Oh starlight, always shine upon us
On the childhood dreams I don't want to lose..
"Oh Starlight" (Zard)
Today a writer of whom I've read almost all his published works without me even realizing it.
A visit from the college student Aya means the end to the lack of clients for private detective Jinguuji Saburou. Aya is looking for her boyfriend who disappeared a couple of weeks ago. The only clue she has is a phone call she got after his disappearance, saying he was alright, but that he was being chased by some dangerous people. Fearing for her boyfriend's safety, but also wanting to protect his plea of not calling in the police, Aya decides to hire Jinguuji to find him. Jinguuji quickly discovers that the boyfriend was caught up in some kind of drugs racket, selling the stuff in secret as an extra to his part-time job in a club. The detective also finds out (the painful way) that a group of foreigners is also hunting for the boyfriend and realizes that he must work fast if he wants to bring the boyfriend back to Aya alive in Kodaka Kazutaka's Tantei Jinguuji Saburou - Kagayakashii Mirai ("Detective Jinguuji Saburou - A Bright Future", 2007).
Tantei Jinguuji Saburou is a long-running videogame series I've written about quite often on this blog. Since the first game in 1987, private detective Jinguuji Saburou has been solving cases mostly around Shinjuku, Tokyo on a myriad of game systems, always accompanied by a pack of cigarettes and jazz music. Kagayakashii Mirai is one of a handful of novels based on the series, originally published in 2007. Writer Kodaka Kazutaka is nowadays mostly known as the scenario writer for the Danganronpa game series, but he was also the scenario writer for the Detective Conan & The Young Kindaichi Case Files DS video game and several of the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou mobile phone games (some of the best, actually). Kayakashii Mirai is Kodaka's second attempt as a novel writer: he had written another Tantei Jinguuji Saburou novel one year earlier. Kodaka is mainly a video game scenario writer, which explains why all of his novels are based on video game series (two Tantei Jinguuji Saburou novels and Danganronpa/Zero).
As a detective novel, Kagayakashii Mirai is nothing special, but it also does nothing really wrong. It is really just what you'd expect from a Tantei Jinguuji Saburou story: a case that starts out simple but is soon revealed to be much more sinister. Like in many of the games, the case is linked with yakuza groups and the foreigners-in-Japan angle is also one occasionally seen in the games. I'd say that this is also what makes and breaks this novel: for the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou fan, it's quite fun to see the familiar settings and the familiar faces in this new and reasonably amusing Tantei Jinguuji Saburou adventure. It feels like a genuine Tantei Jinguuji Saburou story and I can easily imagine how this story would have been as a game. For readers who have not played any of the games and go in this novel without any kind of attachment to the series however, Kagayakashii Mirai is just an okay, maybe even boring mystery novel with little to offer. The original characters of the novel are passable, but little is shown about the recurring characters and that the reader might feel that they miss something. Kagayakashii Mirai does very little to attract new readers.
From a purely mystery plot angle, there is little remarkable about Kagayakashii Mirai. It's focused completely on the hunt for the missing boyfriend and I noticed a bit late that Jinguuji Saburou's presence in the plot is actually not that vital: he finally does something really important at the end, but for most of the investigation, he's actually not even needed as the plot would go the way it goes even without his interference! I was kinda disappointed that the plot was all about the search and there was little detecting or puzzle solving: the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou games that Kodaka wrote often featured puzzle plot mysteries and tropes like locked rooms and I had hoped that Kagayakashii Mirai would also be like that, but alas.
Something that bugged me was the third person narration. The games are always narrated in the first person. Occassionally you get to control someone different from Jinguuji, but it's always in the first person. Kayakashii Mirai however is written in the third person and it just feels wrong. The story also jumps between Jinguuji and the boyfriend, which also feels strange, for this never happens in the games (even if you get to control a different person, it's always someone on the investigating side). Of course, Kagayakashii Mirai is a novel so Kodaka can do differently from the presentation in the games, but still, I wish that he had at least wrote the novel in the first person, for that really adds to the whole Jinguuji Saburou atmosphere.
Overall, I think that Tantei Jinguuji Saburou - Kagayakashii Mirai is an okay Tantei Jinguuji Saburou novel, that for the most part manages to emulate the atmosphere of the games quite well, but I doubt it would really impress people who have never touched the games, nor will it convince them to try the games. But speaking as someone who has played basically all of the games, I can say I thought it was an amusing read.
Original Japanese title(s): 小高和剛 『探偵神宮寺三郎 輝かしいミライ』