Saturday, April 18, 2015

Violet Cocktail

『未完成な音色』 (Garnet Crow)

A glimpse of hope I had dared embraced only once
But what's left dancing inside your hands is an imperfect tone of color
"An Imperfect Tone" (Garnet Crow)

This is one of the books I'm really interested to see in an English translation. And you really have to read the last chapter of this book to understand that.

Kamiki Raichi is a seventeen-year young beauty, whose appearance is enough to rouse the most primal and sexual urges of every man who places his eyes on her. Raichi is very aware of that and thus earns quite a lot of money with the practice of enjo kousai, or 'compensated dating'. Which theoretically does not always mean sexual services, but in the case of Raichi, she is definitely performing a lot of sexual favours for her clients. She has a flat fee of fifty thousand yen a time for any client, but she chooses her clients carefully. She also has five special regular clients, for whom Raichi has reserved one day of the week for all of them (she is off in the weekends). These regular clients all have their own toothbrush in Raichi's apartment, all in a different color. What most of her clients don't know is that Raichi is also quite intelligent and while her work occasionally causes her to get in dangerous situations, she always manages to think her way out and solve a crime or two on the way out. In Hayasaka Yabusaka's short story collection Niji no Ha Brush - Kamiki Raichi Hassan  ("Rainbow Toothbrush - Kamiki Raichi On the Loose", 2015), we are given a glimpse in the lives of Raichi and her clients.

Hayasaka Yabusaka's debut novel, Marumarumarumarumarumarumarumaru Satsujin Jiken ("The ???????? Murder Case", 2014), was quite a surprise last year. The main trick was shocking and I will probably remember it until the end of days, but I was also quite surprised at the erotic scenes in the book. The sexy Raichi had quite a few erotic adventures over the course of the novel, but the shocker was that those scenes were actually integral part of the detective plot. Vital clues, important hints, all kinds of important points of the plot were skillfully and carefully hidden within the descriptions of Raichi's bed-activities and the sex scenes were thus not simply there 'for the sex'. Niji no Ha Brush is the second book in the series, released just a half year after Hayasaka's debut and continues with Raichi's adventures.

The opening story, Murasaki wa Utsuroiyuku Mono no Iro ("Purple Is The Color That Changes"), starts off right away with a murder that reminds you this is a Hayasaka book. A secretary is found murdered in the office, her upper-body in undressed state and leaning over a copier. It almost appears like a scene from a porn film. The strange thing about the crime scene however is that the copier has made twelve photographs of the breasts of the victim, all about one hour after another. The murderer must have made those boob-copies him (or her)self, as the copy machine has no timer function and the blood spots made by livor mortis on the copies show they are really made of the victim herself. But why do such a crazy thing? One of the suspects is the victim's boss, but he has an alibi as he spent some fun time with his mistress. Who to the surprise to the police officer in charge is Kamiki Raichi. And he is surprised because he too is one of Raichi's regulars. The reason behind the breast copies is actually a neat variation of one of the old patterns of detective fiction, but it is actually 'camouflaged' pretty well, I think. The trick itself too is a good modern update to an old trick and works quite well in this story. A fairly solid beginning of the volume. Also: there's some great hinting spread throughout the story to a certain reveal that is quite original.

Ai wa Sekaijuu no Jeans wo Someteiru Iro ("Indigo is the Color Dying Jeans All Over the World") details the first encounter between Raichi and the police officer who also appeared in the previous story. Raichi happened to be in a love hotel where a murder had happened. While the police did find video material of the murderer and the victim entering the building, and of the murderer leaving the building, the face of the murderer was sadly enough not visible. Bored with waiting, Raichi points out a fatal flaw in the police's thinking and quickly helps the investigation towards the right direction. Quite a short story and rather simple actually. It tries to play with social conventions, but I think that in this time and age a lot of people would have thought of this solution. Not nearly as shocking as that of Hayasaka's debut work.

Ao wa Umi to Manicure no Iro ("Blue is the Color of the Sea and Manicure") on the other does manage to come close to the shock-effect Hayasaka's debut novel had. Raichi is on the look for a girl who was also into enjo kousai, but who lately appears to have disappeared. Raichi traces her to a mansion in a remote fishing village, where the girl has joined a sexual cult, centered around a massively-shapen leader. Raichi stays one night, but the leader is murdered in a locked room that night and suspicion falls on her as the only new face around.

And it's fairly brilliant, if a tad silly. I doubt anyone would guess the main twist at the end of the story in advance, yet there are actually quite a lot of hints pointing towards it. It also fits with the erotic, at times slightly vulgar and shocking tone of the book: I doubt this trick would work in any other series, and I don't think I would have been able to accept it so easily if it had been any other series. This is a story, a trick that only can be done with Kamiki Raichi and that's a good thing.

