Monday, April 1, 2013

Murder in Three Acts

「好き好き大好き 好き好き大好き
好き好き大好き 愛しているって言わなきゃ殺す」

"I love you, I love you, I really love you 
I love you, I love you, I really love you
I love you, I love you, I really love you
If you don't say I love you, I'll kill you"

My first encounter with Abiko Takemaru was probably with the fun Tantei Eiga, but I mostly associate him with games. He is strongly connected with Kamaitachi no Yoru and Trick X Logic, excellent detective games and while not a detective game per se, I have been having a bit of fun with his newest game. Besides the above, I've read his Hayami siblings series, which is a light-hearted, orthodox detective series which usually goes through the familiar and loved motions, but occasoinally has trouble really setting it apart from the crowd. At any rate, these works of his all feature a humorous tone to them, which is why I always associated Abiko with humor. Which might have been wrong.

Abiko Takemaru's 1992 novel Satsuriku ni Itaru Yamai ("Illness Into Massacre") starts with the arrest of Gamou Minoru, a serial killer who had been killing and raping women (in that specific order) in Tokyo. Like the famous Jack the Ripper case, this serial killer also had the nasty habit of cutting off breasts and other body parts from his victims. The story then rewinds and we are told how this horrible case started from the viewpoints of three people: Minoru, the serial killer who has finally found 'true' love by embracing necrophilia; Masako, who lately has started to suspect her son from being the infamous serial killer and Higuchi, an elderly ex-cop, who lost a friend to the serial killer and wishes to find the murderer.

First thing that has to be mentioned: the text can be quite graphic at times. Really graphic. In fact, I really do wonder why it is so graphic. It only seems to be there for the shock-factor. I mean, OK, we have a necrophiliac murderer, so it is already a bit nastier than your regular serial murder mystery, but you really don't have to go into every detail of how and when and especially how. I get it's a horrible murder without pages on how Minoru is getting sexually aroused and how he did this and that to his victims. It's something completely different from the actions we seen taken by romantically clumsy protagonists of Kamaitachi no Yoru and the Hayami siblings series!

Written several years after the infamous little girl murder case (where Miyazaki Tsutomu killed several young girls and sexually abused / ate parts of their corpses), Satsuriku ni itaru Yamai touches upon sensitive parts of the society at the time. And I won't go into that in detail, because I figure there are probably reviews out there that discuss that better than I could and there is probably a lot of material out there that are more informative on the issues of families growing apart, the father as a male role model to the son, etcetera etcetera, but for those interested in the topic, you might want to check out Satsuriku ni itaru Yamai and vice versa.

So is there value in reading Satsuriku ni itaru Yamai, besides the graphic descriptions of the murders? Yes, and no. If you can make it through the murders and manage to get into the tales of the psychopathic Minoru, the paranoid mom and the self-blaming Higuchi, then you'll be served a neat surprise at the end of the story. At the end. After going through all the gory and disturbing murders. It is a fun thing Abiko did here in regards of the plot (though, strictly speaking, it seems to serve no other real function than just being a surprise aimed at the reader), but people might give up halfway through the story, never reaching that special moment. Of course, if you're into slash-horror, than you'll have no problem with the novel and than it's definitely a great read, but don't expect clean blows with blunt instruments and polite, dandy suspects in a country house.

Satsuriku ni itaru Yamai is often counted as one of Abiko Takemaru's best, if not his best novel, which probably depends heavily on your taste in mystery novels. I defintiely like the classic 8 no Satsujin a lot better than this novel,  though it definitely is a memorable one, even if mostly for the gore.

Original Japanese title(s): 我孫子武丸 『殺戮にいたる病』


  1. I never could have imagined Abiko Takemaru writing something like this. My first encounter with his work was the video game Banshee's Last Cry (Kamaitachi no Yoru). There were actually two circumstances that led me to this book: 1) Still waiting on Amazon order of 8 Mansion Murder to arrive (congrats again on your translation!), so I figured why not look up another book of his that's available in Chinese.

    2) The second circumstance came from an entertaining discussion with my forum community friends a few weeks ago: "Name a favorite detective story with the biggest surprise ending caused by a single sentence spoken" ---- different titles were suggested, but this book got overwhelming votes.

    Now, having read it, my thoughts pretty much mirrors your review. I'd even hesitate to call it a detective story in the traditional sense (the entire setup felt like it was solely for that moment you mentioned)....but yes, in terms of explicit content, yea, most normal stories wouldn't even come close to what this one does. So from a purely historical viewpoint, I guess I finally read one of his more well-known and (in)famous works.

    1. Even now I find it a really odd work within Abiko's oeuvre. Not that I have read so much by him, but still, he's usually known for his comedic tone, so yeah, I too had never expected something as graphic like this. It has left an impact though, as I do think it ranks among the best known of Abiko's work.

      If you'd for example compare to The Decagon House Murders: that also includes a twist, but everything before it is also a traditional mystery story with detecting and stuff. With this novel, you really feel like you're just reading a thriller, that also happens to have a neat twist.