A Closed Room Murder Mystery (Getenrou 4)

by slyborg

Soon to be seen in Milky Holmes 2 (as a loli of course)

ITC: We introduce a brilliant detective by the name of Sakuraba Saeko, who is destined to join the ranks of detectives like Holmes, Poirot, etc, etc…

>> Get Getenrou chapter 4 here <<
[Translator: Kasu; Typesetter: Oyashiro; Proofreader: IO]

[Ghost posted for Oyashiro, whose Internet is bounced off a Mongolian communications satellite and then routed through 7 proxies resulting in total untraceability and 300 bps speeds.]

As you may have noticed, GreenTea has suddenly had a spasm of productivity and is threatening to bring in another series with even moar love that must not be named, because Aki Sora scanlation is nearly at an end. Also feel free to yank his chain about DAT CAT. 2wei 19 should be out in the week, after which I will gird my loins for finishing the last KK OVA. We have another short series featuring the fearsome CATSEAL that Oya refuses to release also in the hopper somewhere, as well as another Azazel chapter. Please wait warmly…

11 Comments to “A Closed Room Murder Mystery (Getenrou 4)”

  1. Thanks for the latest episode. That looks like a robot in the story, so I guess this is a sort of science fiction mystery comedy.

  2. I thought the part where the detective slid off the roof and onto the bed was funny and original. It was a sort of parody of all the locked room detective Conan stories. What I find sort of amusing is that the Golden Age of the Mystery Story classic detective paraphernalia (locked room/dying message/murder in the mansion sort of mystery) all originated in the West, but detective stories of that nature are now very rarely found here. If you want to read stories with the classic detective novel mechanisms you have to go to Japan. Conan’s name, Conan Edogawa, is a reflection of two important Western mystery writers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as Edogawa Rampo, but there aren’t many new Western detective writers who use these two authors for inspiration.

    It’s like the Western phantom thief stories (Raffles, Lupin, etc.). This type of story also originated in the West, but they aren’t written here any longer. Only the Japanese still do them as a recognized subgenre (as in Milky Holmes!). Sailor suits for high school girls and Prussian tunics for boys are still in use as Japanese styles; these originated in the West, but have been gone from here for almost 100 years as civilian clothing. I read somewhere that if you want to hear the ancient styles of Chinese music, they can now only be heard in Japan. I guess that once the Japanese discover something new from another counrty, they figure that that’s how it is properly done, so they keep it in that form. In other words, there is an element of Chiri Kitsu in the Japanese personality. I think it is a good thing that someone is hanging onto the roots of things.

  3. I’m probably talking a bit out of my ass here, but I’d say that the reason the early detective tropes hang around in Japan is that they’re a culture that seems to embrace stability. The West seems to place more of a premium on innovation than does Japan. As a result, you see things lingering in Japan well past their shelf lives elsewhere. I’m sure someone can come in and write a long piece about how the literary movements in Japan and abroad differ in their philosophies, but I would assume that it boils down to Japan being a very conservative culture, whereas in the West, the culture is much more embracing of new ideas.

    I would assume that’s also why musicians that make it big in Japan stick around for ages, while over here in the West, we tend to be followers of “the next big thing” which seems to pop out every few months.

  4. I would tend to agree with you that Japan is a more conservative country than the U.S. However, I notice a few interesting things. First, Japan is essentially barely out of a feudal age of shoguns and swords (with some firearms). The Meiji Restoration only wrapped up about 1869. From that background they were suddenly thrust into the Western environment, which was advancing at a rapid technological pace. It is easy to forget that Bell got the patent for the telephone in 1876. Nonetheless, the Japanese were highly adaptable. They understood very well that that they had to adapt to Western culture or be conquered as China had been. But their solution to the problem seems to me to be different from what one would expect. In fact their solution seems to be culturally unique to Japan. It seems to me that what they do is to compartmentalize all cultural artefacts. For instance, there is a tendency for each society or subgroup in a society to pick a particular religion and stick with it. They may add outside elements from other religions to their own over time in a sort of synthesis. They may, like the Roman empire, be perfectly willing to accept that the various gods of the various other states they encountered were perfectly valid gods for those states (which is easy to do when you are a polytheist) while not incorporating them into their own pantheon. But the Japanese started with Shintoism, and when Buddhism came along, they were also willing to accept that. But what was unusual was that the two religions did not appear to achieve any kind of synthesis. Rather, it appears to me that Shintoism and Buddhism were practiced side by side without merging.

