Tuesday, December 29, 2009

『殺人リハーサル』

「人間に想像する力がある限りラジオドラマには無限の可能性がある僕はそう思う。僕は好きだな。ラジオドラマ。」
『ラジオ時間』

"
Radio dramas can go as far as mankind's imagination, that's what I think. I love it, you know. Radio dramas."

"Welcome Back Mr. McDonald"

While I wrote earlier that I watched the drama Meitantei Asami Mitsuhiko: Saishuushou ("Great Detective Asami Mitsuhiko: The Final Chapter"), I have to admit I have never, ever watched a whole episode of it. I fell asleep halfway through every single time. While the stories aren't that bad, early classes meant I was already dead by the time the drama finally began. And to be honest, you don't watch Asami Mitsuhiko for its story, you watch it for great location shots of every part of Japan.

Which is a big thing of detective drama in Japan. Especially the lighter mystery dramas (based on works by writers like Nishimura Kyoutarou and Yamamura Misa) are not as much about the story, but just excuses for location shots. Heck, sometimes the story even moves to South-Korea. Which is in fact quite close to Fukuoka. JLCC students who are from Busan could theorically go back home every day with the ferry.

But the king of travel detectives has to be the Asami Mitsuhiko series by Uchida Yasuo. Protagonist Mitsuhiko is a freelance writer on food and history and he travels to a new place in every book. And of course, Always Murder. So I tried the first book in the series, Gotoba Densetsu Satsujin Jiken ("The Go-toba Legend Murder Case"), which was an OK book, making no real faults, but also not containing elements to make it a classic. Weird though, was how Gotoba Densetsu Satsujin Jiken initially starts as a police procedural, until halfway the book the author suddenly seems to have a change of heart and changes a minor character from several chapters earlier into the great detective. That and the legend of Go-toba was surprisingly not very relevant to the case. You'd expect otherwise from a book named The Go-toba Legend Murder Case. But in any case an entertaining book.

And then there were the new podcasts/radio dramas of the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. As I haven't read Q.B.I.: Queen's Bureau of Investigation yet, I was looking forward to these modern radio-drama versions of Ellery Queen's The Myna Birds and A Lump of Sugar. Especially the first one, as I was wondering whether something else besides Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney could pull of bird-as-a-vital-witness succesfully (Cross-examining a PARROT while still maintaining your dignity is hard to pull off!).
However, The Myna Birds certainly didn't succeed. The biggest problem is that the radio dramas are way too short, leaving no time for any development. The original war-time radio plays usually are around 30 minutes, leaving enough time to flesh out everything. Even with the bad sound quality and overacting, they're great to listen to even in this age. Heck, you could even just do with reading the scripts. These two radio plays by EQMM were just too short with too little substance.
\But they had nice music. Which is something.  

Original Japanese title(s): 内田康夫 『後鳥羽殺人事件』

Sunday, December 27, 2009

『死亡の館、赤い壁 (空城の計)』

「怪盗は鮮やかな手口で獲物を華麗に盗み出す芸術家だが、探偵はその跡を見て難癖を付ける批評家に過ぎない」
『名探偵コナン』

"
Phantom thieves are artists who magnificently steal their trophies with the most brilliant tricks, but a detective is nothing more than a critic who looks at the results and tries to find faults."

"Detective Conan"

One of the first things that surprised me when I first visited the local Yamada Denki was that they sold books. And then the second surprise was that they were selling an immense Arsène Lupin boxset (placed next to an (Edogawa Rampo's) Shounen Tantei Dan boxset), which I still want to buy every time I walk past it. Then I realize I already own most of the books in a language I can read a lot easier.

So instead, I bought Nikaidou Reito's Meitantei no Shouzou ("Portrait of Great Detectives"), which featured pastiches on Maurice LeBlanc's Arsène Lupin, Ayukawa Tetsuya's Inspector Onitsura and John Dickson Carr's H.M. Merrivale (whom I'll admit I always confuse with Carr's Fell. In my head, they're the same). Prior books by Nikaidou I read where good, so expectations were high. If only I could remember when and where I bought this book. It was just sitting on my shelf here, but heck if I can remember where it came from.

But setting the mystery of the appearing books aside, expectations were fulfilled. 'Cept for one story (of which I can't determine whether it was a pastiche or not), they were all enjoyable. While I shamefully admit I actually like Ellery Queen's A Study in Terror, I usually don't read detective pastiches (parodies, I love though). Occasionally coming across titles like Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula explains why. But Meitantei no Shouzou was great, so I was quite happy. Especially the Arsène Lupin pastiche, Lupin no Jizen ("The Charity of Lupin") couldn't be more Lupin even if LeBlanc himself had written it. Sekishisou no Satsujin ("The Murder of Smallpox Manor") with its disappearing people and a cursed manor was an enjoyable Merrivale pastiche, which Nikaidou clearly enjoyed writing, seeing all the references to other Merrivale adventures.

One story in this collection wasn't a mystery or a pastiche though, but very relevant. Kaasuke no Seiki no Taiketsu ("Kaasuke's Match of the Century") is the ultimate homage to bibliophilic mystery readers. A "restaurant" that serves no food, but instead detective novels, ranging from the newest books to vintage books in original print? A Yomu-lier (Read-i-lier (Sommelier)) who will suggest the best books to read? A duel which is decided by determining the title and vintage of a book just by a single sip passage of the book? While it still appeared strange to me to bring your date to such a restaurant, the rest of the story was plain awesome. They should make manga about bibliophiles. 

