Sunday, November 18, 2012

Farewell, My Lovely

「どうして幸せになるおうと思わないんだって聴いてるんだ!」 流の問いに達也は少し考えた後にこう答えた。
「僕の憧れた仮面ライダーは改造人間なんですよ」
「ああ、それはもう聴いた」
「この有名なフレーズの後にこう続くことは知ってますか?『彼らは決して再び人間に戻ることは出来ない』と。それでも人間のために闘うんだ。自分のことは度外視して」
『今出川ルヴォワール』

"I am asking you why you don't even try to attain happiness!" Tatsuya took a while to think about Mitsuru's question and then answered: "I wanted to be like Kamen Rider, an artificial human."
"You already said that."
"Do you know what comes after that famous phrase? They will never be able to turn back to humans. But despite that, they fight for human kind. Not caring about themselves."
"Imadegawa Revoir"

Something backstage, but I finally updated the library. Something I hadn't done since July. I really should learn to do it whenever I post a new review, instead of just staring at an evergrowing backlog of entries to be added.

Have I ever spoken about my love for the Japanese bunkobon pocket format? Most of the books I buy are in those format (which also explains why I seldom read new releases, which are usually released as hardcovers first). They have better paper and durability than the pockets you usually see in the English-language releases, but the best part is just the size. First of all, it's a universal size (as opposed to the ever-changing sizes of English-languge pockets), meaning I can use my custom book covers on all of them. Secondly, you can read bunkobon with just one hand! I can stand in a packed train with no space to move and still read a book! And I can fit in my coat pocket just as easy! I really wish such a format was available for English releases too.

Revoir series
Marutamachi Revoir
Karasuma Revoir
Imadegawa Revoir
Kawaramachi Revoir 

Van Madoy's Imadegawa Revoir is the third book in the Revoir series and was released just a couple of weeks ago actually (so no bunkobon available yet, sadly enough). I usually don't read new releases, but seeing as Van Madoy himself is going to hold a reading club session of the book at the Mystery Club this week, I just had to read it (which also explains the Karasuma Revoir review earlier this week). The story starts very surprisingly with a Gathering of the Twin Dragons where Midou Tatsuya, Dragon of the Tatsuki family and one of the protagonists of the series, is accused of the act of murder on a monk of the Daionji temple in Kyoto. Daionji was once a gambling heaven, with the grand Gongon'e gambling tournament held on the day before and on the day itself of the famous Kyoto festival, Daimonji. The revenge Tatsuya has been planning, which was alluded to in the previous works, seems indeed to be directed at Daionji temple and the Gongon'e, but did he really kill someone out of revenge?

Probably the first time that I read multiple books in the same series within one week. But I am glad that it was the Revoir series, because Imadegawa Revoir felt very different and refreshing, even though at the same time, it retains its identity as a Revoir story. I already noted it in my review of Karasuma Revoir, but Madoy seems to try something completely different with every story, whilst preserving the series' characteristics. Imadegawa Revoir makes another big change in the structure: whereas Marutamachi Revoir and Karasuma Revoir were structured to have a climax in a Gathering of the Dragons, Imadegawa actually starts with a Gathering of the Twin Dragons, with the main part of the story focusing on the great gambling tournament Gongon'e.

At this point, I might once again point attention to the fact that Van Madoy belonged to the Kyoto University Mystery Club. Why? Well, this is probably something slightly less known outside the circle itself, but there is a lot of mahjong playing in the club room. The rumbling of mahjong tiles is something you will get used to very fast. We have also specialist mahjong manga magazines lying around here, together with classics like Kaiji and Akagi. Heck, Ayatsuji Yukito is not only known as a mystery writer, but also as a mean mahjong player. So it is not very strange to see such influences in the Revoir series. In fact, there have been many, many mahjong references up until now, but Imadegawa Revoir really feels like a gambling manga when the Gongon'e tournament starts, with people trying to outplay each other (or outright cheat, if they don't have the skills to play fair). But no problem if you don't know mahjong: the important games in this novel are about a card game called Ootori, with few rules, yet with enough room for very exciting scenes.

And no, there are no card games on motorcycles.

Like mentioned, the dynamics of this novel are quite different from the previous two novels: the first part is a classic Gathering of the Twin Dragons like we have seen before, with fast-paced deduction battles between the two competing Dragons (prosecution and defense). The Gongon'e tournament part feels, for obvious reasons, less like a classic detective novel, with the focus a bit scrambled, looking at both Tatsuya's ties with his family and the Daionji temple and the actual games played at the Gongon'e, with a lot happening in between. It is a bit chaotic and the complete picture feels less organized compared to the much cleaner Marutamachi Revoir and Karasuma Revoir.

