Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Sea You, Sea Me

" You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there"
"The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"

Honestly, the water color covers of the pocket reissues of this series are so much better than the original comic-like covers...

Tanabata "Kick" Kikuno miraculously managed to (help) solve two major cases soon after her posting to the Homicide division of the Metropolitan Police Department, even though she was just intended to be a "pretty face" and now the attempt to mix her up in an international scandal failed, some people above her in the command chain are becoming very nervous, as at this rate Kick might climb the career ladder faster than them. Kick's boss Fushimi advises her lie low for a while and tells her to take a holiday. She decides to go to Hachijou-jima, and even Chika and Ryou (her former fellow members of the idol group Blue Sky G) as well as her current colleagues Higashiyama and Shinkai "Angler" Yasukimi decide to fly over for one day to fish together. It's not fish they find at sea though, but an old boat floating around with a decapitated head. Holiday becomes work as they quickly notify the local police. Based on the currents, it appears the boat came floating from Kikakujima, a small island nearby with about three hundred inhabitants. Kairyuuji Shinji, the younger brother of the current mayor whose family has ruled the island for generations, had already been reported missing and the decapitated head is indeed identified as Shinji's. Because Shinji's body is still missing and it's determined Shinji was on the island until his disappearance, it's decided to set up an investigation HQ on Kikakujima and because the islands around here still fall under Tokyo jurisdiction, Kick's unit is sent to the small island to find Shinji's body and catch the murderer. 

It doesn't take long for them to find Shinji's body inside the cabin of one of the fishing boats of the ship graveyard on the other side of the harbor, but the cabin is locked with a chain and padlock from the inside, meaning that the only one who could've locked the door was... Shinji's dead, headless body. This notion of a body rising to lock the door reminds some people of the rumors surrounding Kikakujima: just two generations ago, the islanders lynched a doctor who was said to be conducting human experiments in search of the secret of eternal life on this island, giving the island the nickname Mad Science Island. But while Kick and her team look for clues, more murders occur that seem to have an impossible angle, like Kick and Higashiyama witnessing a burning woman falling into the sea, but when they fish her up, they find she was stabbed hours earlier! With administration ready to demote Kick the moment she makes a mistake, the only option left for her is to solve the case and catch the killer in Katou Motohiro's Kikagakujima no Kioku - Tsukamaeta Mon Kachi! ("Memories of Mad Science Island - Those Who Make The Arrest Win!" 2019).

This third novel in the series about the former-idol-turned-police-detective Kick by Q.E.D. and C.M.B.'s Katou Motohiro is set immediately after the second novel, and it definitely pays to read these novels in order, as the subplot of Kick's management superiors trying to find some excuse to get her away from Homicide is directly tied to what happened in the second novel, and continues here. I first read the second book in this series, Quantum Man Kara no Tegami - Tsukameta Mon Kachi!, which I thought was the best complete work of Katou I had read until now, more enjoyable than his better known works Q.E.D. and C.M.B.. Kick as an underdog character was infinitely more interesting than Touma and Shinra in Q.E.D. and C.M.B. respectively. The real Holmes character in this series is the data analyst Shinkai "Angler" Yasukimi, who acts as a kind of armchair detective because he usually solves the cases based on the mails Kick sends him. Because of this, Kick might initially remind the reader of the female sidekick characters n Q.E.D. and C.M.B. due to her athletic talents, but she's actually quite intelligent and more often than not, she'll solve a large part of the mystery on her own. She's therefore much more fun to follow, being not as brilliant Touma and Shinra in Q.E.D. and C.M.B., but still able to move the plot with both her mental and physical abilities. The political plot surrounding Kick's position are also naturally woven into the mystery plot, which is really entertaining: her bosses want Kick to fail and are ready to jump on every mistake and even use the media to get her out of Homicide, which at times limits the moves Kick can make, which ultimately influence how the plot develops. It's a great way to incorporate Kick's personal story to the ongoing series of murders, as sometimes the murderer sees an opportunity that basically only exists because Kick can't move around freely without worrying about her job.

