dorm representative who was helping me with forms and explaining the dorm rules was from Hong Kong, so I could use Cantonese instead of Japanese which would have been too much for me at that time. Having finally found a bed, I didn't care there were no cushions and sheets and collapsed.



The next day, I actually looked at my room. It's quite a lot bigger than the Weekly Mansion room in Tokyo (not very difficult) and quite nice actually. There's even a strange bookcase contraption reminding me of a monstrously expanding bookcase a friend of my has, and the shelves seem to ask me to fill them with books. I will try. Water is somewhat strange though, my shower seems to have only two options: a waterfall of near boiling water, or two drips of cold water. And I am happy to say that though the dorm only offers internet in the computer room in the main building, my block and room is just close enough to pick up the signal of the wireless router there.

The direct neighbourhood of Kashiihama is quite boring though, being a residential area. While there is a gigantic mall just behind the dorm, there's not much else here. Lots of apartments and an uncanny amount of primary schools to be found around the corner, but almost no restaurants (the one sentence you wouldn't expect to say in Japan) and just two bookshops.



But, there is a beach behind the dorm. And mountains somewhere in the background. The nature theme seems to extend itself throughout the ward, with lots of walking paths and small parks. And then there's the amusement park.




And the Mishima torii, which looks quite nice in the water.



And for some reason or another, every night hundreds of birds in front of the Yamada Denki (and only in front of the Yamada Denki, nowhere else) perform a live action play of Hitchcock's The Birds. Seriously, birdwatching is one thing, but birds watching you is creepy. The sound of the birds went through my earplugs, being louder than my music and louder than the cars on the express way beneath them. I ran back to my room.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Turnabout Airlines

"You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.", Raymond Chandler, "The Big Sleep"

Sleep deprivation is really getting to me now. As someone who sleeps a lot, flights are terrible for my sleep rhythm. Right now I am exhausted, but just can't sleep. Can't even think straight, as I even felt lost at the airport, till after a half hour of rest I remembered the basics of every adventure game, read everything and examine and use everything in your inventory. Of course, the solution to the puzzle had been with me the whole time. But now, my head is really toast. Can't even continue in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box as it requires more common sense than I can muster at the moment.

Really trying to sleep, but the classical music that keeps looping every 5 minutes isn't helping. Nor all the background noise. Even counting all the tiles in the ceiling didn't help. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! -- and now -- again -- hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER!

It's the beating of that hideous heart in my exhausted head!

The most horrible of all this is, is tbat I went from a 'slightly tired' mood to 'am going insane' mood in just 30 minutes. I blame classical music. And I still have to wait 4 hours before the plane to Fukuoka departs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Farewell, My Turnabout

「あれから7年
新しい物語が、今。 動き出す
そして伝説は、もう一度。 逆転する」
『逆転裁判4』のPV

"7 years have passedAnd now a new story has come alive
And the legend, once again, makes a turnabout"
Promotion video for "Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney"


Lately, even extensive wandering in the depths of labryrinth of the mind didn't produce really good introducing quotes. But in other news, tomorrow afternoon I'll be leaving the Netherlands for Fukuoka. With a stop in Hong Kong to get some actual food (not counting airplane hamburgers) in between. Contrary to the last time, information flow from Kyuushuu University has been very good, so I actually sorta know what to expect in Japan. They even sent me a study guide and a student name list months in advance. Which I will have plenty of time to actually read in the airplane, because the Scribblenauts release date was pushed, which I had planned to get as plane-entertainment.

Got a schedule for the coming days too and it seems I'll be fighting fires, surviving earthquakes and skidding along smoke-filled corridors again. I had thought I might get to skip the disaster training if I showed my pass from the Tokyo training, but then I read on the back of the pass you're supposed to collect five of these disaster experience training passes before you get a real certificate of completion. I'd still like to think that reading The Accidents has prepared me for every freak accident that could ever happen.

But probably less posts about detective fiction in the future, more on fire, Fukuoka and food. And books (no, that's not a 'F', but a 'B' like a 'F' is a labial consonant, so it's all good). And dear god, I should really prioritize finding out whether they serve jumbo gyouza somewhere in Fukuoka.

Yes, a repost. But Yotsuba is cute. So there.