Both Midori wa Suirishousetsu Goyoutatsu no Iro ("Green is the Color of the Purveyor of Detective Novels") and Ki wa Okane no Nioi no Iro ("Yellow is the Color of the Smell of Money") are very short stories (10 pages?), that deal with simple problems: in Green, Raichi thinks someone has hidden a camera in her apartment, while in Yellow, she tells about why she once ripped up the money she had received from a classmate who wanted to have a turn with her. Green is a fairly well-clued story that once again works towards a shocking truth, but Yellow is not as strong: one particular hint is good, but the conclusion is not really rewarding, nor does the story feel as tightly plotted as others in the book.

Daidai wa ??? no Iro ("Orange is the Color of ???") and Aka wa Kamiki Raichi Jishin no Iro ("Red is the Color of Kamiki Raichi Herself") form a set, with Orange first apparently being an episode from Raichi's past, and Red a story that asks the question: who exactly is Kamiki Raichi? What follows is a strange story I really can't write too much about, but let's say it's a neat meta-ending to the volume. Twists after twists are presented to the reader, all properly hinted across the book and the story works as a showcase for the kind of logic Hayasaka utilizes throughout this volume. It's a fairly fun and interesting experiment in deduction, but ultimately feels a bit lacking because there just obviously is no real conclusion to it all. Fun to see how to hide hints and to do deductions, but as a standalone story, a bit lacking.

Niji no Ha Brush - Kamiki Raichi Hassan was all in all a fairly solid continuation of the Kamiki Raichi series. The type of logic employed in these stories follow the reasonings we know of writers like Ellery Queen, but the erotic touch to the stories manage to set the series apart from other detective series, as well as the sometimes crazy ideas Hayasaka comes with (crazy in a good sense of the word). It manages to shock, but always never just for that purpose: beneath Raichi's sexy appearance, there is really a well-plotted detective story, and definitely worth reading, even if it misses the oomph of the first novel.

Original Japanese title(s): 早坂吝 『虹の歯ブラシ 上木らいち発散』: 「紫は移ろいゆくものの色」 / 「藍は世界中のジーンズを染めている色」 / 「青は海とマニキュアの色」 / 「緑は推理小説御用達の色」 / 「黄はお金の匂いの色」 / 「橙は???の色」 / 「赤は上木らいち自身の色」


  1. Hello, I just has a question

    in volume 64 of Detective Conan, Gosho says that his favorite Lupin III story is "haste makes waste"

    do you know what episode this is? or is it a story from the manga?

    1. It's chapter 88 of the original manga. Episode 29 of the second Lupin III series (red jacket series) was based on this chapter, but I don't know how faithful an adaptation it was.

    2. all right, thanks a lot!

  2. You linking this reminded me of a question that I was meaning to ask,,,

    I admit, you didn't seem that enthusiastic about the first book, you seemed kinda, "Meh." about it. What changed? Of course, I could be reading too much into things.

    1. I'd say I was more somewhere in the middle between the 'meh-fairly entertaining' spectrum for the first book. It's hard to explain w/o going into details, but the first book had a trick that was just utterly ridiculous, but it made sense in-universe. For the reader, it was hard to guess whether the author was serious abou it or not. But it was without a doubt a memorable trick, something I don't expect to ever see again in any other book.

      This second book is a bit more straightforward as a mystery (only a bit!) and thus less dividing than the first nove. This one is also more fun to read, because you see more of Raichi overall (in the first book it took a while before she took centre stage).

  3. Hello! I'm a undergrad student in the US writing my thesis on Japanese detective fiction, especially those with an emphasis of the use of narrative tricks. Rainbow Toothbrush is one of the works I'm using to talk about the construction and rules of narrative tricks, and for the longest time I thought no one in the English speaking world would write about their thoughts on this work (I'm Chinese and people talk about it back there but rarely in an analytical way). I just really want to thank you for posting this, and oh well is your whole blog not a huge treasure mine...

    1. Hi! Sounds like a cool thesis theme, with so many of those stories available in Japanese. A while back we talked a bit about lectures in mystery fiction in the comment section errr, in one of the posts here, and how it'd be cool if besides the usual locked room lectures etc. we'd see one for narrative tricks finally, but I guess your thesis kinda like that? ^_^

    2. Thank you so very for your reply! Yes, my thesis is not at all focused on locked rooms. The works I'm using include 「どんどん橋、落ちた」(綾辻行人), 「私」 (谷崎潤一郎), 「虹色の歯ブラシ」, and potentially 「Goth」(乙一) as well as 「収束」 (麻耶雄嵩). It's slowing growing out of scope but at least I am having a lot of fun revisiting these works as well as reading other people's thoughts on them.
      I'm sorry if I comes off a bit rude, but I wonder where else can I find you? I would love to keep in contact if that's ok. If engaging in direct conversations is not of your interest, I also occasionally draw fan illustrations for detective novels (so far mainly on ダンガンロンパ霧切) and post them here , just in case you would like to check them out.
      Thank you again for keeping such a wonderful blog and have a nice day!

    3. Interesting choices by going for the not super, super famous ones, though I suppose there's already material on those available. And just being reminded of どんどん橋、落ちた makes me laugh, as that one *really* got me off-guard.

      If you use Twitter, you could always add me (@tantei_kid), I'll make sure to follow back then!