"I have to go over everything that's happened. I have to remember"
Another Code R: Journey into Lost Memories
Like always, I end the year on this blog with a look back of the posts this year, because that is of course what happens every blog. I noted last year that there is usually a long waiting list of to-be-published posts because of the way I schedule updates. That still holds for this year actually, and I think maybe something close to 18 months might've passed since I originally read/watch/listened/smurfed the subject before the review actually appeared on the blog. So my memories can be a bit vague. Anyway, as always, this post features a round-up of reviews and other posts that made an impression on me, with categories made up as I go. Anyway, that wraps it up for this year (though I might sneak another Detective Conan review in before the end of the year!), and hope to see you next year!
Best Project Outside The Blog!
The Moai Island Puzzle
Okay, this was an easy one. Last year, I was honored to be the translator of Ayatsuji Yukito's The Decagon House Murders, published by Locked Room International. This summer, LRI published Arisugawa Alice's The Moai Island Puzzle, once again translated by me. I first read the novel back in 2012, and absolutely loved it as a brilliant puzzle plot mystery that did Queen better than Queen ever did, but also with characters I really liked. So I was thrilled I was able to work once again on a novel I loved, and to be a part of the process in bringing Japanese mystery fiction to the English-reading world. Obviously, I was also happy to see both major outlets like The Washington Post and Publisher's Weekly, and fellow mystery lovers write positively about it.You haven't read it yet? Go read it!
Best Non-Review Post! Of 2016!
Arsène Lupin in Japan
I write very few non-review posts, though they're usually fairly well-received, as far as I can judge. That's usually more a matter of having trouble making a coherent, structured posts on my ideas than not having any ideas. So perhaps I really should try to do my best more on features like this. Anyway, this year, we had three of them on the blog. One was about the matter of what "Solving a fair-play story" means to readers: based on what criteria do you think you 'won' from the author, and when is a story fair? But what I enjoyed best writing was my little look into the history of Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin in Japan. It was a very short piece, but this feature actually had a structure I had planned in advance, going from a look into older thief characters, to publishing history and other series which were in turn influenced by Lupin (as you may have guessed, I always write my reviews/other posts just as I go). It might be interesting to do something similar for Ellery Queen in Japan or Christie, now I think about it. The other non-review post was a tribute to the Dark Shadow figure in visual mystery fiction. Which was also a lot of fun to write, though it was mostly a lighthearted article.
Best Mystery Film Seen In 2016 Featuring Animals I Forgot To Write A Review About
Disney's Zootopia (or Zootropolis, depending on your region) is a buddy cop mystery film set in Zootopia, a city where animals, predator and prey, like together in harmony. It might not be super-surprising as a mystery story, but it is a really tightly plotted, amusing story that stays interesting from start to finish. And yes, this category exists solely to namedrop Zootopia, because I meant to write a review about it but totally forgot (Meitantei Pikachu was also an interesting mystery with animal-like creatures, but that was a game).
Most Interesting Game Played In 2016! But Probably Older!
Gyakuten Saiban 6
To be honest, I didn't think I had played that many mystery games this year, but I arrived at quite a number when I finished counting. Some of them were great (Net High, Meitantei Pikachu), some of them decent (J.B. Harold Murder Club), some of them flawed as a game (Root Letter). The choice of Gyakuten Saiban 6 ("Turnabout Trial 6"/ Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice) was however an easy one. The quality of these comedy courtroom drama mystery games has always been very high, but the introduction of the supernatural Water Mirror mechanic, which shows whatever the victim themselves saw in the moments before their death, is fantastic, leading to innovative and surprising ideas for mystery plots. The major flaw of the game is that it is too connected to previous games, with the series protagonists hogging too much of the spotlight, but still, as a mystery game, this was easily my favorite of the year.
Some of the non-mystery games I enjoyed this year: I played all five Sakura Taisen ("Sakura Wars") games early this year, and loved them. I had already played the first two games once in the past, but didn't mind playing them again, as the character-focused SRPG is really fun. SEGAGAGA was a fantastic RPG/simulation game on the DreamCast by SEGA, about the final days of the DreamCast and SEGA has a hardware maker. Only SEGA could've made this, as they make fun of themselves and the whole industry in a surprising way. Really a must-play for SEGA fans. Another great game on the DreamCast was Roommania #203, where you play the role of a god of an apartment room, guiding a student living on his own through adventures of love, thrill and suspense. Hako Boy - Mou Hitohako ("Box Boy - One Extra Box") was a fantastic sequel to the original puzzle game on the 3DS. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (PS Vita) and Grandia (PS) were both enjoyable RPGs, while Danganronpa Another Episode was a fun action-puzzle game set in the Danganronpa world. The Walking Dead Season One (PS Vita) had a great character-focused story, though as a game it felt a bit lacking. Finally, Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 3 - Kowareyuku Machi to Kanojo no Uta ("City in Crisis - The Town Falling Down and Her Song", PSP) was what you'd expect from a game by IREM: perhaps a bit limited in design, but very funny and with loads of personality. And great vocal music too!
Favorite Trick of 2016!
Gyakuten Saiban 6
This is a hard one. Ashibe Taku's short story French Keibu to Raimei no Shiro definitely had a great trick behind the murder for example, which was also tied to a shocking reveal. Ayatsuji Yukito's short story Dondonbashi, Ochita was similarly very shocking and memorable. From the same author came also the TV production Nazotoki Live - Shikakukan no Misshitsu Satsujin Jiken at the start of the year, which featured a great gimmick played on the viewer at home. The brilliance of that one was that the moment of the reveal: the last few seconds revealed a fact that turned the whole case upside down, but it was at the same time also the last hint needed to solve the case. In the end, I have to go with a certain trick played in the final episode of the 3DS game Gyakuten Saiban 6 as my favorite trick of this year. Note that different from last year, this category is about favorite tricks, not best. The trick behind the locked room murder in the final episode is, on its own, a fairly predictable one considering the theme of this game, I think, but what I really liked about this story is that it doesn't explain everything behind how it was pulled off. The narrative skips the explanation of some of the actions taken by the murderer(s) on purpose. This would usually be considered something negative, but it works here because of the design: the game contains hints and comments with which the player themselves can solve the last remaining questions themselves. This means the main narrative can get away with a bit of streamlining, as it skips over some minor points, but the curious player can figure out the details behind the trick of they choose to do so. It's this design choice in particular that I love, as replayability is something you seldom see in mystery fiction in general (not just games).
The Just-Ten-In-No-Particular-Order-No-Comments List
- Detective Conan - The Darkest Nightmare (Director: Shizuno Koubun)
- Gyakuten Saiban 6 ("Turnabout Trial 6") (Director: Yamazaki Takeshi)
- Gyakuten Saiban - Gyakuten Idol ("Turnabout Trial - Turnabout Idol") (Takase Mie)
- Meitantei Pikachu - Shin Combi Tanjou ("Great Detective Pikachu - Birth Of A New Duo")
- Aibou 14, Ep. 17: Butsurigakusha to Neko ("Partners 14, Ep. 17: A Physicist and his Cat") (Scenario: Tokunaga Tomihiko)
- Tsumiki no Tou ("A Tower of Blocks") (Ayukawa Tetsuya)
- Arang-un Wae ("Arang, Why?") (Kim Young-ha)
- Kimenkan no Satsujin ("The Strange Masks House Murders") (Ayatsuji Yukito)
- Misshitsu Satsujin Game ("Locked Room Murder Game") (Utano Shougo)
- The Footprints of Satan (Norman Berrow)