Sunday, January 4, 2015

F Album


"The proposition has been proven
"Everything Becomes F"

The TV series in today's review ended just before Christmas, but an animated adaptation is already planned for later in 2015. And there's a reasonable chance I'm going to watch that too.

Subete ga F ni Naru ("Everything Becomes F") is a 2014 TV series based on the S&M novel series by Mori Hiroshi. The series borrows its title from the first book in the mystery series (reviewed here) and adapts five of the ten novels (each story consisting of two episodes). Like in the original novels, Subete ga F ni Naru is about the often impossible crimes the duo Saikawa Souhei (assistant-professor in Architecture) and Nishinosono Moe (student) encounter (thus the name S&M). Moe is the one who gets interested in cases and tries her hand at solving them (helped by the fact her uncle is a high-ranking police officer), while Saikawa is usually just dragged along against his will. It is always Saikawa however who solves the crime, though he only does so because he is interested in the problem itself and wants to know the answer (and is not particularly interested in denouncing the murderer).

The mysteries often have an impossible angle to them and also often feature a scientific tone to them. The first novel, Subete ga F ni Naru, is well remembered as groundbreaking as a scientific mystery novel, as it incorporated elements like computers, networks, viruses and virtual reality in its plot, which was all relatively new technology to consumers when the book was first released in 1994. Mori Hiroshi has an engineering background, which apparently often comes back in his books (I haven't read enough of his work to really add to that).

The series makes a fairly solid start with Tsumetai Misshitsu to Hakasetachi - Doctors in Isolated Room ("The Cold Locked Room and the Scientists - Doctors in Isolated Room"). Saikawa and Moe are visiting a research laboratory where they witness an experiment conducted in a super-cooled room, with lab assistants walking in and out the room in body suits. Saikawa and Moe join the little afterparty, which turns into a grieving party, when they discover the bodies of two lab assistants who had participated in the experiment inside a locked segment of the experiment room. The problem: from the moment the experiment started until the afterparty, the single entrance to the experiment room had been under constant observation, so how did the bodies get inside?

This was published as the fourth book in the S&M series, but was actually the first story Mori wrote: the manuscript of Subete ga F ni Naru just happened to win a prize, which became his debut novel (he had to shuffle with his stories because of that). Anyway, the setting is pretty cool (observed experiment, bodies popping up out of nowhere) and while it's quite easy to roughly guess what has happened, I think as a first episode, Tsumetai Misshitsu to Hakasetachi does a great job at presenting a solvable, but not too easy locked room murder, as well as introduce the major characters of the series. I just thought it a bit of a shame that the supercooled room wasn't of real importance to the mystery plot: I had kinda hoped that supercooling something was part of the mystery. Because you don't see that often.

Compared to the first episode, Fuuin Saido - Who Inside ("Sealed Once More - Who Inside") feels a lot more old-fashioned. No scientists and experiments, but a cursed box and vase which has made several victims inside a locked room. During a visit of Moe and Saikawa to the family, the curse takes another victim, so the two decide to solve the mystery. There is one part of the mystery I absolutely love for several reasons. I have actually also played with a similar trick in my head, so it was pretty cool to see a possible way of using it in a detective story, but I also managed to catch on it quickly because of that. The 'type' of trick is something I'd associate more with Mori's 100 Years series, but it works quite well here too. I thought the rest of the story not particularly memorable though and the mystery around the cursed box a bit too unbelievable.

I refer to my review of the novel if you want to know more about Subete ga F ni Naru - The Perfect Insider ("Everything Becomes F - The Perfect Insider") in detail, but in short, it's about the murder of the genius scientist Magata Shiki (who will turn out to be a pivotal figure in all of Mori's series), who until her escape from life lived inside a locked room inside a laboratory on an island. Moe and Saikawa happen to be in the facility when the dead body of Magata wearing a wedding dress is discovered, but no murderer is found inside the room where Magata had lived half her life. And what was the meaning of the words she spoke to Moe: they'll meet when everything becomes F?

Underwhelming might be the word I'm looking for. This is a TV drama, so it has budget limitations, but I had always imagined something... grander and more hi-techy from this story than what was presented here. I do have to say, part of this is because the drama is set in modern days, while the book was originally published in 1994. In twenty years, concepts like computers, networks and Trojan Horse viruses have become common knowledge in society, but they talked about these things in this episode like it was all magic, even though it's set in 2014. It just doesn't work. Also the first episode did way too little to set-up the story, resulting in something that felt rushed. As a mystery story, Subete ga F ni Naru is still fairly cool (even if not completely fair in my opinion), but I feel this adaptation could have been much better.

I do have to say, re-experiencing the story made me realize Subete ga F ni Naru is thematically a lot better than I had remembered. Not that the themes are presented particularly well in these episodes though, it definitely needed more screentime to really develop. But it reminds of Kyougoku Natsuhiko's Mouryou no Hako ("Box of Goblins") in a certain way at the core, which is not a bad thing at all.

Suuki ni Shite Mokei - Numerical Models ("A Figure of Ill-Fortune - Numerical Models") starts with the murder on a model actress (and decapitation!) in a locked room during a figurine convention. The obvious suspect is the only other person inside the locked room, but he happens to also be the main suspect of another locked room murder that happened at the same time at his university. What follows is a mystery story that is more focused on motive than the circumstances of the double locked room murder (which is actually rather simple) and while not bad per se, these two episodes are easily the weakest of the whole drama. I do have to admit, the setting of figurine collectors is an interesting one and while it is quite different from 'usual' business of the S&M series, I quite enjoyed seeing this background.

