Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Perfect Plot

 形がないものならば
いつも感じていればいい
「今宵エデンの片隅で」(Garnet Crow)

If it has no form
You can always keep on feeling that emotion
"Tonight, in a corner of Eden" (Garnet Crow)

Speaking of mystery stories about comedians, that TV special a couple of years ago starring real-life Japanese comedians like Bakarhythm, Date from Sandwichman, Hakata Daikichi (who also voice-acted in Detective Conan: Zero the Enforcer) and others playing themselves as suspects in the murder of Bananaman's Himura: that was a weird special.

The second volume of Q.E.D. iff Shoumei Shuuryou ("Q.E.D. iff Quod Erat Demonstrandum") brings us two new adventures of the brilliant high school student Touma Sou and his classmate Kana in this continuation of the original Q.E.D. Shoumei Shuuryou series. As per custom, we have both a "conventional" murder story as well as a non-murder story in one volume, and this second volume starts with the non-violent one. In The Naked Emperor, Touma is asked by his classmate Yuubari to help her brother. Yuubari Yuuki was one half of the rising star comedy duo Order to Leave, but two years ago, his partner stopped to go work in a normal company. Since then, Yuuki's been trying his luck as a solo comedian, but his story is not that one of success, and he has sorta made up his mind to give up on his dream, but not without going out with a bang. The last few months, he has been writing his own one-act comedy play called The Naked Emperor, which is by far the best he's ever produced according to friends and his fellow young comedians. The rumors about his fantastic play however also reach the ears of the highly popular comedian Suzuka Santa and his ruthless manager Akashi, who want to get their hands on that play so Suzuka can star in it. One day, Suzuka visits the dressing room of the venue where Yuuki and several other comedy groups are performing. He first asks to if he could read the play, but when he offers to buy the play from Yuuki, his offer is refused. When Suzuka leaves the dressing room, Yuuki discovers his (handwritten) play is gone, and suspicion obviously falls on Suzuka, but there is one problem: Suzuka was completely naked when he entered the dressing room so how could he have smuggled the play outside without anyone noticing? Touma has not only have to solve the mystery of the missing script, but also find a way to help Yuuki succeed with his play.

The 'impossible' disappearance of the script is just the very beginning of the story, and quite simple to solve, but it certainly makes an impact, as the thief (Suzuka) was completely naked and empty-handed as he entered and left the dressing room. It doesn't take long for Touma to solve this disappearance (it's really simple), but Yuuki's problems aren't solved quite yet, as he's eventually hired by Suzuka as an employee to direct and rewrite the play so Suzuka can star in it anyway (together with Yuuki and some others), and slowly, Yuuki realizes he's being bamboozled out of the play he wrote for himself. What follows is a "mystery" story of a kind you never see in Detective Conan or Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, as we see Suzuka's manager Akashi, but also Touma himself trying several schemes to help out their respective "clients" and while everyone can guess that it's Touma who ends up victorious in the end, the kind of plan he comes up to help out Yuuki is unlike anything in the other major detective manga and almost closer to the schemes in series like Liar Game (watch the drama, it's an excellent mystery series!). It's extremely unlikely everything would go exactly as Touma had anticipated, but it's certainly possible to deduce what his plans are once you're presented the semi-Challenge to the Reader. Like In The Year of Quantum in the first volume, this story requires you to consider several facts mentioned throughout the story and combine in a purely logical manner to see how they pertain to each other and that the implications are. 

The second story, The Form of Murder, is a "normal" murder story. It's summer, and Touma's friend Sid Green, AKA Loki (whom he knows from his MIT days) has invited Touma and his assistants (yes, multiple, as more girls besides Kana wanted to come along) to Malta, where Loki's uncle runs the Hotel Geometry, a hotel for academics who need some rest. One of the guests is Alf Lets, an Oxford mathematics professor, whose wife Camilla was murdered four months ago in Malta, in the very same hotel. Her death was considered a robbery-gone-wrong by the local police, but Alf is convinced it was a planned murder, and has been searching the whole of Malta to find a clue that'll lead him to Camilla's murderer. He's accompanied by his friends the Goodmans and his solicitor Bris, who were also in Malta on the night of the murder. Seeing how Alf is exhausting himself in search of clues, Loki wants Touma to solve the murder, which indeed has a few interesting points.

The arranged marriage between the carefree, partying Camilla and the bookworm Alf was by all means a complete failure, as Camilla was getting worse and worse with his treatment of Alf and quite openly flirting and cheating on him with other men. On the night of Camilla's murder, Derek Goodman warned Alf he should divorce from Camilla, while Franny Goodman was getting quite enough of Camilla hitting on Derek. Bris too was of the opinion Camilla meant nothing but trouble for Alf, but he had no intentions of listening to his friends. That night, Camilla had a hangover and a headache, and asked Alf to get her something to help ease the pain. Alf left the hotel keys with reception as he went out to the store, and the Goodmans and Bris also went their own ways, but when Alf returned, he found his wife dead with a knife in her. The murder was committed in the period everyone was roaming around on their own, but the door and windows to the room were locked and the keys were kept at the reception desk, so even if a robber didn't commit the murder, who did and more importantly, how did they get in and out the seaside hotel room?

Unlike Detective Conan and Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, Q.E.D. stories are about 100 pages per chapter (story) due to the magazine in which it is serialized, which gives it the freedom to build a different kind of story than one that is structured around multiple chapters each about 18~20 pages, and with a mini-climax/cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. The Form of Murder however is an example where you can also sense the advantages of a more rigid structure, as The Form of Murder likes to meander a lot, and the pace is really, really slow. Having chapters like Conan or Kindaichi Shounen would've at least brought a more focused way of telling the story. The way in which the locked room was constructed was okay, even if it was a bit unclear whether that certain action was possible or not (better clewing would've been appreciated), but the story kinda stumbles over the things the murderer did, and attempted to do besides the murder, resulting in a somewhat unguided, and at times even confusing story.

Like with the first volume, I find Q.E.D. iff Shoumei Shuuryou 2 to be decent, but not unique enough to get me really invested in the series. The non-murder stories, that employ the scientific field of logic are definitely what set Q.E.D. iff apart from its rivals and can be very fun, but I still haven't come across the story that'll convince me to go out and buy the other volumes. That said, I still have another volume of iff I got in the free offer, so expect a review of that volume in the future.

Original Japanese title(s): 加藤元浩 『Q.E.D. iff -照明終了-』第2巻

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