Thursday, January 21, 2016

Death of the Living Dead


"Prithee do not die"
Yosano Akiko

Once again time for a Short Shorts post, where I write shorter reviews/thoughts on multiple mystery media, as opposed to longer, focused reviews. Mainly because I can't think of enough (relevant) material to fill a complete post with. Short shorts are usually only posted once in six months or so here, but this is the second post within the month! Anyway, just two topics for today. 

The latest volume of Detective Conan, volume 88, was released over a month ago, so I'm a bit late with this review. The volume starts with the last chapter of The Secret of the Big Couple, which was fairly disappointing. The first two chapter of this story, collected in volume 87, were absolutely hilarious. This final chapter focuses almost solely on explaining who the murderer of the restaurant owner is and how it was done. The trick was fairly original, but read on its own, this chapter is incredibly boring, especially given how fantastic the first half of the story was. Maybe I should read the story in one go. The volume also ends with an incomplete story, The Girl Band Murder Case, where Sonoko's idea to form a girl band with Ran and Sera Masumi brings them to a rehearsal studio. A murder is (of course!) committed there, and the suspects are all members of another girl band practicing at the studio. I'll have to wait for volume 89 in April for the conclusion of this story, but to be honest, it looks like one of those fairly predictable stories that are technically well constructed, but not really memorable. Okay, there's the namedropping of a Black Organization member called Scotch, but that's it (No, it's not a real spoiler. They actually put that little fact on the obi of the volume).

Volume 88 features only two complete stories. The Suspect Who Uses Too Much Condiments brings us back to the (relocated) ramen noodle restaurant from Deadly Delicious Ramen from volume 73. The police recently chased a robber who killed his victim down to the restaurant, but they have no idea which of the three regular customers present is their prey (the three regulars all arrived around the same time). Of late, the three have also gotten new eating habits: one uses a lot of pepper in his food, another uses a lot of soy sauce, and the last a lot of vinegar, but how does this relate to the crime? Overall, a fairly chaotic story. I loved the setting (Deadly Delicious Ramen was one of my favorite stories of the year!), but even I'd say this story feels more like a collection of random ideas with little cohesion. Also: it's strange this story follows right after The Secret of the Big Couple, because they have one point that is really similar.

The Tragedy of the Zombie Mansion on the other hand features Hattori, which is always good for bonus points. Kogorou drags everybody along to a mansion where an old zombie film featuring his favorite idol Youko was filmed. They come across a small filming team, who reveal they're here to film material for a trailer for the sequel to that film (not starring Youko though). But mysterious thing happen: the producer apparently commits suicide, while later his dead body is seen killing another staff member. And then the whole mansion is attacked by a horde of zombies! What's going on? A lot! I'd say this was a decent story, but nothing more than that. The main trick of the dead coming back alive is fairly flawed, as there's absolutely no way nobody wouldn't have noticed that! There's also a bit about an impossible disappearance from a room that was better, but even still not particularly inspiring (though I thought the hint was quite clever). Overall, I'd say that volume 88 was a bit disappointing: there were only two complete stories and only one of them was okay. Oh well, let's hope April's volume is better.

Last week, the TV drama  Rinshou Hanzai Gakusha - Himura Hideo no Suiri ("The Clinical Criminlogist - The Deductions of Himura Hideo") started. The series is based on Arisugawa Alice's Writer Alice series. Himura Hideo is an university teacher of Criminology, who often helps with official police investigations (as his "fieldwork"). He is accompanied by his best friend and mystery writer Arisugawa Alice. While I don't like all the books in the series, I do enjoy the series overall, so I was quite curious to this adaptation of the series. The first episode was based on the short story Zekkyoujou Satsujin Jiken (" -The Castle of Screams- Murder Case"). Like I already mentioned in my review of the audio drama adaptation: it's an okay story, but nothing more than that. A bit underwhelming for a series pilot, but at least the episode already gave us some glimpses of what will follow (there was a set-up for Shuiro no Kenkyuu / "A Study in Vermillion" for example).

But I'm still not sure what to think about the series in general. One thing I really loved was that the series has a distinct Kyoto flavor. Himura teaches at Kyoto's Eito University (= thinly disguised Doshisha University) and the series features a lot of nice shots of the ancient capital of Japan (the opening has a nice Kyoto-atmosphere too). But some of the director's ideas didn't set too well with me. The series blatantly tries to copy Sherlock for example. They dress Himura in a long dark coat, show him in manic states, show text from a laptop on the TV screen for the viewer and more. Heck, they even have Himura jump off into the dark in a dream sequence. To be honest: it only hurts this series, because this isn't Sherlock and it shouldn't even need to try to emulate that series. Also, the Himura in the TV series is a bit different from the one in the books (I've read). There's a bit of Sherlock's Sherlock in him and for some reason Himura's catchphrase has become "This crime isn't beautiful", even though that would seem like the last thing Himura from the books would ever say! Alice was okay though in the first episode, and it was fun hearing him refering to some of the stories he wrote (which are the books known as the Student Alice series). Anyway, some good, some bad.