The final story Yuugen to Bishou no Pan - The Perfect Outside ("Limited and Very Little Bread - The Perfect Outsider") gives us a parade of impossible crimes commited in an amusement park: a body disappearing from a church, a woman killed in her hotel room with the police standing in front of the only exit and a man stabbed by a ghostly walking armor during a virtual reality demonstration. The only thing Moe and Saikawa do know is that Magata Shiki (who appeared two stories earlier) is behind this all. The episode itself is okay, with a rather daring solution to all of the murders that is elegantly simple, but I have the feeling that it just didn't work really well as a TV episode. I usually try to look at tricks & stuff in mystery fiction seperate from the plot, but this was definitely a story that would benefit a lot from better synergy between the mystery and the theme/story and I have the feeling that this is in fact the case for the novel. I suspect that simplifying the plot for 2x50 minutes just didn't work well for this story, as the story felt a bit underwhelming, despite obvious points of interest that could have been much more (the same holds for the adaptation of Subete ga F ni Naru by the way).

All in all, Subete ga F ni Naru was a fairly decent mystery series. I haven't read enough of the original novel series to comment on how the adaptation was (though I do remember being surprised at Saikawa being a Windows user in the TV series), but I do have the feeling that some of the more interesting parts of Mori's books (themes like the exact sciences and parts about conciousness) didn't really work out that good on screen and at times the series did feel a bit lacking. That is, while the TV series was okay, I could catch glimpses of themes and ideas that I'm quite sure are developed better in the original novels. An adaptation doesn't have to be an 1:1 copy of the original, of course, but with Mori's stories, I often feel that his mystery plots do benefit a lot from supporting themes. If you have the chance, I think the books have much more to offer, but if the TV series is your only choice, it's an amusing enough adaptation.

Original Japanese title(s): 森博嗣(原) 『すべてがFになる』


  1. I found this Sherlock Holmes manga, do you know about it?

    1. I have heard about it, but it is not a manga. It's a novelization of a currently running Sherlock Holmes puppet-play TV show written by MITANI Kouki (of Furuhata Ninzaburou fame). His latest work is a two-part TV drama based on Murder on the Orient Express by the way, which will air this weekend.

      In general, there are a lot of mystery manga, many of them based on novels and series like Sherlock Holmes. Most of them are not particularly good either/

    2. Oh so it's a TV show? what's it title? I want to see if I can find some english subs somewhere

    3. The title is just "Sherlock Holmes" (official site is

    4. You said there are a lot of mystery manga, which one do you like that are good? I'm very interested ^^

      I already read Q.E.D, Detective Conan, Spiral, Hamatora, Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo, Gosick, Phi Brain, Lupin III, C.M.B, Death Note, Master Keaton, City Hunter, Sakon the Ventriloquist, Tantei Gakuen Q and Matantei Loki

      what other mangas are there?

    5. The last couple of years I've only kept up with Conan & Kindaichi Shounen actually. Some older ones I enjoyed are Kuitan and The Accidents, which you can all find with the manga tag on the blog. Ah, a 'recent' one I thought was neat was Sherdock, which is written by the author of Kindaichi Shounen.

      But seriously, there's just too much out there. Iif you know how the Japanese publishing world (for comics) works and the amount of genre works that is published every year, I think you'll understand that it's practically impossible to make a complete list of all mystery(-related) manga.

  2. You have sold me. I must find this TV series on the internet. Thanks!


    I just finished the TV series.....

    So, in the end of the S&M series, *you know who* is still at large. Do any of the spinoff series ever address the fact that this serial murderer is still running around, without punishment?

    1. All the Mori mystery series actually feature that person /in some way or another/: they are the central character in the Mori world, even in the one set 100 years in the future! I'm reading the G series now (set just a few years after S&M), and here you clearly see the police is still searching for X, without much result. X is just too talented at everything, including escaping police efforts at their arrest.

    2. do you feel about serial detective series having those types of antagonists? Those who are brilliant masterminds whose plots are enjoyable to see play out, for sure, but never get their comeuppance?

    3. Kinda depends very much on the series and the characters. I can live with Conan never catching KID for example, or Hajime Kindaichi chasing Takatoo forever. As for S&M, I'm not sure. The thing is, X is not really an antagonist and at least up to where I've read, it's not like X is planning crimes because they are evil or something like that. They are basically a god-like being within the Mori world, and nobody (not even the reader) has a really clear view on whatever they are doing/planning.

    4. So...excluding her background and the original case she appeared (where she did murder 4, possibly only 3 people, 2 of whom were innocent), X hasn't murdered anyone in any of the subsequent books (that you've read, anyways)? Does she do anything Takato-like and incite anyone to murder?

    5. Note that I'm not actively reading all the books, but X doesn't even appear in the books I've read: they only make references to her and while in the G series it's clear that X is somehow involved with everything, it's not clear at all whether they are directly involved with the murders or not (inciting people or not). From what I've read, it's just too difficult to judge what X precisely is doing (and isn't doing). X is not obviously evil, like Moriarty or anything like that, so I find their presence quite interesting if only to see what they are doing (as you do see vague reference to the person in Mori's 100 Years series, set in the faraway future).