Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Full Score of Fear

Because the fire is right there in your voice
Listen to it, oh listen to it...
The vision of your own dreams
You might see it through
It's in your voice...
"In Your Voice" (Nadia Gifford), "Steambot Chronicles"

I don't have a e-reader, but because I play extensively on my Nintendo 3DS anyway, I figured I might as well try out the application Honto for Nintendo 3DS.And that's what I used to read today's book.

Yurin is a high school freshman, who miraculously passed the audition for the role of little sister of the heroine of the animated film GIN. She will debut as a voice actress among veteran and popular voice actors like Fujimiya Yuu, the tall and handsome voice actor behind the protagonist of the film, and Takase Haruna, who will play Yurin's big sister. By the time Yurin has gotten used to the idea she's really going to be a voice actress, it is already time for the post recording (like with a lot of Japanese animation, recording is done after (most of) the animation has been produced). As a complete amateur, with no experience whatsoever in the acting world, Yurin's nerves are going wild on the first day, but that's nothing compared to the shock she has when she discovers the sound director knocked out in a studio recording booth which is locked from the inside. The director is just unconcious, luckily, but the police has no idea who the assaillant could have left the locked recording booth. And the next day, a real murder happens in the control room of the recording booth. It is said that GIN is cursed and that other adaptations of the original material, like a live action series, were also troubled by strange events. Yurin however suspects that a human hand is behind these attacks and tries to find out who's behind it all in Yoshimura Reina's Seiyuu Tantei Yurin no Jikenbo - Afureko Sutajio no Yuurei ("The Case Files of Voice Actress Detective Yurin - The Phantom of the Post Recording Studio").

And yes, the cover might make it seem like a comic, especially as it is illustrated by the comic artist Miasa Rin (AKB0048: Episode 0, amongst others), but it really is a novel. It features some more illustrations inside.

I once wrote a post on unlikely amateur detectives, and I'd definitely say that a voice actress detective is an unlikely amateur detective. I was instantly sold on just the name of this book, because it seemed so utterly ridiculous that a voice actress (and high school freshman!) would be a detective. And it is! I have read / seen some detective stories with voice acting / recording as a theme: John Dickson Carr's 13 to the Gallows for example, but Ellery Queen too has solved crimes commited during the recording of radio dramas in both an actual radio drama as well as a TV episode. But a voice actor as a detective? It was at least an original idea.

Those not familiar with Japanese animation might not know that voice acting in animation/games/related genres is actually quite big in Japan: popular voice actors sometimes release music, do radio programs and their name alone can attract viewers (listeners?) to new series. The author of Seiyuu Tantei Yurin no Jikenbo - Afureko Sutajio no Yuurei, Yoshimura Reina, is actually a voice actress herself and her experiences are the best part of the novel. Yoshimura gives the reader a peek in the recording process of an animated film in an accessible way. From the practice sentences for voice training to how a regular post-recording session goes and even little things like the arrangement of seats in a recording booth, the glimpse in the world behind the voices is genuinely fun.

As a detective novel, it's a pile of missed chances though. For example, the inside look in the voice acting world is good, but it has no real connection to the crimes in the plot! Doing a strange combination like a voice actor and detective is good and all, but at least make the voice acting part relevant to the mystery plot, like having some aspect of voice acting act as a crucial hint. In terms of mystery, the detective could have been a cook on a cruise ship or almost anything at all and it would still work. Other strangely missed chances are the so-called curse: it's mentioned just one or two times and it never is presented as something really scary: they just say there is a curse. At least try to make the curse a bit more scary / lively for the reader, I cried. The mystery plot itself is rather simple, with the locked room mystery being a varation on a very well-known predecessor, but it is dressed originally enough: it's just a bit disappointing in execution / hinting / presentation. The last chapter (of four) is also a bit superfluous; everyone is gathered and the murderer is revealed, which would be interesting if not for the fact that Yurin has just explained most of the case at the end of the previous chapter...

Then again, Seiyuu Tantei Yurin no Jikenbo - Afureko Sutajio no Yuurei is obviously written for a younger public, so I can't be too harsh on it. The moment I noticed that Yurin had sorta fallen in love with voice actor Fujimiya only because he was so tall and handsome and so dreamy (there were no other scenes with meaningful interaction between them...), was when I kinda realized I wasn't exactly the intended public. With a plot about a 15, 16 year old girl who miraculously gets a chance to become an actress and work with a tall handsome guy and a beautiful actress and has to solve a crime in order to help said tall handsome guy, well, you can guess who the intended public is.

Seiyuu Tantei Yurin no Jikenbo - Afureko Sutajio no Yuurei has some interesting insights in the world of voice acting, but it's a fairly disappointing mystery novel. But it could be fun if you're young and dreaming of becoming a voice actress. Or if you just have some hours free and want to read a mystery novel that doesn't really need you to think.

Original Japanese title(s): 芳村れいな(著), 美麻りん(イラスト) 『声優探偵ゆりんの事件簿―アフレコスタジオの幽霊』

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