Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Adventure of the Sinister Scenario

"Ghost'n Goblins"

Man, Super Ghouls'n Ghosts is difficult. Really difficult. Like, really really difficult. When I first saw Game Center CX's Arino struggle with the franchise, I thought that it was mainly because Arino isn't good with these sort of games, but that was not the case. It's like every enemy spawning point and every enviromental hazard is placed just so you will jump into it. Which either means you lose your armor, or your life (only two hitpoints in the game). And when you finally beat it, they tell you you have to go through the game twice to get to the real final boss! But I finally cleared the game! After a week of relentlessly replaying every level until I knew where every thing was located (and even then it's really difficult, looking at you stage 7 bosses). I probably died more often in one single level in this game than I usually do in a complete game.

But, now for something completely different. Another short shorts (short pieces on unrelated topics), because, well I have nothing I want to write extensively about. I did just realize a major flow with short shorts: there is a big chance that the things I don't want to extensively about are in fact things I don't like that much. Meaning that there is a quite a chance that the overall tone of a short shorts post can become very negative. This time: three adaptations: Moujuu tai Issunboushi, the TV special of Kamaitachi no Yoru and the first episodes of the anime Gosick. And a bit of Kindaichi Shounen.

A while back i read Edogawa Rampo's Issunboushi ("The Dwarf") and the next day I watched Moujuu tai Issunboushi ("Blind Beast vs. Dwarf"), a 2001 film by Ishii Teruo. Like the title suggests, this movie combines the plot of Rampo's Issunboushi with another of Rampo's famous novelettes, Moujuu ("Blind Beast"). These two stories originally had nothing to do with each other except for some repeated themes: both stories deal with a pyshically challenged person committing crimes (involving cutting up people and spreading the parts all across town) . And to make it even more confusing, there is also a bit based on Rampo's Odoru Issunboushi ("The Dancing Dwarf"), but this was originally an unrelated story about a different dwarf. The 1969 film of Moujuu made an impression on me, and I liked Issunboushi, so I was quite interested in this movie. For more details on the stories, I refer to their respective reviews.

I can tell you that this movie is not worth a view though. Where to start, where to start? I know it was filmed on a budget and Ishii manages to sneak in one or two nicely done shots, but the film is overall very bland, which is strengthened by the fuzzy visuals (as it was filmed on video tape and not on film). Despite the 'versus' in the title, the two 'monsters' don't actually confront each other, they only fight for screentime. The two stories develop on their own terms in the movie, with only the private detective Akechi being the only link (as he is investigating both crimes). The Moujuu-based part is inferior to the 1969 film, while the Issunboushi part is only interesting because of Rampo's original story, the audiovisual add next to nothing to it. This is certainly not a way to make an adaptation

And the same can be said of Kamaitachi no Yoru ("Night of the Kamaitachi"). This was a two-hour TV special made to promote the release of the videogame Kamaitachi no Yoru 2. I loved the first videogame and the description of the special really piqued my interest. In the original game, a guest is murdered in a ski pension and the survivors aren't able to get help because of a snowstorm. And unless the player solves the murder, more and more people will get killed. In the TV special, a group of fans (who happen to have the same names like the characters) of the videogame Kamaitachi no Yoru gather in a little pension and one of them gets murdered. The survivors aren't able to get help because of a storm. More and more people get killed. Yes, this is meta-fiction. Which actually works well for Kamaitachi no Yoru, as even within the original game itself there are alternate scenarios of the story that delve into meta-realms.

This TV special did manage to recreate the disturbing, suspenseful atmosphere of the original game (as the story continues, everyone gets a bit hysterical) and the meta-humour works quite well actually, but the second half (well, the denouement) is such an unbelievable mess... The fact that the first half was so entertaining made the second half feel even worse. It poses to be an actual, orthodox mystery (like the main storyline of the original game), but ends up with a supernatural explanation for things. Which makes no sense at all (which is pointed out in the special itself (!), but handwaved way). Even as an alternate scenario, this story would rank as the worst. As a promotion for the second game, this is really weird (though it does incorporates elements of Kamaitachi no Yoru 2), as the main storylines of these games are really orthodox detectives. And not supernatural horror stories.

