Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Gentle Rain From Heaven

ペガサス幻想(ファンタジー) そうさ夢だけは

Pegasus Fantasy /  Yes, Dreams are
The only wings of the heart nobody can steal from you
"Pegasus Fantasy" (Make-Up) 

Today: a series I've been wanted to read for ages, because of the combination of this particular series with the writer. And yes, I know New Danganronpa V3 is out, but I need to find the time to play it and stuff.

Samidare Yui is a sixteen year old girl and student of a Girls Missionary Academy. According to the rules, any student must register with the school in case they want to have a part-time job. Yui is the first student in the long history of the school to have applied to become a detective. Specializing in kidnapping cases, she has slowly been raising her Detective Shelf Classification score. Every professional detective is registered in the Detective Library, which issues a DSC to all detectives. A DSC score shows exactly what the field of specialty is of any detective, as well as their mastery of their field. The most coveted DSC score is 000, indicating mastery of all fields. One day, Yui is invited to a mysterious gathering at the Sirius Observatory, together with four other detectives. One of them is Kirigiri Kyouko, a young girl who has recently transfered to the same school as Yui and who has only just begun her career as a professional detective. At the Sirius Observatory, the five detectives find out they have been lured into a trap, and everyone is knocked out. When Yui wakes up, she finds out that three of the detectives have been murdered, with their bodies cut up in many pieces and mixed around. Because Kirigiri is the only other person alive inside the observatory (and everything is locked from the inside), Yui naturally suspects her, but are things really so simple in Kitayama Takekuni's Danganronpa Kirigiri 1 (2013)?

Danganronpa Kirigiri is a spin-off and prequel series to the Danganronpa game series. The original games tell the story of a group of students of the Hope Peak's Academy being forced to kill each other in a closed circle setting, but in a way so the others don't know who the murderer was. The sadistic killing games were coupled with exciting courtroom segments (the murderer would be released if not detected, but executed if found out) and a very generous dash of psycho-pop presentation, which made the games an unexpected hit. The storyline that started with the first game finally ended last year, with the TV series Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak Academy. Danganronpa Kirigiri is a book series set several years before the events of the first game (and before the prequel novel Danganronpa Zero) and focuses on Kirigiri Kyouko, one of the characters who first appeared in the very first game. But like in the games, Kirigiri remains a mysterious character, as she is always seen from the POV of another person (in this case, Yui's POV).

The writer of this particular book series is Kitayama Takekuni by the way, who specializes in physical gadgets and tricks in his books. You might remember him from some older reviews on this blog (Alice Jou Satsujin Jiken is probably the most interesting one) and I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by that. While I do like them, I never really got used to the science-fiction/fantasy-like worlds in his books. But with Danganronpa, I already know the world from the games and other materials, so I never got bothered by that while I was reading Danganronpa - Kirigiri 1. But I think this book is also quite accesible for people who don't know Danganronpa yet, because it is set so long before the main events of the games start. This is very different from Danganronpa Zero, which you really could only read if you had played the games.

As a mystery story, The Sirius Observatory Murder Case, is a pretty decent impossible murder mystery. The story basically starts with the discovery of three cut-up bodies, and it then uses a flashback to explain the events that led up to it. The way the bodies were cut up kinda reminds of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, but rest assured, this is a very different type of mystery. The solution behind the triple murder inside the locked observatory is clever: it fits the setting, more than enough hints are dangled in front of the reader, and yet it is one that might be overseen very easily. We as the reader have the advantage over Yui, because we know that we can rule Kirigiri out as a suspect because she is a returning character from the Danganronpa franchise, but it's still an exciting closed circle murder mystery.

However, the story does feel a bit short. It's more like a lengthy short story, than a real novel. The book is about 200 pages long, but because of all the dialogue lines (= lots of white on the page), it's actually not that long in terms of character count. For the price (and it goes for a premium price!), Danganronpa - Kirigiri 1 feels a bit lacking in terms of content.

The book is set-up to be a series by the way. In the prologue, the reader learns that a organization called the Crime Victim Salvation Committee is behind everything, offering vengeful people the means to execute their revenge. Over the course of the series, Kirigiri and Yui will learn more about this Committee. The book ends with a "To Be Continued" but each book does feature its own independent storyline, though they do end with a set-up for the next volume.

Overall, I think Danganronpa - Kirigiri 1 is an amusing mystery novel. It's not strongly connected to the main Danganronpa series, but that works for this novel series and it is a very decently constructed mystery, as expected from a writer like Kitayama. It's just a bit short. Of the books I've read by Kitayama however, it's definitely the most accessible, and I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Original Japanese title(s): 北山猛邦 『ダンガンロンパ 霧切り1』

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