[Warning: This afterword contains spoilers!]
[Note about Masaki Tsuji: An anime screenplay writer for Astro Boy, Dr Slump, Urusei Yatsura among many others, as well as mystery novel writer, who won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1981 for Murder in Alice’s Country]
The first experience I had with Yonezawa-san’s works is Goodbye Fairy, published by Tokyo Sogensha in “Mystery Frontier”.
I had heard of his debut work Hyouka, but as someone who likes new things, I had spectacularly failed to read it. Although I started with the debut works for authors like Otsuichi1, Kouhei Kadono2 and Nisio Isin3, but it seems that my antenna has started to rust. So, I read Goodbye Fairy without any prior knowledge.
And I was instantly blown off my feet.
“Mystery Frontier” is not a light novel label, and it would be problematic if Goodbye Fairy is misunderstood to be a light novel, but whenever I get asked the question, “What is an interesting mystery written by a young person?” by some people, I would give the name of that book. Of course, “some people” in this case largely refers to old men and women who would not be able to tell apart manga and light novels in a bookshop. They hardly read anything aside from the magazines placed in banks and dental clinics, yet bemoan that young people today are illiterate (as part of that older generation… I apologize), so whenever they say something like that, I tell them to read Goodbye Fairy.
With that, you can tell just how impactful that novel was to me, and thus I started placing my trust in the worlds created by the author called Honobu Yonezawa. Starting from everyday mysteries, can they bring other readers to this point?
I would end up becoming even more surprised by The Incite Mill later, but here I should get on with the afterword for the latest installment of the Petit Bourgeois series, Case of the Autumn-Exclusive Kuri Kinton.
What is the Petit Bourgeois series? For readers who say that, you’ll understand if you read it, so follow me – such a high-handed attitude would definitely not be adopted by the protagonist, Kobato Jougorou. That is because as a high school student, he aims to live his life as a little citizen, for whom “it is not unnatural to be present, and also not unnatural to be absent”.
It is possible that this motto does not just apply to high school students, but also to working adults. It could be an innate instinct to survive somewhat peacefully in between people who are like starving porcupines, lashing out at everyone and everything because they are unable to stomach the complicated, annoying, depressing world.
That is why Kobato-kun works hard to stand out like air. He even expertly hides that hard work so that he does not draw attention from others.
… Such a semi-transparent protagonist might be fine for a home drama, but would that work in a mystery? Readers who think that way have already fallen for Yonezawa-san’s strategy. Furthermore, there is the young girl Osanai Yuki, who up until the previous novel, worked with the protagonist as a comrade in maintaining the spirit of the petit bourgeois. She is a short girl with black hair who looks like a middle school student, and would sometimes give off a coquettish vibe. Kobato-kun and Osanai-san recognize each other as companions aiming to become petit bourgeois, but separated in the previous novel.
With the hero and heroine (It is completely against my intention to refer to you with those words, but I have no choice. No matter how much you struggle, you two are the main characters of the series, so quietly accept it like little citizens!) introduced like this, it seems impossible for the story to become a standard love comedy. And in reality, it became an epic saga of two parts lining the shelves in bookshops.
Apparently, Yonezawa-san first started thinking of writing mysteries because he admired the charm of Kaoru Kitamura’s invention, the “everyday mystery”.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing of this commentary, I did not personally know Yonezawa-san. This is why the things written as if I thoroughly understand them are simply nuggets of information from Wikipedia, but I believe they are still quite convincing. If you look around the everyday world, you may be able to find unexpected puzzles, unexpected mysteries, but unexpected murders or unexpected kidnappings hardly ever appear. As the common sense of mysteries would dictate, it is extremely difficult to maintain a long story where no one gets killed, so there are many short stories in the sphere of the “everyday mystery”.
But to repeat myself, Case of the Autumn-Exclusive Kuri Kinton is, as you can see, a story split into two volumes. So, how did he do it? How exactly did Yonezawa-san make a long story stay consistent with the Petit Bourgeois series?
