Saturday, October 23, 2010

『ちなみの家』

「犬を飼っている人に一言。名前を呼ぶ時は「ちゃん」を付けるのは止めてください。「ちゃん」を付けると犬は「ちゃん」までが自分の名前だと思い込んで「ちゃん」を付けないと振り向かない場合があります。犬には…んー…」
『古畑任三郎: 死者からの伝言』

"A word to the people who own a dog. Please stop using the suffix -chan when you call your dog's name. If you use -chan, your dog will think that -chan is part of their name and they might not turn around when you don't use -chan. With dogs... hmm..."
"Furuhata Ninzaburou: A Message from the Dead"

A new translation at last? I had translated half of this story already in Japan, but somehow never finished it. And even though it is a fun little story.

While I have introduced the Japanese drama Furuhata Ninzaburou before, I had forgotten to mention there is also a novelization available. And this is a somewhat rare case, but the original scriptwriter Mitani Kouki actually wrote the novelization. Mitani Kouki is an excellent writer, who is mostly famous for his comedic stage productions and lately, his comedy movies (for example Welcome Back Mr. McDonald, The Uchouten Hotel and The University of Laughs). The style of Furuhata Ninzaburou (and Columbo) are of course excellent for a stage writer, as it focuses on dialogue and few characters. Readers will note that most of the text of the translation consists of dialogue.

Chinami's Home is the novelization of Shisha kara no Dengon ("A Message from the Dead'), the first Furuhata Ninzaburou episode that was broadcast for the first time on April 13, 1994. The novelization is mostly the same as the episode, except for the removal of Furuhata's sidekick Imaizumi from the story. The character of Koishikawa Chinami, famously played by idol singer Nakamori Akina, would be referenced a lot in later episodes in all three series, chronicling her life after this story, and is probably one of the most famous culprits in Furuhata Ninzaburou history.

Anyway, this story introduced the world to the gentleman detective Furuhata and features a dying message. Or does it?  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

「俺は煙草に火をつけた」

「事件が解決して素直に喜ぶものはいない」
『探偵神宮寺三郎:新宿中央公園殺人事件(携帯アプリ版)』

"Nobody is truly happy when a case is over"
"Detective Jinguuji Saburou: The Shinjuku Central Park Murder Case (mobile phone ver.)"

I've mentioned Tantei Jinguuji Saburou here once or twice, but as I've been playing quite a lot of the games lately, why not make a more general post about this awesome hardboiled detective game series?

While not very known in the Western world, Tantei Jinguuji Saburou is actually one of the oldest running game series, having survived many consoles and even development studios, and started in 1987 with Shinjuku Chuuou Kouen Satsujin Jiken ("The Shinjuku Central Park Murder Case") for the Famicom Disk System. The adventure (which featured advanced graphics and sounds for those times) introduced us to the private eye Jinguuji Saburou, a hardboiled detective who operates from Kabukichou, Shinjuku, Tokyo. He's assisted by Misono Youko, a secretary who is fluent in several languages and quite capable of detecting herself. At the beginning of the game, Jinguuji is requested by his old friend inspector Kumano to help solve the mystery of a strangled woman in Shinjuku Central Park.

The game is set in a hardboiled world, with Jinguuji having to confront witnesses in hostess clubs and even the boss of a yakuza group during his investigation. To emphasize his hardboiledness, the game even has a smoke option, which allows Jinguuji to...smoke. And think. But most people just use it to smoke. It's actually one of the hallmarks of the series, with every Jinguuji game having a button solely mapped to smoking, accompanied by "I lit a cigarette".


Despite the hardboiled world though, the plot of Shinjuku Chuuou Kouen Satsujin Jiken actually has more in common with more orthodox detectives, as the biggest mystery is how the culprit managed to leave the body in the park without leaving any footprints. While Jinguuji does solves this using hardboiled methods (including threatening a yakuza boss in his own home!), the case is distinctly orthodox. In later Jinguuji games, the footprints in the snow theme or other orthodox detective themes aren't the focus of the games, but they never really disappear from the games either.

Shinjuku Chuuou Kouen Satsujin Jiken turned out to be quite popular and by now, 15 games have been released in the main series for several consoles and handhelds, as well as about 20 games in a seperate series for mobile phones. Whether he is solving a crime in hometown Shinjuku, neighbouring Yokohama or even somewhere else,  Jinguuji always stays the same though; a hardboiled story that manages to touch you emotionally, great art, great music, GREAT MUSIC and a lot of smoking. Jinguuji even tried to make it to American shores, as Aksys localised the first Nintendo DS game as Jake Hunter: Memories of the Past. He still smoked, but it didn't really catch on. Maybe because the game was now set in fictional Aspicio U.S.A. instead of Shinjuku. 