Today's song: Greeeen - 遥か (
Haruka ("Far Away"))

Friday, September 25, 2009

「私は飛んだ失敗をやったのだ。私は愛してはならぬ人を愛したのだ。」

「名探偵。皆さん名探偵といえば誰を想像しますか?…シャーロック・ホームズ、エルキュール・ポアロ。エラリー・クイー ン…。日本にも様々な探偵がいます。日本の名探偵に共通する特徴なんだかご存じですか?実はみんな名字は洒落 てんですけど名前がどうも田舎臭いんですね。例えば…、明智…小五郎。金田一…耕助。そして、古畑……任三郎…」
『古畑任三郎: ゲームの達人』

"
Great detectives. If we're talking about great detectives, who do you think of? ... Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen... There are all kinds of great detectives in Japan too. Would you know the common feature between the Japanese great detectives? While they all have stylish family names, their given names somehow sound... provencial. For example, Akechi... Kogorou. Kindaichi... Kousuke. And Furuhata... Ninzaburou..."

"Furuhata Ninzaburou: The Game Master"


Paris The Netherlands in the fall. The last months of the year and the end of the millenium. This city holds many memories for me. Of cafes, of music, of love, and of death. Ok, scrap that Broken Sword reference. Anyway, the last days in the Netherlands and Murphy kindly decided to pay me a visit by cursing my computer with fairly mild to very drastic problems, which is kinda scary. Other hurdles that had to be dealt with was finishing a review for the Dutch magazine AniWay (on Japanese popculture) (I am always doing reviews last minute). While I thoroughly enjoy writing reviews on manga, games et cetera and have written some years now, I find writing in Japan to be extremely difficult. Writing for a magazine has been quite fun though, as I could promote underrated and unknown series to the general public. Including detective manga. And somewhere I am kinda proud I actually got pictures of kids being crucified for rain published in the magazine.

So I wrote my final review on Maruo Suehiro's Panoramatou Kidan ("The Strange Tale of Panorama Island") and a habit of more recent years has been to do way more background research than required for such a review. With a draft review on Tezuka's MW, I even had referenced the big (BIG) book from the International Relations of Japan course, because it was quite relevant from a historical viewpoint, but in the end, you only have only just so many words you can put on one single page. So that was scrapped. And probably information overkill for the average reader anyway.

Panoramatou Kidan is based on the novelette by Edogawa Rampo and tells the story of a writer who fantasizes about an utopia. His utopia. He impersonates a recently deceased wealthy man, pretends to have come back to life and uses the money of the family to build his dream, the titular Panorama Island (and commits murder along the way). While it was not very well received at first, the story gained popularity in years and is now one of the better known stories by Edogawa, having also been the main source for the movie Horrors of Malformed Men and also filmed as one episode in the popular Akechi Kogorou tv-series ("The Beautiful Lady from Heaven and Hell").

Having read the original story and the manga, I am sorta surprised I like it as much as I do. It's not as creepy as The Blind Beast or the Human Chair, nor as interesting for a detective reader as The Psychological Test or Beast in the Shadows. But the story just works. It somehow manages to convey the dreamy aspect of Edogawa's writings perfectly and with just enough a bit of crazy crime, just enough a bit of gaudiness (I am truly wondering whether Edogawa was one of the first to think of a underwater tunnel like you see often in aquaria nowadays), just enough a bit of horror, resulting in a fine novellete. I am also pleased to say the manga is excellent, as the crazy visuals of Maruo Suehiro add a lot to the experience.

As an early work of Edogawa, it's also interesting to see that the detective who appears at the end is interestingly not his series detective Akechi Kogorou, but a very similar named Kitami Kogorou with a similar occupation, a scholar (the early Akechi was a scholar, later a famous detective). It seems to serve no purpose at all to have a different (but the same) detective in the story (even considering how the story ends). And it is even stranger considering Edogawa had been using Akechi Kogorou as a series detective for several stories now, so why use a character who was clearly an expy of Akechi?

Having read the original story, I also wanted to include background information regarding modernism in Japan (which is important in Edogawa's work) in my review of the manga through a reading of Silverberg's Erotic Grotesque Nonsense (which is an interesting book on its own) and rereading other books like Silver's Purloined Letters: Cultural Borrowings and Japanese Crime Literature (which has a very interesting section on Edogawa Rampo). Of course, then I noticed I would have needed more pages to incorporate all that information, so I decided to scrap most of it. I should've known.

