Posts Tagged 'zaregoto'

Zaregoto 2: The Kubishime Romanticist

 

The narrator is someone capable of mostly ignoring her

 

by dm00

The second volume of NisiOisiN’s Zaregoto series arrived last week, and I read it over the weekend. It follows a couple of months after the incidents of the first book — the book opens with the narrator drowning his tastebuds in kimchi to burn them out, resetting them so he can enjoy mundane food once again, now that he’s no longer trapped on an isolated island with the world’s greatest cook. As he is doing this, he is confronted by Mikoko Aoii, who invites him to a friend’s birthday party. The narrator finds himself drifting along with events (that include murders, an encounter with a serial-killer, and the return of humanity’s strongest consultant, Aikawa Jun.

I’m not sure — these books remind me of Bret Easton Ellis substituting otaku references for designer-brand name-dropping. For this volume it seems to be Japanese mystery writers or characters more than anime and manga (save for Aoii referring to the strength of the narrator’s AT-field). There’s a curious void at the heart of the characters — particularly the central narrator — and Isin spends more time telling than showing as the narrator talks about his own emptiness. At one point the narrator seems to have a refreshingly human reaction. However, it’s very normality should tip the reader off that something is up.

The blue-haired moeblob hacker is nearly reduced to a footnote.

I’d forgotten from the first book that these are mystery novels with an unreliable narrator. If we are to solve the mystery we have to realize that the narrator may be hiding vital information from us. Indeed, the narrator comes close to being so misleading as to hide necessary clues. He comes close, but doesn’t quite cross that line — when Jun Aikawa does figure things out, she uses evidence that we are also privy to.

And yet, something about the books makes them more compelling for me than, say Haruki Murakami. After finishing this novel, I think the leap to the supernatural that happens in Bakemonogatari is a good strategy for NisiOisiN — it might, ironically, make the characters more human by giving them a reason to be less human.

I’m more-or-less hooked. Del Rey, why not bring the next volume out a little sooner than late 2011?

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Bakezaregotari

by dm00

Yummy Take cover art

Yummy Take cover art

When I first read the description of NisiOisin’s Zaregoto:

It’s the vacation of a lifetime, a trip to a remote island filled with geniuses – and murder.

On Wet Crow’s Feather Island, a tiny speck in the Sea of Japan, lives Akagami Iria, the exiled daughter of a powerful family. Born into great wealth, she was a princess of the highest pedigree – until she was cut off by the leader of the Akagami Foundation. For the last five years, she’s lived on Feather Island with her maids. But she hasn’t been alone. She has invited the best minds Japan has to offer to come and stay with her.

And so 19-year-old college student Ii-chan and his best friend, computer genius Kunagisa Tomo, find themselves as Iria’s guests at her elaborate mansion. Surrounded by fascinating women – a chef, a fortune-teller, a scholar, and an artist, not to mention his own friend Tomo – Ii-chan is feeling a little overmatched intellectually. But the sudden discovery of a grisly murder sends the island into shock. Ii-chan discovers that he does possess a bit of genius: the ability to discover what is real and what is fake… who is who they claim to be – and who is a killer.

I wasn’t particularly excited.  “Oh, a locked-room mystery on an isolated island, how uncontrived”.  Not even Andrew Cunningham clearly plumping for it and Omo being cryptic was enough to interest me.

But then I got hooked on NisiOisin’s Bakemonogatari with it’s odd characters and their odd monologues, and grew hungry for more.

Well, if you’re looking for a hit of that Bakemonogatari magic, this is a good place to look.  Once again you have your nebbish narrator surrounded by weird women with the ability to spin words into webs of fascination.  NisiOisin actually manages to make his characters’ supposed genius at least credible (even if they do take a bit long to seize on the post hoc).

And, hey, it’s a pretty decent mystery.  Even better: there’s a twist to the solution that even eludes the main character, delivered with the sort of punch fans of Bakemonogatari are accustomed to.

The only bad thing is that Del Rey doesn’t seem to plan to bring the second volume of the series out until June of next year.  Give them encouragement.  Go buy it.


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