Saturday, December 28, 2013

Turnabout Memories - Part 3

"I have to go over everything that's happened. I have to remember"
Another Code R: Journey into Lost Memories

Like last year, a list post. Because that's what blogs are supposed to do, or something like that. While I posted less on this blog this year, I only worked harder than ever on mystery fiction, because my MA thesis was about the New Authentic movement of Japanese detective fiction. Which was also why I was in Kyoto (and more specifically, the Kyoto University Mystery Club) last year; the gather material. Ah, Jukkakukan no Satsujin, 8 no Satsujin, Mippei Misshitsu and Gekkou Game, the many hours Ive spent with you lot.... And also writing about Van Dine and Knox' rules, about tropes in detective ficton.....  All things I had planned to do ever since I entered the faculty, so that was fun (note: it was only fun in the preparation period and after I had actually written it. The writing process itself was... hard work, but I also discovered that I can write amazing amounts of not entirely crazy text in little time). I also learned the valuable lesson that combining your hobby/interest with a thesis can lead to a bit of stress, because it also means that leisure time will always be partly work time.

But anyway, lists and mentions and stuff! Because it's the end of the year!

Best Project On The Blog!
Reviewing all of the early Ellery Queen novels was something I wanted to do for a long time (if only because now I can link to a review whenever I refer to one of them), but I finally got to it. And I actually think they turned out quite well (I definitely worked harder on them than with my usual reviews), but for some reason these posts didn't attract as many views as I had expected (I had at least expected them do better than my reviews of untranslated Japanese novels...).

The Roman Hat Mystery
The French Powder Mystery
The Dutch Shoe Mystery
The Greek Coffin Mystery
The Egyptian Cross Mystery
The American Gun Mystery
The Siamese Twin Mystery
The Chinese Orange Mystery
The Spanish Cape Mystery

Best Project Outside the Blog!
Writing a guess-the-criminal script

Guess-the-criminal stories are one of the main activities of the Kyoto University Mystery Club and indeed, most of the authors who originate from the club were active writers of such scripts. So when I had the chance to write a script just before I was leaving Japan, I said I would. And then I had problems with coming up with a plot. And writing in Japanese. Especially writing in Japanese. It's kinda weird to think that the very first piece of fiction I've ever written, was in Japanese...

But it went okay-ish, actually, and I was also able to fullfil a promise I had made to someone several years ago by writing that story, so that was good. Since then I've actually developed the habit of writing detective fiction occassionally. But I don't post them here because I write them in Japanese...

Oh, and maybe this is a good time to tell about that short story I translated, which will be published in 2014.... but let's wait a bit with that.

Most Difficult Novel To Review In 2013! Or: The Review That Made Me Question My Sanity
Dogura Magura (Yumeno Kyuusaku)


Most Surprising Tricks Encountered in 2013!
Tokeikan no Satsujin (The Clock House Murders) (Ayatsuji Yukito)

Okay, I technically read this one in 2012, but because I had read it after the list of last year, I consider something read this year. And this one deserves a mention. After a strange trip with Ningyoukan no Satsujin, Ayatsuji returned to the roots of the series with Tokeikan no Satsujin, which features a grand trick that borders on the demonical. It seems solvable and you'll probably come close, but there always remain some problems that make it seem impossible after all, until Shimada Kiyoshi explains the magic behind it.

'Kaiki Tsukiji Hotel Kan' (The Tsukiji Hotel Ghost Story) (Yamada Fuutarou)

The first mystery after a lengthy prologue in Yamada's Meiji Dantoudai and what a treat! The trick screams Meiji-period, but that is what makes it so great. This is the way to do a historical mystery!

Best Article on Ramen in 2013!
Kyoto's Ramen Street

Okay, so I only wrote two posts on ramen this year, and one of them was about a short detective story collection about ramen, so I admit there wasn't much competition for this one, but I doubt I'll ever make such a comprehensive article about ramen restaurants here again. Then again, I certainly wouldn't mind making another one.

Most surprising Scooby Doo! of 2013!
Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated

I just wanted to mention the series. There.

Most Interesting Lead of 2013!
Shinoda Masashi (Friday) (In: Machi ~Unmei no Kousaten~ (City ~ Crossroad of Fates~))

The evil great detective Sanzunokawa Kotowari was an interesting discovery, who uses his analytical mind for evil, and the unlikely pair of Kobato and Osanai (who only do daily life mysteries) and the Father Brown-esque A Aiichirou made quite an impression too but I had the most fun with Machi's Masashi (Friday). He isn't really a detective, but he is constantly forced into situations that require quick thinking, and by the end of the story, he shows that his powers of reasoning actually aren't that bad. What's most impressive is his amazing ability to adapt really quickly to any situation. Sure, he is a bit confused at first when he's blackmailed into entering a suspicious blackmailing organization (who wouldn't?), but he quickly picks up the tricks of the trade and even more, and by the end of the game... Masashi's still the simple self he was at the beginning of the story, just a little bit wiser and experienced. That's also what makes Masashi so memorable: he messes up (often), but we actually see him learn from that, and the gap between his 'normal' self and his 'awakened' self, on full throttle, using everything he heard and saw just the last few days and outsmarting people who have been in the trade for years, is just amazing. 

Best deductions seen in 2013!
Kyomu he no Kumotsu (Offerings to Nothingness) (Nakai Hideo)

An unlucky year for Berkeley. Normally, I'd be now talking about how The Poisoned Chocolates Case shows the unlimited potential of the human imagination and deduction.... but the range of the deductions there don't even come close to what Nakai Hideo did in Kyomu he no Kumotsu. You will be overwhelmed by deductions, you will drown in them and in the end you'll be left... with nothing. Kyomu he no Kumotsu is a fantastic mystery, and anti-mystery at the same time.

Honorable mention: Jooukoku no Shiro (The Castle of the Queendom) (Arisugawa Alice): in the world of normal deductions, you'd be king. Or queen. Of the year.

Most Interesting Game. Played in 2013 But Probably Older!
Super Danganronpa 2 - Farewell Academy of Despair

This was a fairly easy win for Super Danganronpa 2. Games like Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru and Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silver Earring were disappointing, while The Testament of Sherlock Holmes and Detective Conan - Marionette Symphony had their high points, but also their share of problems. Super Danganronpa 2 on the other hand improved on all aspects of the original game; the story was much better (also on a meta-level) and the mysteries were much, much better. It's also the reason why I enjoyed it even better than my long awaited Gyakuten Saiban 5, a good game on its own, but less innovating in terms of story and plot.

And a special mention for Machi ~Unmei no Kousaten~ which isn't a detective game (well, it is one partially), but definitely one of the best games ever.

(Other non-detective games I enjoyed this year: Time Travelers, Luigi's Mansion 2, Attack of the Friday MonstersPokémon X/Y, Batman: Arkham Asylum.

And finally, just a list.

 The Just-Ten-In-No-Particular-Order-No-Comments List:

And this is the last post of the year. But with Sherlock starting on the first day of the new year, I guess it shouldn't take long for me to resume posting again.

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