Tuesday, December 29, 2009



Radio dramas can go as far as mankind's imagination, that's what I think. I love it, you know. Radio dramas."

"Welcome Back Mr. McDonald"

While I wrote earlier that I watched the drama Meitantei Asami Mitsuhiko: Saishuushou ("Great Detective Asami Mitsuhiko: The Final Chapter"), I have to admit I have never, ever watched a whole episode of it. I fell asleep halfway through every single time. While the stories aren't that bad, early classes meant I was already dead by the time the drama finally began. And to be honest, you don't watch Asami Mitsuhiko for its story, you watch it for great location shots of every part of Japan.

Which is a big thing of detective drama in Japan. Especially the lighter mystery dramas (based on works by writers like Nishimura Kyoutarou and Yamamura Misa) are not as much about the story, but just excuses for location shots. Heck, sometimes the story even moves to South-Korea. Which is in fact quite close to Fukuoka. JLCC students who are from Busan could theorically go back home every day with the ferry.

But the king of travel detectives has to be the Asami Mitsuhiko series by Uchida Yasuo. Protagonist Mitsuhiko is a freelance writer on food and history and he travels to a new place in every book. And of course, Always Murder. So I tried the first book in the series, Gotoba Densetsu Satsujin Jiken ("The Go-toba Legend Murder Case"), which was an OK book, making no real faults, but also not containing elements to make it a classic. Weird though, was how Gotoba Densetsu Satsujin Jiken initially starts as a police procedural, until halfway the book the author suddenly seems to have a change of heart and changes a minor character from several chapters earlier into the great detective. That and the legend of Go-toba was surprisingly not very relevant to the case. You'd expect otherwise from a book named The Go-toba Legend Murder Case. But in any case an entertaining book.

And then there were the new podcasts/radio dramas of the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. As I haven't read Q.B.I.: Queen's Bureau of Investigation yet, I was looking forward to these modern radio-drama versions of Ellery Queen's The Myna Birds and A Lump of Sugar. Especially the first one, as I was wondering whether something else besides Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney could pull of bird-as-a-vital-witness succesfully (Cross-examining a PARROT while still maintaining your dignity is hard to pull off!).
However, The Myna Birds certainly didn't succeed. The biggest problem is that the radio dramas are way too short, leaving no time for any development. The original war-time radio plays usually are around 30 minutes, leaving enough time to flesh out everything. Even with the bad sound quality and overacting, they're great to listen to even in this age. Heck, you could even just do with reading the scripts. These two radio plays by EQMM were just too short with too little substance.
\But they had nice music. Which is something.  

Original Japanese title(s): 内田康夫 『後鳥羽殺人事件』

Sunday, December 27, 2009

『死亡の館、赤い壁 (空城の計)』


Phantom thieves are artists who magnificently steal their trophies with the most brilliant tricks, but a detective is nothing more than a critic who looks at the results and tries to find faults."

"Detective Conan"

One of the first things that surprised me when I first visited the local Yamada Denki was that they sold books. And then the second surprise was that they were selling an immense Arsène Lupin boxset (placed next to an (Edogawa Rampo's) Shounen Tantei Dan boxset), which I still want to buy every time I walk past it. Then I realize I already own most of the books in a language I can read a lot easier.

So instead, I bought Nikaidou Reito's Meitantei no Shouzou ("Portrait of Great Detectives"), which featured pastiches on Maurice LeBlanc's Arsène Lupin, Ayukawa Tetsuya's Inspector Onitsura and John Dickson Carr's H.M. Merrivale (whom I'll admit I always confuse with Carr's Fell. In my head, they're the same). Prior books by Nikaidou I read where good, so expectations were high. If only I could remember when and where I bought this book. It was just sitting on my shelf here, but heck if I can remember where it came from.