I also finally cleared all scenarios in Kamaitachi no Yoru. There are some great little hidden stories there (not all mystery stories though) and I really should pick up the second game someday. But a fantastic game. I actually like Kamaitachi no Yoru a lot more than the widely praised 999 - Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors, as there is a lot more to do in Kamaitachi. And it's better written, and more interesting and funnier and...

Gosick, written by Sakuraba Kazuki, is one of the few mystery light novels that is also available in English, but for some reason I never got around to it. And then an anime was made of it last year. And for some reason I never got around to it. Which was partly because of the premise. I have watched anime since I was a child, but I. Just. Can't. Get. Into. This. Moe. Stuff. It is really hard for me. With NisiOisiN's Zaregoto series, there's at least fantastic writing (and you are not constantly confronted with moe characters), but the cute little doll-like super-detective Victorique who acts so tsundere with transfer student Kujou? I had doubts about the series ever since I heard about it. The setting, Interbellum Europe, was interesting though and as there are few mystery series with nice visuals (no, I still haven't watched Another) and I had nothing better to do, I finally tried the first three episodes of Gosick, which were based on the first novel of series.

I think I have to give up on this series. The whole Kujou/Victorique angle is hard to handle anyway (so Kujou only wants to protect Victorique... because she is a girl and therefore needs protection? From him... because he is a Japanese man? Ha?!), but if combined with a predictable, boring plot... The story starts with a locked room murder (with the most obvious solution being the right solution) and then a series of murders on a ghost ship, but we've all seen the tricks and stuff in other series before and done much better too. There is absolutely nothing to the plot of these three episodes to surprise you. I suspect that this is not solely a problem of the original story, but I also think that the director of this series isn't used to doing a proper orthodox detective series. Anyway, there was absolutely nothing appealing to me in these three episodes, something I really regret as there are just too few orthodox mystery anime series.

Though the two kings are still doing good. This week brought us news that there will be a new Conan live action special this special (with the same crew as the TV drama series), starring Shinichi and Hattori. On the Kindaichi Shounen side of things, it was announced that Kindaichi Shounen will back to a fixed seralization schedule from March on! Since the restart, the series has been serialized unregularly, with one or two story (10~15 chapters) a year, but from now on it will run regularly again (weekly/monthly?). It's been twelve years since the ending of Kindaichi's serialization, so something to be happy about!

A while back I read Kindaichi Shounen no Suiri Miss ("Young Kindaichi's Deduction Misses"), a little book compiled by the Setagaya Trick Research Club. Like the title suggests, this book looks at the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo series, going over the deductions made by Kindaichi and other utterances made by characters in the stories to see if they are logically correct. Yes, this is a book by fans for fans. Kindaichi Shounen no Suiri Miss collects a great number of short essays, concerning the first 10 volumes of the manga, which means it ends somewhere around the Foreigner Hotel Murder Case (with the Santa and the red chamber). Sounds neat, right? I am actually pretty bad at these kind of logical exercises, but that makes it all the more interesting to see what other people make of it.

Too bad that few of the essays actually concern 'deduction misses young Kindaichi' makes. Most of the essays concern plotholes... on a plotting-level (that is writer Kanari Yozaburou's department) and not on a logical-deductive level (like the title suggests). And I could live with that if not for the fact that about 80% of all these essays concern plotholes that aren't really plotholes and actually a great many of them end on a tone of: 'well, I guess it can be logically handwaved away if you say this or that'. The irony being that it is being handwaved like that in the story (thus negating points raised in the essay to moot) and most of the 'plotholes' aren't even really relevant to the mystery. Which, you would think, be the focal point of such an excersive.

Maybe I should start looking for new reading material....

Original Japanese title(s): 戸川乱歩(原) 『盲獣対一寸法師』 / 『かまいたちの夜』 / 桜庭 一樹 (原)『GOSICK』 / 世田谷トリック研究会 『金田一少年の推理ミス』

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