Original Japanese title(s): 二階堂黎人 『名探偵の肖像』/「ルパンの慈善」/「風邪の証言」/「ネクロポリスの男」/「素人カースケの世紀の対決」/「赤死荘の殺人」

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"I am terrified of moving pictures. They are the dreams of an opium addict."

「こりゃすごいよ、最高だね。くっくっくっく・・・・・カーの密室トリックにも似たような馬鹿馬鹿しいのがあったと思うが、これはあれ以上だね」
『探偵映画』

"This is great, fantastic! Ha ha ha... I think there's something like that among Carr's locked room tricks, but this is even more stupid."

"Detective Movie"

Vacation means I finally have time to read the books I keep buying. Which are mostly detectives. Lately, "Juggling between reports of life and writing about (Japanese) detective fiction while studying in Fukuoka, Japan" has not been the best description. So going to try to make up for that and first up is Tantei Eiga ("Detective Movie") by Abiko Takemaru. Never read any of his works and could tell you nothing about him. But for some sinister reason I had his name written on a list of writers I want to read. I just can't remember where I first came across this name. Most of the names I wrote down are new Golden Age writers, so I was at least expecting him to be that. However, I don't think Tantei Eiga is one of his better known works, I just bought this book, because it was the cheapest with a slightly interesting title.

The plot of the book is very interesting though. A star director is making detective movie, a hard-to-market movie in this age (in the long-lost past of 1990). But he has one trick up his sleeve: nobody except for him knows the solution to the story. Which of course sparks interest everywhere. Releasing scripts on a need-to-know base, filming progresses fast till they finally can start filming the last part of the movie. And then the director disappears.

Panic ensues. And hilarity. Because the movie is to be released quite soon, the crew decide to deduce the solution to the movie themselves. And then a two-layered story begins, where the book alternates between the search for the missing director and deduction sessions on the movie ending, and the events of the detective movie itself.

The book was quite entertaining, with especially the deduction sessions a highlight. Almost surreal (but hilarious) is the scene where every actor is trying to propose a solution in which they themselves are the killer, because in a detective movie, the killer is the most important role. The quest for the missing director is boring though and the final solution works only to an extent. It's really a trick that works in a) movie and b) real-life, but it just feels somewhat underwelming in book-form. This book would actually work great as a movie, now I think about it. Add in loads of movie trivia and it's a fun book for those who enjoy movies and detectives. And Detective Movies.

Not too sure about Abiko though. While certainly not bad, my first impression is kinda lukewarm, whereas my first encounters with writers like Norizuki Rintarou and Shimada Souji where superspecialawesome. Though I am interested in the scenario Abiko penned for the game 428 ~ Fuusa sareta Shibuya de, which at this point is incredible. I hate Abiko's name though. It's a Japanese name I've never seen before and I keep typing Akibo (every single time for this post), because it sounds (just slightly) less awkward.  

Original Japanese title(s): 我孫子武丸 『探偵映画』

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

『旨味な中華屋を喰い尽くす!』

「この世に『ありうべからざる事柄』は存在しないのです」、明智小五郎、『蜘蛛男』

"In this world, 'impossible things' don't exist.", Akechi Kogorou, "Spider Man"

Even though my book report is sorta interfering with other stuff, the one thing I refuse to give up is food. And as I am in Fukuoka, I tend to eat quite a lot of ramen here. First up this week was Ichiran, together with Ippudo probably the best known ramen-ya of Fukuoka. And the taste of Ichiran ramen is indeed excellent. While the tonkotsu soup is not as *TONKOTSU* as the Ippudo ramen soup, some sort of special spicy sauce gives the Ichiran ramen soup a unique taste. But besides taste, Ichiran has something else that everybody has to experience. Ichiran is the most anonymous ramen-ya I've ever been, where you can enter, eat and leave without ever raising your voice or even see anyones face.

At Ichiran, you buy a food ticket like at so many places, but then you're guided to a sort of cubicle. Everyone here eats at his own cubicle. And there is a curtain in front of the counter, so you only see the hands of the shop assistents. And some vague shadows as they actually bow when they collect your ticket, even though they don't see your face. Then you have to fill in a form to customize your order, like the spiciness level, amount of garlic, onions and chashu you want. And then you enjoy your bowl of ramen in your own private cubicle. Strange. But delicious.

Another great ramen-ya was Ichiraku Ramen near the Kyushu Sangyou Daigaku, which is actually quite close to the kaikan. Not very filthy, quite delicious (and cheap!) and very, very small (a total of six counter seats). And we actually only went there, because it apparently was the model for the Ichiraku Ramen in the manga Naruto by Kishimoto Masashi.

At Canal City's Ramen Stadium 2 we tried Resshijunmei's Shinshuu ramen, which had a delicious fish-based soup (yes, there are ramen-ya here that don't start with a 'ichi' in their name). Fukuoka might be the boondocks if we're talking about when books arrive here or when we're talking about the fact that just one theater in all of Fukuoka is showing One Piece: Strong World (meaning it was completely sold out for days and we just barely managed to get tickets today. Layton will be probably be as impossible to go to). However, when we're talking ramen, Fukuoka is second to none.

