Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Hunting We Will Go

「キャンプ キャンプ またキャンプ 今日もキャンプ あさっても」
『キャンプの歌』 (『名探偵コナン』より)

"Camp! Camp!  Camp Again! Today's camp and tomorrow too!"
"The Camp Song" (from "Detective Conan")

I think I've only gone camping just once, near the end of elementary school. All my other 'experience' with camping is derived from seeing it in detective fiction. And for some reason, something always happens. The most ridiculous happening? A volcano eruption.

Detective Boys Conan, Ayumi, Genta, Mitsuhiko, Ai and professor Agasa are on their way back from a short camping holiday in the Yamanashi prefecture (the former Kai/Koushuu Province), when the professor's Beetle breaks down. And what's worse, the professor strains his ankle as they were walking down the road. Luckily, the kids and the professor manage to get a lift to Kurofuchi Village, to the Kubo Inn. The Kubo Inn was once a popular inn with a hot spring, but the spring dried up some years ago and business has been bad since. The group decide to stay here for a day so the professor can recover. The children are told about the legend of the famous warlord Takeda Shingen having buried a treasure somewhere in the mountains near Kurofuchi Village many centuries ago, and try their own hand at some treasure hunting, but things go wrong when the girls Ayumi and Ai get hold of a crucial hint, and are kidnapped by two suspicious men (← of course, kidnapping little girls is kinda suspicious). Can Conan, Genta and Mitsuhiko save the girls and find Shingen's legendary treasure in the novel Meitantei Conan - Koushuu Maizoukin Densetsu ("Detective Conan: The Legend of the Hidden Koushuu Treasure")?

Koushuu Maizoukin Densetsu (2005) was the first of three original novels based on the Detective Conan series: later years would bring novelisations of the live action drama series of Conan, but no more original novels. This first novel in the series was written, and illustrated by Tani Yutaka, one of Conan's creator Aoyama Goushou's assistants and this book marks Tani's own debut as a writer.

And I can't describe this book but as 'a run-of-the-mill Detective Boys story'. Which is good, I think. And bad? It certainly has all the elements you'd also see in a Detective Boys story in the main series: the kids on camp, accidently stranding somewhere, hunt for treasure, a coded message... There have been dozens of Detective Boys stories ever since the start of the Detective Conan series 20 years ago that also feature these tropes, and to be honest, they're usually also more fun. Koushuu Maizoukin Densetsu is a rather uninspired version of the familiar story pattern, as the main mystery isn't that exciting. At least in the main series, the mysteries are usually of a higher quality.

The main mystery revolves around a code that leads to the buried treasure of Takeda Shingen, but as this novel is obviously meant for children, the code isn't very difficult to solve. I do like that, even though the code does require information probably not commonly known by children, enough relevant background information is given throughout the text, so it's perfectly possible for the intended readers of this book to solve the code by themselves (with some hints given by Conan). I have the feeling the codes in the main series are a lot more difficult, even if it's a story involving the Detective Boys (the infamous Desperate Revival story in volume 25, for example), so while it's actually solvable this time, it might seem a bit too easy.

The story does a good job at recreating the atmosphere of the main series, again by using the familiar tropes, but because of that, it's also very easy to compare Koushuu Maizoukin Densetsu to similar stories and it becomes clear very fast that this is nothing more than a mediocre story. And because Detective Conan is originally a comic series, I am tempted to ask the question, what does it add to the experience of this being a normal novel, instead of being in the comic book format? I'd say nothing, and even say that I'd much prefered it to have read this story as a comic. With some of the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo novels, I at least understand that motives to tend get a bit more gruesome compared to the original comic series, so those stories couldn't appear in as a serialized series in Shounen Magazine. But with Koushuu Maizoukin Densetsu, there are no real benefits to it being a novel instead of a comic.

And then it hit me. This is like a Famous Five novel. I quite liked the Famous Five actually. The books should be lying here somewhere...

It's been many years since I read the other Conan novels, but I think I quite liked the third novel, The Ejinbara Witch. I guess this might these books might be fun for kids, but if you think about it, the comic version is actually much easier to read, and more fun too, so I don't really see the added value of the novels, if the mystery plot isn't particularly strong. And as a standalone story, Meitantei Conan - Koushuu Maizoukin Densetsu, definitely isn't impressive.

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌 (原), 谷豊 (小説、画) 『名探偵コナン 甲州埋蔵金伝説』

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