Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Usual Suspects

Now a new story begins
With the same old crazy cast of characters...

And here's another short short, a corner for shorter, usually unrelated reviews and other observations that can't fill a complete post on their own So for the books and other stuff that appear in short shorts, it's either sharing the spotlight on this stage, or not appear at all! Today, three familiar faces!
 
It seems like the third (English-language) collection of Edward D. Hoch's Dr. Sam Hawthorne series is coming out soon, or maybe it's already released. Because there was, and still isn't a complete collection available of these wonderful impossible crime short stories, I bought the Japanese complete collection in six volumes about two years ago and I have been slowly posting reviews of them here for some time now. Today, the fifth volume. The Japanese book has the sorta funny English subtitle Diagnosis: Impossible 5 - Further and Further Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne (volume four had More and More Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne). And yes, it's 'simply' more of the same: New England practitioner Sam Hawthorne stumbles upon one impossible crime after another, but he always manages to solve the crime with a frightening keen mind. The format of these stories was already set in the very first story (volume 5 collects stories 49~60), and while there have been minor changes (the introduction and preview-esque ending to each story are gone now), most stories in these series are very much alike. Of course, having a gigantic series with very good impossible crimes isn't a bad thing, but because the structure of each story is so alike, they all start to feel the same, even if the standard of each story is actually very good. It's scary that one can get too used to good quality.

Volume five has the inhabitants of the little New England town Northmont feel the consequences of World War II, but the many, many, maaaaaany criminals still don't give up on trying their hand on executing the perfect impossible crime. One would think that by now, any criminal in Northmont would just try a normal crime, just so Sam Hawthorne wouldn't get involved. Of this volume, I liked The Second Problem of the Covered Bridge, which is a variation on the first Sam Hawhtorne story (The Problem of the Covered Bridge), The Problem of the Missing Roadhouse (well, the title says it all: a disappearing building story) and The Problem of the Crowded Cemetery (where a new body is discovered in an old coffin). I do notice that I have a tendency to like the first half of any volume better than the latter half: I suspect that by the time I get to the latter half, I just get a bit tired because a lot of the stories are so similar... It's also the reason why I always wait a while between Sam Hawthorne volumes.

By the way, next time is the last volume with the good doctor! That'll probably get its own post though, instead of being put in a short short.

The long-running Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo ("The Young Kindaichi Case Files") celebrated its 20th anniversary two years ago, but he has never been as busy as he is now: a TV drama series titled Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO is to start this summer and both a new TV animation series (viewable at CrunchyRoll) and a serialized comic series have started, sharing the title Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R (The R stands for Returns). The first volume of the comic of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R feels both fresh and old. The Snow Demon Legend Murder Case brings slacker Hajime and his childhood friend Miyuki to a snow resort, where they have part time jobs as assistant and campaign girl during a test panel session before the resort is actually opened. There is a local legend about a little town where all the villagers disappeared because of a snow demon and while nobody believes the legend at first, this series wouldn't be what it is if people didn't really start disappearing one after another (under impossible circumstances). Can Hajime solve these disappearances before he and Miyuki are spirited away too?

He can! Probably! The problem with serialized stories is that sometimes, a story is actually longer than one volume (about 180 pages). Volume 1 of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R ends just as Hajime wants to explain everything and reveal the murderer. So why am I writing about an imcomplete story? Well, I just thought the overall flow of this opening story was quite interesting. It's mostly about disappearances and even though a body appears late in the story, it too disappears too, so the reader is never quite sure whether anyone has actually died in this story: they just disappeared. Meta-savvy people might point at the words Murder Case in the title... but still, the fact we're not stumbling over mountains of corpses is kinda strange in a Kindaichi Shounen story. And I did like the story. It's a bit simple, but the way the story keeps making you doubt whether something criminal has really happened is a nice change of pace. I definitely liked this story better than most of the stories in the 20th anniversary series (only the last story there was worth mentioning).

