Wednesday, September 5, 2012


"He would never have had such a thought if he had been kneeling with other men upon a floor. But he saw all men walking about like insects"
"The Hammer of God"

Backlog is reduced to two book reviews. And I don't think the booklog will grow that much the following days, as I have trouble getting through the two books I really have finish before next week as is, so the beast is almost slain!

Besides the usual books, I've already discussed games and movies this month, so now it's time for an audio drama! (I think it's unlikely I will ever use the musical tag again. Unless I go to the Gyakuten Kenji musical by the Takarazuka Revue next year...)

Yaneura no Sanposha ("The Stroller in the Attic") is the third audio drama by Momogre/Kikka based on Arisugawa Alice's Writer Alice / Criminologist Himura series after 48 Banme no Misshitsu and Swiss Dokei no Nazo. I already reviewed the original short story in the past: a night prowler is active in the city of Osaka. His victims are all women and he has the weird tendency of cuttig his victims' hair and taking it with him (No idea why I am seeing this fetish so often lately...). The police has no idea who the maniac is, until they find a connection between this case and the murder of an old landlord. Two points of interest are found in the old man's diary: one is that the man had taken up the same habit like Gouda Saburou in Edogawa Rampo's famous short story The Stroller in the Attic: the landlord used to climb up the attic to peek at his tenants rooms! The second point of interest in the diary is that the landlord also claimed that during one of his attic strolls, he had seen evidence that one of his tenants was the infamous night prowler. The police suspects the man was killed for finding out too much and sees this as a chance to catch the night prowler. The problem: the landlord identified all of his tenants through some kind of code and the police has no idea which of the tenants is the maniac. Criminologist Himura drags along detective writer Arisugawa Alice, as an 'expert' in solving codes.

This was originally a short story, so I was kinda surprised this story was selected for an audio adaptation. In fact, the only reason I can think of is that this story touches very briefly on how Himura and Alice met. And I do mean very briefly. Besides that point, I actually don't think this story was a very wise choice, actually.

At one hand, I did enjoy the original story and it has been made into a faithful audio drama. As a big fan of Edogawa Rampo and the original The Stroller in the Attic, I loved how this story played with similar themes and actually turned it around: in the original story, the titular stroller eventually tries his hand at murder, while in this story, the stroller becomes the victim of one of his viewing objects. It's a surprising subversion of the original story and the code used in the landlord's diary is also strongly connected with Rampo's story, which makes it the much fun. Also, the original story was fairly short, so I was quite surprised to see that the full length of the drama, around fifty minutes, was filled perfectly, without feeling too dragged out, nor too fast-paced.

One thing I thought was a missed chance in the original story, was the fact that there were no alternative solutions proposed. In Ellery Queen's dying message stories, you are often presented several wrong interpretations until the final, right answer is given. I think it would also have been better for this story if multiple interpretations had been explored more thoroughly.

This is a point I had addressed already in my reviews of the earlier Arisugawa Alice audio dramas: some types of stories are just better suited for a purely audio adaptation than other types. And I don't code-cracking stories are particularly fit to solve with just your ears and head. Or at least: I can't decipher a code just listening to the coded items. I really need to see them before my head starts to process them. And I think that the visual plays a large part in this story anyway, as it deals strongly with voyeurism. It is a story that deals with what the reader sees, with the feeling people get from secretly looking at other people, from peeping. It's this subject matter that makes this story feel much more suitable for a visual medium (and I count a novel as a visual medium, to an extent). Or that might be me just nitpicking. Though I really do have to say that I had the same feeling too when I listened to an audio adaptation of Rampo's The Stroller in the Attic.

There are stories where misunderstanding (mis-hearing something) plays a large part, and then I think an audio-drama would be perfect. There are probably codes cracking stories that probably work better if you actually hear them, but few mysteries nowadays are actually written to be heard, so that explains why a lot of codes are in fact more visually-focused, I think.

It seems that Momogre/Kikka has already a new Arisugawa Alice audio adaptation (alliteration, engage!) scheduled for next month of a story I haven't read yet, so kinda looking forward to that!

Original Japanese title(s): モモグレ (原:有栖川有栖) 『屋根裏の散歩者』

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