Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dead Man's Mirror

どっかでみたようなデジャヴが何度もUpside Down
 「Face Down」 (嵐)

Opening the door because I want to know what's behind it without getting lost
I find a deja vu I've seen somewhere else before, countless of times Upside Down.
"Face Down" (Arashi)

Writing this review reminded me that I went to a forum organized by Kyoto University featuring Kishi Yuusuke last year. He talked about violence in media and its (perceived) consequences on society, which was quite interesting. I still have my notes somewhere, should probably write them out one of these days though... Don't know why I never mentioned the forum here though.

I first wrote about Kishi Yuusuke's Security Consultant Detective Enomoto Kei series about two, three years ago, with my review of The Glass Hammer. It is still one of the more memorable locked room mysteries I've ever read and I've enjoyed other entries in the series too. The series was made into a TV drama titled Kagi no Kakatta Heya two years ago and I also praised that production as an excellent series focusing solely on locked room mysteries. And attornies Aoto Junko, Serizawa Gou and security consultant Enomoto Kei returned to the small screen last night (January 3) in Kagi no Kakatta Heya Special: Kagami no Kuni no Satsujin ("The Locked Room Special: The Mirror Land Murders"). Serizawa Gou still has the ability to come across locked room murders despite Enomoto's disappearance at the end of the TV series, as he finds one of his clients clubbed to death at home. Locked, naturally. His junior associate Junko on the other hand is dealing with a locked room revival: a man was having a heart attack in his own, locked apartment room, but someone appeared and called an ambulance for him. But how did his savior get and out of the room? Serizawa and Junko are both having troubles with their locked rooms, when Enomoto Kei appears again.

I actually didn't even know about this special until today, so it kinda surprised me. But like I said, the TV series was excellent, so I started watching this special without too many worries (and a little pile of expectations): I was reasonably happy with the results. The special is based on two stories by Kishi Yuusuke; Kagami no Kuni no Satsujin ("The Mirror Land Murder") and an yet unpublished story, provisionally titled Futatsu no Misshitsu ("Two Locked Rooms").  One problem I had with the special was that it really felt like two stories were just glued together. It wasn't one story, just three locked room problems in a row. Then again, most detective shows have trouble giving you a fair locked room murder in one show, so I guess I shouldn't be complaining about a special that manages to give me three locked room murders, two of which quite good.

The locked room revival is fun as a concept, but the trick behind the locked room is not fundamentally different from a locked room murder: it's still about figuring out how (if) someone got out of a locked room. The other two locked room murders in this special are 'normal' murders (no revivals here), but much more interesting. The first one features a trick actually quite simple and primitive, but it's the way it's executed that's memorable. It's quite easy to oversee the solution because it's so simple, and while I have nothing against complex tricks, I really do like it when tricks turn out to be really simple and executable.

The bigger locked room is the one that lends its name to the special's title: a museum curator is killed, but the two corridors that lead to his office were under camera surveillance; one corridor comes from the main hall, while you'll have to go through an Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found on the Other Side themed mirror maze exposition (in construction) to get to the other hallway. It's pretty obvious that the murderer must have gone through the maze (hence the title), but how? The trick is daring, and reminiscent of The Glass Hammer, but a bit more believable. One part of the solution does rely on a bit of specialist information and while I admit there was a bit of hinting to that, I don't believe it's common knowledge, and it felt a bit like one of those super technical tricks from Higashino Keigo's Galileo series, where you're told about a natural phenomenom that's apparently behind the magic. It's not cheating, but how am I supposed to know about obscure lasers? The first part of the trick is fantastic though and is hinted at fairly well too. It's also a trick that works best in a visual medium, so it really works well here.

As a TV production, Kagi no Kakatta Heya is still excellent. The production team really tries to make you understand the nature of the locked rooms, as well as other relevant information. When talking about alibis for example, timelines are put on screen, to ensure the viewer knows where everybody was at what time. Sherlock does a lot with visual information too, though that is mostly additional information (for example, short deductions, text messages appearing above a cellphone). In Kagi no Kakatta Heya, it's used to summarize (long threads of) information for fair play. And of course, the highlight of the show, the miniatures of all the locked rooms! This special wouldn't be complete with one and once again we see the production team doing everything to present the locked room in an understandable way for the viewer. CG reconstructions are probably easier to construct, which is why I really appreciate the work that goes into these minatures.

Oh, and I think I actually missed the ending of the TV series (which was based on The Glass Hammer), but it seems they finally made it clear that Enomoto Kei is actually a security consultant and a thief. This was clear in the novels from the beginning, but the TV series kinda jumped around that. In fact, it's only in this special that Enomoto Kei starts running his own security shop, something he had been doing from the beginning in the novels.

As a locked room mystery, the Kagi no Kakatta Heya Special is a bit uneven. The stories are glued together and it never feels like one single coherent story, but the seperate pieces of the production are quite good; it's just a shame it's not something bigger than just the sum of the parts. For those who loved the Kagi no Kakatta Heya  TV series, as well as those into a good locked room mystery, this special will provide an entertaining two hours though.  

Original Japanese title(s):  貴志祐介(原) 『鍵のかかった部屋SP:鏡の国の殺人』

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