Detective Conan 83 was released mid-April, together with the new Detective Conan movie and the Detective Conan: Phantom Rhapsody game. I was kinda disappointed with volume 82, so how did volume 83 fare? Quite good actually. The first two stories feature my favorite tomboy high school student Sera Masumi, so that's already a lot of bonus points right from the beginning. The Red Woman Legend Murder Case has a fairly standard set-up: lodge somewhere in the forest, a legend surrounding a serial killer who might be hiding in the forest, and of course murder. The trick is a bit farfetched, but I definitely enjoyed the story because of the characters involved in the case. The Trick Set Up By The Romantic Novel Writer is a lot more interesting: the main problem of a writer's assistant's murder in a hotel is pretty easy to solve, though I do like how the problem, and the hints were set up. But there's also a lot of mythbuilding for the overarching Conan story, with a new face and more mystery surrounding Sera Masumi. The Two Ebisu Bridges is a neat code-cracking story that for once, I thought wasn't that farfetched actually. People who don't know Japanese, but have visited the country might even have a good shot at solving this case.

Volume 83 also features some bonus pages, with a short interview with mangaka Aoyama Goushou, that has some interesting points. Who would have thought that rival/friend detective Hattori Heiji was created just because Aoyama was told they needed a rival character for the animated series!

And that's it for this short short post! And for those wondering why I'm so late with my reviews of the Kindaichi Shounen and Conan volumes: the reviews were actually written quite soon after both volumes were released, I just have too many reviews waiting to be posted!

Original title(s): Edward D. Hoch 『サム・ホーソーンの事件簿』V: 'The Problem of the Missing Roadhouse' | 「消えたロードハウスの謎」 / 'The Problem of the Country Mailbox' | 「田舎道に立つ郵便受けの謎」 / 'The Problem of the Crowded Cemetery' | 「混み合った墓地の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Enormous Owl' | 「巨大ミミズクの謎」 / 'The Problem of the Miraculous Jar' | 「奇蹟を起こす水瓶の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Enchanted Terrace' | 「幽霊が出るテラスの謎」 / 'The Problem of the Unfound Door' | 「知られざる扉の謎」 / 'The Second Problem of the Covered Bridge' | 「有蓋橋の第二の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Scarecrow Congress' | 「案山子会議の謎」 / 'The Problem of Annabel's Ark' | 「動物病院の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Potting Shed' | 「園芸道具置場の謎」 / 'The Problem of the Yellow Wallpaper' | 「黄色い壁紙の謎」 / 'The Leopold Locked Room' | 「レオポルド警部の密室」
天樹征丸(原) さとうふみや(画) 『金田一少年の事件簿R』第1巻 
青山剛昌 『名探偵コナン』第83巻

8 comments :

  1. Crippen & Landru recently released the third volume in their Hawthorne set. It is called Nothing Is Impossible, Further Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne. It has 15 stories. By my count, there are 72 Hawthorne stories, and Crippen & Landru have now reprinted 42 of them. If they keep going at this pace. they will finish the series in two more volumes. If you want a copy, it is available through Amazon.com.

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    1. I already have the Japanese volumes, and I don't think I'll be double-dipping this series, but I definitely recommend people who haven't read the series yet to get the volumes!

      And oh, wow, the C&L volume actually has the same (English) subtitle as the Japanese volume, so will future volumes also have the subtitles "More and More Problems" and "Further and Further Problems"?

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    2. Not unless they want to get laughed at!

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  2. Is this Kindaichi's case something similar to "The Legend of Lake Hiren" or not. becase I lurk few raw and see some vibe of it.

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    1. The story does feature a similar 'lodges in a resort' setting and focuses on the movement between the houses, but that's about it (and even then, those are elements shared with a lot more Kindaichi Shounen stories). I wouldn't say that this story is more similar to the Lake Hiren story, than other Kindaichi Shounen stories set at similar locations (heck, you don't even see that many dead bodies here).

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    2. I said it fell similar to Lake Hiren because

      Spoiler





      because you said they can't see dead body so I suspect one of disappear people will be the criminal. plus I see few raws(I can't read Japanese so I just assume it, I don't read raw but sometime i google it because I couldn't hold myself) and your review, so I assume all suspect probably don't know each other before just like Lake Hiren. but I might be wrong.

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  3. One of the stories is entitled The Leopold Locked Room...does Sam meet Captain Leopold in this story?

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    1. No, the Japanese volumes all have a 'bonus' Hoch story, that isn't part of the Sam Hawthorne series. The first one for example had The Long Way Down.

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