And I actually found a restaurant that served a (Chinese) teishoku I couldn't finish. I lost. Horribly. To food.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Time Waits for Norman

「なんやかんやは・・・なんやかんやです!」、鞍馬六郎、『33分探偵』

"One way or another means... one way or another!", Kurama Rokurou, "33 Minute Detective"

While from this year on, the individual research paper isn't obligitory anymore in the JLCC program (though you'd have to do other research instead), I still opted to continue with my research paper (for I plan to bring it back to the Netherlands to have a bachelor thesis ready ahead of time). And in my head, the paper is something about Edogawa Rampo and 1920's Tokyo/Japan. In my head, the paper is also very interesting and superspecialawesome. Of course, 70% of the stuff in my head is probably doubtful to other people. Though I did finally find a person who agreed with me that boiled water tastes strange. For it really does.

Reading Japanese academic literature is quite annoying. I'm getting used to the Japanese written academic language, but the biggest problem is still kanji. At times, it feels like you're reading Chinese. With occasionally hiragana. Which kinda explains why I haven't been able to post much lately. Mainly because I didn't really do stuff. But I was making my way through my books. Slowly. And then I suddenly got a deadline for a first draft for a bookreport (so in reality, not even close to a real research paper). Which at this rate, I'll probably miss. Because time might wait for Norman, but not for me. Reading academic Japanese is one thing, writing academic Japanese is a totally different story. Especially if I have to cook up something in two days.

And speaking of cooking, in other short news, takoyaki-parties are deliciously awesome, nattou doesn't really have any taste at all and is certainly not even remotely as disgusting as most people make it out to be, mentaiko is really good, the water you drink should be 15 degrees lower than your own body temperature, boiled water tastes weird, the rice-patty hamburgers at MOS Burger taste strange, not the negative kind of strange, just strange and Filthy but Delicious Restaurants is the best TV segment ever. If I am to return Tokyo's Kouenji again, I will try that store's chahan.

Book report progress: 0,0%. Continue Y/N?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cat among the Pigeons

青空の下だろうが何だろうがなぁ、どこ行っても授業なんかできんだろう。 教師と生徒さえいれば。そういうのをな、教育っつーんじゃねーのか? [鬼塚英吉]. GTO ドラマ版

"Whether it's beneath the blue sky or somewhere else, you can have class anywhere. As long there are teachers and students. That's what we call education, right!?", Onizuka Eikichi, GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka)

Monday I rushed back after class back to the kaikan, as I, together with 5 other JLCC students, had a presentation at the Fukuoka Municipal Kashii First Junior High School ("Fukuoka Shiritsu Kashii Daiichi Chuugakkou") about our own countries. Because the school is so close to the kaikan (Kyushu University International Students House), they occasionally have foreign kids there, so the school tries to invite international students every year to give presentations about their own country to let their students learn more about the world.

People who have had the pleasure of seeing me struggling through do a presentation, might laugh if they realize that a Japanese junior high school class consists of 40 people. Which, disregarding certain accidents, means 80 Japanese eyes looking at me. While I talk in Japanese. Suffice to say, I was quite insufferable that morning.

But in the end it was quite fun, especially seeing the faces on every student, who had all been to Huis ten Bosch, when I started the presentation saying we really don't wear traditional clothing and wooden shoes all day, nor is the Netherlands full of windmills. After my presentation, I was treated(?) to a moonwalk by one student, and a monomane of a crab and Kojima Yoshio. Yes, it was strange. Then we finished with a game called Fruits Basket, which was err... interesting. After our classes had ended (being addresses as sensei constantly was very strange and discomforting though), the students apparently had a class where they write their thoughts about the presentations, which we'll receive later.

Then we got a tour through the school, which was quite nice. Music class looked interesting, with koto classes being offered (while looking impressive though, the teacher mentioned repeatedly they're just leased). Lots of interesting stuff was hanging around the school and classes like cooking were quite surprising. The funny thing was that my image of a Japanese junior high school was solely derived from popular media like manga and anime, and it really all turned out to be true. The school chime tune? Check. Strange class rooms with retractable windows looking out at the corridor? Check. All the teachers working in one room with chaotic desks? Check. The nursery room where there always is a person with a fever or something? Check. It was sorta surreal, seeing all those images confirmed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

『幻影城』

『疾如風、徐如林、侵掠如火、不動如山』、孫子、『孫子兵法』

"Swift as the wind, silent as a forest, aggressive as fire, unmovable like a mountain", Sun Tzu, "Sun Tzu's Art of War"

The last few weeks, the first thing I see in the weekends when I open my curtains, has been a bus at the kaikan court, to bring the students in the JTW program to events like soccer and sumou matches, while the students in the JLCC program stay behind. Which was getting kind of annoying after the nth time.

So I'd been looking forward to Friday for some time now, as we'd have the first JLCC fieldtrip. OK, I had also been looking forward to Friday because it was finally payday, so it was an extra joyful day. When we actually got onto the bus, I was kinda cursing it though, as it was early. First we visited Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto-shi, about one hour away from Fukuoka.

Kumamoto Castle is one of the three grand castles in Japan, very big and very awesome. Too bad we were on a strict time schedule, so we flew through most of the castle to get to the tower, which provided a great view on the castle court and Kumamoto-shi.

Afterwards, we got back in the bus (which by now had turned into a place where lectures were given on French, Korean, Chinese and Cantonese) to go to Asosan, the largest active vulcano in Japan. And active, it was. So no hidden SPECTRE bases.

We actually weren't allowed to go to the caldera observation deck at first, because the vulcano was producing too much gasses at that time. So we watched the caldera from a distance and just as we prepared to get back, the alarm was cancelled, so everyone rushed back to see the caldera. Which from afar looked like an onsen.