    This compartmentalization of concepts strikes me as being highly unusual, especially when it occurs over a long period of time. Further, although the Japanese historically ultimately rejected Christian conversion, that appears to me to have been basically motivated by political considerations. (This is why it always seems to me to be improbable that there are so many Catholic girls’ schools featured in anime. There have probably been more statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary featured in various anime than exist in real life in the totality of Japan. The ending animation for Boku wa Tomodachi is really funny in this regard.) But they were perfectly willing to pick up some Christian elements, So they seem to celebrate Christmas, even though it has no religious significance for them. Likewise, I read that some Japanese even go so far as to have a sort of marriage ceremony performed by a man dressed up as a priest with the ceremony conducted in what seems to be a western-style church. I read somewhere that the saying in Japan is “Born Shinto, marry Christian, die Buddhist,” meaning that birth rites are conducted in accordance with Shintoism, marriage rites are conducted along Christian lines, and death rites are conducted according to Buddhist ceremonies. I do not know to what extent this is true, but it would not surprise me if there were not some truth to the situation. The point is that all of these concepts exist side by side with little or no merging.

    I know virtually nothing about the Japanese language, but from what I have seen this modular concept also appears to me to apply to Japanese writing. Japanese written words appear to me to be individual boxes, so to speak, which people then mix and match to produce varying concepts. This appears to me to be one of the reasons why the Japanese are so fond of word-play games. I would appreciate any comments on this issue.

    As I envisage it, therefore, it seems to me that the Japanese mind maintains a sort of modular structure, in which all concepts tend to be compartmentalized in their own boxes. This would tend to result in a sort of conservatism because the concepts themseves do not change. However, what it also allows them to do is to mix and match various ideas to arrive at new combinations. While it does not seem to me that they excel in the creation of new ideas, they do excel in coming up with new combinations of old ideas. They did not invent the automobile, but they brought its manufacture to a high state of development both techologically and economically. As a result, it seems to me that they are simultaneously conservative on the one hand, and adaptable and progressive on the other hand. This strikes me as being a good thing.

    The problem for the U.S. is that, as Macaulay said, we tend to be all sail and no ballast. We are too eager to neglect the roots of our structure while striving to obtain the next new thing. But neglecting the foundations results in a structural failure of the system. A house built on sand will collapse (as the Bible tells us). It also results in cultural sterility, because a particular synthesis must sooner or later reach an end point unless it is willing to incorporate new ideas. The Japanese are perfectly willing to do this, because a modular culture will enable them to add in new boxes without endangering the old boxes. But in a Western-style synthesis, ideas which do not develop naturally from the old ideas, or which are not consistent with the old ideas, will tend to be rejected. Let’s look at comic books, for instance. In Japan there is a very wide variety of types and subjects, designed to appeal to every age and type of person. In the West, the originator of the comic book, all that is left is super hero comics. There is nothing wrong with that, per se, but just about every character is 50 years old or more and nothing new is being done with most of them. I don’t know how many times they think they can drag out Luthor, the Joker or Sinestro for another story, but D.C. does not seem disposed to be finished with them any time soon. In fact, their entire product line revamping, the so-called “new 52” is merely a return to basics. There is nothing new here at all. I know because I spot-checked a number of them.

    It appears to me, therefore, that the Japanese are bringing a better cultural balance to the current world situation than the West is because of this combined conservatism and progressivism. This appears to me to be reflected in their cultural products, which is why I read mainly manga rather than American comics for amusement, and I don’t watch any tv at all except anime. It appears to me that there would be little chance for such an excellent comic as Joshiraku (for instance) to ever be published in the U.S., while it seems to be at least a moderate success in Japan (at least to the extent that it got its own anime).

