"I have to go over everything that's happened. I have to remember"
Another Code R: Journey into Lost Memories
As always, the year on this blog ends with a short look back at the posts of this year. One 'problem' is that a lot of the reviews posted in the first half of this year were actually already written in 2014 (I have too many reviews waiting to be posted...). So my memories of a great deal of the material is a lot older than one year. Oh well. As always, this post features a round up of reviews and other posts that made an impression on me this year, with categories made up as I go. And I can also assure you that I have plently of review written and waiting, so 2016 will be like always. Anyway, that's it for this year!
Best Project Outside The Blog!
The Decagon House Murders
Obviously, Locked Room International's English release of Ayatsuji Yukito's The Decagon House Murders has been a big event for me this year, as I was the translator. I first read the book myself in 2011 and loved it (see my review of the book then). Naturally, I could never have dreamt I would be the one translating it some years later. And I was happy to see that a lot of reviews were quite positive. Who'd have guessed that the Washington Post would write about "honkaku" mystery fiction one day?
Oh, and I totally forgot mentioning it here, but the December 2015 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine also featured a translation by me of Kouga Saburou's The Spider.
Best Translation Posted On The Blog! In 2015!
Muma (Kim Nae-seong)
Well, I only posted one this year. Interestingly enough, it's a translation of a Korean story, though I worked from a Japanese translation (because for some reason, I just can't get Korean in my head). Kim Nae-seong is the grandfather of Korean mystery stories, but basically unknown outside his home land, so I hope that at least this translations helps a bit in bringing him under the spotlight, even if just for a moment.
The Longest Detective Story Of 2015! In Real Time!
The Scarlet Truth Revealed in Detective Conan 85 (Aoyama Goushou)
My review of Detective Conan 85 was posted as the last post of 2014, but after the 2014 list was made, so it still counts for this year. Anyway, The Scarlet Truth Revealed is special because it's actually the conclusion to a storyline that started way back in 2007! And don't get me wrong; it's not like there was radio silence in those seven years: in those seven years, many red herrings and real clues have been left here and there throughout various other stories in the series. I think most fans already knew what was going on, but you can't deny that Aoyama did something ambitious and I'd say it was also done quite satisfactorily.
Most Interesting Game Played In 2015! But Probably Older!
Dai Gyakuten Saiban (The Great Turnabout Trial) (3DS)
Okay, there was little competition this year. Tantei Shinshi DASH! was pretty bad and the two Tantei Jinguuji Saburou PS2 games reviewed this year were certainly not nearly as good as the previous ones. Ghost Trick (DS) was a replay, so doesn't really count. But the 2015 summer release Dai Gyakuten Saiban, despite some flaws, was an exciting and fantastic historical courtroom mystery featuring an original, but highly enjoyable version of Sherlock Holmes. Gyakuten Saiban 5 / Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies (3DS) was a very safe sequel to the series, but Dai Gyakuten Saiban manages to recapture that initial sense of excitement we all had when we first played the series. If only it wouldn't have so many obvious hooks for a sequel.
As for memorable non-mystery games I played this year: I played all three MOTHER (Earthbound) games on GBA, which were very quirky and funny RPGs with its shares of flaws. But man, fantastic and imaginative writing. Super crossover game Project X Zone 2 (3DS) had little improvements over the first game besides being slightly less tedious, but some of the new characters are absolutely golden (Segata Sanshirou is a blast to see in the story). Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is very addictive. Also: I finally played Final Fantasy VII (PS), one of the biggest icons in gaming culture. Like with Star Wars, most people nowadays know the story and all its twists even if they haven't played it, because of the numerous references to it in everything, but I still wanted to play the game. It can feel outdated sometimes, but even now, the music compositions and the background designs are something to enjoy.
But enough about games...
Best Cover Seen In 2015!
Clover Leaf (Van Madoy)
With the rise of e-books, I have the feeling that covers have become less important for a lot of people, even though I absolutely love good cover art. I've seen quite some good ones this reading year. NisiOisiN's Zaregoto series always has catchy cover art with pop colors, like in Psycho Logical. The original hardcover release of Taiikukan no Satsujin ("The Gymnasium Murder") has slightly different art, but the 2015 paperback still has a very striking cover with yellows and blue tints. But I'd say that Clover Leaf's cover was the most unique of the books I saw this year, featuring art by Ogura Mayuko, whose art you can view at her website.
Best Non-Review Post! Of 2015!
Clues in mystery fiction
I only made two non-review posts this year, it seems. One about clues in mystery fiction, one about language-specific tricks in mystery fiction and translation. Both are topics I enjoy, but both posts were written rather chaotically, so they may seem like the ramblings of a mad man. The one on clues is the most comprehensive though and offers a feeble attempt at posing a typology of clues in mystery fiction of the logical elimination kind. And while my 'Clue Lecture" might not be very memorable, I do think that after all those writings on locked rooms and I don't know what, it might be interesting if more people thought about clues in mystery fiction and its relation to the notion of 'fair play' in the genre.
Weirdest Book Reviewed On The Blog! In 2015!
Gyeongseong ui ilbon eo tamjeongjakpumjip ("A Collection of Detective Stories from Keijou")
There's no competition here. A book published in South Korea, featuring Japanese-language mystery stories from the period Korea was a colony of Japan. I am quite certain this is the only English review of the book, and I wouldn't be surprised if it will remain so, considering the contents! Besides the novelty of the stories themselves, I also find the book incredibly interesting as someone who enjoys Japanese literature, linguistics and sociology. Also, this book was a great example of international cooperation, as a friend got me this (and she had to answer awkward questions about why she bought such a book when people at the office saw it). There's another book in the series on urban legends, folklore and stuff by the way, for those interested.
Best Trick of 2015!
Ao wa Umi to Manicure no Iro ("Blue is the Color of the Sea and Manicure") in Niji no Ha Brush - Kamiki Raichi Hassan (Hayasaka Yabusaka)
A "trick" is the element of a mystery story that is the actual mystery and its solution. Like a magic trick, a trick in mystery fiction consists not only out of what the audience sees, but also the actual truth behind the magic. Looking back at the list of reviews this year, the short story Ao wa Umi to Manicure no Iro is the one story that stands out most in memory: I still remember being baffled when first confronted with the mystery, and I remember even better the shock when the truth was revealed. Sometimes, I choose the best trick of the year based on the complexity and structure of the trick, but this year, I choose the trick that made the most impression on me in terms of surprising me.
The Just-Ten-In-No-Particular-Order-No-Comments List
Jikan no Shuuzoku ("Customs of Time") (Matsumoto Seichou)
Kuroi Hakuchou ("Black Swan") (Ayukawa Tetsuya)
Yoru yo, Nezumitachi no Tame ni ("Oh Night, For My Mice") (Renjou Mikihiko)
The HOG Murders (William L DeAndrea)
Fatal Venture (Freeman Wills Crofts)
Taiikukan no Satsujin ("The Gymnasion Murder") (Aosaki Yuugo)
De Laatste Kans ("The Last Chance") M.P.O. Books
Kim Nae-seong Tantei Shousetsu Sen ("A Selection of Detective Stories by Kim Nae-seong") (Kim Nae-seong)
The Sacrlet Truth Revealed in Detective Conan 85 (Aoyama Goushou)
Dai Gyakuten Saiban ("Great Turnabout Trial") (scenario: Takumi Shuu)