Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lonely Goodbye


"Is it alright if I love you?"
"Kawaramachi Revoir"

I've lived for extended periods of time in Japan thrice, and I always get a bit excited whenever I see familiar locations in detective fiction. Big was my surprise when I saw the Tokyo suburb Ekoda in a game, for example. And Matsumoto Seichou's Ten to Sen (Points and Lines) is not just a fun detective story, but the first half is set exactly in the neighourhood I lived in when I was in Fukuoka (Nishimura Ken's Hakata Detective Case Files is also set in Fukuoka by the way). On the other hand, I see 'my' Kyoto neighbourhood quite often when I read detective novels, because a lot of the books I read are written by people who studied in Kyoto, and the two major universities that deal with detective fiction are located quite near each other. The main location of today's book was within my daily living radius: I could actually see the Takano river the moment I stepped out.

Revoir series
Marutamachi Revoir
Karasuma Revoir
Imadegawa Revoir
Kawaramachi Revoir 

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. From the northern mountains that surround Kyoto, run the Kamo River and Takano River. They join up in the main Kamo River stream, which runs from north to south, right across Kyoto. This blue dragon has been a symbol of Kyoto for as long as people can remember, and its riverbanks are still among the most popular places in the city. The Kamo River Delta, where it splits into the western Kamo River, and eastern Takano river, is also always brimming with people. Except on rainy days. It is not known why Tatsuki Rakka was meeting with her long-lost brother Yamato on the delta that fateful day in the first pages of Van Madoy's Kawaramachi Revoir, but we do know that Rakka was swept away by the river flood and found hours later. Like her name says, she was dead like a fallen blossom. Rakka's sister Nadeshiko decides to get justice done by accusing her brother Yamato of murder not in a court of law, but in the Gathering of the Twin Dragons, an ancient private court with absolute power within the city of Kyoto. However, has Nadeshiko even a ghost of chance against her former boyfriend Rongo, who has gone over to the defense, and the power of the organization behind the Gathering, which seems to be involved in Rakka's murder too?

Kawaramachi Revoir is the final chapter in Van Madoy's Revoir series, which has been a fantastic courtroom mystery series (all named after streets in Kyoto). Marutamachi Revoir introduced us first to the Gathering of the Twin Dragons, a private court where the Yellow Dragon (prosecution) and Blue Dragon (defense) fight for their client's interests. The twist was that because this was a private trial, the Dragons had much more freedom in comparison to a court of law: one could pose the most outrageous and fantastic theories and even use forged evidence, as long as you could convince the judge, and the rival Dragon wouldn't prove you wrong /  a cheater. As such, Gatherings of the Twin Dragons were in fact high-level, high-speed deduction battles, where Dragons would try to twist the evidence and facts constantly to suit their goals. Add in the fact that the series had some really charismatic Dragons, like Rakka who could conjure up evidence from nowhere, Rongo with his meandering deductions, or Tatsuya's pure logic, and you can understand why I love this series. Each entry also did something completely different (Marutamachi introduced the trial, Karasuma focused on the investigation, Imadegawa was about gambling), so the series never got stale. And now, the final chapter.

Which begins quite shocking. I knew I wanted to read Kawaramachi Revoir, so I never bothered to read descriptions of the story before I purchased the book, but to think that Rakka, one of the pivotal characters of the series, would be killed within the first few pages of the book! (It's actually also in the description on the back of the book, so it's not really a spoiler). The rest of the story feels a bit similar to Marutamachi Revoir, as this story too is split into a distinctive investigation and trial part, with all of the action being focused in the trial part (but with plenty of hints hidden in the investigation part). The murder on Rakka seems like a simple case at first, but the imagination of both Dragons bring the case to unforseeable places, which is always the best part of the series (as it's not a court of law, a Dragon's first weapon of choice is a plausible/possible theory, not evidence).

The main trick of the book is something fairly daring, something I have never seen before in a novel. I did think it felt a bit strange, when I caught the first glimpses / hints of the trick, but I was never really able to grasp the whole picture, so when all is explained at the end and all those times I thought "?!" suddenly made sense, that was fantastic. I think that my reaction to the trick was not one of sheer surprise, but more one of delight: to think this was pulled off! It might be a trick better suited for a different medium (games for example), because it does feel a bit strange as you read the book, but it certainly is one to remember. You probably do need a certain mindset to 'get' into the trick though, I think.

Oh, and it was quite interesting to follow Nadeshiko this time. I only noticed it now, but each of the Revoir books not only focused on a different aspect of story, but also featured different protagonists: Marutamachi was Rongo's story, Karasuma showed us more of lively Mitsuru, Imadegawa dealt with Tatsuya's past and revenge, and Kawaramachi is about Nadeshiko dealing with the loss of her sister, as well as having to fight against her own brother and ex-boyfriend. Yet the series does feel like one whole, despite switching protagonists all the time.

Is Kawaramachi Revoir only getting praise? Yes, and no. Kawaramachi Revoir forms a great conclusion to the series, as it brings together a lot of loose threads of plot left in the previous three novels to construct a grand finale. There is even a game-like Final Boss character and by the end of the book, you really feel like it's finally over. But, Kawaramachi Revoir is absolutely incomprehensible if you haven't read the previous books: characters pop up without any introduction, references to past events are constantly made and even smaller details from the previous books prove to be of importance here. I have read the series in order (which is also highly recommended, but because it's been a while since I last read the books, I too had trouble remembering who that one person was, or what that person did in the previous book. Kawaramachi Revoir is fun, but only makes sense in the context of the series.

All in all, I really enjoyed Kawaramachi Revoir as the finale to a great series. People interested in 'special' courtroom mysteries (like Gyakuten Saiban / Ace Attorney) should definitely take a look, but also people who simply enjoy crazy deduction battles. You do need to read the previous three novels to really get Kawaramachi Revoir, but considering they're all fun, that shouldn't be a problem.

Original Japanese title(s): 円居挽 『河原町ルヴォワール』


  1. To your knowledge, do you know if any books of this series has been translated to Chinese? I'm assuming not as I couldn't find any after some search on the net...

    1. I don't think the series has been published in Chinese: I've only heard Madoy mention a Korean translation of the first book.