Dec 10 2006

Kamen Tantei 1, Akino Matsuri

Tag: a: akino matsuri,manga — 11:45 pm

My second BookMooch request to come in. This is by the artist of Petshop of Horrors, and like Petshop of Horrors, it has a simultaneously mysterious-and-silly bishounen character with a ridiculous name, a blonder and more boring bishounen who exists to be startled and confused by the former, a stupid premise, and sociopaths. Unlike Petshop of Horrors, unfortunately, it is not awesome.

Two high school students, the aggressive tomboy Haruka and her timid, confused servant friend Masato have just won a contest with their mystery novel, written under a pen name, and seem to be on the fast track to becoming the hottest new… uh… I just wrote that and it was painful. My lungs did a thing… Haruka and Masato are apparently good.

For Haruka, though, being a mystery writer means solving murders in real life – and real life helpfully provides them for her. However, she finds she has competition as a detective when the capricious and over-dressed Kamen Tantei, or Masked Detective, begins appearing before them, providing the solutions to the crimes, and insisting that they make him their protagonist. He even shows up at the big mystery writer parties (big mystery writer parties?) in costume claiming to be the author of Haruka and Masato’s book. This causes the other writers to decide that their protagonist is a Mary Sue*, and infuriates Haruka.

Okay, does that sound like enough wacky antics to last us a while? Did I mention yet that there are ghosts?

Masato and Kamen Tantei can see dead people. The secret to Kamen Tantei’s success as a detective is his ability to call up the murdered and ask them. This enrages Haruka, who insists that ghosts can’t exist, because “If this was a novel about ghosts, it wouldn’t be a mystery! It would be a horror novel!” And she’s right. This is about the ghosts and the gore.

In Petshop of Horrors, our anti-hero Count D sold people pets that destroyed them psychologically, physically, or both. And though he said he was giving people “what they deserved,” he rarely cared enough about them to make us think he could be trusted to mete out justice. D was a sociopath, but he has nothing on these guys.

Haruka is the worst. When someone she knows is found dead, her first reaction is stars-in-her-eyes thrill at the proximity of a real murder – now she can solve it! Kamen Tantei doesn’t seem to care about anything except impressing people with his clothes and secret knowledge. Presumably he’ll get some kind of character development later, since you can’t hold up this kind of burden of mysteriousness for long, but that’s the situation as of volume one.

By standard manga characterization rules, it seems like Masato should probably be the foil here; the one who cares about the crime that’s been committed, but is too scared and ineffectual to deal with it the way Haruka and Kamen Tantei do. It looks like Akino’s trying to set him up that way. Unfortunately, she doesn’t try very hard. When a girl who had asked him out is found dead, apparently a suicide, he doesn’t cry, and feels guilty for about three pages before dissolving into comic-relief about something.

Actually, no one cries for the girl – the students all try to shove their way into the classroom where she died to get a look, and everyone at the funeral looks like they’re applying for a job. No one’s ever really interested in the murders, and that clashes weirdly both with the fairly-graphic depictions of violence, and with Kamen Tantei’s flowery explanations of the motivations for the crime at the end of each chapter.

Also, there is the plotting. It… gets distracted. The fourth chapter, in particular, looks like she started drawing it without knowing where it was going – the last three pages have literally no relation to the rest of the story. Her deadline must have attacked her.

My I-have-to-go-to-work-now conclusion: I am glad that I did not pay for this.

* I wish I knew what the original Japanese phrase was there…