Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hotel Dusk

『Liar Game』

"No, you should be doubtful of people. Most people get this wrong, but to have doubts about someone, means you're trying to get to know that person."
"Liar Game"

Despite its popularity, I have to admit I never played Mafia.

Following the events in the first novel of the Danganronpa Kirigiri series, Kirigiri and Yui continue their hunt for the Crime Victim Salvation Committee, a secret organization that provides revenge murder plans and the means to commit them to crime victims. They discover that the Committee considers this all to be a game: they provide the murderer with means, but they also invite a detective to the crime scene. The whole confrontation between murderer and detective is a form of entertainment for the Committee's sponsors: a battle of wits for survival. If the murderer wins, they get their revenge and are offered a new life, if the detective wins, the murderer will have a rather large debt to pay back to the Committee.

A new lead brings Kirigiri and Yui to Norman's Hotel, which was abandoned after a guest went on a killing spree. Inside the decrepit hotel, the two young detectives find out that more people have been lured to the hotel with the promise of a special auction. All ten people, including Kirigiri and Yui, are however trapped inside the hotel, and are forced to participate in a variant of the well-known Mafia/Werewolves game. Each participant is given money and the instructions to be inside their room each night when the auto-lock switches on. However, each night, once the auto-lock is activated, the Murderer will start with their rounds, holding a master key. The only person who can stop the Murderer is the Detective. Each evening, "Detective Rights" are auctioned. The winner is given the title Detective and immunity that round (can't be killed by the Murderer), and also receives a master key, with which they can free the others from their rooms. The first night, efforts are made to save everybody from their rooms as quickly as possible, but despite precautions a murder still happened, inside a locked room, with the only exit being observed by a witness! Can Kirigiri and Yui solve this impossible murder and catch the Committee in Kitayama Takekuni's Danganronpa - Kirigiri 2 (2013)?

This is the second novel in the Kirigiri spin-off series of the Danganronpa video game series, focusing on the early years of Kirigiri Kyouko's career as a detective. As I mentioned in the review of the previous book, each book features its own seperate case(s), but the books do form one big narrative together, so it assumes you have read the previous book (which explained how Kirigiri and Yui became friends and how they first learned about the Crime Victim Salvation Committee). This book focuses on the Detective Auction storyline. Knowledge of the main Danganronpa series is not neccesary at all.

The murders organized by the Crime Victim Salvation Committee have an inherent game-like quality to them. The murders are meant to be shown to the sponsors as a form of amusement, so the battle of wits between murderer and detective is always fair, and has clear rules. The murderer is given the advantage with all the murder plans and means, but the detective (who is chosen by the Committee without their knowledge) for example is given seven days (168 hours) to solve the case once they have opened the notification letter and they can not be killed by the murderer under any circumstances (the detective can also just ignore the notification). What is even more interesting is that the detective is actually sent a list with everything the murderer got from the committee, from the type of murder plan purchased to other objects provided. The list is shown at the start of the story, so you are told right away there'll be a locked room murder, and that it's set in a hotel, and this and that will be used. The thing is: there's no context. The detective (and the reader) will have to figure out themselves how all those elements will be used in the murder plan. This is an extremely original and daring way to start a detective story, basically giving you the grocery list already, but not telling you whether the cook will be making a pie or a stew.

In the Detective Auction, this game-like element is emphasized, because the murder plan is executed through an actual game, with its own set of rules (that go on top of the rules of the Comittee). Buying "Detective Rights" in an auction, outsmarting the others, etcetera: it's all very reminiscent of a series like Liar Game, and that is not a bad thing at all. In fact, Danganronpa - Kirigiri 2 remains very exciting throughout, as the cast not only tries to solve the murder(s), they must also figure out a way to win the auction in order to secure the Detective Rights (if the winner of the Detective Rights doesn't want to save the others, the others are screwed). Like always with these kinds of stories, the crux lies at a very close reading of the rules and being just a bit more clever than the rest. Great, engaging stuff going on here.

The impossible murders (yes, multiple of them) in this novel are always fairly clever (even if they are basically the same trick repeated).  Like I mentioned earlier, the story already tells you what sort of murder you can expect, and what will play a part in those plots, but it is still up to the protagonists, and the reader, to figure out how everything fits together. While I have a few questions about the logistics of this murder plot (you'd need to do a lot in little time), it is, fundamentally, a great impossible murder plot, with proper hinting (both through the 'grocery list', and through 'normal' hints in the story). What makes this plot especially impressive is that it is intricately connected to the above mentioned "Detective Auction". The synergy between these two sides is amazing, and really a good example of having all things in a story work together.

This book is almost twice the length of the previous book (despite being only slightly more expensive), and while the first book kinda felt like an extended short story, Danganronpa - Kirigiri 2 was truly a novel-length experience. The books definitely aren't cheap though, compared to other (Japanese) soft-cover releases, but this one is a lot more cost-effective than the previous book.

Danganronpa - Kirigiri 2 was a great mystery novel overall, that manages to flesh out the elements introduced in the first book in unexpected, but very welcome ways. The fusion it offers between 'game' and 'murder mystery' is excellent and I can only hope the next book will be at least as good as this one. The only 'but' I have is that it is part of a series, and while knowledge of the bigger Danganronpa series is not necessary, it's probably better to start with the first book of the Dangannronpa - Kirigiri novels.

Original Japanese title(s): 北山猛邦 『ダンガンロンパ 霧切り2』


  1. I enjoyed the Danganronpa anime, and I quite liked Kirigiri as a character... But the only Kitayama Takekuni novels I can find translated into Mandarin are his city-based ones. :(

    1. Castle in this case, not city ;) Wikipedia tells me that there are a couple of Taiwanese translations too (not Danganronpa), but I guess it might be difficult if you are used to reading simplified characters.

      I think I saw an English Danganronpa/Zero fan translation mentioned somewhere once, so there might be one of the Kirigiri novels too?

    2. I remember seeing summaries for the first and part of the second on Tumblr, but that's about it fan-wise, as far as I know.

      The Dark One

    3. Oh, that's strange, I always thought the Danganronpa fanbase was pretty fanatic about these kinds of things ^^ The fifth (and presumably final) volume of the Kirigiri series is scheduled for a March release, so perhaps someone might go work on it once it's all out there.

  2. so is this one better than the previous book ?

    1. Yes, that was the general gist of my review :P