Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Question of Proof

「なんで捕まえられないのよ」
「iffです」
『Q.E.D. iff -証明終了-』 

"Why can't Dad arrest him?"
"Because of iff."
"Q.E.D. Iff Quod Erat Demonstrandum"

When I reviewed Honkaku Mystery Comics Seminar a while back, I noted how the informative historical research into the development of mystery manga gave much deserved credit to the trio of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, Detective Conan and Q.E.D. Shoumei Shuuryou, which formed the water-shed moment for the genre. These three series released soon after another in the early~mid nineties paved the way for puzzle-plot oriented mystery stories and also proved their economic worth as multi-media franchises. Of these three titles, I regularly review Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo and Detective Conan, but you might've noticed I pay next to no attention to Q.E.D. Shoumei Shuuryou here (also: do not confuse this Q.E.D. series with that other mystery series titled Q.E.D....). That is not to say it's a bad series: it really isn't. But long, loooong ago, I tried the first few volumes, and while it was an okay mystery series, I just didn't feel the urge to go out and get the remaining 20+ volumes that were available at that moment (when it was still in 20+ volumes length range). The live-action TV drama didn't manage to change my mind about continuing, and neither did the first volume of the spin-off C.M.B. And from a certain point on, I just didn't feel really like starting with a series fifty volumes long...

But a few weeks ago, the first couple volumes of the series Q.E.D. iff Shoumei Shuuryou ("Q.E.D. iff Quod Erat Demonstrandum") were offered for free as e-books and as I can definitely be lured with free stuff, I decided to return to this series. Q.E.D. iff is the sequel series to the original Q.E.D. Shoumei Shuuryou, which officially ended in 2014 when Monthly Shonen Magazine+, where the series was serialized, was cancelled. In 2015, the new series Q.E.D. iff started in Shonen Magazine R, which is set just a few months after the original series. The protagonists are still the brilliant Touma Sou and his athletic classmate Kana. Touma graduated from M.I.T. at the mere age of fourteen, but moved back to Japan to experience a normal high school life there. One of the few friends he made at school was Mizuhara Kana, an energetic (and sometimes nosy) girl who also happens to be the daugher of Inspector Mizuhara. Kana's busybody personality often leads to her and Touma getting involved with mysterious cases (not always murder), but Touma's highly analytical mind always eventually manages to prove what happened. In Q.E.D. iff (if and only if) Touma and Kana are now in their final year at high school (as opposed to first and eventually second years in the original series) and Touma has moved into a new home, but the adventures they have are still the same. As always, each volume consists out of two semi-long stories (due to the fact Q.E.D. is traditionally serialized in a monthly with long installments). Q.E.D. iff contains the stories iff and In The Year of Quantum Energy.

The opening story iff starts with a short introduction to the characters of Touma and Kana for newcomers, but it doesn't take long for Kana to conjure up a murder for Touma to solve. The plans to renovate the school's kendo dojo have to been cancelled as the sponsor for this project, Misago Taimei, was killed. The famous sculptor was an alumnus of the kendo club and had promised to pay for the renovation, but his sudden death put a stop to those plans. Hoping to still pry some money out of this, Kana visits the art studio of Misago, only to find her father investigating the murder. It appears the man was killed in rather mysterious circumstances. During the day, four people were present at the art studio: two of Misago's disciples, his manager and a model. Misago was found dead in his own atelier at the end of the day with his latest work vandalized, but as his manager had been working at the desk overlooking the door to the atelier, it doesn't seem possible for anyone to have gone inside to kill the man. Kana quickly realizes that the disciple who discovered the body could've commited the murder before telling the others, but Touma points out that while that person could've committed the murder, it does not mean that all the requirements of the murderer apply to them (if and only if), and therefore Touma himself decides to solve the case.

A rather weak opening story. It's not really a locked room murder of course, but it's painfully obvious who'll turn out to be the murderer because of the way the story tries to avoid putting too much attention to one person, and once you're there, it's easy to focus on the parts where that person appears and figure out how the murder on the sculptor was done. Even as an introduction of the title iff, I think it doesn't really succeed well.

