Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dimensional Sniper

おれの武器はコルトパイソン357マグナム
撃ち抜けないのは美女のハートだけさ
「Chance」(神谷明)

My weapon is a Colt Python 357 Magnum.
The only thing I can't shoot, is the heart of a beautiful woman.
"Chance" (Kamiya Akira)

The cover art of this volume is SOOOO going to form one complete illustration with the cover for the next volume.

In the previous volume in Kitayama Takekuni's Danganronpa Kirigiri series, the young detective Kirigiri Kyouko and Samidare Yui managed to give a painful blow to the Crime Victim Salvation Committee, an organization which sells perfect crime schemes to people who want to exact revenge on others, but which also invites private detectives on the scene to see if they can solve these perfect crimes. In Danganronpa Kirigiri 6 (2018) however, Kirigri and Yui aren't trying to solve these Duels Noir directly themselves anymore, as they have been challenged by Johnny Earp. Earp is not only one of the three best detectives alive, bearing the highly coveted "triple zero" qualification, he's also a secret agent of the Crime Victim Salvation Committee, specialized in 'cleaning up' people. He's also quite amused by Kirigiri and Yui, and challenges them to a series of sniper duels held during the Duel Noir. Kirigiri and Yui are given a sniper rifle, and some basic information regarding an upcoming Duel Noir, indicating the location, the kind of murder scheme ("a locked room murder", "mistaken identity" etc.) the client bought from the Committee and other information. Kirigiri and Yui not only have to deduce what the exact murder plan is based on this grocery list, they only have three bullets to stop this murder from happening, for example by shooting the culprit, or by sniping some of the tools they might need. Earp on the other hand is on the "defense" team, and will use his sniper rifle to prevent Kirigiri and Yui's attempt at stopping this Duel Noir in progress. As Earp is a master in all firearms who boasts an Olympic Games-level skill in sniping, Kirigiri and Yui have no chance of winning in a straight shoot-out, and they have to outwit the triple zero detective, obstructing the Duel Noir from a distance without being spotted by Earp.

Danganronpa Kirigiri 6 is still part of the same spin-off novel series of the videogame series Danganronpa as before (knowledge of the games is not necessary to read this series), but whereas the previous novels focused on author Kitayama Takekuni's specialty (mechanical locked room murder mysteries), this sixth volume brings something completely new to the table. The earlier novels had Kirigiri and Yui trying to solve locked room mysteries based on a grocery list of murder weapons, murder tricks and other items while investigating on scene, while this time, the duo can't even come close to the scene (due to Earp's sniping skills), and they have to deduce 1) how the murder is going to be committed and 2) somehow stop this murder scheme using the sniper rifle and 3) not getting spotted by Earp in the meantime. It's a very different dynamic, and it results in different types of locked room mysteries compared to those we've seen before. This time they are simpler, but they only serve as the background drop for the sniper duels, and the mystery lies in how Kirigiri and Yui are going to stop the murders with their shots. The mystery is thus two-fold: the underlying locked room mystery, and the 'meta' mystery of how Kirigiri and Yui are going to invade, and stop that plan.

To be honest, the concept is much better than the execution. The prologue offers an interesting, but ultimately very simple example of how the sniper duel could go: while the locked room mystery presented there is very rudimentary, Kirigiri and Yui show their wit in stopping the murder from happening by destroying a vital element of the murder scheme, while keeping out of Earp's sniping range. This first part shows a lot of potential, especially if the following sections would be about more complex murder schemes, which would not only be more difficult to predict, but also with more occassions for Kirigiri and Yui to interfere with their rifle.

The rest of the book however is quickly filled with short, disappointing intermezzo and the final sniper duel which runs according to very different rules than the first sniper duel. There's an interesting impossible murder there, where Kirigiri and Yui, while under fire, have to solve the mystery of someone being shot right in the face inside the mirror house of an empty entertainment park, even though no other people besides the victim were inside the mirror house, and the shot doesn't seem like it could've come from anywhere. The solution is a bit hard to swallow though, as the murder method is rather impractical and it doesn't seem like it could be pulled off in one go, which in turn would've left much more evidence. But the true disappointment is that by this time, the sniper duel with Earp has more-or-less been abandoned, and the potential shown in the prologue isn't even touched upon. There's another subplot that is properly clued, but it's not as good as it could've been, considering what the prologue showed.

Danganronpa Kirigiri 6 manages to change gears significantly compared to the previous books, but it doesn't make any good use of the amazing potential it does offer. What could've been an amazing double-layered mystery with battle-of-wits-and-sniper-rifles being played against a backdrop of locked room mysteries, turns out in the end to be a collection of random moments and ideas that never really come together. The series does seem to be heading towards the ending though, which the cover also seems to suggests. I'll be reading this series to the end, but I have to admit that on the whole, Danganronpa Kirigiri seemed to have peaked way too early (volume 2 was fantastic) and since then, its potential has always been much more than the actual, final product.

Original Japanese title(s): 北山猛邦 『ダンガンロンパ 霧切り6』

8 comments :

  1. i will always be amazed of your talent at finding brillianyly fitting opening quotes in each of your posts.

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    1. I've been quite lazy the last few years to be honest, basically only using song lyrics :P

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  2. A mirror house shooting sounds like a cool idea, shame it didn't turn out very good. What are some of your favorite impossible shootings in general by the way?

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    1. You know, I really *should* be able to come up with at least a few titles, but I can't come up with any good titles at the moment! I guess that being less focused on impossible crimes in general makes it harder for me to come up with a particular outstanding impossible shooting example right now.

      Or, I'm just very, very forgetful.

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    2. Haha, then allow me to chime in :D
      Awasaka Tsumao's "The Discombobulation of A Aiichirou" short story collection had a pretty darn good one: Shoujou no Ougon Kamen ("The Golden Mask on Top of her Hands"). How did the killer shoot a masked man over a great distance with a crooked gun with absolute accuracy? The solution was simple, elegant and takes a bit of out-of-box thinking.

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    3. Oh, that's a good one indeed! :D

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    4. I haven't read the Aiichirou stories, but they sound fun. Carr's The Hollow Man and "The New Invisible Man" are definitely up there for me (the second involves a shooting with an autonomous pair of gloves). The impossible shooting in The Man Who Could Not Shudder was also very clever.

      There's also Joseph Commings' "The X Street Murders" and "Murderer's Progress". The first has a man shot by a gun that was in a sealed envelope, and the second has a bullet that took around an hour to reach its victim

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    5. Oh man, The X Street Murders, totally forgot about that one! I really should read more by Commings one of these days...

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