"It was like Yoshizawa said. I hadn't learned anything. I was just a passerby. Just a spectator without any responsiblity, who puts away his book the momnt the mysteries have been solved. That was who I really was"
"The Locked Classroom"
Oh, wait, I was supposed to read Japanese novels this summer. And oh^2, I won't be posting every day now, as I'm finally through my backlog of posts! Pretty much all posts this week were written last weekend actually, but as I don't wanna update more than once a day....
Most detective manga/anime/light novels seem to have children ~ students as the protagonists, for obvious reasons. Schools are therefore often the stage for murder and other crimes in manga. But strangely enough, I don't see the school-setting in novels very often, or at least not in Japanese novels.
Norizuki Rintarou's debut work feels very uneven. We have some early Queen elements with false solutions, the strange circumstances of the locked room and even quotes from Kafka and other writes. But the writing style is fairly different from later Norizuki novels; because of the very short 'chapters' (2~4 pages), the story never seems to rest, there is always something happening. Which is a bit tiring. The (Japanese) school-setting is interesting in theory, but very few characters are developed (mostly one teacher and just a handful of students, despite a class of 48 students, and that's ignoring the other classes!), which is very disappointing. Few characters actually feel and act like high-school students; with late EQ-angsting and at times hard-boiled noir-ish events and dialogue, it's rather hard to believe this is a high school.
Note that I'm totally ignoring issues like the Japanese education system, suicide at schools, school-culture and rules in this review, even though it may seem relevant for some readers. It just seems like a box of Pandora, if I were to begin writing about the subject, I doubt it would ever end.
The main problem, the locked room and the disappeared chairs and tables, is pretty neat though and recalls classic Queenian problems. I liked the protagonist Kudou too, probably because he's very recognizable as a student who only reads detective novels and thus tries to solve the mystery of the locked room and the death of his classmate. I'm not sure whether Kudou is re-used in other Norizuki novels actually. It's just that the road to the solution is done very differently from Queen and later Norizuki Rintarou novels. In fact, Norizuki's second novel, Yuki Misshitsu,already is completely different from this novel in structure and writing-style.
So yeah, it feels very much like a debut work of a young writer. But with the Power of Hindsight, we know that Norizuki Rintarou will grow out to be a great writer. A bumpy ride, but worth the trouble, I think.