But setting the mystery of the appearing books aside, expectations were fulfilled. 'Cept for one story (of which I can't determine whether it was a pastiche or not), they were all enjoyable. While I shamefully admit I actually like Ellery Queen's A Study in Terror, I usually don't read detective pastiches (parodies, I love though). Occasionally coming across titles like Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula explains why. But Meitantei no Shouzou was great, so I was quite happy. Especially the Arsène Lupin pastiche, Lupin no Jizen ("The Charity of Lupin") couldn't be more Lupin even if LeBlanc himself had written it. Sekishisou no Satsujin ("The Murder of Smallpox Manor") with its disappearing people and a cursed manor was an enjoyable Merrivale pastiche, which Nikaidou clearly enjoyed writing, seeing all the references to other Merrivale adventures.

One story in this collection wasn't a mystery or a pastiche though, but very relevant. Kaasuke no Seiki no Taiketsu ("Kaasuke's Match of the Century") is the ultimate homage to bibliophilic mystery readers. A "restaurant" that serves no food, but instead detective novels, ranging from the newest books to vintage books in original print? A Yomu-lier (Read-i-lier (Sommelier)) who will suggest the best books to read? A duel which is decided by determining the title and vintage of a book just by a single sip passage of the book? While it still appeared strange to me to bring your date to such a restaurant, the rest of the story was plain awesome. They should make manga about bibliophiles. 

Original Japanese title(s): 二階堂黎人 『名探偵の肖像』/「ルパンの慈善」/「風邪の証言」/「ネクロポリスの男」/「素人カースケの世紀の対決」/「赤死荘の殺人」

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"I am terrified of moving pictures. They are the dreams of an opium addict."


"This is great, fantastic! Ha ha ha... I think there's something like that among Carr's locked room tricks, but this is even more stupid."

"Detective Movie"

Vacation means I finally have time to read the books I keep buying. Which are mostly detectives. Lately, "Juggling between reports of life and writing about (Japanese) detective fiction while studying in Fukuoka, Japan" has not been the best description. So going to try to make up for that and first up is Tantei Eiga ("Detective Movie") by Abiko Takemaru. Never read any of his works and could tell you nothing about him. But for some sinister reason I had his name written on a list of writers I want to read. I just can't remember where I first came across this name. Most of the names I wrote down are new Golden Age writers, so I was at least expecting him to be that. However, I don't think Tantei Eiga is one of his better known works, I just bought this book, because it was the cheapest with a slightly interesting title.

The plot of the book is very interesting though. A star director is making detective movie, a hard-to-market movie in this age (in the long-lost past of 1990). But he has one trick up his sleeve: nobody except for him knows the solution to the story. Which of course sparks interest everywhere. Releasing scripts on a need-to-know base, filming progresses fast till they finally can start filming the last part of the movie. And then the director disappears.

Panic ensues. And hilarity. Because the movie is to be released quite soon, the crew decide to deduce the solution to the movie themselves. And then a two-layered story begins, where the book alternates between the search for the missing director and deduction sessions on the movie ending, and the events of the detective movie itself.

The book was quite entertaining, with especially the deduction sessions a highlight. Almost surreal (but hilarious) is the scene where every actor is trying to propose a solution in which they themselves are the killer, because in a detective movie, the killer is the most important role. The quest for the missing director is boring though and the final solution works only to an extent. It's really a trick that works in a) movie and b) real-life, but it just feels somewhat underwelming in book-form. This book would actually work great as a movie, now I think about it. Add in loads of movie trivia and it's a fun book for those who enjoy movies and detectives. And Detective Movies.

Not too sure about Abiko though. While certainly not bad, my first impression is kinda lukewarm, whereas my first encounters with writers like Norizuki Rintarou and Shimada Souji where superspecialawesome. Though I am interested in the scenario Abiko penned for the game 428 ~ Fuusa sareta Shibuya de, which at this point is incredible. I hate Abiko's name though. It's a Japanese name I've never seen before and I keep typing Akibo (every single time for this post), because it sounds (just slightly) less awkward.  

Original Japanese title(s): 我孫子武丸 『探偵映画』