Friday, August 10, 2012

"Poirot, you really can't do that. It's not playing the game"


"My hobby is peeking inside other people's refrigerators. The contents of a refrigerator reflect its owner's lifestyle and character"
"Refrigerator Detective" 1

Note to self: it is not possible to reproduce all recipes that appear in gourmet manga in real life. Sure, quite some of my cooking actually comes from manga, but I even I could have guessed that a gigantic big bang shumai is not likely to be made in real life. At least not by me. Ah well, another lesson learned...

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I quite like writing about food (how many mystery detective fiction focused blogs have a food tag?).  Having changed my blog into the detective fiction focused blog it currently is, I don't get to write about food that often lately sadly enough. Of course, it's my blog, so I could just bend the rules... If I would do that, I would for example write about Kyoto ramen. The soup seems traditionally to be very thick (kotteri), with (almost surprising) a lot of them being based on chicken. Due to the thickness of the soup, I really don't eat Kyoto ramen that often as it's just too heavy on the stomach. And the noodles themselves ar.... But let's drop this topic for now.

Anyway, food. So when I saw a manga with the interesting title Reizouko Tantei ("Refrigerator Detective"), I just had to pick it up. Because it is probably related to food, right? And detective fiction plus food sounds like a match made in heaven to me! The premise sounded interesting at any rate: protagonist Reiko started her catering company not only to well, have an income, but also because she has a strange hobby. She likes peeking inside other people's refrigerators. Her idea is that you can read people's personality and way of living through that. And she speaks out of experience: if she had checked her own refrigerator better in the past, she would noticed her boyfriend cheating on her a lot earlier. Now she uses her 'profiling' powers to help the police in little cases.

Let's ignore the fact that peeking inside your customers' refrigerators to see how they live is kinda rude. Especially if you're doing it even before a case has happened.

So, like I said, the basic premise is interesting, but to be honest, the first volume quickly showed that it was also a bit too narrow. Most cases resembled each other quite a lot. The cases in Reizouko Tantei are usually not about murder, but about connected lives (of friends, family) slowly drifting apart. The evidence for that is to be found in the refrigerator. A refrigerator with little ingredients is probably used by a person who doesn't often cook at home, while a sweet desert in the refrigerator of a man who doesn't like sweets might indicate a woman in his life. And yes, Reizouko Tantei is mostly a daily life mystery manga (though it does occasionally address murder).

One problem with the story-telling of this manga however is that the reader is never actually shown the contents of the refrigerators until Reiko starts reporting her profiling! Reiko is the only one to peek inside and come up with deductions, while the reader is forced to only nod at Reiko's story. Which makes it a very boring detective manga. I mean, I don't really like daily life mysteries anyway, but at least give me the chance to do something here. Because the stories themselves are not particularly original or shocking.

The art is also very, very generic. The characters don't look bad, but they are certainly also not particularly memorable. Or maybe it's better to say that they're not memorable at all. Their images don't even come up in my mind as I write this. What's even worse is that the food isn't drawn that nice actually! I might be a bit 'spoiled' by reading gourmet manga (where food naturally is a big element of the art and it usually looks quite tasty!) and yes, I am aware that food inside the refrigerator is usually not... prepared yet and often still in packages / wrappings / etc, but even considering that, the lack of details in the art of the food is very disappointing.

Though I guess I wasn't the only one disappointed in the series. After reading the first volume, I discovered that Reizouko Tantei stopped with the third volume, so yeah, it was killed off quite early (luckily?).

So the conclusion? Read Kuitan. The premise might be a bit different, focusing more on prepared food and be a bit more technical rather than the psychological profiling of Reizouko Tantei (incorporating knowledge of food preparation and even chemical workings of ingredients), but it's more fun, a bit more fair (if you know about food) and the food actually looks good. Which is not too surprising as Terasawa Daisuke is formally known for gourmet manga like Mister Ajikko.

By the way, a peek in my refrigerator now would probably result in a reaction like 'why is he hoarding grapefruit juice?'.

Original Japanese title(s): 遠藤彩見(原) 佐藤いづみ(画)(『冷蔵庫探偵』第1巻

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