Because, Shinjuku plays a vital part in the story. A big emphasis is placed on the hardboiled word of Shinjuku on a visual, a spatial, as well as on a social plane in later games. Places like the clubs in Shinjuku as well as other famous places like the Alta TV screen and Central Park are often visited, but the 'shadow' people of Shinjuku like hostesses, yakuza, homeless people and corrupt officals are also often featured in later stories. Actually, a remake of Shinjuku Chuuou Kouen Satsujin Jiken for the mobile phone (as well as for the Nintendo DS) got rid of pretty much all of the plot of the original game, inserting... yes, more homeless people, yakuza and corrupt people in the new story. Whether that's good or bad change, I can't say, but it's certainly different. But in a sense, Shinjuku as a town, as an entity has been a very big factor in the more recent games, somewhat similar to how Shinjuku has played a very big part in Angel Heart. Of course, it's a very romantic image of Shinjuku, the image of dark town with dangers everywhere, which yet somehow charms its inhabitants.

This is somewhat outside the scope of my blog, but the role of environment in games and the interaction with environment is actually quite interesting, be it a totally fictional one (Hyrule of The Legend of Zelda) or like Shinjuku, based on a real location.

Shinjuku as a location also played a very big part in Tantei Jinguuji Saburou Episode Code: Hai to Diamond ("Detective Jinguuji Saburou Episode Code: Ashes and Diamonds") (PSP), the lastest Jinguuji I played. The story begins with the search for the legacy of a recently deceased real estate developer in Shinjuku, but the case will turn out to have ties with kidnapping cases of homeless people, buildings owned by yakuza, corrupt officals and... the infrastructure of Shinjuku itself. A town which has changed immensely since the war and which changes even now and yet maintains its Shinjuku identity. Gamewise, the game features the ingredients you'd expect from a Jinguuji game (smoking! great music!) and this time also features a branching storyline, something I hadn't expected, as the Jinguuji games are amongst the most linear games in existence.

The Jinguuji series will never be the deduction-fest that is Trick X Logic and even something like the Trick game is more orthodox than the Jinguuji series. However, it is The Lady in the Lake in gaming, that is to say, it features well written stories and character, as well as good music and a truly distinctive style make the Jinguuji series something a detective/gamer should at least try.

See you next trouble

Original Japanese titles: 『新宿中央園殺人事件』、『探偵神宮寺三郎Episode Code灰とダイアモンド』

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Armchair Detective

 「実に非論理的だ」、湯川学、『ガリレオ』
'Truly illogical', Yukawa Manabu, "Galileo"

Huh. I hadn't written anything about Carr yet?

Looking at my preference in detective novels, you'd think I'd be a big Carr fan, but I am not. Carr's The Hollow Man and The Judas Window are excellent novels in my opinion, but I just can't get very excited about Carr's works in general. Which is really weird. There are no reasons for not liking him and a lot to like him. I do want to be more enthusiastic about his works, so I'm always looking for the book which will convert me into a Carr-fan.

And I was hoping 13 to the Gallows to be that book when I started reading it. 13 to the Gallows , by Carr and Gielgud, is a collection of 4 plays by Carr en Gielgud, similar to the (excellent!) The Adventure of the Murdered Moths and other radio mysteries (Queen). It should have been the book that would have converted me, as I'm a fan of a) detective novels, b) radio dramas and c) detective radio dramas.

The last two stories in the collection, Intruding Shadow and She Slept Lightly didn't impress much, but I was very taken in by the first two stories, Inspector Silence Takes the Air and Thirteen to the Gallows. Inspector Silence Takes the Air was more Queen-ish than Carr, as the plot revolves around a gun used in a murder disappearing from a BBC studio. The setting of a BBC studio is also used in Thirteen to the Gallows which is classic Carr with a seemingly impossible murder. Both stories are great in their setting, the problem and the solution. And I quite enjoy reading detective plays.

And yet, I wouldn't say this book made me a Carr fan. I will happily recommend this book to everyone (after they've read Queen's The Adventure of the Murdered Moths...), I don't really have any complaints about this book, in fact, it features quite interesting problems. So I like it on a personal level, it's also solid on a more technical level. Heck, this book even features an introduction and notes and everything I get all happy about in book releases. And yet... it didn't convert me. Even after reading this, Carr is just "the writer who has some excellent books among his books" to me.

Therefore I conclude there is some irrational part within me that just doesn't want to get all fanboyish with Carr's work like I am with Queen's work. Or maybe it is rational, as I can only read that many books in this lifetime...

Luckily, I've already ruled the possibility I will ever like Sayers' work (except for Lord Peter Views the Body). I keep trying, but it never, ever pays off. Strong Poison, the last one I read, actually had a simple, yet effective plot. Which had its interesting parts. However, the interesting parts were either in the first chapter or the last chapter. The 20-ish chapters between those chapters were awful. This will be the last time I'll mention Sayers here. I give up on her.