As a perk of being the writer for this afterword, I could read this work at the galley proof4 stage. That is why my thoughts about it are recent and fresh. I read both parts in one sitting, and was it interesting! Simply writing pleasantries like that does not make for good commentary, so I will begrudgingly try to expand on that in my own way, without revealing the inner workings of the mystery.
Since this afterword will be in the second volume, there will likely be no impudent readers who choose not to buy the books due to my writings, but let me say this just in case. You should not expect the contents of this story to be plain, just because of the name of the series it belongs to. There are no terror attacks or mass murders, but there is a great deal of suspense in profiling the culprit of serial arson. When it comes to whether a certain individual could be a suspect, fans of the series will feel especially uneasy and nervous. While it may seem unbelievable, there could be a chance with such a character with unique words and deeds.
In the first place, if Osanai-san is not the culprit (Ah, I revealed it), who could it be? There is no doubt that hardcore mystery readers will light up at that whodunit.
This story is not only told from Kobato-kun’s perspective. In this two-part story, you also follow the case through the eyes of the Newspaper Club’s Urino, who can be considered a deuteragonist. With the ambition that only a young person could possess to reject the schoolwide newspaper’s structure and make a name for himself outside of school, he would probably view Kobato-kun, the little citizen, as irritating.
The person who acts as Urino’s brakes is Doujima, who was the president of the Newspaper Club. Though he is different in ruggedness compared to Kobato-kun, he is still a good friend who often lends a hand – though perhaps that is not for me to say. While it may be true that he is athletic, when it comes to Yonezawa-san’s works, readers who classify characters with preconceived notions may find themselves skipping ahead and rejecting any development that contradicts those notions, so I will not treat this so lightly. Just as Kobato-kun might comment, “The world can’t be divided so simply, you know,” the story is bound in such a way that as a mystery or even as a novel, it honestly cannot be described in a straightforward manner, as much as it pains me to say.
There are no acts of intimidation, earth-shattering tricks or surprise twists, yet it felt great reading the drama that touched every nerve and admiring the wondrous depictions of each scene. I mentioned earlier that I read the entire story in one sitting, but how much worth is there in reading it?
Alongside the main plot of the case of serial arson, Kobato-kun, who separated from Osanai-san in the previous novel, is immediately asked out by a girl called Nakamaru-san, and their relationship begins. Oh, is that the classic triangular relationship? Readers who thought that this would be the start of a love affair, which is quite unlike petit bourgeois, will of course be let down. Nevertheless, the excessive stock of knowledge and gluttony the familiar, deceitful Osanai-san has towards sweets has not changed in the slightest. This may be the longest work in the series, but it is excellent in the methods of varying the parts that have changed and parts that continue from the previous novels.
Here this commentary may have taken on the tone of a peer-written review, but that should be called an unorthodox way to read this story.
As a reader who was kept in suspense, yet let out some giggles during the more humorous moments, I would like to read more, and be taken in by the plans for further mysteries in the palms of Yonezawa-san’s hands. That is how I feel, but – as long as time does not turn back, graduation day for these lovable little citizens draws near.
What will happen to the Petit Bourgeois series when the characters exit high school? Can the two main characters’ values resonate in the remaining six months? I am worried, but it seems good to ask the people involved. Assuming that we ignore the author and ask that question to the two characters…
“I would prefer to be left alone, though…”
That is how Kobato-kun would reply.
“Of course the series will continue even after we graduate. That’s a lie, though.”
And Osanai-san would probably give a grin with that answer.
Assistants (Tier 1) : Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!
- A writer, mostly of horror short stories, as well as a filmmaker. He made his debut with Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse while still in high school.
- An author, best known for the Boogiepop series.
- A novelist, manga author and screenplay writer, best known for the Monogatari series.
- The preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra-wide margins, and may be uncut and unbound.