But just in case you were contemplating to try it, a sign explictly says it's forbidden to enter the caldera. Just in case.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

『不動高校学園祭殺人事件』

「人間は、自分と周囲との環境にズレが生じると、つまり、不協和状態になると不安になるんだ。で、周囲と同調することで、その不安を解消しようとする。」、秋山深一、『Liar Game』

"If a gap occurs between themselves and their environment, in other words, if they experience cognitive dissonance, they'll feel anxious.", Akiyama Shinichi, "Liar Game"

While I have started with reading books for my book report in December, I can't say it's really progressing. Semi-academic literature is of course totally different from literature and when something like 員数別普通世帯度数分布表中最大値 appears, I lament silently for the fact that I didn't study Chinese as a child.

And of course, at such times it's pretty easy to just give up and do something else. So we went to visit the Kyushu University Festival held this weekend. Such festivals are kinda like the Dutch Queen's Day with lots of food stands and small activities ,but without countless of semi-drunk people trying to get in the restaurant to use the toilet. But even though it's called the Kyushu University Festival, there is next to nothing to do at the Hakozaki campus, and most of the circles are based at the Itou campus, so it was also an excuse to visit the Itou campus.

Which is really far. It didn't even look like Fukuoka anymore, changing from subway to train to bus, which brought us alongst paddy fields. But then we arrived at Itou campus, and it was so... clean, to borrow the words of the Greek teacher. Built on the foot of a mountain, Itou campus like the good twin brother of the Hakozaki campus. Everything new, clean, no abandoned old buildings. The oldest thing there was the Kyushu University rock, which probably has some historic significance. The Itou campus is what a normal campus should look like. But then again, Itou campus is really, really far away from the normal world, so Hakozaki has its good points too. Traveling to the Itou campus has cost me two days of food. And I eat a lot.

Food, by the way, was well represented at the festival. The festival is set up by students and I think all the circles and clubs had either a stand or a lecture room in use. Clubs like the Movie Research Club showed self-made movies (which made me remember how much I love Yamazaki Masayoshi's One More Time, One More Chance), while the rakugo club and band clubs performed on small stages. And in between lots of people dressed in kigurumi trying to lure you to their stand. Sport clubs however mostly sold food at their stands. Which is always the best of Japanese festivals. Takoyaki, ham-katsu, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, hot dogs, gyouza, crepes...

Today's song: ->Pia-no-jaC<- - 「台風」 ("Taifuu" ("Typhoon"))

Monday, November 16, 2009

『ジェットコースター殺人事件』

"It is not my policy to terrify people - instead, I invite their gentle ridicule. Also I boast! An Englishman he says often, 'A fellow who thinks as much of himself as that cannot be worth much.' That is the English point of view. It is not at all true. And so, you see, I put people off their guard. Besides, it has become a habit.", Hercule Poirot, "Three Act Tragedy"

We went to the Space World amusement park Sunday in Kitakyushu, which indeed lies in the northern tip of Kyushu. Being in a group of only Chinese by the way always results in me being asked or told something in Chinese at one time or another. So I am steadily perfecting my "Was that some Japanese word I don't know or did you just talk in Chinese to me?"-face. Which also goes along quite fine with the development of my "Don't look at me, I don't understand it either. I am not Japanese, I'm a exchange student too, you know"-face.

But anyway, even though the temperature has dropped quite a bit the last few days, it was endurable, so we enjoyed our day. While the roller coasters were fun (one of which you did backwards-facing), the two most impressive looking were sadly out of order. Well, one of them has been out of order for two years due to a fatal accident, so I might not have tried that, but the Zaturn (yes, a 'z') looked like one of those roller coasters where you really regret getting on to the moment you hit the peak. But with no rain, an all you can eat lunch and the important lesson learned that you should always buy the 100 yen parka when you enter a water-attraction if the temperature is around 13 degrees Celcius, it was a fine day.

And afterwards, me and one of the Li's (yes, we have multiple Chinese Lis. As well as multiple Korean Parks) sped back to the Tenjin Central Park, where we managed to see the last 20 minutes of the Asian Beat Festa, a cosplay/doujinshi convention thingamajig, which included people in skimpy clothing who must have been freezing and karaoke performances. Arriving at the place right when a Canadian goes all out on Gatchaman no Uta was quite entertaining.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

『時の過ぎゆくままに。。。』

「あんたが自分を信じなくても俺はあんたを信じるよ」
『金田一少年の事件簿:剣持警部の殺人』

"Even if you don't believe yourself, I believe in you."

"The Case Files of Young Kindaichi: Chief Inspector Kenmochi's Murder"

Writing on detectivey-stuff is not going really well lately, mostly because I hardly read here. It at least is not a problem of not having enough material, because shelving problems are slowly appearing. I had started writing about how Japanese detectives are often like mini travel guides, as if they are not set in Tokyo or Osaka, they are often set at touristic spots all across Japan. Which was mainly inspired by a Wednesday TV drama I am watching, Meitantei Asami Mitsuhiko: Saishuushou ("Great Detective Asami Mitsuhiko: The Final Chapter") , which is about a journalist traveling all across Japan writing about touristic attractions, solving crimes and basically is an excuse to have every story set in another part of Japan. But then I realized this traveling aspect is also to be found very easily in Western (English) detectives, with the Orient Express and the Nile or just all across England, so it was not that interesting (though apparently the Asami Mitsuhiko series is quite popular here because it's so much like a travel guide with stuff on local legends).

