"I've seen through the things you're trying to do!"
I struck a Guts pose. I'll use this as my finishing quote from now on.
It takes some time to appreciate some authors somtimes. I for one didn't really like my first Nishimura Kyoutarou novel and I still can't really understand his popularity that well, but his Meitantei series is a surprisingly fun series, which really made me reconsider him. Hayamine Kaoru's first impression was close to horrible too. The volumes of the manga based on his Meitantei Yumemizu Kiyoshirou Jiken Note ("The Case Files of Great Detective Yumemizu Kiyoshirou") were quite awful. His second chance wouldn't be years later.
This year is the 10th anniversary year of the Trick franchise, with the movie Trick: Psychic Battle Royale being the main course. Of course, a series as big as Trick had to be celebrated cross-medium. So it was not only a new movie, but we also got a (fine!) videogame, a spin-off series and a novel. While there had been novelizations of previous series and movies before, this time an original novel was released. And yes, it was written by Hayamine Kaoru. But as I am a blind fanboy, I still bought the book. And just hoped for the best. I mean, Trick already has a great cast of clearly defined characters, so Hayamine could pour all his energy in creating a suitable story and let the characters do everything for him.
But that turned out to be wishful thinking. And it began sort of interesting too. Kaerisorajou no Nazo - Trick Seishunban ("The Mystery of 'the Castle returning to Heaven' - Trick Youth Chapter) is a prequel and is the very first adventure of self-proclaimed magician beauty Yamada Naoko. High school student. Along with three classmates she's invited by her teacher to her teacher's hometown to witness an ancient and rare odori. The village, far away in the mountains (of course. This is Trick) also holds a secret: long ago a mysterious clan led by the psychic Reihime were in control of this area, with every in fear of them and their powers. However one day, the clan seemed to have offended the gods, as their 'Castle returning to Heaven' suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, together with their treasures. Yet, the town still fears a return of Reihime. Until now it sounds very Trick-like, so that should be good, right? No.
The problem is that is too Trick-like. While I of course want a Trick product to be Trick-like, Hayamine is doing this wrong. Why? Absolutely nothing is original in this book. He writes bits and pieces of Trick-like parts together and I can't even see why they would have needed to ask Hayamine to write this. And Hayamine sticks to the model to a ridiculous extent. While Trick indeed needs both self-proclaimed magician beauty Yamada Naoko and self-proclaimed super physics expert Ueda Jirou to be Trick, it is just plain weird to have them meet in this story, as it is set in the past. Hayamine 'solves' this by saying they did their best to forget each other, but it just doesn't work. This is made even more ridiculous by even having detective Yabe make an appearance, still as patrol-man and not bald yet (he's the type who will get bald fast, everyone comments though). Having 'solved' the problem of getting everyone in the story, Hayamine just ticked off a checklist. Village in the mountain? Check? Legend (involving psychics)? Check. Strange villagers? Check. Gags about Yamada being poor and a bad sleeper? Check. Baldy gags about Yabe? Check. Ueda fainting? Check? Yamada's mother saying writing has mysterious powers? Check. Check. Check.
The only thing Hayamine forgot, was that Trick also has interesting detective-plots. Oh, wait, I guess that was the only part he had to do himself. And I guess my first impression was right. He. Is. Awful. At. That.
While the Trick DS game also got everything on the checklist, the developers at least didn't forget to include an interesting detective plot (and accompanying mechanics!) to actually make it fun. Sadly enough, this novel is only the checklist for making something like Trick. It still needs that something extra to actually make it a genuine fun Trick product.
The good part of the book? I did like the art by Tsuruta Kenji... And I really should watch those last few episodes of Keibuho Yabe Kenzou (Police Lieutenant Yabe Kenzou) to finish all the Trick releases of this year.
Original Japanese title(s): はやみねかおる 『帰天城の謎 TRICK青春版』