Friday, April 30, 2010

Zerozaki Hitoshiki no Ningen Kankei: Muto Iori to no Kankei

Of the four final Zerozaki novels, this was the one I was most looking forward to -- the Zerozaki series kicked off with Iori as the point of view character, and I was certainly eager to see more of her. A brief scene in the third novel involving her getting some new hands was hardly enough, and her relationship with her brother was still barely defined.
Apparently it was barely defined because he wasn't really sure what to do with it. Zerozaki Hitoshiki, like Ii-chan, is somewhat defined by his inability to relate to people around him. He's naturally quite resistant to admitting he has a sister, and Nisio Isin eventually defaults to only demonstrating the strength of their relationship in stock combat-skills-increase-when-family-is-threatened moments...which are a central part of what a Zerozaki is, and certainly work, but don't exactly resolve the central relationship in a particular satisfying manner. He also hampers himself with an extremely misjudged bit about Hitoshiki dying, and possibly not being a true Zerozaki at all. It just feels muddled; I remain unclear on whether it was even a red herring.
Fortunately, the rest of the book delivers in spades. A direct sequel to the end of the Zaregoto series, the plot involves Aikawa Jun on a mission to resolve several bits of business the main series ultimately had no time for.
Particularly Ishinagi Moeta and Yamiguchi Houko.
Bit of back story here -- according to the Zaregoto Dictionary, there were actually two versions of the third novel in the series, one of which never saw the light of day. It was intended to be a novel focusing on the residents of Ii-chan's el cheapo apartment building; several of them had been introduced in the second novel, but he added more to the cast and attempted to spin a story about them...which never got interesting. The result was that later books in the series had several peripheral characters who lived in his apartment, and where frequently mentioned, but rarely actually played an active role. Nanananami Nanami never showed up at all, and the two runaways -- fifteen year old Reaper, Ishinagi Moeta, and his sister, the thirteen year old Assassin, Yamiguchi Houko, half-siblings from two of the seven killing families -- did not play an active role until Uprooted Radical.
While both their stories are resolved in the actual novels, their backstory remained a complete mystery; how would members of these two families come to be related, and why would they have run away and living in Kyoto?
So this novel retcons a scene with Moeta hiring Aikawa Jun to help Houko resolve issues with their parents, and she winds up taking Houko and the two surviving Zerozaki to the Yamiguchi's secret island to have it out with Houko's dad, the undefeated Rikka Kajumaru. Rikka Kajumaru is a seventy-eight year old undefeated legend...who is very enthusiastic about having a child with each of the seven killing families, and quite excited to discover that a female Zerozaki still exists. His scenes with his estranged daughter provide exactly the kind of visceral resolution that the title relationship wound up lacking.
On balance, probably the most satisfying book in the series since the original, but I can't help still wanting to see more of Iori; hopefully she'll show up in the final volume as well. I would definitely like to see her meet Ii-chan.


  1. Nanananami Nanami

    I wish I could believe you were kidding.

  2. Someday I'll gro crazy not being able to read nekosogi radical because of tons of other books I'm also interested in...

    I only know ningenshiken so far but I'll have to read the other ones someday as well. Not really interested in the pure fanservice stuff and all the action but there are more than enough characters whose development didn't fit into the zaregoto series and finishing some loose threads in this spinoff series is better than nothing at all I guess.

    This one sounds much more interesting to me than the Izumu volume. Unless we actually get to know stuff about Nao and he's not only used as a device... Don't know about nekosogi though as I said. Weekends and days in general need to be longer...

  3. Nekosogi is a much faster read than the earlier books, since there's no tedious mystery slowing things down.
    The later Zerozaki are definitely on the good side of fanservice -- but if Nisemonogatari fell flat, they probably would to.
    Nao appears very briefly. Almost seemed like it was setting up something else. Since he's got another Zaregoto spin-off series in the works, he might have been laying the groundwork for that. But he's mostly just an oddball speech pattern.

  4. Well, I'm pretty much a mystery maniac so apart from the awesome dialogue and narration this was what got me going back then.

    For me Kubikiri and Kubishime were the perfect mixture of both his writing style and the mystery aspect, which is why those two are still my favorites. Kubitsuri was rather bland and more or less only laid the foundation for things to come.
    In Saikoro I found the interaction between the characters (apart from Utsurigi) to be rather uninteresting considering we already had a pretty similar theme in Kubikiri. In the second part the mystery was almost the only thing that
    really intrigued me (in spite of the ending, though I had to think about that for a week).
    Hitokui was such a fun and witty read I couldn't believe it had more pages than any volume before though and when I began Nekosogi recently it was pretty much the same feeling, which is nice but I'm already reading 2 other books simultaneously at the moment...

    You mean Aikawa Jun no Shippai? It's funny, just when you think he might actually more or less conclude the whole thing he focuses on yet other stuff he couldn't cram into his first series. Instead of finishing other outstanding works... I'm not willing to begin with the Sekai series until he provides that last volume.

  5. I like mysteries, but I have little patience for mysteries that focus heavily on the deductive process. Zaregoto is fairly light on that, which is always a plus, but the mysteries themselves were never the most interesting thing for me. He's mentioned Hanging High as the moment when he realized he didn't even need to bother writing in a traditional mystery structure, and it's the stronger for it, even if the resolution is one of his weakest. You barely remember the mystery, but you remember that cast, and they've mostly all shown up in the Zerozaki novels in flashbacks.
    Saikoro has some fantastic bits, but is probably the weakest of the Zaregoto novels; it sort of meanders for a while. Hitokui takes a while to get started as well, but you forget it once it goes berserk.

    There's a final volume in the Sekai series? Only read the first two, never even bought the fourth. First was awful -- like, twenty pages of the fucking boring detective explaining things she considered and then dismissed. Who the fuck cares, then? Skip to the solution. Crap mystery anyway. Second was pretty great, though. But the threat of deduction has kept it pretty far down my list. Not sure there's any reason to wait, though; the first two novels are both more or less stand alone. If you haven't read Uprooted Radical yet, might as well get through that first.

  6. What you describe is typical for classical detective fiction to date and while I am generally open to anything mystery/SF/fantasy as long as it fits certain personal conditions, I do have to admit that I also like this classical type of mystery. Which might feature detailed deductions that do not lead to a solution, yeah... Though the extent you described there seems pretty mean.

    According to Wikipedia the 1st Mephisto issue in 2008 stated that there will be another volume simply called Boku no Sekai that concludes the series... no date mentioned though. Nothing unusual for Nishio's releases I guess.

    I'll have to postpone anything Nishio anyway right now since I have/want to read some other novels for my bachelor thesis first.