Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Wrong Shape

ちりばめられた嘘 本当は見抜いていた
パズルみたい もうだめ 全然ハマらない
「パズル」 (倉木麻衣)

The widespread lies, I had already seen through them
Like a puzzle gone wrong, we don't fit together at all
Puzzle (Kuraki Mai)

I think I once read that jigsaw puzzles coupled with detective stories were a thing back in the 1920s~1930s, but I can't remember where I read that. Heck, it might be just something I remembered incorrectly (-> very possible). Anyway, today is one of the rare recent jigsaw puzzle and detective story releases.

Benjamin Eddyworth was once a renowned professor on the brain and he in particular was interested in the recognition process of the human mind. Normally, man memorizes all he has seen in a simplified matter, but Eddyworth's theory of the 'mirror world' poses that certain people might memorize everything they have seen 'as is'. He died without the recognition of his peers however and Eddyworth left his vast fortune to his adopted daughter and his brother. The brother is given some puzzle pieces and is told that if he wishes to get the money, he needs to cooperate with his niece (who isn't able to talk). Hoping to cut the middle man girl and get hold of all of the money himself, the brother hires two private detectives to help find the remaing puzzle pieces and solve the message within in the Kyoto University Mystery Club's Kagami no Kuni no Juunintachi ("People of the Mirror World").

Some might raise an eyebrow seeing the name Kyoto University Mystery Club. Isn't that the club where writers like Ayatsuji Yukito, Abiko Takemaru, Norizuki Rintarou, Van Madoy and Morikawa Tomoki, amongst others, come from? Isn't that the club I was a member of during my year at Kyoto University? Yes, and yes. And that's the reason I bought the puzzle.

For I saw a big part of the early creation process behind Kagami no Kuni no Juunintachi from the sidelines, which was released in 2013. It was a project brought to the club by Small Shuppan (Small Publishing), who wanted to release a mystery-themed jigsaw puzzle: the puzzle would be shipped together with a novelette, and the puzzle would serve as a crucial clue to the detective story. In the end, one of the more prolific members of the club decided to take on the project and did most of the work (though every version of the text was looked through and edited by members of the club too, as I think I saw new versions lying in the club room every time I went there). Anyway, that's why the author is credited as the Kyoto University Mystery Club.

Kagami no Kuni no Juunintachi ships in a box with a 300 piece puzzle, a novelette (and some glue). You're supposed to read the novelette up until the Challenge to the Reader, try your hand at the puzzle (there's a clue hidden within) and then see if you're right.

Overall, I think the idea is more fun than the execution though. It's not bad, but the novelette for example is just a softcover booklet with staples in the spine, as if it was just an afterthought. The puzzle itself is... probably alright in terms of difficulty, but the picture is whaley...and wavey....and blue and absolutely boring to make. The accompanying detective story accomplishes what it should do in the limited amount of pages, but the instructions for the puzzle are kinda vague (you're supposed to pick a certain amount of pieces out and figure out something with them). I wasn't able to solve the detective story, but I felt that was more because the exact rules of the game weren't explained to me, rather than me losing at a fair game.

I like the idea of presenting detective stories in new ways though. The way we handle books hasn't changed much since modern times (post-industralization), but that doesn't mean the detective story has to stay the same. Combining stories with objects outside of the book is of course just one idea. 'Traditional' fans of the detective genre miss a lot in the field of videogames, I think, because one can find quite a few interesting game mechanics combined with good detective stories (the choose-your-own-adventure detective which is Kamaitachi no Yoru, or the zapping system in Kamaitachi no Yoru X3 for example). The Professor Layton games tend to go a bit too far with that (with everything reminding the good professor of a puzzle), but can be done quite well.

Kagami no Kuni no Juunintachi is mostly fun for those who seek that niche fix of jigsaw puzzle and detective stories, but as it is, I don't think it's strong enough to really just recommend to detective readers. And I am not very knowledgeable on jigsaw puzzles, so I have no idea whether this was a good one or not.

Oh, and note that on this blog, both the tags Kyoto University Mystery Club and Mystery Club usually refer to the same: the former is just a lot longer and I can only use 200 characters for the tags for each post...

Original Japanese title(s): 京都大学推理諸説研究会 『推理小説 X ジグソーパズル 鏡の国の住人たち』


  1. Hello,

    do you know which detective is featured in Detective Conan Volume 85?

    1. The volume won't be released until late December...

    2. but the wiki says it was released on the 18th :/

    3. Dunno about any wiki, but all the bookstores /and/ the official Conan website of publisher Shogakukan say the release date is December 18. Pretty sure that Shogakukan knows when it releases its own books.