Thursday, March 22, 2012

「殺しの際は帽子をお忘れなく」

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
- That depends a good deal on where you want to get to
I don't much care where.
- Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
…so long as I get somewhere.
- Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.
"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

Those who can read Japanese (or those who are adept at using translation websites), might have seen it in the comments already. Or you might have deduced it from the fact I kept mentioning I don't have any unread books left, yet didn't went out to purchase them. Anyway, I will be leaving late next week for Japan to study there for a year. Yes, again. In fact, this blog started in 2009 just as a personal blog to keep the home front up to date when I went to study in Tokyo and Fukuoka, but somewhere along the way it transformed into the.... thing that it is now. So the reason I didn't buy new (Japanese) books was because it would be cheaper to buy them there.

I have to admit though that I am not sure what I will do with this blog. I will keep updating with reviews and stuff (I think), but experience has taught me that my post-amount will drop (significantly!), because life tends to get a bit busier as an international student (which is why I made sure that I at least have more posts this year than in 2010!). The other thing is that I am not sure whether I will post non-detective/personal posts here. At one hand, this blog did start out as such, so I might just return to the origins. On the other hand, it might not be very interesting if you're mainly here to read about (Japanese) detectives (I guess that most people only know about the reviews) and you're suddenly reading about ramen. There is a big chance I will write about food.

Anyway, I will keep posting about detective fiction, just not as regularly as now I think.

And now that we have gone over that: short shorts! Where I write short pieces about detective fiction because I couldn't come up with longer texts. Today's victims: the 1946 movie Green for Danger, the 2011 movie Joseon Myungtamjung : Gakshituku Ggotui Bimil and once again an audio drama of Houkago wa Mystery to tomo ni!

Green For Danger (1946) is based on Christianna Brand's novel of the same name and widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best movie based on a Golden Age detective novel. And I have little to add to that. I haven't read the original book, but this is really a neat movie that oh, I don't know, deserves a Criterion Collection release. Oh, wait, that exists already? Great, great! Anyway, the story is set in England, 1944. The country is suffering under the V-1 bomber attacks and the people at Heron's Park Emergency Hospital, a rural war hospital, have quite busy days taking care of their patients. One day, their local postman is brought in having been injured by a flying bomb and has to undergo surgery. The postman never survived the operation, because he died on the operating table before the operation could actually start. Later, one of nurses claims that this was not just an accident or natural death, but she gets killed off before she is able to say more about it. Inspector Cockrill is brought in to investigate the case.


Like I said, I am not familiar with the original novel, but this movie really brought a nice puzzler, combined with captivating characters and especially the setting of the hospital is very memorable. Furthermore, Alastair Sim as the inspector Cockrill is just a delight to look at and he alone is enough of a reason to recommend this movie (though it is a great movie overall). The mystery behind the postman's death is somewhat easy to solve though, but this is just a splendid production.

It reminds me a lot of Team Batista no Eikou ("The Glory of Team Batista"), a popular Japanese mystery novel that has been turned into a movie and TV show amongst others. The main mystery there is also a series of death on the operating table of the elite Team Batista, experts in a very complex procedure. They pride themselves on a perfect record, but then more and more patiens of them die on the operating table, leading to the suspicion that one of doctors might be sabotaging the operations. It relies quite a bit on medial knowledge, but the movie is pretty awesome, starring Abe Hiroshi as the official in charge of investigating whether the deaths were accidents or deaths. Abe's usually stoic, yet at times very playful (almost mean), detective also reminds of Sim's inspector Cockrill.