    So to return finally to the detective story, the fair-play clue-based detective story was undoubtedly first originated in the West during the so-called Golden Age of the mystery story from about 1920 to about 1950 as a development from Poe and earlier detective story writers. As I see it, however, the detective story as a separate genre requires certain elements in order to be a separate genre. It needs: (1) a detective, (2) the detective must detect, i.e., he must gather clues of various sorts and reason from them, (3) there is a mystery, and the mystery is solved by the exercise by the detective of his reason, (4) the reader has the opportunity to match wits with the author in the discovery and elucidation of the clues so as to arrive at the correct solution, and (5) in its highest form, the detective story also serves as a commentary on the nature of people and society. It seems to me that there are very few mysteries that do all these things; in fact the only two that come to mind are The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler and Cat of Many Tails by Ellery Queen. However, it seems to me that the structural elements which distinguish a detective story from other genres must be met or the story ceases to be a mystery in the first place. So the adherence of the Japanese in many instances to these traditional structural elements means that they are actually still producing mystery stories. Their conservatism and application of proper form to the mystery story is therefore a benefit. In the latest chapter of Getenrou, the detectives were undoubtedly applying their reason to clues in the classic manner. Of course, if you are a fool you will arrive at the wrong conclusion, but that is a mere detail.

    In the West, the mystery story seems to me to be a lost art, taken as a whole. Most modern Western detective novels seem to me to be along the lines of the police procedural/serial killer variety, with a lot of reliance on technology, or else the detective is some old lady and her cat. Most of these are not very good. The reasoning and puzzle aspect which is the backbone of the mystery is almost completely absent. In other words, the Westen mystery is as sterile as its comic books. In fact, the real conclusion is that Western popular culture has decayed and become sterile.

    This is why Suimasen Scans is providing a valuable service to the community; you are giving us a superior product instead of one more story about the Joker.

    • @Oya: I think Japan can more be divided into two kinds of culture. One of them is technological culture, which is advancing at a rapid speed as we all know and where people always tend to have new stuff (this is why for example you can get used video game systems etc. really fast). The other one is the non-technological culture, which is especially influenced by confucianistic views, though Japanese people who haven’t studied on that subject, tend to negate this.

      @Bill:

      But what was unusual was that the two religions did not appear to achieve any kind of synthesis. Rather, it appears to me that Shintoism and Buddhism were practiced side by side without merging.

      It’s actually not that easy. They did merge in a certain time period for certain things. There also was a recent SZS chapter (which I haven’t translated yet, sorry for this :x) playing on that in which Chiri gets upset because she can’t tell if the place they’re at for new year’s is a temple or a shrine since it has trademarks of both. Moreover, Shintoism and Buddhism aren’t really practiced “side by side” but rather both are used in one lifetime. People marry shintoistic but their funeral is buddhistic etc. (sometimes they also marry Christian or they might even have a wedding ceremony held two times) You also mentioned it later in your post and yes it is true. I don’t know if a shintoistic funeral even EXISTS. Maybe it did in ancient times though.
      Then there’s something where I have to partly quote from my Professor; but I guess the ideas he expressed are seconded by Japanese scholars, too, or he wouldn’t go and teach it. He told us that the Shintô that emerged after Meiji Revolution until World War II, the one which viewed the emperor as god, was partly based on Christianity. E.g, the emperor’s birthday is celebrated instead of celebrating Jesus’ birthday.

      This is why it always seems to me to be improbable that there are so many Catholic girls’ schools featured in anime. There have probably been more statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary featured in various anime than exist in real life in the totality of Japan.

