Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Am Misanthropos

 『忘れ咲き』 (Garnet Crow)

On nights when loneliness and weakness advance on me, these feelings bloom again
"Wasurezaki" (Garnet Crow)

A True Story: most of the reviews posted between the first of April and... July were written in the two last days of March. I have written and squeezed in a few reviews in the schedule after my sudden writing binge back then, but most of the reviews had to wait a long time, or still have to wait for publication. Today's review in particular has had it rough: I have delayed this post at least three times! I have also rewritten this introduction at least four times!

Otsukotsu Sanshirou invites his fellow university professor Shiina Hajime for a short trip to Shinshuu, seeing the latter seems a bit on edge lately. They have a pleasant stay at a small inn run by Yumi and her uncle. But all the pleasantness might just be an illusion, because Shiina suspects the people of the inn are desperately trying to conceal the fact one more person is present at the inn. And there's more: Otsukotsu and Shiina also see a mysterious, yet beautiful young man standing near the inn, with frightening, deadly eyes. The one comfort Shiina has is that his old friend Kindaichi Kousuke, the famous private detective, also happens to be staying in the neighbourhood. And then one night, Otsukotsu and Shiina are awakened by Yumi's scream, who was attacked by the mysterious young man Otsukotsu and Shiina had seen; her uncle didn't survive the attack. She reveals a shocking truth about Shinjurou, the young man, who had been brought up by her twisted, revenge-filled uncle as a cruel murderer. Shinjurou however has escaped and gone wild, and thirsty for more blood in the TV adaptation of Yokomizo Seishi's Shinjurou.

Shinjurou is a four part serial in the TV series Yokomizo Seishi II, which was based on the Kindaichi Kousuke novels. It starred Furuya Ikkou as the shoddy detective, giving his own unique interpretation of the character: Ishizaka Kouji may have given the definitive version of Kindaichi Kousuke in the Ichikawa Kon directed movies, but Furuya Ikkou's Kindaichi was also highly enjoyable, and Furuya is also the actor who has played Kindaichi most often, and over the longest time of period (first with the two original Yokomizo Seishi series in 1977-78, and then irregularly in the Great Detective Kindaichi Kousuke series from 1983-2005).


As a story, Shinjurou is what you'd expect from a Yokomizo Seishi. It's a parade of familiar tropes, from creepy old women to murders commited in caves, from the decapitations to dark, twisted family secrets and relations, from the setting in a small village somewhere (though the story does move to Tokyo) to pretty much every woman appearing in the story being beautiful, there's little surprising here if you have read more Yokomizo Seishi. But the story-elements are strung together nicely and I actually quite enjoyed the show, even if I had a sense of deja vu.

The story does feel a bit different from other Kindaichi Kousuke stories, in the sense we're following the mad murderer Shinjurou, instead of doing a 'normal' murder investigation. In that sense, this story is a bit closer to Edogawa Rampo stories, which often featured highly 'visible' murderers who carried whole novels on their own through their heineous crimes, like the Black Lizard, the Blind Beast, the Golden Mask, the Human Panther, the Space Monster (another reason why I think Rampo's Shounen Tantei Dan should do a crossover with Scooby-Doo!).

The funny thing though, the original novel of Shinjurou does not actually feature Kindaichi Kousuke. Shinjurou was published originally in 1936-1937, ten years before Kindaichi Kousuke would make his first appearance in Honjin Satsujin Jiken. Instead, he novel starred the amateur detective Yuri Rintarou, whom I have previously met in the excellent Chouchou Satsujin Jiken: Yuri however has disappeared from the minds of most readers, as Yokomizo Seishi's later novels, starring Kindaichi Kousuke, were much more popular, and now poor Yuri's even written out of his own adventures! (I am still waiting for that story where Kindaichi Kousuke is killed and the murderer is revealed to be the jealous and revenge-filled Yuri Rintarou. Both played by Ishizaka Kouji). A bit of the opposite of what's happening with Miss Marple lately, who is showing up in stories that really shouldn't be her business.

I am not sure how much the TV adaptation differs from the original, but I suspect it's fairly faithful, which means that the character of Yuri Rintarou already appeared in what I consider Kindaichi Kousuke-esque stories: why didn't Yuri turn out to be a national symbol of detective fiction instead of his little brother?

In short, an okay Yokomizo Seishi story, no matter who the detective is. It does feel a bit like a lot of other Yokomizo later works, but it's actually one of his earlier stories and not bad at all.

Original Japanese title(s): 横溝正史 (原)  『横溝正史シリーズII: 真珠郎』

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