Sunday, December 24, 2017

Turnabout Memories - Part 7

"I have to go over everything that's happened. I have to remember" 

Another Code R: Journey into Lost Memories

I'm wrapping up the year on the blog like I've been doing the last few years, with a short overview of the titles and articles published this year that stood out most in my mind (that I still remember). Because making lists is something everyone does at the end of the year. Of course, because of the way of how I try to spread out my reviews to approx. one a week (so I have a buffer in case things get busy), some of these books were read/seen closer to 18~20 months ago, rather than only a year... Anyway, the categories are basically made up as I go, so it's not really that serious. And that's it for this year. Or not. I might slip in a Detective Conan review in before the formal end of the year, but I might also push it back to 2018. Hope to see you next year too!

Best Cover Seen in 2017!
Yuureitou ("The Phantom Tower")

In a time when everybody is just looking at little thumbnails of covers for e-books that readers don't look at anyway on their e-readers, the art of making good cover art might've become less important to some publishers, but there are luckily still publishers who go the extra mile to make good, sometimes absolutely gorgeous cover art for their books. The anthology 7-nin no Meitantei ("The Seven Great Detectives") featured funny silhouettes of the seven authors who contributed to the book, which gave it a unique feeling. Kazegaoka Gojuuendama Matsuri no Nazo ("The Kazegaoka 50 Yen Coin Festival Mystery") is another example of the great art the Urazome Tenma series has had ever since its initiation, making use of bold colors (especially yellow!). For some good-old retro cover art, seek no further than Shinsetsu Lupin tai Holmes ("The True Tale: Lupin VS Holmes") and while I hate clowns, even I have to admit Okujou no Douketachi ("Clowns on the Roof") looks fantastic. But it was the first book I reviewed this year that one. Academy Award winner Miyazaki Hayao's cover for Edogawa Rampo's Yuureitou ("The Phantom Tower") is absolutely stunning.

Best Project Outside The Blog!
The Ginza Ghost

Okay, this was a no-brainer. In 2015, I got the chance to translate Ayatsuji Yukito's The Decagon House Murders, published by Locked Room International. 2016 was followed by LRI's release of Arisugawa Alice's The Moai Island Puzzle. And 2017 too offered me the opportunity to translate a great Japanese mystery. Oosaka Keikichi's short story collection The Ginza Ghost features twelve great stories of mystery and imagination from before World War II, by an author who for a long time had been forgotten in Japan. Set in a quickly industrializing Japan that tries to combine the traditional with the modern, these twelve stories (most of them impossible crimes) serve as a showcase into a Japan long-gone, and as a window into the psyche of a gifted mystery author who really perished way too soon (my personal favorites are The Mourning Locomotive and The Hungry Letter-Box).

Most Surprising Form Of Mystery Fiction Experienced In 2017!

Early this year, I read/played the two Famicom Detective Club gamebooks by Ikeda Misa based on the Nintendo adventure videogames, and I enjoyed them a lot! It was the first time I played a mystery gamebook, though I have played many sound novel games, so I was quite interested to see how it'd work out with a real gamebook of paper. Both of them were good, and showed me all kinds of interesting ways to do mystery fiction in the form of the gamebook, but as the first one, Famicom Tantei Club - Kieta Koukeisha ("Famicom Detective Club - The Vanished Heir") was very difficult, with several instant death sequences or game overs if you got the wrong item and little leeway for mistakes, I'd say the second one, Famicom Tantei Club Part II - Ushiro ni Tatsu Shoujo ("Famicom Detective Club Part II: The Girl Standing In The Back") is the better one, as it's much more forgiving and fun to read/play. I hope I'll come across some more mystery gamebooks in the future.

Best Mystery Movie Or TV Series! Seen In 2017!
Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter

In my mind, I only had to two options to choose from. Kizoku Tantei was an excellent TV adaptation that went beyond the original work, and on the other hand, there was Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter which I really enjoyed from start to finish in all aspects. In the end, I went with the latter. I didn't see that many mystery films this year, and only two of them were released this year. I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express more than I had expected, true, but Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter managed to impress by being a good mystery film, a good rom-com sports drama and overall a good Detective Conan film too. It brings a whole variety in entertainment, and all the elements are worked out quite well, making it easily one of the better Detective Conan films, but also a great experience regardless of whether you know Conan or not. Murder On The Orient Express (2017) had some light 'action' scenes added and shuffled with the sequence of events to make for a more easy watching experience, but comparing it with The Crimson Love-Letter is like day and sun, as the latter manages to be much more entertaining as a theatrical release.

Best Non-Review Post! Of 2017!
Murder Mysteries Set In Fukuoka

I definitely don't write as many non-review pieces as I actually should, or even want, but for some reason I never get to them. When I do finally get to them, they're usually written on the spur of the moment. Like this article on the many moustaches Poirot has had in visual adaptatons (I am going to guess it's one of the more detailed pieces on the topic), which was obviously inspired by the 2017 film of Murder on the Orient Express. Or this article on in-depth story guidebooks/reference books on mystery fiction, which I wrote after reading the excellent 15th Anniversary Gyakuten Saiban Series Encyclopedia 2001-2016. The most serious piece this year was probably my article on the notion of false solutions, and the foil detective in mystery fiction, but still, the one I enjoyed most writing was the article on mystery fiction set in the city of Fukuoka. It had actually been on my mind for some years now, complete with map and all, but I just never got around to it. With most mystery fiction set in Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, I thought it'd be interesting to look at a different setting for a change.