I might not get as much exposure writing stuff here, but I can write as much or little as I want on anything, which naturally has its good points. Of course, it means getting less pictures of kids being crucified for rain published in magazines available all across the Netherlands. Which is a pity. Maybe I should try to pitch a Left Hand of God, Right Hand of the Devil review one of these days (these are literally just the first few pages of the manga, it gets a lot messier).

(Ugh, I want to bring the books mentioned earlier
(and more, like Kawana's Murder Most Modern) to Japan, but they're so heavy~)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Ah, one more thing, sir."

「え~、ご無沙汰しております。皆さん、お元気でしたか?私は元気です。え~、さて誰にでも少年時代がありました。勿論、私にもありました。そして誰にでも多感な時期、影響を受けた人物がいるものです。勿論、私にも。今のこの私があるのも、その人との出会いがあったればこそです。今でも目をつぶると瞼の裏に、その人の顔が浮かんできます。…つぶってみましょう。」
『古畑中学生』

"Erm, it's been a long while. How have you been? I've been fine. Erm, everyone was young at a time. Of course, so was I. And everyone in that sensitive period, had someone who influenced them. Of course, so had I. The person who I am now, was all because I met that person. Even now, when I close my eyes, the face of that person is visible behind my eyelids.... Let's try closing our eyes."

"Middle School Student Furuhata"

Lately, I have been watching some old episodes of that classic detective show Columbo again. Ever since I was a kid I have loved this show and while occasionally some of the more recent movies are shown on Dutch television, the original series has not been broadcast here for years now. But even now as I watch the series, I feel it has lost nothing of its charm. Heck, in the 40 years since its debut few series were made that were so entertaining in my opinion.


And this is despite the fact that pretty much every episode is the same: you see the murderer-of-the-week (celebrity actors like Leonard Nemoy Dr. Spock) commit his/her murder, usually in a clever way to avert suspicion. Then scruffy-looking lieutenant Columbo arrives and the rest of the episode, consists mostly of cat-and-mouse scenes between just the lieutenant and the killer, with Columbo asking trivial question after question and telling stories about his wife and simply looking a lot more stupid than he actually is. The point of every episode is figuring out how Columbo is going to prove the murderer is guilty.

The show is just two people talking. About a murder you have seen already. Dialogue about something you know everything about for an hour. But it works. Every. Single. Time. The great plots, the great acting, it's all top-notch and every episode is as exciting as the previous one, despite being basically the same. Columbo pulls off the use of a formula brilliantly.

I actually don't like the name howcatchem (c.f. whodunnit), nor inverted detective (techically it's inverted, but from a chronological view, the inverted detective runs completely straight, so the term feels strange to me). But it's been a style in detective fiction since at least Freeman's The Singing Bone (1912). Interestingly, Edogawa Rampo had written one himself too (The Psychological Test (1925), included in Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination) and in his 1934 essay The Four Types of Detective Stories, he had identified the inverted detective (the toujo tantei shousetsu: "chronological reversed detective" which feels even more wrong than inverted detective) as his fourth type, but as he had only 3 examples (including his own story), he wasn't sure whether he should include it as a proper detective story type. Time proved Edogawa right though.

A more recent Japanese example would be the Gyakuten Saiban (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) game series, as in many cases you usually know who did it, you just have to prove it in court. As an attorney using the foolproof Columbo way of pouncing on every contradiction, how insignificant it may seem, you eventually manage to solve the case.

But if you're talking about the inverted Japanese detective, one name should come up immediately: Furuhata Ninzaburou (yes, I shamelessly stole the logo design for this blog). It's pretty much a clone show of Columbo, with lieutenant Furuhata being the one asking many many seemingly trivial questions to the murderer-of-the-week with his polite way of talking. And like Columbo, Furuhata Ninzaburou managed to make every episode worthwile. Running for more than 10 years in Japan, it has been one of the most popular shows there, featuring many high profile celebrities (like Ichiro, SMAP, Sanma and Matsushima Nanako) as murderers. Also amusing are the seemingly non-sequitur introductions of every episode (that in the end turn out to tie up with the theme of the episode neatly), which I occasionally use as introducing quotes myself. But what makes Furuhata Ninzaburou really interesting, is the formal challenge to the watcher in every episode. Inspired by the 1975 Ellery Queen show, Furuhata actually breaks the fourth wall near the end of the episode and asks the viewer whether they can prove the murderer did it, as he certainly can. It's one of those shows I am proud to own on DVD.

