Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Turnabout Memories - Part 8

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

Another Code R: Journey into Lost Memories

Like always, I am wrapping up this year with a short overview of the posts of 2018 that stood out most in my mind. At least, as far as I can still remember them. And yeah, because of the way I schedule my posts way ahead in time, that means some of these titles mentioned I already read in 2017, and that the reviews of some of the better reads I have read in 2018, won't be posted here until in 2019. Timey-wimey stuff. And as I don't really like to make lists, there's actually not that much thought going into this post, as I just make up categories as I go along and write down the titles that sorta stuck in my head. Unlike previous years, there's no new Detective Conan volume released at the end of the year, so this will really be the last of the year! That said, I already have my reviews for the coming months all lined up, so next week, same Bat-Day-of-the-week, same Bat-Channel, there'll be the usual review. Hope to see you too in the new year!

Most Impressive Cover! Seen in 2018!
Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter

Wasn't a big fan of Unno Juuza's Hae Otoko ("The Human Fly"), but man, that cover was awesome!  I also have a weakness for the cover of Kubinashi no Gotoki Tataru Mono ("Those Who Cast A Curse Like The Headless") (there's something uncanny about the art) and I absolutely adore the vivid use of colors of the covers of Toshokan no Satsujin ("The Library Murder") and the two Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de ("Mystery Solving Is After Dinner") volumes I reviewed this year. But I think the cover of Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter, the novel version of the 2017 Detective Conan film based on Ookura's original version of the screenplay, stuck with me the most. What I like about this cover is that it's of course super adorable, but also because it features art that's not like the usual Detective Conan art. Everyone knows how Detective Conan looks like in terms of artstyle, so it's cool to see a completely different take on the characters, in a style you seldom see on covers of mystery novels anyway.

Best Project Outside The Blog!
The 8 Mansion Murders

Okay, like last year, it's not like there's much competition here, but I'm personally also quite pleased that I was able to translate Abiko's debut novel for Locked Room International. In 2015, I was able to work on Ayatsuji Yukito's The Decagon House Murders, followed in 2016 LRI's release of Arisugawa Alice's The Moai Island Puzzle. 2017 was a step back in time with Osaka's short story collection The Ginza Ghost, but 2018 was another example of early shin honkaku mystery. What I especially like about this novel that it's easily the funniest novel I've worked on until now, and it's also a work that is so clearly a work by Abiko: if you've read other works by him, you'll immediately recognize his style of comedy. Publishers Weekly not only deemed it "one of the funniest and cleverest novels of its type to hit the English-language market in years," but even elected it as one of the best mysteries released in 2018 in their Best Books 2018, which is of course something I hadn't expected at all.

Best Mystery Movie/TV series/other linear audiovisual media! Of 2018!
Koureikai W Misshitsu Jiken ("The Case of the Séance's Double Locked Room") (Detective Conan episodes 603-605)

Some heavy competition here.  I also saw some minor Agatha Christie adaptations which were not that special, but also an insanely fun adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, as Mitani Kouki's TV special Kuroido Goroshi ("The Murder of Kuroido") went far beyond my expectations as an adaptation of a notoriously difficult-to-adapt novel. The annual Detective Conan movie, Zero the Enforcer, is not really a contender as its rather light on the mystery element, but I have reviewed several episodes of the animated TV series written by screenplay writer/storyboarder/director Ochi Hirohito which were excellent. Both Noroi no Kamen wa Tsumetaku Warau ("The Cursed Masks Laugh Coldly") and Koureikai W Misshitsu Jiken ("The Case of the Séance's Double Locked Room") were both absolutely stunning as locked room mysteries, with the former was better suited for the visual format, I think. In the end, I have to say the latter was the best however, as it made use of its longer runtime to present a larger story, that not only built on the themes explored in Noroi no Kamen wa Tsumetaku Warau, but went even further.

Best Premise! Of 2018!
Shijinsou no Satsujin ("The Murders in the Villa of the Dead")

With premise, I mean the basic setting/idea on which the whole plot is built. And I came across a few interesting concepts this year. I really liked Yonezawa Honobu's Gusha no End Roll ("End Credits of Fools") for example, which came up with a good idea that allowed normal school students to work on a locked room murder (they had to come up with the solution for an unfinished mystery movie). Ashibe Taku's novel Double Mystery made brilliant use of the format of the novel, with a book that you could start reading at either end, and with a set of sealed pages in the middle. Chan Ho-Kei's The Borrowed (org. title: 13.67) was an interesting trip back in time, as you went back in time in Hong Kong's history with each following story, and the temporal changes were always clearly present in the story. But in the end, I have to go with Shijinsou no Satsujin, because it's a premise that is simple, but also so alluring and you immediately start wondering about all that could be possible the moment the idea is mentioned. Because who wouldn't like a fair play puzzle plot locked room mystery that is set during a zombie outbreak?

