『サイコロジカル （上） 兎吊木垓輔の戯言殺し』
"Ever heard of a Hollywood movie where one hour in, the actress playing the heroine still hasn't made an appearance, no hijack or building hijack has happened, not even an alien showing up?"
"That's absolutely impossible"
"Ever heard of a mystery novel where halfway through, nobody has been murdered yet, and the great detective still hasn't made an appearance?"
"That's absolutely impossible"
"Psycho Logical - The Killing Joke of Utsurugi Gaisuke"
I mentioned I had read the prologue of Arisugawa Alice's Sweden Kan no Nazo at least six times. I think I've read the prologue of today's book even more often! And of course, when I finally got through that hurdle, I sped through the story in record time...
『クビキリサイクル 青色サヴァンと戯言遣い』 | Deheading Cycle: The Blue Savant and the Nonsense Bearer
『クビシメロマンチスト 人間失格・零崎人識』 | Strangulation Romanticist: Human Failure - Zerozaki Hitoshiki
『クビツリハイスクール 戯言遣いの弟子』 | Hanging High School - Disciple of the Nonsense Bearer
『サイコロジカル （上） 兎吊木垓輔の戯言殺し』、『サイコロジカル （下） 曳かれ者の小唄』 | Psycho Logical - The Killing Joke of Utsurugi Gaisuke (Part 1) / Kouta's Bluff (Part 2)
Zaregoto (joke, nonsense) series and is split up in two volumes, Utsurugi Gaisuke no Zaregotogoroshi ("The Killing Joke of Utsurugi Gaisuke") and Hikaremono no Kouta ("Kouta's Bluff"). The zany light novel series stars an unnamed narrator who has a tendency to get into strange adventures and murder mysteries thanks (?) to his curious friends and acquaintances, among them the genius hacker Tomo and the "World's Strongest Private Contractor" Aikawa Jun. But despite all the locked room murders this series features, the biggest mystery remains the narrator himself. He has a distinct speech style where he talks around, in, out, besides and over any topic, earning him the name of "nonsense bearer". Add in the fact he is quite negative and easily lies to everyone (including himself and the readers) and you have one of the most unreliable narrators in fiction ever. I quite like his narration, but I can imagine it can be a bit tiring too and the fact you can never really get into the narrator's head, might be a bit distracting for those who want to focus on the story and the murders.
Setting-wise, Psycho Logical is similar to the first book in the series, Kubikiri Cycle: a locked room murder mystery with the narrator and "Dead Blue" Tomo in an isolated setting (Tomo wasn't present in the second and third book). Thematically, there are also similarities, including an on-going discussion on geniuses, but a quick look at the two titles immediately shows the biggest difference. Kubikiri Cycle was NisiOisiN's first book and was a murder mystery with quirky characters. As the series continued, NisiOisiN slowly expanded the world of Zaregoto and by Psycho Logical, one could say that the characters are the main, the murder mystery is just a side course. Psycho Logical gives a look into both the narrator's and Tomo's past and the relation between the two and the actual murder of Utsurugi Gaisuke doesn't happen until the very, very end of the first book. The focus of the series has definitely shifted by now and because I heard that the mystery element is all but gone in the last two titles in the series, I think this is the last time I'll do a Zaregoto review here.
Psycho Logical's locked
Spoilers for Kubikiri Cycle, Kubishime Romanticist, Kubitsuri High School and Psycho Logical!! (Select to read):
It's actually quite interesting to see how parts of the human body are being used again and again in this series: as a step, as a transporting vessel, as a key and now as a piece of rope (in the narrator's solution). I don't know if NisiOisiN is trying to say something, but the constant de-humanizing of the err... human body in this series is somewhat disturbing. Now that I think about it, unlike Danganronpa, practically all of the geniuses and super-humans in this series are mental geniuses. I guess that Aikawa Jun is a physical monster, but she is also feared for her mind and not just her raw power...
The setting of the scientific facility and the heavy security reminds me of Mori Hiroshi's Subete ga F ni Naru / The Perfect Insider. I don't think it's a really rare setting in mystery fiction (if anything, the use of keycards / logs / security cameras et cetera make it ideal for it), but I can't actually remember other stories with a similar setting except for that one Kindaichi Shounen story...
I will admit that I am overall a very pragmatic mystery reader. If you have browsed this blog, you have probably noticed that I mainly focus on elements like structure, plot and tropes. The way a story is written, let's say the literary qualities of a story, usually don't matter to me that much. But I absolutely looooooove NisiOisiN's writing style! The wordplay, his roundabout way of talking, everything. Each of his Zaregoto books have been filled with quote-worthy material (something I am very grateful for). And even if you're not very proficient in Japanese, it's still very readable: the vocabulary itself isn't very difficult, but NisiOisiN's just has a great sense of playing around with written words. Like the series title says, it's all nonsense and jokes, but great nonsense and jokes.
Overall, I quite enjoyed Psycho Logical. Sure, the murder mystery appears quite late in the story, but it is a fun, even if simple locked room murder and the narration is still absolutely fantastic. But, as it seems the mystery element basically disappears in subsequent books, I think this will be the last time I'll write about the Zaregoto series on this blog, even if I might still read them just to see how the series ends. But for now, I've read enough nonsense.
Original Japanese title(s): 西尾維新 『サイコロジカル （上） 兎吊木垓輔の戯言殺し』 / 『サイコロジカル （下）曳かれ者の小唄』