Ah, one more thing, sir, the proper way of finishing this post would be a Columbo-ian "one more thing, sir...", of course, but as I can't think of something worth mentioning, this will do. え~、古畑任三郎でした。

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"No Chinaman must figure in the story."

「えー、自分が人に嫌われてんじゃないかって心配してる皆さん、安心してください。そういう場合は大抵本当に嫌われてます。問題なのは自分が人に嫌われているのが分かってない人の方で…。」
『古畑任三郎: ピアノ・レッスン』


"Ehm, people who are concerned whether they are disliked or not, don't worry. In such cases you usually really are disliked. But a problem are those people who don't see they are being disliked..."
"Furuhata Ninzaburou: Piano Lesson"

"No Chinaman must figure in the story". Thus says the fifth commandment for the Golden Age detective as set by Robert A. Knox. It sounds just a bit more racist than meant to, as the rule meant that the evil mysterious opium-den master Fu Manchu-like stock character Chinaman which was in popular use in cheap thrillers in Knox' time should have no place in a formal mystery novel. Of course, pretty much all the rules set by Knox were broken in several of the best mystery novels ever, so Chinamen were indeed also featured in detective novels.

One of the better known examples is the Chinese detective Charlie Chan who operates in Hawaii. I picked up a omnibus of the first 3 Chan novels (with the Worst. Cover. Ever.) at the Bookfest (which is probably the nearest we'll get in the Netherlands to a Book Off) and recently finished the first novel, The House Without a Key. The Chan books and writer Biggers are often praised for their positive portrayal of Chinese persons in literature (contrary to the practice of those days), but even then, the clutches of Orientalism are hard to escape, so instead of a evil mysterious opium-den master Fu Manchu-like stock character, we get a benevolent mysterious overly polite stock character who at least not speakies pigeon talk, but does talks the English in a way the most peculiar and quaint. Of course, we know that the Belgian Hercule Poirot has an excellent grasp on the English, but talks sometimes in broken English to let people underestimate him, but I doubt that's the case with Chan. The plot of the book was nothing special, but I did like the Hawaiian setting. 'Cause it reminds of me a quite tasty meal I had in Japan once. Twice.

A lot more entertaining are the Judge Dee books by Robert van Gulik. While different from the classic model, detective-like novels have been around in China for centuries, usually in the form of criminal court records, with the judge (who was also responsible for the prosecution...) as the detective. Van Gulik translated one of these court records, Dee Gong An ("Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee") most excellently, providing a role model for (crime) translators everywhere in my opinion. Afterwards van Gulik wrote his own mystery novels using the characters of the Dee Gong An. Set in the Tang dynasty, the books are both entertaining as (very!) informing, as van Gulik was a celebrated Sinologist and incorporated loads of interesting facts regarding the culture and judical system in the novels. Like a detailed explanation regarding the legal use of torture by judges.

Van Gulik translated another court record by the way, Tian Yin Pi Shih ("Parallel Cases from under the Pear Tree"), which also makes an interesting read for people interested in the ancient Chinese judical system. 72 double cases are presented, many of them reminiscent of the judgment of Solomon. Some cases described in the book were also used by Van Gulik in his Judge Dee novels, if I remember correctly.

These kinds of court records were also available in Japan. These premodern detectives seem to be quite interesting to me as a historical source as well as narratives. I think it would actually make a great research topic somehow, sometime in the future. Far away future.

Yes, I know I still have to read Sherlock in Shanghai.

Friday, September 18, 2009

『いにしえの記憶』

許されぬ
時効すぎても
罪は罪
『時効警察』

Unforgiveable
Even if the statute passed
A crime is a crime
  "Statute of Limitations Police"

To connect right to the end of the previous post, it really is a small world after all. As I was playing through Tantei Jinguuji Saburou: Aoi Me no Ryuu ("Detective Jinguuji Saburou: The Blue-Eyed Dragon"), I was quite very surprised to find out that my assailant whom I was tracking down, was to be found in a bar in... good old Ekoda. While locations in Tokyo like Scramble Crossing and in front of the Alta screen are famous sights in media, you wouldn't expect a place like Ekoda to show up... anywhere. Of course, one conversation in Tokyo that seemed to repeat itself every once in a while was that the dance studio in the movie Shall We Dance? was in Ekoda, viewable from the platform at the Ekoda Station.