Best Non-Mystery! Of 2018!
Honkaku Mystery Manga Zemi ("Honkaku Mystery Comics Seminar")

Not a really fair one perhaps, as I only reviewed two non-primary sources on mystery this year. 21 Seiki Honkaku Mystery Eizou Taizen ("The Encyclopedia of 21st Century Honkaku Mystery Video") was an informative guide on (mostly) Japanese mystery productions for TV and film (both live-action and anmated). It was a comprehensive guide, but the quality of the seperate entries could differ widely. Fukui's Honkaku Mystery Manga Zemi however is the seminal work on the topic of mystery manga, offering a staggering overview of the many, many, many mystery manga that have been published since World War II in Japan, all placed within the proper historical and publication context. Anyone interested in mystery manga as a genre must read this.

Best Non-Review Post! Of 2018!
Glasses in mystery fiction

Did anyone notice I wrote a lot more editorials this year? Of course, usually I only write like one or two of them a year, so it's not that difficult to write a lot more than usual, but still... Most of them were about minor topics of course, like physical books versus e-books, or novels versus short stories (why am I only looking for confrontations?). I was also happy with the one about floorplans/diagrams, as usually I don't really have visual-oriented posts and I think the one about mystery-related merchandise was fairly unique too. But the one I actually thought about before writing, was the one about the various ways in which a pair of glasses can feature in a mystery story. Considering nobody commented on it, I assume it's also a very self-indulging topic, but still, as someone who loves his stories about physical clues, I really enjoyed looking at a specific item in mystery fiction that isn't even a murder weapon!

Best Plotted Mystery! in 2018!
Kubinashi no Gotoki Tataru Mono ("Those Who Cast A Curse Like The Headless")

The buzzword on this blog this year was synergy. I first used the word consciously in my review for Mitsuda Shinzou's Kubinashi no Gotoki Tataru Mono ("Those Who Cast A Curse Like The Headless") to describe the incredible feat Mitsuda had done in this novel: while every problem in the novel, from the mysterious decapitations to the impossible disappearance, could be related back to one single underlying theme that explained all, Mitsuda had not only created several diverse applications of that theme, he had also managed to make sure that each iteration and element in the book was there not just to make the story longer, but most importantly, they were there to help strengthen the other parts. Each element in the book had several reasons why it was included, and each of those reasons basically came down to making this a better mystery novel by strengthening all the other elements. Later in the year I also read Mitsuda's Yamanma no Gotoki Warau Mono ("Those Who Sneer Like The Mountain Fiend"), which did a similar thing, and Ochi's screenplay for Detective Conan Koureikai W Misshitsu Jiken ("The Case of the Séance's Double Locked Room") is also an excellent example of having various elements that aren't just there to have a longer story, but there to help strengthen and improve the overall mystery plot. In the end, I still think that the first novel that got me thinking about synergy in mystery fiction, is still the best example of how to really plot an interconnected mystery plot where you really can understand why each element is there and how it relates to the rest of the story.

Most Interesting Mystery Game Played In 2018! But Probably Older!
Detective Pikachu

Okay, to be honest, I didn't play that many outstanding mystery games this year. I played some minor releases, like Buddy Collection and Kiss of Murder, which were okay, but no more than that. Of the major releases, Tantei Jinguuji Saburou - Prism of Eyes ("Detective Jinguuji Saburou - Prism of Eyes") was overall disappointing as 75% of that game was just a rerelease of older material with a new coat of paint, while the prequel spin-off Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz could've used a bit more of brushing up in regards of storytelling. WorldEnd Syndrome was an interesting, and amusing mystery game, but it wasn't the type of story that really had you as the player actively investigating a case yourself. I didn't review L.A. Noire on the blog, which I did play this year, and while it has some interesting segments and ideas as a mystery game, it's also fault-ridden as it doesn't really knows what it wants to be in terms of both story and game. Detective Pikachu however was so much fun. Yes, it's a fairly simple adventure game, but the way it utilizes Pokémon and their unique abilities to create new types of mystery problems was both original and inspired and I had a blast start to finish. The new live-action film based on Detective Pikachu however.... that's going into Uncanny Valley material.

To name a few other non-mystery games that were great this year: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has to be named of course, and I also had fun with the miniature garden puzzler Captain Toad. I also enjoyed the sound novel Okuri'inu, which was created by the writer of one of the greatest horror novel games ever, Gakkou de Atta Kowai Hanashi. And Ryuu ga Gotoku Kenzan! was absolutely fun as a Yakuza game starring Musashi Miyamoto!

The Just-Ten-In-No-Particular-Order-No-Comments List 
- Shijinsou no Satsujin ("The Murders in the Villa of the Dead") (Imamura Masahiro)
- Kubinashi no Gotoki Tataru Mono ("Those Who Cast A Curse Like The Headless") (Mitsuda Shinzou)
- 13-Ninme no Tanteishi ("The 13th Detective") (Yamaguchi Masaya)
- Meitantei Pikachu (Detective Pikachu)
- Toshokan no Satsujin ("The Library Murder") (Aosaki Yuugo)
- The Borrowed (org. title: 13.67) (Chan Ho-Kei)
- Yamanma no Gotoki Warau Mono ("Those Who Sneer Like The Mountain Fiend") (Mitsuda Shinzou)
- Kaiki Tantei Sharaku Homura 3 - Routarou ("Sharaku Homura: Detective of the Uncanny - Mr. Wax") (Nemoto Shou)
- Youtou S79-Gou ("Phantom Thief S79") (Awasaka Tsumao)
- Noroi no Kamen wa Tsumetaku Warau ("The Cursed Masks Laugh Coldly") (Detective Conan episode 187)


  1. Your and TomCat's commendation of the Conan TV specials piqued my interest; I recall reading the original posts, but not knowing where to locate the episodes. Are they available on DVD or on crunchyroll?