From England to Korea. I finally got a chance to 2011's Joseon Myungtamjung : Gakshituku Ggotui Bimil ("Joseon Great Detective: Secret of the Wolfsbane Flower"), which has the international title of Detective K: Secret of the Virtuous Widow. The movie is based on a novel by Kim Tak-Hwan and is set in 1782, 16 years after king Jeongjo took the throne. A series of murders on magistrates and other officials, combined with rumors of large-scale embezzling force the king to appoint a secret agent to investigate the case. The unnamed detective (though apparently called "detective K" outside of South-Korea) starts off his investigation rather roughly (resulting in being accused of murder himself and leading to assault on soldiers and such) and the king is forced to 'punish' his detective by sending him off on another, less important investigation (which luckily is strongly related with the serial murders). Helped by a dog thief, the detective start to uncover an intrige of unbelievable scale. And he finds a lot of hidden Christians. Hmmm.

This movie was pretty fun to look at, but it really needed polishing. The overall plot seems too complex at times, but not for the right reasons. Some scenes show some interesting detective work by the protagonist, or Conan-esque emergency escape plans, but it never feels like one coherent story. The plot seem little more than a easy way to glue the scenes to each other, instead of the plot dictating the way the movie progresses. The plot also gets unneccesary complex at the end with plot-twists and reveals that add little to the story, but for the fact that they are so totally surprising and unexpected. Oh, and they could have made the subplot of the Christians suffering under the Confucian rule a bit less... obvious. Yes, I know that a large part of the South-Korean population is Christian, but this was waaaaay too obvious a religous agenda.


Overall, this movie seems highly influenced by Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes movies, providing a lot of comedy and action, but it is just less polished. Like those Holmes movies, it is possible to set your mind at cruise control and enjoy the scenery. A special mention for Kim Myung-min, who plays a wonderful unnamed protagonist though. At times sharp and brave, but mostly a coward: which means he is similar to Houshin Engi's Taikoubou. Which is never a bad thing (seriously, any protagonist who loudly proclaims that 'I need to find more friends. To have them do the fighting for me', is genius). The international title of this movie by the way seems highly influenced by Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.

And finally, once again Higashigawa Tokuya's Houkago wa Mystery to Tomo ni. First of all, a drama series based on the book (and I suspect some of the uncollected stories) will start late next month! Yeah! And secondly, I finally listened to Momogre's audio adaptation of Houkago wa Mystery to Tomo ni. Yes, I have already reviewed NHK's adaption of the book, but I was also interested in hearing how Momogre did their version, as their adaptations of Swiss Dokei no Nazo, 46 Banme no Misshitsu and ABC Satsujin Jiken were fun. And I am just a big fan of protagonist Kirigamine Ryou, the vice-president of Koigakubo Academy's detective club (who never seems to be able to solve a case herself).

Momogre's version is based on the first two stories, Kirigamine Ryou no Kutsujoku ("Kirigamine Ryou's Humiliation") and Kirigamine Ryou no Gyakushuu ("Kirigamine Ryou's Counterattack") (translation available for the latter). For a review on the stories themselves, I refer to the NHK version review, as the stories are identical and even the scripts are very similar (even though Momogre's version of Kirigamine Ryou no Kutsujoku is a bit unfair because of something important is mentioned at a later moment). So if they are so similar, why discuss Momogre version? Well, I wanted to convey the feeling of surprise when I, halfway through the drama, finally noticed that this was a Men Only version, i.e. there were no female voice actresses here. Ad yes, Ryou is a girl, but she has a speech pattern similar to a boy anyway, so I wasn't really bothered by the voice. It gets a bit distracting when women who talk like... women are voiced by a man. Momogre's Ryou was also quite different from NHK's Ryou: the latter was an energetic, almost hyperactive girl who wanted to be a detective. Momogre's Ryou.... was a man trying to speak like a girl, resulting in a nagging voice who never seemed as powerful as NHK's Ryou. Which is a big part of Ryou's charm. So in short, NHK's version is superior. In all aspects.

So, I think that this will be the last post of this month and next month... might bring food. Or detective fiction. Maybe detective fiction and food.

Original Japanese title(s): 東川篤哉 (原) 『放課後はミステリのあとで』
Original Korean title(s): 조선명탐정 : 각시투구꽃의 비밀

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