So as the detective Jinguuji arrives at the virtual Ekoda, you get the following description:

「俺はタトゥースタジオの店長の言葉を頼りに、坂口行き付けの飲み屋へと足を向けた。池袋から電車に揺られ、俺は坂口行き付けの店がある江古田へとやってきた。どこか懐かしさを感じさせる町並み。学生なのか、若者達の姿を多く目にする事ができる。」

"
Following the story of the tattoo studio's boss, I went to Sakaguchi's usual joint. Swaying to and fro in the train from Ikebukero, I arrived at the place where Sakaguchi's usual bar was, Ekoda. The sight of the streets and shops somehow gave off a nostalgic feeling. You could see the many figures of young people, maybe students."

Seeing the pictures of the south gate of Ekoda station made me feel somewhat nostalgic too. Especially when the text continued and it described how to get to the bar.

「この近くに「寅弐」という飲み屋があるのをご存知ですか?」
「あぁ、「トラジ」なら、あの角にある本屋を右に曲がっていくと左手にありますよ。店長さんがイイ人でじかなりお勧めっすよ。俺もこの後、行く予定です。」

"
Would you know of a bar called 'Toraji' in the neighbourhood?"
"
Yeah, if it's 'Toraji' you want, if you go right at that bookstore at the corner, it will be at your left side. The owner is a good person and I really recommend it. I'll be going there too in a while."

Tokyo Pilot people will probably be able to place the bar (it's really there). The impossible-to-miss bookstore also played a role in the game and it seems the developers of the game actually took pictures of the shop. Don't know if the owner really looks like that though.

The only thing that would have make this more awesome (and slightly creepy) was if that little Chinese restaurant at the other side of the tracks had been incorporated in the game.

And totally unrelated, but Kamiya Akira quitting as the voice actor of Mouri Kogorou in the Detective Conan anime? I am actually shocked, as Kamiya is my favorite Japanese voice actor and one of the best in the business. Now I feel obliged to buy The Raven Chaser on DVD as his last great work...

Today's song: 神谷明&伊倉一恵 (Kamiya Akira & Ikura Kazue) 町中 Sophisticate ("A Whole Town Sophisticate")

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"What can you tell me about the four Wude?"

ひとつの目で明日をみて
ひとつの目で昨日見つめてる
君の愛の揺りかごで
もう一度安らかに眠れたら

"With one eye I look at tomorrowWith one eye I keep looking at yesterday
If only I could once again
Sleep in the cradle of your love"

山根麻衣 (Yamane Mai), "The Real Folk Blues"

I'll still be in the Netherlands for almost two weeks, but I'm actually slowly beginning to do stuff for the year in Fukuoka. I tend to prepare quite too much on my own pace, which results in that some things which could've waited, are already prepared weeks in advance and that other things, which should've been addressed earlier, are done at the last minute. Which reminds me I should get my visum one of these days. It's a miracle I've already booked my flight.

The flight will include a short stop in Hong Kong. And while I have been two, three times to Hong Kong, I can't remember much of it, so it's probably surprising for people to hear (or it's totally expected because it's me) that the best memory I have of Hong Kong is... the virtual Hong Kong in the DreamCast game Shenmue 2. If I would ever bother to rank games, Shenmue 2 would probably be no. 1. The hours I've spent in Hong Kong in that game (where every other person is a martial artist master), trying to "revenge my father's death", while trying to sell a game of Lucky Hit, asking around for the four Wude (a lot better than asking around for sailors, like in the first game), walking around Wan Chai, the Golden Quarter, the Wise Men's Quarter, earning money and then the phenomenal Kowloon chapter (the Yellow Head building and the rooftop fight! 外門頂肘!)... It was the best of times. I kinda doubt my stay in Hong Kong will be epic as Shenmue 2.

And yes, I often derive my 'knowledge' on locations and stuff from popular media. So what do I know about Fukuoka? Very little actually. Whereas Tokyo is the murder capital of Japan (a lot more logical than Cabot Cove, Maine for the USA, considering the size of Tokyo) and Kyoto and Osaka get their deal of killings too, Fukuoka is kinda neglected in detective fiction, as far as I know. What is interesting though is that my dormitory is pretty close to the double suicide crime scene in Matsumoto Seicho's bestseller Ten to Sen ("Points and Lines"). It's actually on one of the maps in the book (the arrow points to the dorm. Not the double suicide. That's at a beach). But besides that, Fukuoka is not a very popular place for murder, it seems.

