Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Unfinished Crime

「聖闘士には同じ技は2度通用しない」
『聖闘士星矢』

"The same technique won't work twice on a Saint."
"Saint Seiya"

A logical school mystery story based on Saint Seiya would be awesome. "No, you couldn't have killed him. You already once used all your techniques on him, and we all know the same technique doesn't work twice on a Saint: ergo you had no techniques with which you could kill him!"

In the previous two novels of Danganronpa Kirigiri, the young detectives Yui and Kirigiri learned about the Crime Victim Salvation Committee: an organization which hosts the Duel Noir, a game of detective vs murderer. The Committee provides a would-be murderer with means, methods (murder plans) and opportunity to exact their revenge, while also inviting a detective on the scene. If the detective manages to prove who the murderer is within seven days, the detective wins, and otherwise, the murderer gets away with murder. But now the Committee has set its eyes on the two detectives who have been doing surprisingly well in the Duel Noir. Yui is challenged directly by one of the top dogs of the Committee, who works as a 'producer' of murder plans for the Committee. She is given the trial of the Twelve Locked Room Temples: she has seven days to solve twelve locked room murders which are about to start. Even with the help of Kirigiri, this seems like an impossible task, so their first task is to locate the legendary detective Mikagami Rei, who might be of help to them. In a world whether neither ally, nor enemy are precisely what they seem, can Kirigiri and Yui overcome the challenge of the Twelve Temples in Kitayama Takekuni's Danganronpa Kirigiri 3 (2014)?

The third book in this spin-off series of the Danganronpa franchise, focusing on Kirigiri Kyouko in the early years of her career as a detective. Links between this series and the main Danganronpa series are fairly light, so it's quite possible to read this series on its own. You do need to read the books in order though. In fact, that is the biggest problem with Danganronpa Kirigiri 3. People used to reading comics or manga are probably familiar with the practice of storylines taking place over several volumes/issues. Longer-running manga in particular often have storylines being spread across several volumes. There is a fixed number of pages for each volume, so often, you'll find you're still in the middle of a story when a volume of Detective Conan and Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo ends: the next chapters are included in the next volume. This is a common phenomenon with ongoing comic series. You don't really see this practice with novels: sure, pocket releases of novels are often split up on two or more volumes in Japan, but that is splitting up one complete story in parts (not an ongoing story), mainly profit for maximization and convenience (bulky pockets are hard to read).

Danganronpa Kirigiri 3 however is obviously just an introduction for a bigger story. The idea of Kirigiri and Yui having to solve twelve locked room mysteries within seven days sounds like a cool set-up for a short story collection about impossible crimes, right? The thing is, it takes more than half the length of this book to even get to the starting line of this challenge. Whereas the previous two books threw you right into an interesting closed circle, impossible crime story, this book takes plenty of time to get you all excited about a trial of twelve locked room mysteries to be solved, and then it has just enough pages left for one (1!) of those murders. To be continued in the next volume. It makes this volume feel extremely empty, because there is basically only one short mystery story here, and the rest is just set-up for something that isn't even resolved in this volume, and I'm not even sure it'll be resolved in the next volume. Sure, there's some other things going on too, mostly revolving around the identity of Mikagami Rei, whom Kirigiri and Yui need to find to even stand a chance to win the challenge, but it's fairly light material. Again, a story split over multiple volumes is a very common practice for ongoing comics, not so for novels. As it is now, it's a very unbalanced book on its own, as there's just too little.

Oh, by the way, the Twelve Locked Room Temples, that is indeed a reference to the anime/manga classic Saint Seiya, where the best known story arc, the Sanctuary Arc, is about our band of heroes who have to pass through Twelve Temples and defeat the twelve guardian Gold Saints there within twelve hours. So Danganronpa Kirigiri 3 feels like the story ends after they passed by the Aries or Taurus Temple.

The one impossible crime they do solve in this volume is good though, even if the pace's a bit hasty because of the fewer page count reserved for the story, compared to the previous two volumes. The murder reminds of Yokomizo Seishi's classic Honjin Satsujin Jiken, with a man being stabbed with a sword in a locked room of the annex of a traditional Japanese manor. In fact, it is obviously inspired by that story, but Kitayama wouldn't Kitayama if he didn't come up with a genius murder trick for this story. It's ridiculous, in the good sense of the word, and I myself thought it was highly original too, as I had never seen something similar before. There's a reason why Kitayama is feared for his rather mechanical impossible crime plots, and this is an outstanding example of the things he comes up with. It's not all perfect though, as the way Kirigiri deduces who the murderer was, was rather weak, which both Kirigiri and the author seem to acknowledge, as the actual 'proof' comes from the old 'make them slip up' ending that is seldom satisfying.

To be honest, I hesitated about writing the review for this particular volume. It is obviously only part of one single story. It is uneven, because I'm missing a very large chunk of the bigger picture. But then I think: 'But this book is being sold as a standalone book. And the previous two volumes were also part of an ongoing storyline, but also managed to be perfectly fine standalone books.' So I think potential readers should be made aware that this is an incomplete story. Danganronpa Kirigiri 3 does not work on its own.

There is little more I have to comment on Danganronpa Kirigiri 3. It has a great concept, it has a decent short impossible crime, but it is also incomplete. Despite the price of the book, you're getting maybe the first half of a story. And that's not really nice. I see a lot of potential to do something fantastic with the Twelve Locked Room Temples gimmick, but I guess we'll need to read the next volume to see if it really works out.

Original Japanese title(s):  北山猛邦 『ダンガンロンパ 霧切り3』

4 comments :

  1. Very much hoping that there would be a Chinese translation for this series. Or even an English translation...? :D

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    1. Seeing as other Danganronpa spin-off material is picked up occasionally (like the anime), it kinda surprises me this series wasn't picked up, though that might have to do with the fact the series is not complete yet. Volume 5 was released last week but from what I gather it's still ongoing.

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  2. since Yui is the protagonist of these novels, that means she has to be a really intelligent detective, right ?

    Or is she just as a Watson to Kirigiri's Sherlock ?

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    1. More pro-active than a true Watson, but she's quite aware the whole thing is way out of her league. Though to be absolutely fair to Yui: she is not registered as a murder/locked room murder specialist like Kirigiri.

      As explained in the first volume, every professional detective has to register a specialty, and Yui's has always been child abduction. So this was never her 'game' to begin with.

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