Wednesday, March 16, 2011

『今、甦る死』

「えーテレビを見ながら食事をする人、いらっしゃいますよね。お風呂の中で雑誌を読む方、いらっしゃいますよね。ただ、私からのお願いです。人を殺すときくらいはどうか、殺人に集中してください」
『古畑任三郎: 忙しすぎる殺人者』

"There are people who eat while watching television. There are people who read a magazine while in bath. But I beg of you. When you kill somebody, please focus on the murder"
"Furuhata Ninzaburou: The Too Busy Murderer"

Hmm, maybe thinking I would be able to finish several games, while writing my thesis and other things, was somewhat stupid on my part. So I'll stop with the game reviews now and pick them up again after most deadlines have passed. In April.

I consider myself sort of a bibliophile. I love the touch and smell of older books, I love seeing books on shelves (or in my case, in little piles on the floor and on bookshelves and on other books and...) and I just enjoy browsing through little chaotic bookshops. So no, you won't see me buying an e-book reader any time soon.

But having said that, I read some stuff on my mobile phone in Japan occasionally. No, no cell phone novels. Just books and manga I downloaded, because it was free and I was bored and I was still trying out my new phone then and stuff. Because everyone would do that. In the end though, I mostly used my phone for normal things like calling people, mail, getting weather forecasts and finding out when that bus was coming, so I think I finished very few of the books I downloaded. And recently I decided I would read them now. So I took my Japanese cellphone from the drawer, switched it on, looking at that screen full of memories.

One of the authors I had on my phone was Oosaka Keikichi. Of whom I knew nothing. Nothing at all. I think Oosaka may be the only Japanese mystery writer of whom I knew nothing, when I procured his works (not counting anthologies). Anyway, his writing-style quickly told me he was a pre-WWII writer, because few people would use the kanji he uses in modern writings (except to look smart/be irritating) and Wikipedia tells me he was a detective writer who lived from 1912-1945 and that he debuted in 1932 with Depaato no Koukeiri ("Hangman at the Department Store"). Starting out as a somewhat amateuristic, stiff writer, he wrote better stories as the years went by, until state censoring prohibited detective stories and Oosaka turned to spy and humor stories. Also sprach Wikipedia.

And lo and behold, I actually had Depaato no Koukeiri on my cellphone. And it's an enjoyable story too! The narrator, a newsreporter, and Aoyama Kyousuke head to a department store to cover the news of a man who had fallen from the roof. What first seems like a suicide, is quickly proven to be something else, when they find strange marks on the victim's body, as well as a necklace which had been stolen a day earlier from the department store's jewelry section. Aoyama doesn't take long to solve the case though.

And I like the case. Around the beginning of the story, Aoyama deduces the nature of the crime by looking at the marks on the body and it is a bit Holmes, a bit Queen. A somewhat fantastic deduction, but certainly grounded in reality upon which Aoyama bases his next decision. While the trick is not very difficult, I gather anyone would see through the trick as it is not particularly well hidden, it is a well-structured, fairly hinted story and I can see why Oosaka went on writing detective stories.

The one point I didn't really get though, is why there was a tiger (in a cage) on the top of the department store. I know the department stores in general are meant to attract people, and are supposed to be grand and all that, even more so in the Taishou/Shouwa period, but a tiger? 

Kankanmushi Satsujin Jiken ("Clanking Bug Murder Case"), released the same year, is very similar to the previous work. Once again, the narrator and Aoyama head out to cover a murder scene. The dead body of a dockworker (called "clanking bugs" in slang) who had been missing for 5 days was found at sea. The other personm who had disappeared with him hasn't turned up yet. Like at the department store, Aoyama manages to deduce a lot from the wounds on the dead body, ultimately leading to the culprit. However, while the structure is similar, I didn't enjoy it as much as Depaato no Koukeiri. The solution here is, in an oblique way, quite similar to the solution in Depaato no Koukeiri (people who have read the stories might say otherwise though. It's somewhat hard to explain and kinda abstract). The drydock setting was OK and actually more fleshed out in the story than the department store, but it's just not as alluring as a department store. Which is cool and glamorous and stuff.

Still, that digital-reading, thing? Not really for me. Sound novels? I actually love them. But just plain texts? Actually, halfway through, my cellphone tried to connect to a network, which is kinda impossible, so I told him to stop it. He asked me another time. I said no. And now it seems my phone doesn't want to start applications (like the e-book reader) anymore.  I read the last part online, as it seems like the copyright on most of Oosaka's works has expired. And I could just read them all online, but I just... ugh...no. No.

Original Japanese title(s): 大阪圭吉、「デパートの絞刑吏」/「カンカン虫殺人事件」

2 comments :

  1. Like you, I am a bit old-fashioned, not just in reading tastes, but also in preferring paper over any kind of digital media. However, as more and more works from the early twentieth century fall into the public domain, it will be inevitable that at one point I will have to partially switch over to digital txt, but I will miss the touch and smell of these old treasures and flipping back and forth in them.

    By the way, am I the only one who has the attention span of a 5-year-old when attempting to read a story online? So many distractions, like incoming mail. ;D

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  2. I can't concentrate on one single thing when I'm working on my computer, period. The fact I'm writing this reply instead of concentrating on reading papers and working on my thesis, is proof of that.

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