Monday, November 22, 2010

After the ominous murder incident on Kazune Island, Kisaragi Uyuu suffers from post-traumatic memory loss. To get those memories back he continuously finds himself setting temples and shrines on fire. It turns out later that in each remains of those a corpse is found. On top of that Uyuu receives a letter asking what he intends to burn next. Might Uyuu also be a murderer?

Depriving the protagonist of his memories from the previous novel and making him suffering under that condition one of the main themes of at least half of the book is a... unique decision to say the least. In theory one could also read this without knowing the preceding work, but it gets so much more curious when you get all the references and sarcastic puns while Uyuu himself fails at remembering anything in the end. However this can also be fairly annoying at times the more you proceed in the novel. The more miserable Uyuu becomes I was close to not being able to endure his character any more. It's not that I hated him, it's more like I began to hate me for not being able to hate him and instead feeling sympathy for him. Sometimes I really asked myself why I was still reading this, especially since the whole reading experience seems more like two different short stories put together at first. Of course in the later half the various seemingly unrelated aspects intertwine in a totally constructed manner but if you can't cope with that, why are you reading Maya Yutaka in the first place...? It's a really weird and sometimes exhausting but also agitating reading experience that was worth the effort eventually but it I think I needed the same amount of time for this one as I needed to finish the preceding work which featured almost twice as much pages...

Overall this kind of reminded me of Nishio Ishin's second novel. From the secluded island to a more everyday live setting, a more flexible structure and the worst outcome possible. Worst as in horrible for most of the characters in the book and also shocking for the reader. However one could also feel that Maya could have done better in structuring the whole story and now I think I get what he meant in an interview when he said he perceives his longer stories as less accomplished than his short stories and that he is always worrying when constructing a longer plot. As long as he uses a self-contained peculiar setting he does totally fine but in this case of a more common setting without a distinct frame, I think you can actually feel his shakiness a bit.

Nevertheless the plot, themes and character development turned out satisfying as usual. It did not satisfy me like the other works of his I have read by any means but as long as you know at least the two preceding novels you will most likely be reading this just for Maya's peculiar, unique style alone anyway and this book absolutely goes in line with the themes and structures of his other works.

As for the mystery part: This time I thought it was surprisingly possible to come up with the truth behind everything. Which was fairly unexpected for me since the mystery aspect was more or less just a side factor developing in the background or at least I perceived it as such, just as I did in most of his other works I know so far. Of course it's nothing fancy but it's a decent whodunnit I would say. Furthermore this time Mercator Ayu finally got more time to actually... do stuff, in contrast to the other novels where he appears. Like... being kind and therefore creepy and making Uyuu a chosen one and teaching him deduction techniques... I love how Maya constructs this overlapping world consisting of symbols and language where characters are based on symbols but are then dubbed totally different than one would expect. Nothing precisely unusual for post-modern novels but I've yet to see someone do it his way.

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