Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Dish Best Served Cold

Ah もう戻れない時を小さく祈っている
「君がいない夏」 (DEEN) 

Those sweet summer days I've begun to forget
How much time has past since then?
The days with just the smile I loved close to me passing by
Aah, I silently pray for the time we can no longer return to

One of the best ice dessert I ever ate was a patbingsu in Seoul. Unlike Japanese shaved ice, which is only covered with a syrup, patbingsu was loaded with many yummy ingredients like fruits. And talking about ice, I am not that big a fan of matcha and black sesame ice cream you see so often lately. Also, I never did muster up the courage to eat the soy sauce soft icecream they sold at the Kikkoman factory...

The Petit Bourgeoisie series
The Spring Special Strawberry Tart Case (2004)
The Summer Special Tropical Parfait Case (2006)

Kobato Jougorou and Osanai Yuki are two model second year high school students. Indeed, all they think of everyday is to how to be the perfect citizen, a real petit bourgeoisie. But their examplary behaviour is just a disguise, a goal to distract themselves from their inherent character faults: Jougorou has the habit of flaunting with his deductive capabilities, while Yuki loves taking revenge on people who have done her wrong. On the first day of summer holiday, Jougorou is visited by Yuki, who wants him to join her with her summer plans: to eat all the summer special desserts / icecream / cakes / other sweets the many bakeries in their town offer. Jougorou tags along on her fattening summer plans, but during their quest for sweetness, the two come across a gang led by someone who has an ax to grind with Yuki. Can the duo uphold their perfect, upstanding image as the petit bourgeoisie in Yonezawa Honobu's Kaki Gentei Tropical Parfait Jiken ("The Summer Special Tropical Parfait Case")?

The first book in Yonezawa Honobu's Petit Bourgeoisie series, The Spring Special Strawberry Tart Case, was a sweet surprise: while I am not a fan of the everyday life mystery genre, which usually revolves around rather mundane troubles, I had to admit that quite enjoyed the things Yonezawa did in that book. How to Make Delicious Chocolate Milk, a story where Jougorou and Yuki deduce how three cups of chocolate milk were served, was fantastic: the problem was extremely simple and mundane, but the logic behind the duo used to find out how the milk could have been served under the specific circumstances was something you'd expect in an all-out investigation by Inspector Queen. The protagonists were quite funny too, so I was looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

To start with the conclusion, I like The Summer Special Tropical Parfait Case. Heck, I like it overall better than The Spring Special Strawberry Tart. Overall, I stress, because I don't think that any moment Summer Special reaches the heights of the chocolate milk story of the first book, but the overall story of Summer Special is better structured, I think and more engaging to read. Like the first book, The Summer Special Tropical Parfait Case consists of multiple short story-esque chapters, but with an overarching story to connect all these stories (the sweets Yuki wants to eat in the summer).

The best of the bunch is the opening story, Charlotte Dake wa Boku no Mono ("Only the Charlottes for me"), which is a fantastic inverted crime mystery, but of course in the vein of a everyday life mystery. Jougorou is presented with the problem of having to hide the fact he actually already ate one of the three charlotte cakes he bought: he hopes to make it seem like he only bought two. It has the thrills of a good inverted story, with Jougorou trying to hide all the evidence that hints at the existence of a third cake and him having eaten it, but on the other hand, hiding the fact you stole some sweets is pretty much the most childish crime there is. For me, the everyday life mystery works best when it applies deep analytical thinking on extremely mundane problems, because it's just funny.

The other stories deal with code cracking and some other mysteries, but and while not bad, none of them really reach the level of the opening story (except for maybe the final chapter). What is interesting though, is the fact The Summer Special Tropical Parfait Case does deal more with crime than The Spring Special Strawberry Tart Case. Sure, there was a stolen bike there and there was a bit more 'regular' (criminal) mysteries as it neared the end, but it seems like The Summer Special Tropical Parfait Case is a bit more 'normal' criminal mystery oriented, than just focused purely on everyday life mysteries.

The Summer Special Tropical Parfait Case is a sweet book, and has just the right mix of crime and everyday life mystery to keep the reader satisfied. One warning though: you will want to eat something sweet when you read this.

Original Japanese title(s): 米澤穂信 『夏期限定トロピカルパフェ事件』

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