Kick's position as a protagonist different from the girl sidekicks we see in Q.E.D. and C.M.B. is also noticable in this book, with "Angler" only popping up once in a while on the island, while most of the plot of Kikagakujima no Kioku revolves around Kick's investigation. After the discovery of the locked room in the abandoned fishing boat, suspicions arise that the murderer may be focusing on the members of the Kairyuuji family, the de-facto rulers of the island. In the past, Kikakujima used to be a penal island and the Kairyuuji family acted as the island chiefs, but even now, the islanders all accept Kairyuuji Mitsugu was the mayor, like his father before him. While the island is quite small, there has been a small influx of outsiders lately because they're digging for precious metals in the sea, with lots of people taking the ferry to and from Hachijou-jima daily, so the investigation into Shinji's murder isn't going as smoothly as you'd expect on a small island. The two previous novels were distinctly urban, so it's interesting to see how this series now tackles the Yokomizo Seishi setting of an isolated community, while still being firmly set in a contemporary setting. The book focuses a lot on Kick's digging into the family history and the interpersonal relations of the current members in search of a motive and this aspect combined with the small island with a secret history (there's also a neat map!) definitely reminds a bit of the Kindaichi novels.

When it comes to the individual murder mysteries of Kikagakujima no Kioku, most of the concepts are perhaps a bit simple when viewed seperately. The locked cabin on the fishing boat for example is solved very easily by "Angler" early on in the story and while the following murders on the island (yes, more and more murders occur) usually have an unexplicable element to them initially, these minor mysteries about the murders are usually cleared up fairly soon. Kikagakujima no Kioku is therefore much more enjoyable seeing everything come together, as while the seperate parts don't surprise the reader too much, it's the story that's created with all of those concepts that makes this book a perfectly enjoyable entry in this series: there are a lot more twists and turns than you'd initially expect and the book also makes great use of the island setting to present a story that is at one hand very familar in detective stories (as said, the isolated community setting), but it's also a story that actually uses the characteristics of this specific setting to make the mystery plot possible in the first place: the story wouldn't have worked the way it did had it been set elsewhere. The book eventually builds up to a nice confrontation with the murderer where it's revealed a lot more was going on than appeared at first sight, and it also manages to hit those typical human drama elements you see more often in Q.E.D. and C.M.B. than in  Conan or Kindaichi Shounen.

Kikagakujima no Kioku - Tsukamaeta Mon Kachi! was thus another solid entry in this series and I think that on the whole, it's still the series by Katou Motohiro I manage to enjoy best overall. This entry on one hands builds on the subplot of the previous novels, but also brings something completely new by moving Kick and her unit away from the metropolis to a tiny island, bringing the type of story I hadn't expected with this series. While the mysteries taken seperately are not mindblowing, the overall story told is entertaining and manages to captivate the reader, so if you pick up this book, you're sure to have a good time.

Original Japanese title(s): 加藤元浩『奇科学島の記憶 捕まえたもん勝ち!』


  1. I confess I haven't been especially enamoured by QED, but this sounds interesting I don't think it's been translated into Chinese yet... we'll wait and see! Thanks for the review. 😊

    1. Q.E.D. is a series I don't really *love*, but it's consistent enough I can enjoy reading it once in a while. Which reminds me, I read the last of the three Best Of selection Q.E.D. volumes a while ago, but still haven't written a review of it ^_^'

  2. I am a fan of Katou's work, so I really wanted to read this one. Unfortunately, although a lot of detective manga have been published in my country, so far only Conan light novels have been translated.

    Even though Q.E.D. and C.M.B might be lacking in term of the detection elements compared to Conan and Kindaichi, I do enjoy the different type of atmosphere of the mysteries, and the science/ history background featured in Katou's stories are really interesting to me. If you have a chance, I also recommended his earlier work: 'The Rocket Man'. Despite the title, it is actually a mystery story. After ending C.M.B., he also recently serialized a new title: "Sora no Grifters", although it seems to be a heist story.

    Other detective manga I enjoy are "Tantei Gakuen Q", "Spiral", "Suiri no Hoshi kun", and "Meitantei Yumemizu Kiyoshiro Jiken Note" (which if I recalled correctly, you mentioned that you hated this title in an old blog post. I do like the atmosphere in the manga though.)

    1. Suddenly reminded that I actually did get the first volume of The Rocket Man a while ago after several mentions here, but still haven't read it ^_^'

      I was introduced to the anime of Spiral soon after it first aired and loved it (THAT PIANO PIECE DURING THE DEDUCTION SCENES <3), and I got the original manga series like 10 years ago in a sale... but then left it unread until last year ^_^' I marathon-sessioned the series last year, but I think I liked the series best until the Kanone part, the last third of the manga I didn't find as interesting so I didn't bother with trying the follow-up series.