But I digress. I don't do much reading except for homework now. Of course, I am actually required to read Edogawa Rampo stuff, as I have to hand in a book report next month for my research paper here, but even books with titles as The Era of Rampo: Ero Guro Nonsense can't help this reading-slump. Heck, even reading manga is not going as fast as it should.

Games are progressing quite good though. But while I enjoy detectives and games, they seldom work really good together. Case in point: the recently released Nintendo DS game Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo: Akuma no Satsujin Koukai ("The Case Files of Young Kindaichi: The Devil's Killer Voyage"). As releases in the Kindaichi Shounen series are not frequent anyway, I was kinda looking forward to this game, but as soon as I started up this game, I knew it would disappoint me, having played another game by the same developer. Please, developers at Tomcat, senseless clicking on every part of the map in the hopes the story progresses is not fun. Nor is diffusing bombs. Especially your bombs. Didn't you learn with Galileo DS?!

It's a problem I see often in detective games, where developers don't seem to be able to streamline the story. Either the story goes too fast, not allowing the player a chance to think or do anything at all, or the developers don't streamline the story at all and you are left clicking on everything, hoping you find the trigger for the next story event. A detective novel usually flows from one event to another, whether it being new information or the analyzing of information, but somehow, developers never seem able to really translate this to a working game system. And then you have the problem of developers wanting to make a detective game more like a game, so they insert bomb diffusing segments in the game. Which. Suck. Just because I am playing on a DS doesn't mean that you have to insert bad touchscreen gameplay.

Luckily, I had two new Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo volumes to wash away the memories of that game. They may only release two volumes of the manga a year, but it's always something to look forward too. And Pokémon HeartGold has found a great home in my Nintendo DS. After so many years enslaving poor critters is still addicting. And Butterfree, after so many years, you still are my favorite. Till I find a fishing rod to get me a Staryu. To get me a Starmie. 

Original Japanese title(s): 『金田一少年の事件簿 悪魔の殺人航海』

The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument

『信じる者の幸福』、『スパイラル~推理の絆』

"The happiness of those whose believe", "Spiral~ The Bonds of Reasoning"

A long, long time ago, at high school, I had to write a paper for Economics. Maybe it was a sign of things to come, but it was about the burst of the Japanese bubble economy. One sentence in that paper that I can't forget was the description of the Japanese as hardworking folks. Which is true, but we forgot to mention that the Japanese have a crazy amount of national holidays. Heck, there is even a law that converts normal workdays into holidays if the day before and after are also holidays.

Tuesday was Culture Day (文化の日), which meant a free day. We went to the Kyushu National Museum in Daizaifu, as there were some (free) events for international students to get in touch with Japanese culture. Or something like that. It was free at any rate. The first thing we did was the tea ceremony. Despite knowing what would happen, I once again I decided to give up the use of my feet in order to sit in proper seiza. Making it to the exit was once again troublesome. Cue the laughing tea ceremony students.

Afterwards we attended a taiko workshop. Being asked whether anyone had experience in the taiko, I resisted answering with "I am a Taiko Master-don" and the workshop started. Which was fun! Of course, the day after my arms hurt like hell, but it was worth it. To pierce the sky with your bachi (stick) and to let the earth tremble with the sound of the drums, the taiko is an awesome instrument. Afterwards we went through the museum and walked through Daizaifu a bit, which really looked like Kamakura (also because Daizaifu is home to Daizaifu Tenmanguu, a big Shinto shrine).

But the best part of the day was that I actually found a restaurant that served normal sized gyouza.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

『学園七不思議殺人事件』

「え~、子供の頃、何が怖かったかと言えば、薄暗い小学校の音楽室に飾ってあった作曲家の顔。あんな怖い物ありませんでした。 バッハ、シューベルト、メンデルスゾーン、そしてベートーベン。中でも一番怖かったのは、ヘンデル。えー、未だに音楽が苦手なのはあの肖像画のせいかもし れませんね。あの。今の小学校にも飾ってあるんでしょうか?もしあった先生、すぐにはずして下さい」
『古畑任三郎: 絶対音楽感殺人事件』

"
Erm, if we're talking about scary things when you were a child, I have to mention the faces of those componists, hanging in the dimly lit music rooms at school. There was nothing scarier than that. Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. The scariest among them was Händel. The reason why I am still bad with music might be because of those portraits. And... Do they still hang those portraits at schools? Teachers, please remove them."

"Furuhata Ninzaburou: The Perfect Pitch Murder Case"


One recurring motif in detective manga is the school curse. From elementary to high school, all schools have a school curse. Some might even have seven of them. (Or the ever clever: "That is the one of the seven school mysteries. Number eight!"). From the cursed staircase to the old abandoned X building to toilet-ghost Hanako, Japanese schools are not safe.

I have only seen this motif in manga, which are meant for kids, which explains why schools often appear as the setting for a mystery. But I guess there is some foundation to all this motif. Because Japanese schools can be creepy. "The old abandoned X building" does really exist.



Kyushu University has several campi spread across Fukuoka, with the Itou campus said to be one of the best equiped campi in the world. Most circles and clubs are also situated there and therefore it's quite aggrevating that Itou campus is in the western part, that is to say, the other side of Fukuoka. Which is way too far with the bicycle. And way too expensive with the bus. The International Student Center is located at the Hakozaki campus in the eastern part of Fukuoka, the original Kyushu University campus dating from the post-war period and home to faculties like letters and law.