      There ARE a lot of Christian private schools in Japan and there also are a LOT of churches. I live in Kyoto at the moment and there are at least 4 churches (of different Christian confessions, e.g. catholic, baptist, protestant) I know in walking distance of where I live, as well as a Christian hospital. However, different from lots of western countries, Japanese people don’t send their kids to Christian schools because they’re Christian, but because they want their children to get a good education. Quite some Japanese private Universities are Christian as well, e.g. Sophia or Rikkyo. I know one Japanese person pretty well who went to a Catholic private school and studied at Sophia University as well. She didn’t convert to Christianity, but went to all the masses and eveything. I guess that’s the difference. The people just attend all the stuff, but they never become actually Christian, they don’t even really believe it and once they’re out of school and working, they don’t really care anymore. Except, of course, if it comes to marrying, because that just looks SO nice in a white dress in front of the church. I guess lots of churches in Japan are more open in performing wedding ceremony for people who aren’t a member of church (afaik permitted in some protestant ones anyway) BTW, attendance of churches in Japan is of course really low, but they just let all the nice building stand around.

      About the language and the “Japanese mind”… There’s stuff I don’t really want to touch because that would make me go into Nihonjinron, which I don’t want to, because I don’t believe it (you may google it if you want to) and would thus get rather aggressive when talking about it. The Japanese language though seems pretty logical to me, although it might share most of its traits with other languages that involve agglutination. However, while Japanese may be logical, as the Japanese culture is pretty high-context, that’s reflected in their language as well. There’s a whole lot of stuff you have to draw from the context and you can leave out a shitload of stuff in your sentence. That makes translating really hard sometimes, because you never know what you can mention in the translated version, what you have to mention because it’s necessary, and what you actually do have to leave out because it would be too much otherwise.
      On the other hand, to some stuff there’s kind of general “rules”; e.g. when a person says something like “that’s a bit difficult to me…”, they usually mean “no”. Then again though there’s the whole Tatemae vs. Honne business, which makes it hard for especially foreigners to distinguish if the person actually means what they’re saying or not. This can be also found in western cultures a lot (especially with Americans imho), but it’s never mentioned as excessively as its Japanese counterpart, so you won’t pay as much attention to it. Just my 2cents on this.

      As for the detective stuff: I think, lots of Japanese people prefer riddles over shock and/or drama. They seem to be more interested in how the problem is solved and how it was caused. Western detective and crime stories often center a lot more on either shocking moments or the feelings of the people involved while the problem is being solved.

  5. Thank you for your interesting comments. Insofar as the number of all girl Catholic schools in Japan goes, I note that the Wikipedia article “Catholic School” states that there are two Catholic schools in Japan. It does not give a source for this information. However, in a country with a total population of 126,475,664, the total Catholic population is generally given as 1 to 2% of the total, so there can’t be very many. When you Google the phrase “Christian schools in Japan,” (which presumably includes Catholic schools) the resulting list contains only 29 Christian schools. Of those schools, only 1 girls’ high school and one women’s college are listed as being for women. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the list, but that does not seem to me to be very many for a country with the size of Japan’s population. As far as anime goes, maybe the different anime all rotate through the same girls’ high school while they are doing their shows!

    Insofar as the uniqueness of Japanese culture goes, it is my opinion that every culture on the planet has some elements which it holds in common with every other human culture, but every culture also has some unique aspects based on its history and the types of social choices people make. To say otherwise is to say that there are no cultural differences between societies, which I do not believe to be the case. This has nothing to do with any type of social superiority. I had a look at the article on Nihonjinron, but that is not what I am talking about here.

    In the particular case I am dealing with, the question is why Japanese popular culture has retained certain elements it derived from Western popular culture long after the West essentially abandoned them. If we look at typical plot elements used in Western detective novels in its Golden Age, we find the locked room, the dying message, the series of murders in the country house, the unbreakable alibi, bodies found in unusual locations and so on. The stories often come with floor plans of the crime scene, railroad timetables, etc. There are protracted scenes where the detectives stand around drawing hypotheses from the various clues. In fact, that is pretty much what happened in the Getenrou episode which is the subject of this discussion. It is plain that Western detective stories rarely use these elements any more, and have not for decades. If we examine the development of the Western detective novel as a whole, we find that there in fact have been changes in type over the past 150 years, from the early days of Poe and Gaboriau, to the omniscient detective of the Sherlock Holmes type, to the Golden Age fair play novel, to the hard-boiled private eye and crime novels, to the noir type, and finally to police/serial killer novels, and so to what seems to me to be the exhaustion of the form in the West.

