Sunday, April 10, 2011

「草の名は 知らず珍し 花の咲く」

"Well, let's not discuss the future. I've found that the future generally gets where it's going despite every effort of mere Man to arrest its progress."
"Halfway House"
I read a lot of manga. Really a lot. But the only series I read regularly, that is to say, the only series I'm up to date with and of which I buy every new volume the second they are released, are Meitantei Conan ("Detective Conan") and Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo ("The Casefiles of Young Kindaichi"). Which are, no surprise, detective-manga. Which naturually is one of my favorite genres within the manga medium.

I read other detective manga besides the two mentioned above though, though true orthodox detective manga are, well, not really rare, but if you mainly read detective manga, you'll go through them quickly. So I was happy to see that last a year a new series was released. Well, techically, the series had alreadly begun in 2008, but with an irregular release scheme for its chapters, the first volume was released only last year.

The best feature of Houkan Tantei Sharoku ("Houkan Detective Sharoku") has to be its setting. Set in the early years of Showa Japan, it tells the story of the houkan (taikomochi, male geisha, entertainer, whatever) Sharoku. Though he is supposed to entertain guests with his arts and smooth mouth, Sharoku has a bad history with liquor and he usually ends up insulting everybody. He has a patron despite all that, the young master of the Wadasou family (though that might be because Sharoku is kinda blackmailing him). In true orthodox detective style, the two of them come across crimes rather regularly and it's at these times that Sharoku shows his brilliant mind for understanding his fellow man. Sharoku and his young master Soujirou share a relation comparable to the one of Conan and Kogorou in Meitantei Conan; while Sharoku is the one who solves the cases, he always allows Soujirou to take the credit for all it. Or more precisely, Sharoku always gives the credit to his master, while Soujirou has no idea about what is going on. In the end though, Sharoku always makes sure his masters returns the favor by taking him out drinking.

Like said, the most interesting of the series is the setting. Sharoku being a houkan, most of the cases are set in the Japanese high-culture entertainment world, so it involves topics like kabuki, high-class food and other geisha. For a manga set in the 1920s, after the Great Kanto earthquake, it is pretty interesting to see how it focuses not on the modernization of Tokyo, but on the more traditional entertainment-forms.

The series, as a detective manga, shows some potential, but isn't quite there yet. Now it focuses a lot on the solving of codes (usually in the form of Japanese poems), which is appropiate to the setting, but not particularly exciting. And I'm bad at code-breaking. The few times a 'normal' crime occurs, the plot/problem/solution is either not interesting, or just not fair.It's the opposite of what I feel about the series Q.E.D. Shoumei Shuuryou ("Q.E.D. Quod Erat Demonstrandum"), which is probably the most succesful of the detective-series that aren't called Conan or Kindaichi, but I don't feel Q.E.D. offers something original with its story-setting, while it does offer interesting traditional puzzle stories. At their current level, both of these series aren't interesting enough for me to follow religiously, like I do with Conan and Kindaichi Shounen. Those two will probably remain the kings of this particular genre.

Ah, how I lament I can't go the theaters next week to see the new Detective Conan movie! For the first time in 3 years! Ah, how fun it was last year! Well, maybe next year. I guess this year, I'll have just to do with the new live-action special...

Original Japanese title(s): 青木朋(画), 上季一郎(作)『幇間探偵しゃろく1』

1 comment :

  1. Your description of Sharoku immediately reminded me of John Gaunt, a rude drunk with the same knack for understanding people and situations, but Carr dismissed him after only one case.

    There's also the alcoholic ex-cop Nick Noble, who solves cases from the booth of his favorite bar, however, the cheap sherry has deteriorated him to point that his speech has become telegraphic – which makes it very difficult to properly insult someone (he's a fun character, though).

    Anyway, great review and I wish I was able to read these series. Seriously, at this point I would even rejoice at a US release of Ayatsuri Sakon. :/