So I did a bit of necessary research on Fukuoka. When in Fukuoka, I should eat tonkotsu ramen, mentaiko, gyouza, motsunabe and loads of seafood (including the ever deadly fugu). Preferably all at yatai (food stalls). And there is no Book Off in the direct neighbourhood of my dorm. Yes, this is all vital information when going to a new place. What can you eat there? Can I buy books? And are people killed often?

And I never knew till I came back, but when in Tokyo, I lived in Nerima-ku, which turns out to be the same ward as where the crazy antics of Ranma 1/2 occur. It is a small world after all. And yes, I know that Excel Saga is situated in Fukuoka. I'm starting to see a pattern here with madness
concentrating at places where I live in Japan.

Today's song: 伊織 (Iori) - シェンファ~江清日抱花歌 ("Shenfa - The Song of the Bay, the Purity, the Sun, the Embrace and the Flower")

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Player on the Other Side


「え~皆さんの前に登場してはや5年、これまでさまざまな犯人と出会ってきました。え~、発作的にしろ計画的にしろ彼らには犯罪 を犯すだけの理由がありました。今回登場する犯人はそう言った意味ではもっとも危険なタイプな犯人と言えるかもしれません。ん~、すなわち、犯罪をゲーム としてしか考えていない人物・・・・・手強そうです。」
『古畑任三郎: 最も危険なゲーム・前編』


"Ehm, in the five years I have stood before you all, I have come across all sorts of criminals. Eehm, whether it was done impulsively or planned, they all had some reason to commit their crime. And that's why this episode's criminal could be considered the most dangerous type of criminal. Hmmm, what I mean is, a person who sees crime as nothing more than a game... It's going be tough.",
"Furuhata Ninzaburou: The Most Dangerous Game - Part One"


(Yes, I'm really grasping now with these introducing quotes.)

If you don't want to read the book, you watch the movie. And in Japan, you apparently play the game. As I was having problems getting into Yokomizo Seishi's Yatsu Haka Mura ("The Village of Eight Gravestones"), one of the books in the Kindaichi Kousuke series, I actually bought the Nintendo DS game based on the book to cheat my way out of the book. Of course, this sort of backfired, because it was the most boring game I've played in ages. I love playing adventure games and I really don't mind the lack of interactivity in game series like Phoenix Wright, but at least I have to think there. It makes you wonder why in heaven's sake the developers of Yatsu Haka Mura added a scratch-scratch system (hint system that involves scratching your head till... dandruff falls. Yes. It's a Kindaichi thing), because no hints were needed. Ever. The game also abridged the story slightly, making me want to read the book anyway. So Yatsu Haka Mura failed as a game and as a book. But it did have cool graphics. Of course, anything that resembles Okami in art is just awesome.

The story though, is one of the defining Japanese mysteries and really enjoyable, involving a curse laid down by a party of 8 slain samurai on a small rural mountain village (with Cave Labyrinth(TM)), strange happenings surrounding the heir of the rich Tajimi family and It Was Based On A True Story. The True Story of a massacre in the village of Tsuyama. Be it in a movie or a TV-special, the 32 killings murder spree in the book has brought us one of the spookiest scenes ever involving a man running around with flashlights tied to his head. One phrase from the '77 movie, "Tatari jaa!" ("'Tis the curse!"), apparently ended up being one of the defining words of that year (just like how this year Japan has been defined by konkatsu, 'marriage hunting'). I honestly can't even begin to imagine how a sentence like 'Tis the curse!", a line from a detective, actually made it to being such an important word, but that's Japan for ya.


A much more enjoyable game was Tantei Jinguuji Saburou: Shiroi Kage no Shoujo ("Detective Jinguuji Saburou: The White Phantom Girl"), the GameBoy Advance entry of a long-running, but outside of Japan hardly known detective game series. It's actually a hardboiled detective story, but like I said before: for me, if hardboiled detectives are presented with some music to listen to and not just as plain texts, but with something more to look at, I suddenly love it.

I don't think the detective novel is a very good medium to address social problems, but it happens.
Of course, the hardboiled detective can be an excellent vehicle to come across such problems because of his natural habitat (The Less Fortuned Part of Society). Chandler has been known to address social problems in his novels and from the 1950's on, starting with Matsumoto's work, the most important subgenre in Japanese mysteries has actually been the social detective. As such, I was not very surprised to see such problems as bullying, child abuse, homeless people and coin locker babies back in the Jinguuji games. And I really don't mind.