    Thanks for the summary post - a couple of novels I should try to track down. "The Murders in the Villa of the Dead", "Those Who Cast A Curse Like The Headless" and "The Library Murder" sound interesting. I hope they have received Chinese, or even English, translations.

    1. Unluckily, Crunchyroll (which also has ridiculous country limits) started streaming DC with Episode 754 (the current is 926). So, out of all Ochi Hirohito's output, you could only get 905-906 (Eyewitness Testimony Seven Years Later, Pts. 1-2). Apparently, they also started serving the dub of Funimation (Episodes 1-123, branded as '1-130' due to splitting all specials into the shorter parts), which would allow you to enjoy:

      On Location, TV Drama Murder Case (21, branded as 22);
      Dracula's Villa Murder Case, Pts. 1-2 (88-89, branded 91-92).

      The official (and not so good) manga translation by Viz is currently 68 Volumes (of 95): this means being around Episode 593 of the anime. But, of course, anime originals are absent from there.

    2. And, glancing at Amazon, the DVD prices for random volumes are outrageous, and I don't know if they even include those two specials

      With the alternatives exhausted,
      I'd say your best bet is to look for, well, English fansubs. You can look up the specials by name to find their episode numbers, then find those episode numbers in an anime fansub streaming site or something

    3. It seems quite a few of Mitsuda's Toujou Genya novels have been translated in Chinese, as another commenter has err, commented on having read them (I don't know what kind of Chinese though).

      And to add to the Conan talk above: the single DVDs of FUNImation have been OOP for a time now, as they're now packed in seasons packs. Though of the anime original episodes I have discussed this year, only the Dracula story has been released on disc AFAIK. As for streaming, the HD remaster of the Cursed Masks was broadcast in Japan earlier this year, but I don't know whether the NA-only Crunchyroll/FUNimation Conan simulstream offered that episode too (as technically, they're re-runs and might be treated differently).

  2. Just ordered a copy of The Borrowed after reading your high praise! It's outside my usual traditional mystery trope reading but it might be refreshing.

    As far as 2019, I'm looking forward to reading/playing Soji Shimada's Murder in the Crooked House and WorldEnd Syndrome in English. Both seem right up my alley in atmosphere and aesthetic. Of course, I'll also read anything you may translate for LRI! ;)

    Wishing you a healthy and happy new year, Ho-Ling!

    1. Hope you will like The Borrowed too, and have a happy and mystery-filled New Year yourself too :D

  3. The 8 Mansion Murders deserves the praise, as it is a funny and clever mystery, and hope Pugmire decides to translate more in the future, but suppose you two will debut another Japanese writer for the next translation. Sadly, The Murders in the Villa of the Dead is unlikely, but hopefully, some publisher in the West has noticed your review and decides to pick it up.

    Anyway, I hope you had a great Christmas and all the best for 2019!

    1. They announced a live-action movie adaptation of The Murders in the Villa of the Dead for next year, so I'm going to guess the book will attract the attention of a lot of publishers if it hadn't already :P

      A great New Year to you too!

  4. I finished 8 Mansion Murders last night. Enjoyed the translation... the prose was very smooth. I almost never finish a book in a single day.

    I'm starting to put together an image of shin honkaku as a self-reflective return to the puzzle plot. Spoilers for 8 Mansion (rot 13):

    Novxb frrzf snzvyvne jvgu gur pevgvpvfzf yriryyrq ng gur cher chmmyr cybg (rt, “gur punenpgref ner syng”, be “guvf jbhyq arire unccra va erny yvsr”). Ohg ur qbhoyrf qbja ba vg va gur cebybthr, fnlvat gung cenpgvpnyvgl qbrfa’g znggre. Zbgvir qbrfa’g znggre; gur xvyyre qvq vg znvayl orpnhfr vg'f pbby. Jr’er urer gb unir sha jvgu gur zlfgrel; vzntvangvba vf zber vzcbegnag guna shagvbanyvgl. Juvyr V guvax gurer'f nyjnlf n cynpr va chmmyr cybgf sbe n gubhtugshy fgbel be flzcngurgvp punenpgref naq uhzna zbgvirf, V rawblrq guvf obbx sbe jung vg vf, naq vg arire gnxrf vgfrys gbb frevbhfyl.

    Overall, it was a very fun ride. Looking forward to your future translations. I'll devour all of them :p

    BTW, love the cover for Kubinashi. It’s just so evil.

    1. Glad you liked the book! You definitely touch upon a common point of (the early works of) many of the early shin honkaku writers. I know some readers would prefer more depth there, but personally, I can forgive a lot as long as the core puzzle plot is entertaining enough :P