Card games (gambling games) aren't as different from the normal Gathering of the Twin Dragons trials as you would initially think: in both events, the players try to outbluff their opponement with the little ammunition they obtain, be it through luck or through expertise. And you can cheat as long as you don't get found out. The difference here is that the Gathering of the Twin Dragons is much more flexible: Dragons fight with theories, with deductions, which can go into a wide variety of directions. Because of the singular rules of the card game Ootori, players do have a range of options (cooperation, non-cooperation, stealing points from opponents etc.), but it is naturally less freedom than you have with theories. In the end, it is a card game with rules to abide to. These Gatherings of the Twin Dragons were at their best when you had no idea who would come up with what kind of theory/interpretation based on the evidence available, but here the player's actions feel confined to the cards and the rules of the game, removing a lot of the trademark impredictibility of the series. Also, th usage of a tournament set up to drive forth the plot results in another loss in the trademark impredictibility of the series, because you know how a tournament works: with winners of single duels progressing until they reach the finals. With the Gathering of the Twin Dragons, you never knew what was going to happen.

But the bigger question, is this still a detective novel? It is definitely a mystery novel in the wide sense of the term, but the trial of Midou Tatsuya (ergo the investigation into the murder of the murdered monk) is resolved in the first part of the story, with no real big mystery left to drive the plot forwards (there are some less important plot-related mysteries, but they aren't able to support a complete story on their own). While the approach to it was different, both Marutamachi Revoir and Karasuma Revoir were about finding a truth, an explanation for possible murder cases by creating theories and finding (or fabricating) evidence. Imadegawa Revoir loses this aspect early in the story. That is not to say that there is nothing left to solve in the second half of the story (especially the events during the finals of the Gongon'e are interesting!), with just enough hinting to consider those fair mysteries, but they feel more like a side-dish than the main.

Finally, just an observation, but this novel felt the most connected to the city of Kyoto of all three Revoir novels. All novels are named after the streets in Kyoto and the geography and cityscape of Kyoto are all featured in the Revoir novels (especially the areas near Kyoto University, for obvious reasons), but I think that those who are familiar with Kyoto will be very pleased in the surprising way the city and its customs appears in this story (and with that I mean at the end).

Anyway, Imadegawa Revoir was once again Revoir-ish in the sense of it being totally different from what I'd expected it to be. The direction this novel took kinda limited the usage of the series' settings I think, but such changes at least save the series from becoming stale and it worked to an extent in this case. Sudden changes are just part of Revoir. And the story ends on a cliffhanger-of-sorts, so I hope a new Revoir appears next year too!

Original Japanese title(s): 円居挽 『今出川ルヴォワール』

5 comments:

  1. I've gotta say you've really made me want to read this series ever since you mentioned that it's reminiscent of the Ace Attorney series. Wish I could read Japanese!
    Alas, I can only try to nail reading Chinese at the moment. From what I gather, you seem to know Chinese as well, have you ever read Japanese mystery novels translated into Chinese? Do they translate well? Because I assume they are a lot easier to find than those few translated into English.

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    1. I can't read Chinese actually, so I really have no idea about the state of the field of Chinese translations. I have seem them on websites like YesAsia though and I did get the impression that there is a wider variety of JP mystery novels available in Chinese than English.

      (Though I think that Revoir hasn't left Japan yet)

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    2. I'd need the time to cram hanzi anyway, but Chinese is a more reasonable path for me to go. Too bad about games.

      Anyway, I'd just like to say that I really like your blog! Found it through your plug on Court-Records.
      Japanese mystery stories is such a niche, but my introduction to manga was Detective Conan, and I went on reading most of the Agatha Christie books I could get hold on at the same time, and ever since that I've really liked these types of mysteries.
      Your reviews on stuff I may never be able to read and/or play is much appreciated!

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    3. Thanks!

      The last two years a lot of blogs on (mainly English) classic detective fiction have appeared on the net, always worth a look too (especially as they're probably easier to find than Chinese translations of Japanese novels ^^')

      > http://www36.atwiki.jp/asianmystery/pages/53.html

      ^ This is a list of available English translations of Japanese mystery novels, probably the most comprehensive/up-to-date list available on the web.

      (There is also a list of Chinese translations of JP novels on that website, but only of the releases in 2009. But might also be interesting for you:http://www36.atwiki.jp/asianmystery/pages/64.html)

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    4. Thanks for the link!

      Exams are soon up but once I have time I'll be going through the wiki and your blog to see if anything catches my eye. That's not to say they're easily available through stores on the net, but this should help a lot!

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