Most Interesting Mystery Game Played In 2017! But Probably Older!
Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2

I guess that in terms of mystery games, 2017 marked several long-awaited new installments of series I like. January brought New Danganronpa V3, which was overall an entertaining third installment in the hyperactive psychodelic pop mystery game. September also brought a new Tantei Jinguuji Saburou on the 3DS in the form of Ghost of the Dusk, which was a great return to form for the hardboiled detective series, even if it is admittedly a very limited form. Other mystery games I enjoyed were the novel game Rei-Jin-G-Lu-P and J.B. Harold: Manhattan Requiem, but the cake has to go to Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2. While it basically only works in conjunction with the first game and many of the mystery plots are rather obviously 'borrowed' from classic mystery fiction, the grand scale of the overall storyline, the inclusion of an original take on Sherlock Holmes and most importantly: sheer fun in gameplay as you solve the mysteries this sequel serves you, make this game my favorite mystery game played this year.

Some other non-mystery games I enjoyed a lot were The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (wouldn't you want to see a mystery game where you play the murderer using this physics and chemistry engine?!), Bye-Bye BoxBoy! (final installment in a charming puzzle game series), Splatoon 2 (I never play online multiplayer shooters. I ADORE THIS GAME) and the freeware adventure Majo no Ie ("The Witch's House").

Favorite Premise of 2017!
The Detective Rights Auction in Danganronpa Kirigiri 2

A new category for this year. I take the word premise broadly, so that could be "there was quadruple-layered locked room murder", but also "that book uses different fonts to differentiate between narratives" or "that mystery plot is set in a fantasy world, but with clear rules to magic". Other good examples of this category would be Awasaka Tsumao's 11 Mai no Trump ("The Eleven Cards"), which had a novel-inside-a-novel that also served as hint,  Takemoto Kenji's Hako No Naka no Shitsuraku ("Paradise Lost Inside A Box") that utilized two intertwined narratives that each accused the other of being fictional, and Madoy Van's Jikanryokousha no Gyakuten ("Turnabout of the Time Traveller") which made brilliant use of the concept of time travel to make a fair-play mystery plot. The title story from te short story collection Kazegaoka Gojuuendama Matsuri no Nazo ("The Kazegaoka 50 Yen Coin Festival Mystery") was a great example of the seemingly small, yet puzzling mystery of why all the change at a local festival is given in 50 yen coins, rather than the usual 100 yen coins. I ended up going with Danganronpa Kirigiri 2 by Kitayama Takekuni however, because the idea of the Detective Rights Auction in this book does not only serve a goal as a Liar Game-esque game to drive the plot, it's also a crucial part of the locked room murders of this novel. The synergy going on in this story is absolutely crazy, and I was quite impressed when at the end, it's revealed how all the elements of this story were related to the core mystery plot

The Just-Ten-In-No-Particular-Order-No-Comments List
- 11 Mai no Trump ("The Eleven Cards") (Awasaka Tsumao)
- Yuureitou ("The Phantom Tower") (Edogawa Rampo)
- Suizokukan no Satsujin ("The Aquarium Murder") (Aosaki Yuugo)
- Danganronpa Kirigiri 2 (Kitayama Takekuni)
- Misshitsu Satsujin Game 2.0 ("Locked Room Murder Game 2.0") (Utano Shougo)
- Gyakuten Saiban - Gyakuten Kuukou ("Turnabout Trial -  Turnabout Airport") (Takase Mie)
- Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2 ~ Naruhodou Ryuunosuke no Kakugo ("The Grand Turnabout Trial 2 ~ The Resolve of Naruhodou Ryuunosuke") (Director: Takumi Shuu)
- Itsutsu no Tokei ("The Five Clocks") (Ayukawa Tetsuya)
- Hako No Naka no Shitsuraku ("Paradise Lost Inside A Box") (Takemoto Kenji)
- Jikanryokousha no Gyakuten ("Turnabout Of The Time Traveler") (Madoy Van)


  1. I've 11枚のトランプ sitting on the pile of books I took out from the library recently - hope to get started on it soon!

    1. I hope you'll like it as much as I did! Have you read anything else by Awasaka already?

    2. No, that will be my first foray into Awasaka. :)

  2. Can you suggest me a mobile app so I Can become fluent in Japanese ?

    1. Sorry, I know absolutely nothing about that, I'm schooled rather classically at university ^^;

  3. I've got an idea: start a crowdfunding campaign where each of your followers here can put funds in to pay for another one of your English translations of one of the many books we hear about but never could otherwise read.

    1. I tried doing that but he's not interested

    2. Crowdfunding translations is an interesting market, and there have been some great successes with US manga releases the last few years, but having seen quite some projects go all kinds of ways as a gamer, I think a good crowdfunding project needs someone who can manage and organize everything (especially if in the case of a non-open domain book), which I probably am not.