Screens are buried in handy apps
Blocking our sights, even the figures of our loved ones
"2012Spark" (Porno Graffiti)
I have visited Shinjuku in the past, and I know it's a very different place in real life, but I have to admit, I still love the romanticized version of it in fiction like the Ryuu ga Gotoku (Yakuza) games, City Hunter/Angel Heart and the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou games.
The Tantei Jinguuji Saburou series is a long-running video game series which celebrates its thirtieth birthday this year. The first game was one of the first adventure games for the Famicom (NES) to be made for an adult audience, with a hardboiled detective as the protagonist who had his home base in Shinjuku, home of the shadow side of society. I have reviewed most of the games on this blog, by the way. Shinjuku no Bourei is one of the novels based on the series and was written by Kodaka Kazutaka. He is now best known as the creator and writer of the Danganronpa game series, but he used to work as a freelance game scenario writer before he was hired by Spike-Chunsoft and has written the scenarios for several of the mobile phone games of Tantei Jinguuji Saburou. He also wrote two novels based on the games, the one discussed in this post, and 2007's Kagayakashii Mirai.
I also loved that this novel featured more of the extended cast of the games. Kagayashii Mirai focused on Jinguuji, and to a lesser extent his assistant Youko, but we also see police inspector Kumano and yakuza gang leader Imaizumi in this novel, who have always been a major part of the series since early on. It helps make the novel feel like it's really part of the series, having these familiar faces pop up at the right time.
While the realistic, hardboiled setting of the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou games is as far as you can get from the psycho-pop puzzle plot courtroom drama mystery that is Danganronpa, it's interesting to see some themes Kodaka used here seemed like a very early version of themes he'd also use in Danganronpa (as well as Detective Conan & Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, which he also wrote). It's not a rehash, but you could see how some themes used in this book eventually evolved into a (minor) element featured in the Danganronpa series. Funny thing is that I had already played Kodaka's Jinguuji Saburou games, Detective Conan & Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo and the Danganronpa series by the time I first heard that Kodaka was responsible for all these games. It's the same with TV productions: these are often produced by very large teams, so sometimes you don't notice the scenario writer.
Do I think non-fans of the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou series will also enjoy this book? Well, not really. It's not a bad novel by any means, but while I myself did enjoy the book, this novel doesn't succeed really at conveying the atmosphere of the series. By which I mean: a lot of the atmosphere from the games comes from the visual aspect, as well as the (fantastic) music. And when fans read this book, they'll have a good sense of the 'feeling' this book is going for, as their imagination will provide support. But without that knowledge, without knowing how the Tantei Jinguuji Saburou usually looks and sounds like, I'd say the writing of this novel is a bit too to-the-point to really leave an impression on its own merits. It's not bad, it's just that the prose is a bit too basic.
As a fan of the seris though, I really did enjoy Tantei Jinguuji Saburou: Shinjuku no Bourei. It really feels like a story you'd expect to see in one of the games, and that is usually the one thing novels based on games have to succeed in. The prose is a bit sparse, but the plot is entertaining, featuring some great characters that fit perfectly within the whole world of Tantei Jinguuji Saburou. Recommended material for those who want to see more of the veteran detective outside of the game medium. A new Tantei Jinguuji Saburou game will be released later this year for the Nintendo 3DS to celebrate the franchise's 30th anniversary by the way, and you can definitely expect a review of that game popping up in due time.
Original Japanese title(s): 小高和剛 『探偵神宮寺三郎 新宿の亡霊」（上下）