And that's it for today. A new volume of The Young Kindaichi Case Files R was released a few days back, but I'm still not sure whether I'll wait for the next volume to do them in one go, because stories in that series often span two volumes. Considering the publication schedule, I might wait until the next Conan volume (in April).

Original Japanese title(s): 青山剛昌 『名探偵コナン』第88巻, 有栖川有栖(原) 『臨床犯罪学者 火村英生の推理』


  1. Thanks for the review! :) When I saw that you were reviewing the latest instalment of Conan, I scrolled down eagerly to see if you had got your hands on the latest instalment of Kindaichi. The latest one seems interesting, with puppets and all.

    Do you have recommendations as to which volumes of Conan you think stand out from the rest? Just discovered that my Kindle store has some English translations...!

    Incidentally, I just ordered a translation of a Student Alice novel - 'Lonely Island Mystery'. Looking forward to reading it. :)

    1. Where did you get the translation? I can't find it

    2. With the schedule of Conan & Kindaichi Shounen out of sync now, I'm afraid my orders will be based on the Conan releases, so Kindaichi Shounen will probably appear less often.

      Pff, Conan is a series I think that is best read 'as a series', as opposed to Kindaichi Shounen, where you can read random volumes in any order (most of the time). Outstanding volumes in Conan are usually outstanding because of all that has happened before that volume, so it's hard to pinpoint a volume that you should read (also because there are multiple stories in 1 Conan volume, so the quality of one particular volume is seldom consistent).

    3. I would also like to know where Jonathan found Lonely Island Mystery and if it's an English translation. I saw, using Twitter's translation feature, tweets by Ayatsuji and Shimada seeming to indicate that Arisugawa's Kotou Puzzle is being translated into English this year by Locked Room International.

  2. Nice! (was only looking for Conan, but quite interested in the TV drama. Eh, will check later)

    I'm curious though, which point is similar with the "Sulking Ai" case?

    1. An 'item' used by the murderers in both stories was the same (in concept, not form).

  3. L. Stump / HeartfeltMarch 19, 2023 at 7:46 AM

    I'm watching the drama now, and I think this is probably the worst of all the Japanese mystery dramas I've seen so far. It isn't terrible by any means, but I'll be damned if it's interesting at all.

    Screaming Castle is probably one of my least favorite serial killing stories of all time, with the clue of the video game being a subtle-as-bricks metaphor for the solution, the implications of the final murder being dead obvious, the previous three murders being paper thin and inconsequential (not a single significant clue in the bunch), and the motive being hilariously absurd. The underpinning idea isn't even remotely interesting enough to justify any of those other faults. Just bad all around.

    Heteromorphic Man was decent. The idea behind the trick is one I generally enjoy, it being (SPOILERS!)

    An alibi created by the victim is exploited by the killer, but it isn't super hard to clue into the solution if you're familiar with tropes surrounding disguises in mysteries. I clued into how the victim played into the story almost immediately and at that point it was basically about adjusting the theory with new information. Decent but not incredibly inspired and just solid.

    Ransom for Assistant Professor is probably my favorite so far, since it's a pretty decent semi-inverted mystery with a double twist on the ending. There's no interesting tricks or plot to speak of, but the clue that allows Himura to identify the culprit is really neat.

    Dali's Cocoon feels like a semi-decent Queen short story inflated into an hour long TV time slot. It's okay, but again it isn't hard to follow the clues to their natural conclusion and once the question of the murder weapon comes into play it's painfully obvious who the killer has to be. Again the victim's involvement in the murder is obvious and easy to spot, but also the victim's motivations for acting the way he did, and his whole plan in general makes no sense unless he wanted the world's most useless and nothing alibi ever. The victim's plan is kind of absurd and I was deflated listening to Arisugawa explain it because it really was just so... Nothing. I think it'd make more sense if the killer bought the weapon himself to throw suspicion on himself just so he can pull out his statue and go "why would I buy a new statue if I already had one". A sort of Antique Dealer Murder Case double bluff.

    Are there any particularly good episodes I should look forward to? I don't really care for the show so far but I want to finish it since I'm basically halfway done.

    1. It's been *a while* since the series ran, so I can't say I remember very much of it or any specific episodes (which says something of course). I mostly remember the Alice/Himura banter being very much like the books... I wasn't a fan of the BBC Sherlock angle though, and that remained throughout...