Which is all fine and dandy, 'cept for the fact that they didn't really do maintenance here. Or something. It's just ugly. Which was incredibly shocking the first time I came here, having visited Waseda, which sorta set a high standard. But nowadays, I just imagine myself to be on a set for a horror flick or some mystery movie with cursed school buildings and stuff. For example, one of the buildings only has dimly lit corridors like on the picture. The four-floor building actually is not in use except for like a couple of international student classes a week and some crazy experiments from some sort of technical faculty which quite often sometime result in gigantic explosions. During class. The exterior is not much better. The name of the building is actually "the old Engineering faculty building" and I am expecting After-School Magicians running around commiting murders every time I get into that building.

There are actually loads of buildings on the campus which are deleted from maps (by blanking them), which feels like a futile attempt to erase the past or something. But those buildings are quite clearly still there. Like the old aircraft faculty building, which looks like the creepy tower from Professor Layton and the Curious Village (it looks worse up close). I fear it will collapse one of these days. Or this prison-like building, on which I could find no information.

But the creepy buildings are something I can get used to. And am slightly used to now. But the one thing I can not ignore, is this. And this. And this. Every 10 minutes, right across the campus. While I'm long past the stage of getting surprised every time one goes by, having the voices of teachers and students drown out every few minutes is kinda hard to ignore. You can actually count the number of windows at full resolution. They come that close.

Monday, October 26, 2009

「DOUBT。 一億円」

「そうか。最後の食事か。。。牛丼も食べられない。親子丼も食べられない。カツ丼も食べられない。餃子も食べられない。麻婆豆腐も食べられない。ニラレバ炒めもチャーシューメンもお寿司も焼肉もオムライスもウナ丼もチャーハンもおせんべいもみそ汁も豚汁もアンドーナツもクリームシチューもカレーライスもハヤシライスもおにぎりもたくあんもケバラも肉マンも杏仁豆腐も北京ダックもコーヒーゼリーもズワイガニも焼きソバもくず切りも焼きプリンもウニ焼きも塩辛もカツオのたたきも潮汁もハンバーグもステーキもうまか棒も酢昆布も。。。」、高野聖也、『喰いタン』

"
My last meal, so I won't be able to eat gyuudon anymore. I won't be able to eat oyakodon anymore. I won't be able to eat katsudon anymore. I won't be able to eat gyouza anymore. No mabo toufu, no nirarebaitame, no char siu men, no o-sushi, no yakiniku, no omuraisu, no unadon, no chahan, no o-senbei, no miso soup, no tonjiro, no an-donuts, no cream stew, no curry rice, no hayashi rice, no onigiri, no takuan, no nikuman, no annintoufu, Peking duck, no coffee jelly, no snow crab, no yakisoba, no kuzukiri, no yaki-purin, no uniyaki, no sukonbu, no katsuo no tataki, no ushiojiro, no hamburger, no steak, no umakabou, no sukonbu...", Takano Seiya, "Kuitan"

Captain's log. Heisei 21/10/26. Still haven't found normal sized gyouza yet. Getting desperate. Those midget-sized things don't taste bad or something like that, but you pay way more for way less compared to normal gyouza. Must control anger. Fukuoka is apparently known outside of Kyuushuu for its food. Not for its small gyouza though. Yatai however are a famous attraction of Fukuoka.


Around seven in the evening, small carts start to appear downtown, which actually are moveable kitchens. Yes, yatai are moveable mini-restaurants, most of them selling ramen and oden. While yatai are also to be found outside of Fukuoka, the sheer number and the mood is quite different from other places. Whereas the Tokyo yatai are ususally visited by drunk salarymen, the Fukuoka yatai are visited by tourists as well as the normal Fukuoka inhabitants. Or as Naganuma's Koyama-sensei said on Fukuoka yatai, 'even women eat at yatai here'. Tried it once now and while it tasts good and the mood is quite nice and homely, I have a feeling it's also sort of a tourist trap, as I left the place having spent more money than I would have expected from a yatai. For the same money, I've had more at Ippudo.

In other news, the first two weeks of class have finally ended. At the moment, we have JLCC-exclusive classes (classes meant to improve use of the language through a study of the Japanese language and Japanese culture), Japanese language classes (for all international students) and for some, faculty classes (which for me is Ancient Greek 2).

After the placement tests for the Japanese language classes, we all got a short consultation session with the head of the JLCC program, and while I placed around the level I expected myself to be, it never can be a good sign when the consultation begins with "I think you know few kanji. For a Chinese. So I'd like you to take Kanji-7." Which apparently is also the Japanese language class with the most homework, which after two weeks me and my recently demised right hand will believe instantly. Still trying to revive it for this weeks homework.

Greek is getting more fun though every week. The stuff we do is probably second-year/third year Greek in the Netherlands, but I really don't remember a thing anymore. The teacher randomly inserts English in his explanations now (I suspect for me, though he uses English texts too), everybody thinks my Ancient Greek pronouncation is fluent and just reading the story of the Minotauros in Greek and then translating it to Japanese is so much fun. And hard! Whereas at times I might know 4, 5 different ways to translate the same thing in Dutch or English, I usually only know 1 or 2 ways to translate something in Japanese. I don't have any Writing classes now, but this helps a lot.

And after two weeks of class, there is one thing I really really have to mention about the Hakozaki campus, but that has to wait as I am working on a horrors of the Hakozaki campus post.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

『一人二役』

「現世(うつしよ)は夢、夜の夢こそ真実(まこと)」、乱歩
"
Reality is a dream, your dream at night is reality", Rampo

While I like Edogawa Rampo's stories, I really need a lot of time to read his stories. I haven't really read many pre-war stories so I don't know whether this is a general thing or not, but the usage of kanji in Edogawa's work is very aggrevating at times, with of course many pre-war kanji and strange ways to write words from a modern point of view.

