Saturday, August 28, 2010

Six members of an occult spot exploration circle plan on staying in the Firefly Mansion located in the thicket of Kyouto's mountain ranges. One of the circle's prospering old boys bought this mansion known for becoming a crime scene ten years ago when a famous composer, the former owner of the mansion, murdered his six performing musicians in one night. What was supposed to be a mere test of courage and an otherwise relaxed camping among the circle members quickly turns into another murder incident.

Published 2002, the setting seems kind of belated considering that these 'students murdered in closed circle'-settings emerged in the late 80's, but since Maya Yutaka debuted in the early 90's and started writing deconstructing anti-mysteries immediately I guess this was more like a fresh work by him than feeling outdated and overused. Especially since, as usual, Maya integrates his characteristic themes like identity anxiety and exchangeability and portrays the characters in this novel a lot more distinctly and interestingly than common for such settings. Most of them have a clear reason for participating in the camping at Firefly Mansion or even have a whole background explaining their behaviour and traits.

However, he also loves to play with these depictions as he kind of became my personal master of narrative tricks. Creating uncertainty or even divergence between the basic character models and how those persons and their behaviour and background are actually narrated, Maya again plays with roles and biases. He even lets an otaku appear in this novel, whereas when these settings were gradually becoming prevalent, the otaku murders in the late 80's were mere factors in making locked room scenarios less fictitious and more credible in an everyday sense for the general reader. The whole outcome of the plot shows how Maya takes a stance concerning the whole 純愛boom preceding this novel and leaves the reader with a wry aftertaste.

The narrative trick's nature itself was a bit different and even unusual for me this time. I was overly careful during the whole reading process, knowing what twists this author can throw at you in the end, but eventually it turned out that I was being careful and searching on totally different levels than I should have or was supposed to. It felt like a 'reverse' narrative trick where the reader actually knows more than the majority of the cast in the book and as long as he does not realize this on the basis of the numerous hints, without the explanation at the end he would not understand why the characters were eventually able to determine the culprit. It turned out to be less shocking than in 鴉 but surprising nonetheless and unique and formidable all the more.

I would love to continue reading Maya's works right away since I came to adore his writing style, his characters and settings and the way he deconstructs so much within this genre complex and yet manages to include such classical aspects while still twisting them to make something fresh out of it. However he is one of those authors where you can easily acquire the debut work but most novels published after that are out of print and since used copies are pretty much impossible to get when you're not living over there and don't have access to book-off and the like, I'll have to ask friends for help or wait until I can beleaguer Japanese bookshops myself. Most private sellers on amazon sadly don't offer overseas shipping...

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