「いただきます」 呟いて、一口目。「………」 これは。結構、キツい （省略）
So this last month, I hadn't felt the sensation of 'This tastes good'. Every time I ate, it felt like it wasn't enough, like something important was missing (...)
A bowl with a pile of kimchi. No tongue in this world strong enough to retain its tasting abilities after eating all of this (...)
I muttered a 'I humbly accept'. The first bite. '...' This. Is. Going. To. Be. Hard (...)
Reaching my limits. Not only my tongue, but my head too has started to feel numb. What am I doing? Or rather, who am I, what's the meaning of who and what does meaning mean, it was about when I started to lose my comprehension of even that, that... (...)
I placed the final pieces of kimichi in my mouth. My tongue, no, my entire mouth had given up. From tomorrow on, I'll probably never say something like 'this doesn't taste good''.
"Strangulation Romanticist: Human Failure - Zerozaki Hitoshiki"
Maybe I should stop with the habit of reading several books at the same time. As I switch books in and out of my reading schedule rather regularly, sometimes a book gets switched out of the schedule without getting back in. Usually because I forgot I was still reading that book. Or was I just ignoring it? Anyway, I think I have read the first 100 or so pages of NisiOisiN's Kubishime Romanticist - Ningen Shikkaku Zerozaki Hitoshiki ("Strangulation Romanticist - Human Failure - Zerozaki Hitoshiki") about two or three times by now. And they were funny every time. Don't know why I never finished the book though. Until now, that is.
Zaregoto series, a light-novel series that starts out as a sorta-mystery series, but it seems like the mystery element fades out as the series progresses. It's been about three years since I read the first volume, Kubikiri Cycle, but I remember it as novel that was, in some ways, genre-deconstructing. The locked room mystery with a headless corpse was interesting yes, but the biggest mystery of the novel was definately the narrator. A young 19-year old student. He was relatively smart, but as he is constantly surrounded by geniuses, he didn't stand out particularly. Or maybe he did stand out because he was so relatively normal. Although, normal, he was a bit dark at times. A bit inhuman. A bit of a liar. In fact, our narrator is a very unreliable narrator.
Anyway, Kubishime Romanticist is set about a month after the events of the first book, with our narrator back at university. While eating his all-kimichi breakfast/lunch, he is approached by Mikiko, one of his classmates (because of his bad memory, he doesn't remember her though). He's invited (forced?) to go to a small birthday party of Tomoe, one of his other classmates (and he doesn't remember her either). With nothing else to do, he agrees and spends a relatively pleasant night. The next day however, he hears that Tomoe has been found strangled to death in her apartment. Oh, and in between, our narrator also met and became sorta friends with a serial killer who has been active in Kyoto. To keep things interesting.
The second volume in the series already feels less focused on the mystery, though the solution is still fairly hinted and still makes for a very interesting novel. Kubikiri Cycle definately felt closer to the old 'secluded-island model', while Kubishime Romanticist is a lot more open, being set in Kyoto. With a locked room mystery, a mysterious message left at a crime scene and perfect alibis for everyone, this novel is still pretty classic, but is quite clear that the murders are is not the focus of the book.
For once again, our narrator is the biggest mystery of all. I also had this feeling with Kubikiri Cycle, but Kubishime Romanticist is more like a novel about the narrator, about his view on the world and on human beings, who just happens to come across mysteries. Which he doesn't really need to solve actually. He usually does though. But let the reader beware: the narrator is not a fair person. At first sight, he seems like an somewhat aloof person with maybe a bit dark, pessimistic personality. The reader will often think he knows more than our narrator, as it seems like the narrator has little common sense (or more preciselly, feels less inclined to adhere to common sense). But the narrator knows a lot more than he tells the reader and he easily lies to the people he knows, the readers and even himself (the narrator is usually fair enough to admit he's lying when he's called out on it though).
I really love this novel though: the narrator, as a detective-like person, is really interesting and NisiOisN's writing style is just awesome. The novel tends to walk across a bunch of genres and themes, from philosophical themes to sheer comedy (the part with the kimchi quoted above is hilarious when read in context), but NisiOisN pulls it off very good. I tend to prefer stories that are (very) focused on the plot-structure and tricks, but NisiOisN manages to convince me of the possibilies of the modern mystery novel. Or am I only praising the novel because I feel a kindred spirit in the narrator? Seriously, some lines said by the narrator feel just all too familiar. I am not as dishonest as him though. I think.
Whereas the narrator worked with genius IT-specialist Kunagisa in the first novel, she hardly appears in this novel. I don't really like her as a character (neither do I like Aikawa), so I was pretty happy the focus in Kubishime Romanticist was on the narrator and his interactions with other people in a relatively normal environment. I haven't read the following novels yet (though I have Kubitsuri High School somewhere), but I guess that as the series' focus changes to action, characters like Kunagisa and Aikawa will pop up more often. Which is a shame, I think, for I think I like this novel exactly because it's relatively normal, with the just the right amount of mystery, philosophical themes, action and humor. I really don't hope that this series changes into some sort of harem-series with all kinds of super-powered/smart girls fighting and stuff (<- though I have to admit, I know nothing about how this series will evolve beyond the fact that the focus changes, so it might stay this awesome).
Original Japanese title(s): 西尾維新 『クビシメロマンチスト 人間失格・零崎人識』