But of course, the Jinguuji games also offer great jazzy tunes and great stories which actually give me the chance to think at times and are at times plotted more like traditional puzzle detectives than a hardboiled detective, so Jinguuji's a bit more of like the best of all worlds. Oh, and no story about Jinguuji Saburou should ever be made without the mention that every game in the series features a button solely, solely for smoking. Yes. You can smoke in Jinguuji. And you will. Just because it's hardboiled.

And yes, even the games I buy to play when I'm not reading books are detectives.


Addendum: Discworld Noir is a great game! I have a bad habit of never finishing games and this was one of those games of which I hadn't seen the ending. I actually started it yeaaaaars ago, but I never got around to actually finishing it, till now that is. Anyway, very witty film noir hardboiled writing and some great sleuthing moments (the use of a notepad instead of a normal inventory system is genious as well as that other system halfway through the game) makes this one very good detective game, firmly set in the world of the City Watch Discworld books.


And yes, the only reason I started with the Discworld books is because of this game. And it's also why I only enjoy the City Watch novels. 

Original Japanese title(s): 『八墓 村』、『探偵神宮寺三郎 白い影の少女』

Thursday, September 3, 2009

『すべて閣下の仕業』

"Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends' thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour's silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine."
"A Study in Scarlet"

When you're reading a detective by a writer called Norizuki Rintarou, who writes about the adventures of a writer called Norizuki Rintarou (who also uses a character called Norizuki Rintarou...), you know this is all one big Ellery Queen tribute. Heck, even the name of the book, Norizuki Rintarou no Bouken ("The Adventures of Norizuki Rintarou") is taken from The Adventures of Ellery Queen (which in turn mirrored The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes...). Luckily, it upholds the tradition of the name, because Norizuki Rintarou no Bouken is just as awesome a short story collection as his famous predecessors.

The stories are very Queen-like, with the first one, Shikeishuu no Puzzle ("Puzzle of the Death Row Inmate"), with its prison setting, being clearly based on The Tragedy of Z and even includes a similar conclusion, where by summing up all the attributes of the killer, the identity of the murderer is deduced. Other stories like Kurogo no Ie ("House of the Black Figure") tend to focus more on motives. And even very grotesque motives in Cannibalism Shouron ("Short Article regarding Cannibalism"). Personal favorite point of the collection and actually very Queen-ish, is the role of books in these stories. Four of the seven stories feature books heavily, like Kirisakima ("The Cutting Monster"), the story of a library, where somebody keeps cutting the title pages of famous detective novels. It's all great stuff (just like its sequel, Norizuki Rintarou no Shinbouken ("The New Adventures of Norizuki Rintarou")). While there is already one story of Norizuki available in English (An Urban Legend Puzzle in: Passport to Crime (editor: Hutchings)), more of this modern Queen should be translated. At once.

The first two stories in Nikaidou Reito's Meitantei Mizuno Satoru no Daibouken ("The Great Adventures of Great Detective Mizuno Satoru") are also kinda Queen-ish in spirit, while the last two stories, with its locked rooms and suggestion of the existence of aliens, remind more of Carr. The protagonist, travel agent Mizuno as a character, isn't very interesting though. Mizuno is somewhat similar to the manga Genshiken's Kousaka, in the sense that while he is handsome, trendy and a great succes with women, he is also actually one of the biggest otaku around, knowing thousands of anime songs, every kaijin in Kamen Rider and just being an enormous mystery buff. The premise could work, but it is handled rather predictable.The stories however are certainly interesting though, and the most interesting story in the collection is The Murder Case of "the Murder Case of the Daimyou's Inn", which offers an alternate solution to Yokomizo Seishi's classic locked room mystery Honjin Satsujin Jiken ("The Murder Case of the Daimyou's Inn"). Although, in retrospect, it does remind me a bit of Queen's A Study in Terror.

Norizuki Rintarou no Bouken also happened to be wrapped in a bookcover bookshops give so people can't see what you're reading, which I normally refuse. But those cassiers are unbelievably quick in doing stuff you don't need ("I don't need a plastic ba... oh..."), so I guess I wasn't quick enough when I bought it. The cover is apparently part of a smoking manners campaign. Inhaled. Burned. Thrown away. If it were anything but a cigarette, it surely would be crying. And a picture of a man making love to a sigaret. Things you can only get in Japan.