In The Year of Quantum Energy is much stronger in comparison, and an interesting story of a type you don't see in either Detective Conan or Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo. A kooky inventor who hopes to fabricate a machine that can transform vacuum energy into electricity is looking in the mountains for a place for a lab together with his real estate agent, when the two find a little deserted cottage. The cottage used to be the possession of the Tategami Sect, a new religion which was active in Kyoto a century ago, but which suddenly vanished completely. Inside the cottage, the two discover a mummified body beneath a heap of rubble, and the corpse is identified as Tategami Kaijirou, the head of the sect who had disappeared at the same time as the demise of his sect. Touma becomes interested in the mystery of how the Tategami Sect went down a century ago, when he manages to buy a few of the 1920s science magazines found in the cottage (sold by the inventor for some quick cash), and discovers among those magazines a diary by a reporter who lived in the community of the Tategami Sect. Touma and Kana visit the inventor at the cottage, where they also meet with the great-granddaughter of Tategami Kaijirou, who too wants to learn what happened to her great-grandfather. Combining the diary in Touma's possession and the documents in possession of Tategami An, the four slowly learn about the curious sect that lived in the outskirts of Kyoto and it doesn't take long for Touma to pick up on some clues that help solve the mystery of why the people in the sect were slaughtered in a massacre a century ago and why Tategami Kaijirou was discovered a mummy in this cottage.

A really neat type of story that you don't see in the other big mystery series, as it revolves solely around delving into historical documents. The historical account of the happenings in the Tategami Sect a century ago take up most of the narrative, so you don't see much of Touma and the others. but the story-within-a-story is fairly entertaining on its own, portraying a somewhat suspicious new religion, but that does do good for the people that believe in it. There is a sort of mystery presented in this historical account about a semi-miracle performed by Tategami Kaijirou (where he can instantly put a doubting Thomas to sleep), but the solution is rather far-fetched and hardly clewed and almost comes down to something as ridiculous "they happened to have a secret machine there to do that and you totally should have guessed even though there were no real clues."

The mystery about what eventually brought the downfall of the sect is much more entertaining though. The whole tragedy is based around a certain realization, which is excellently plotted and integrated in the story. While the jump from this realization to the conclusion that this must've caused the tragedy is a bit big, it's certainly possible to arrive at the realization itself, and if you get to this point, you should at least have an idea that it played a key role in what would happen later. The type of plottin utilized here is actually seldomly used in Conan and Kindaichi Shounen, but it really works well in Q.E.D. iff, as the fundamentals of this concept ultimately lie in the scientific field of logic. As a historical mystery story-within-a-story, In The Year of Quantum Energy is surprisingly fun and a good example of Q.E.D. doing not seen in other series.

In the end, I wouldn't say that Q.E.D. iff Shoumei Shuuryou 1 really managed to convince me to read the rest immediately, but it's certainly nice to see a kind of mystery story not done in either Conan and Kindaichi Shounen. I have a few other volumes of iff I got in the offer, so I'll probably be reviewing those in the future too.

Original Japanese title(s): 加藤元浩 『Q.E.D. iff -照明終了-』第1巻

3 comments :

  1. I have read all 50 volumes of the original QED and there seemed to be a pattern where each volume contain 1 traditional mystery story and 1 story related to science (usually in the field of math or physics). They are really interesting and it seemed like Motohiro Katou is a very knowlegeable guy. Also, it is true that QED and CMB has a lot of story types seldom seen in Conan and Kindaichi. I love all three of them and it is nice seeing your review. I hope you will stick with it a little longer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Similarly, I read QED for an unique type of experience that I rarely run into in other mystery stories. In general, I find QED's author being capable to come up with unique motives for the crimes/incidents.

      Delete
    2. I've still got four unread volumes (two of the original series, two of iff) I got from that free offer a while back and I at least intend to review the two other iff volumes I have. Let's hope they can change my mind about going after these books :)

      Delete