So while I actually wanted to translate The Murder Case of D-Hill, the first Japanese locked room mystery, I've put that plan on hold for the time being and instead did the simpler, short One Person, Two Identities. Which is an OK (non-detective) short story of Edogawa, but what is more interesting is how the theme of one person, two identities plays a big part in Edogawa's stories. People taking on other identities, people taking on other people's identities, blurring lines between reality and dream, no knowing anymore what is the original, it's a theme I enjoy very much in Edogawa's work. Silver actually makes an interesting point in Purloined Letters: Cultural Borrowings and Japanese Crime Literature when he mentions how Edogawa's work can be read as stories that were both emulating the Western model, as well as atempts to try to move away from them, as Edogawa might have been afraid to forever remain nothing but 'an impersonator', never to be an original himself. But of course, who is to tell what original is in this world, what seperates the daydream of reality and when Morpheus' world ends ?

『名店の餃子を食い散らす!』

「福岡は日本語が通じる外国だ」、小森先生

"Fukuoka is like being in another country where they happen to understand Japanese.", Komori-sensei

While I won't go as far as my wise Reading teacher (who used to live in Tokyo), it is true that for someone used to living in Tokyo, Fukuoka is really different. Two consecutive discoveries did disappoint me. Especially as they relate to things very dear to me. One was being all happy because the release of the two annual Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo books was this Friday, only to hear from a bookclerk that "Well.... Fukuoka is kinda far from Tokyo, so we always get our books late. If it says the 16th, expect it to arrive around the 20th." Then she apologized, but I didn't really listen as I was still in utter shock. At such times, even if Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyuushuu, it feels like I am in the boondocks or something.

And the second discovery, or rather observation, is gyouza - related. Having already experienced the extreme shock of realizing people here don't use the triforce of soy sauce, vinegar and something spicy to accompany the gyouza, I could not have foreseen that, that wasn't the greatest surprise behind gyouza here. For the real horrible secret is that gyouza here always seem to be quite small. Of course I am still looking for shops proving me otherwise, and I am not expecting to find jumbo gyouza everywhere, nor even Ekoda's Tokyo Ramen sized gyouza, but I keep getting across shops that only have hitokuchi gyouza, bite size gyouza.



And with bite size, I mean you could eat 3 of them with just one bite. So that's kinda disappointing here, foodwise. Though there is this delicious gyouza restaurant called Ni no Ni (written very archaic as 「弐ノ弐」, originally a Kumamoto restaurant), which serves great and very cheap gyouza (even though they are likewise quite small).


Despite their size, Ni no Ni's soup and water gyouza are a must-eat when in Fukuoka. And Ni no Ni happens to be right next door to Ippudo, so you can begin diner with some gyouza and finish off with Ippudo's awesome ramen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

『奇妙な着想』

"And once in one of those dizzy places, his brain turned also, and he fancied he was God. (...) He thought it was given to him to judge the world and strike down the sinner. He would never have had such a thought if he had been kneeling with other men upon a floor. But he saw all men walking about like insects. ", Father Brown, "The Hammer of God"

So I suddenly decided to go to one of those mountains in the background. Which really wasn't that far, probably just a bit more than half an hour with the bicycle. Even if you're me and you manage to lose sight of a set of mountains for a while, it only takes about 50 minutes. By the time I got to the entrance of the walking trail of the mountain though, I was pretty sure I had climbed about 75% of the mountain already, because the residential area continued all the way up. And it sure was a pain with my gearless bicycle. I'd hate to be the high school student who after a long day school has to go up that way every single day to get back home.


As I pretty much decided to climb the mountain 20 minutes before I set out from my room (it's really close), I didn't even know the name of the mountains. After asking a fellow mountain climber, it seems there are two of them, the Tachibana mountain and the Mikaduki mountain and with a bit of walking here and there and passing through giant gravesites, I eventually ended up on the top of the Mikaduki mountain. Which according to the little sign on the top is 272 meters high. The view was quite nice, as you could see all of Fukuoka and with my binoculars I could pretty much spy inside my own room. No one was present. The Tachibana mountain is about 100 meters higher, I think, but having no water and rations left, I felt it should wait for another time. I was quite glad it was all downhill from then on.

『共犯者X』

「何をする気にもなれないのです。人生の事が凡て、ただ頭の中で想像した丈けでもう十分なのです。何もかも「大したことはない」のです。そこで、彼は年中汚い下宿の一室に寝転んだまま、それで、どんな実際家も嘗て経験したことのない、彼自身の夢を見つづけて来ました。つまり、一口に云えば、彼は極端な夢想家に外ならぬのでありました。」、『パノラマ島奇談』

"He didn't want to do anything. He was happy with just imagining his whole life in his head. Nothing was worth it. That's why he spent his whole year lying down in a room in a filthy pension and without experiencing anything real there, he kept on fantasing. So in short, he was nothing more than a radical dreamer.", "The Strange Tale of Panorama Island"

As I've been told the last few posts are strangely book-free, and I certainly don't want to make anyone worry, I'll make up for it now with stuff on books. And detectives.

