Monday, December 27, 2010

The Devil Asks 100 Questions

Virtually all of Kadono Kouhei's books have had a healthy dose of philosophical meandering buried somewhere between the supernatural stuff. It was only natural he'd eventually find the time to explore that side of his writing in a little more depth, but I'm a little bit shocked how well the book turned out.
Kuzuha Momiji becomes internet famous for basically no reason -- her corrupt businesswoman mother is being hounded by the press after a particularly splashy failure, and Momiji happens to snap at the reports on live television. Shortly after, her mother comes to her with an offer -- they've got the best fixer in the business ready to bail her out, but only if Momiji agrees to talk to him. A man they all call The Devil -- Shaman Simpleheart. Who never once speaks to Momiji, or even seems aware that she is there. All interactions she has with The Devil are through a marionette named Hazure-kun -- a marionette who it is increasingly hard to believe is really being controlled by the man.
Hazure-kun insists he doesn't want to talk to her at all. He's being forced to do so by his masters. He doesn't expect much out of her, really; he just wants her to be stupid, to be the kind of useful idiot who can ask a simple question that inadvertently leads a genius like him to a breakthrough that can change the course of human history. For the rest of the book, he peppers her with questions -- one hundred in all, helpfully laid out for us in the table of contents -- and she tries to answer some of them, is utterly baffled by others, and angrily ignores even more. Sure, occasionally buildings catch fire, drug dealers are beaten half to death, and Momiji accidentally stops a madman from turning a wedding into a bloodbath, catapulting herself from internet famous to actually appearing on TV regularly, and a few guest characters from other Kadono series pop in to make the ending totally batshit for anyone who read this book first, but the core of the book is two people attempting to discuss the nature of the universe, and more often than not failing to understand a thing the other says. Yet this is somehow fascinating.
It's easy to talk about the slightly off-kilter sensibilities that make Kadono such a unique writer; occasionally it's nice to be reminded that there's quite a bit of craft supporting that.


  1. Sounds pretty damn cool. The puppet kind of reminds me of the ones the creepy-ass little girl from Shiki has.

  2. By the way, I think you'd enjoy this site (it's brand new)