Saturday, August 18, 2012

Swan Song

 「・・・やめられるかよ・・・ 真相を解き明かすのが探偵のサガなんでね!」
『名探偵コナン: 水平線上の陰謀』

"How can I stop? Revealing the truth is what makes us detectives"
"Detective Conan: Strategy Above the Depths"

And as an answer to the question I posed myself in the previous post: Yes, playing on a PSP connected to a TV does feel different from playing normally on a PSP. For one, I play longer on a TV than on a handheld. I am just borrowing this TV temporarily, so I should clear as many games I can in the following few weeks...

Maya Yutaka's Tsubasa aru Yami - Mercator Ayu no Saigo no Jiken ("Darkness with Wings - The Last Case of Mercator Ayu") is a novel I should have read earlier, right? I mean, Maya's an old member of the Kyoto University Mystery Club and an important writer in the New Orthodox movement, with Tsubasa aru Yami being his debut work. But actually, it's not that strange I never got around to him properly (I have read some short stories by him). I've never been that interested in what critic Kasai dubs the second stage of the New Orthodox movement as a movement, to which Maya belongs to (also Mori Hiroshi and Kyougoku Natsuhiko, amongst others. And technically, Nikaidou Reito too). It might be because of my 'classic' education (from English Golden Age to Rampo, Yokomizo and then New Orthodox) in detective fiction, but I have always had more affinity with the early stages of New Orthodox (Ayatsuji, Arisugawa, Norizuki, Abiko amongst others), which are much more closely related to English Golden Age fiction. Heck, my thesis (I really should work on that harder) is focused solely on early New Orthodox. So, that's my excuse for not having read Tsubasa aru Yami earlier. Not sure when I'll get around to Subete ga F ni Naru (The Perfect Insider)!

Tsubasa aru Yami starts with detective Kisarazu Yuuya and his companion Kouzuki Sanetomo arriving at Souajou, the mansion of the wealthy Imakagami family. Kisarazu was apparently hired by the head of the family, but he has been already been murdered by the time they arrived at the mansion. As well as his son. And they were not just murdered: they were both decapitated and one of them was found inside a locked room! Just like Poirot, Kisarazu is not too happy about losing a client before actually being hired, so he decides to investigate the mysterious murders in the castle-like Souajou.

Like I said, I don't have a particular interest in later stages of New Orthodox and I have been intentionally been avoiding reading secondary sources about it (mostly because I have plenty of other sources I need to read!), but I can definitely make an educated guess to why Maya, and Tsubasa aru Yami are considered important. I could throw around with terms like post-modernism, the 'meta-physical detective story', deconstruction and subversion, which would all apply to this novel to a certain degree. Maya knows the classic tropes of Golden Age detective fiction and he simultaneously critizes and honors them as he plays around with them in this novel.

One example would be for example Maya's use of literary stereotypes in this novel. In a detective novel, the most obvious would be 'the great detective'. Tsubasa aru Yami actually features two of them (Kisarazu Yuuya, and Mercator Ayu appears in the second half of the novel), which is already a strange happening. But both detectives also have surprisingly little succes with their investigations, thus undermining their position as a great detective. Which is slightly different from what Queen did in his later novels: Queen questioned the ability of the detective and the feasibility of finding out the truth by having Ellery make mistakes and angst over it. However, Ellery does win at the end. In Tsubasa aru Yami however, there is no salvation at all for both of Maya's detectives.

What makes this novel also interesting is that both detectives in the novel are used as series detectives by Maya. Tsubasa aru Yami is like the title suggests Mercator Ayu's final case, so all the other stories are set before Maya's debut novel. There are also several remarkable revelations made about the detectives in this novel, which should making reading other stories quite interesting (because of foreknowledge and the mentioned shaky literary positions of the two detectives).

There are some other Queenian motifs to be found here, but Maya also plays around with more abstract tropes of the genre, the most obvious being the final solution to the locked room murder, which is quite blatantly a sort of criticism to the genre and its particular puzzles. But not in a mocking way, definitely not. But Maya does try to look more critically at tropes taken for granted in the genre and seek out the genre's boundaries and limitations.

The novel does surprise as a story that simultaneously criticizes the genre and honors it. Which is why Tsubasa aru Yami is not 100% post-modern, as it at least offers the reader a sense of salvation by having a a properly hinted solution and a denouement scene. It could also have ended with just the detectives losing their literary identities and the mystery of the murders playing second fiddle to that in 'true' post-modern detective style.

I haven't read that much of Maya, so I am not sure how this 'experiment' develops in in later novels. Maya has quite a following among certain readers and I can sorta see why, I guess. Might try some other novels in the future. And I apologize for the somewhat chaotic review. I sorta felt, in the context of this blog, the need to expand on Maya's place in Japanese mystery world, but like I said at the beginning of this review: I don't actually that much about him and later New Orthodox as a movement (to the extent we can call it a movement).

And now, to play more videogames!

Original Japanese title(s): 『翼ある闇 メルカトル鮎の最後の事件』

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