There are few book stores around the kaikan and only one of them is actually good (which I probably will mention one time or another), so this week I have been busy planning out the Ultimate and Most Efficient Bicycle Route to Bring Me to Book Off, Kinokuniya and Maruzen. My notebook (the analog one, not the digital) is full of strange and enigmatic notes ("Look for 'Albion'", "Park here", "This store has critical literature on detectives!") and mini maps now. The closest Book Off is about 30 minutes away from the dorm with the bicycle, but that store had a strange sale going on the last few days. You get a 50 yen discount on pretty much every normal book, which is nice, but surprisingly, the 105 books get a 55 yen discount, meaning I got to buy books for 50 yen (about 40 eurocent) per book. As if 105 yen wasn't crazy enough as it is. Anyway, my room now looks a bit more like my room now, with books and manga everywhere. Which is comforting. The way one's bookcase is set up can actually tell a lot about one's personality. Of course the books themselves tell a lot about their owner, but even the way the books are placed (Alphabetically on title? Alphabetically on author name? Seemingly random but with some kind of hidden algorithm only the owner understands?) can tell a lot about someone.

At the Book Off sale, I also picked up some Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo books which I actually own already as a different release, but this version has several short stories included, which are to be found nowhere else. And to celebrate, a translation of the first of these short stories. And I am actually translating while reading it, so I am kinda wondering who the murderer is too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Greek Coffin Mystery

綺麗なからだで
飛んで行きたい
またいつか
みんあに出逢うてめに
仕返しは消えても
こころはきえない
『探偵神宮寺三郎:きえないこころ』

I want to fly away
with a pure body
So someday
I can see you all again
Even if my thirst for revenge disappears
My heart won't fade away
"Detective Jinguuji Saburou: Unfading Heart"

While my Japanese language classes haven't started yet, I have attended my first class already. It's compulsary to follow some 'normal' classes (the ones offered to Japanese students at Kyushu University) in the JLCC programme, so I decided to do Ancient Greek II. Yes, I am studying Ancient Greek in Japanese. Of course, I have studied it for 6 years already in high school and loved it, but it's all faded away, so I thought I might as well do this course as a refresh course.


But even if it has mostly faded away, I was glad I had a background in Greek language, because following a real Japanese class (in comparison to a class meant to instruct the Japanese language) is quite hard at times. I kept looking up grammar-related words which are so simple in Dutch/English (i.e. first, second person, infinitive), but which I had never heard of in Japanese. That was probably the hardest part of class. What I really look forward too though is translating though. I haven't really done precision translation to Japanese before, so it will prove useful too probably.

The class did bring back some nice memories though. The Ancient Greek class here was also comprised of just 5 people (very nostalgic!) and the texts used and the way how the class was conducted (reading aloud!) was pretty much the same as in the Netherlands. Maybe, just maybe, Ancient Greek classes are always the same where ever you are.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

『風のラララ』

Wishing on a dream that seems far off
Hoping it will come today
Into the starlit night
Foolish dreamers turn their gaze
Waiting on a shooting star
But, what if that star is not to come?
Will their dreams fade to nothing?

"Winds Nocturne",
Lunar: Silver Story

Yes, the typhoon did hit Kyuushuu, but Fukuoka's been pretty safe for now. It's more like a windy autumn day in the Netherlands and a lot better to bear compared to the usual 'wet' hotness here. Guess I won't have to put the skills learned at my second disaster training in use. Which was strange in two ways. One was that disaster training here was a lot more relaxed compared to the one I did in Tokyo. No crazy computers saying you died when trying to escape a fire and apparently, you don't need to hide under a table when in an earthquake, a cushion on your head is enough. You'd think they'd at least instruct the same way all across Japan. The second surprise was that Dutch tourists joined our group at the disaster training complex, on their last day in Japan. The teacher (of the university) actually made me translate for them.

Classes haven't started yet, so most of the time till now was spent doing countless of procedures as registrating for a foreign registration card and getting a cell phone. And finding the perfect solution to my forgetfullness (this is going to save my life. I can feel it). And riding recklessly on my bike. I don't think there are actual rules for riding a bicycle here, you don't even have to stay on one particular side it seems, so I just try to blend in with the other reckless riders. When in Rome. Though I can't really seem to get used to riding on the sidewalk.

Oh, and the Hakozaki campus of Kyushu University has to be the ugliest campus ever. And I've studied at the VU University for three years. Guess that's the difference between a private and a public university. I can so understand the recurring motive of the 'haunted school building' in Japanese detectives now. I won't even try to make pictures. Except for maybe the really rundown building with birds nesting in it and just looking like it came out of a comic of GeGeGe no Kitarou.

I should so make a 'horrors of Fukuoka' photo series, starting with The Birds and the haunted mansion. And Istart writing about detective fiction again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

『秘伝のラーメン食い尽くす!』

「この謎はもう我輩の舌の上だ。」、ネウロ、魔人探偵脳神ネウロ

"This mystery is already on the tip of my tongue.", Neuro, "Devil Detective Nougami Neuro"



The best ramen ever? Having graduated in ramenology through watching the movie Tampopo, I was naturally interested in the famous hakata ramen. And where else to eat but at the head restaurant of Hakata Ippudo, a famous ramen chain? Rumors regarding the taste have not been greatly exaggerated. The white, milky pork bone broth is amazing and can't be explained through words. It just tastes so enormously rich. Unbelievably great food. Of course, like I explained earlier, there are almost no restaurants around the dorm, so I have to travel quite a bit to get to Ippudo, so I am not planning to go that often. But I am sure that every trip to Ippudo is something to look forward to. Just like going out for jumbo gyouza.

There are also a lot of fugu restaurants here, so I might try it once. Of course the restaurants that seem the 'safest' are also the most expensive ones...

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 passed
And 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。