    However, it also appears to me that at least in anime, the elements of the form as it existed in the Western Golden Age are still a potent influence. One of Japan’s best-selling detective novelists is Natsuhiko Kyogoku. I have been reading his translated novel “The Summer of the Ubume,” and sure enough it features a locked room murder. They also made an anime of a novel in the same series, “Mouryou no Hako,” and from what I have seen of it, that show also has traditional elements. The question is why these elements were retained in Japanese popular culture long after being abandoned by the West which originated them?

    To say that the Japanese are conservative, or that the prefer puzzles does not really answer the question. In fact Japanese detective stories and movies can be exceedingly violent with grotesque elements, as anyone who has read the works of Edogawa Rampo can tell you. (“The Human Chair,” anyone?) I have attempted to dive deeper, so I came up with the hypothesis I offered above. It is my hypothesis that there is a core Japanese culture, to which has been added a large number of elements obtained first from China and then from the West. It also appears to me that these elements are more compartmentalized than synthesized. This appears to me to be a good thing because it affords their culture a degree of both stability and adaptabilty which I find to be somewhat lacking in my own country. I believe this situation has enable Japan to foster a popular culture that is producing new and innovative products while retaining necessary elements abandoned by the West. If this were not the case, then the hundreds of fan scanlator groups that exist around the world would probably not be in existence.

    One advantage that the Japanese have is that manga is produced very cheaply, in black and white on low quality paper in huge weekly and monthly anthologies. This enables them to test out whatever idea comes by to see what may be successful. I think I can definitively state that neither DC or Marvel would ever have picked up “Midori’s Days.” There would not be any Joshiraku either. It would simply be too risky an investment. This was not always the case in the West. Cheap popular entertainment of this sort got its start in American pulp magazines, circa 1900 to 1950: these were all-fiction magazines printed on cheap pulp paper in mass quantities on every sort of topic. In fact, they are just like modern manga, except that they ran heavily illustrated print stories instead of comics. Their advantage was the same as that of manga anthologies: they permitted a wide degree of experimentation and therefore innovation. The problem for the United States is that by 1955 almost all of them were gone. At first the comic books took up the slack, but as production costs increased, the number of companies and titles diminished, and with it the willingness to experiment. I am a long-time reader of American comics, and it is plain to me that the modern publishers have no desire to take risks. As a result, they peddle the same old stories to a declining audience. The Japanese manga anthology, on the other hand, has a much broader audience base with a cheaper product so it has enough leeway to experiment.

    The ultimate point I am trying to make here is that none of this has anything to do with any sort of cultural “superiority.” A large percentage of the ideas used by manga and anime came from the West. The giant robot, for instance, originated in the giant mechanical elephant in Jules Verne’s “The Steam House,” (1880), proceeded to be further developed in the Martian war machines in H.G. Wells’s “The War of the Worlds,” (1898) and went on to assume man-like shape in Edmond Hamilton” “The Metal Giants” (1926). The idea was undoubtedly first developed in the West. However, after we invented it, we essentially did nothing with it. Its future development was performed by the Japanese, who made it a cottage industry. As to how the idea was transmitted to Japan, I have sometimes heard it stated that many American pulp magazines were left in Japan by the American occupying forces.

    Note then that there is no cultural “superiority” at work here. There are merely different ways of looking at things, and the economic circumstances and the will to try new ideas. Right now the Japanese appear to me to be more willing to do this than we Americans. So Japan has Joshiraku and suicidal teachers and we don’t.

    I am still interested, however, in the way the Japanese use their words, a subject about which I know nothing. My question is, when you look at Japanese letters, they seem to be in the form of pictograms, which is to say, individual letters convey a concept. In English, the invidual letters do not embody concepts; rather, they are different elements which unite to form words, which do convey concepts. So the question is, are Japanese leters really self-contained concepts which can be conceptualized as small containers? If so, what is its effect on Japanese grammatical structure?

    Thanks for listening.

    • I will just reply to the Christian schools stuff, the other things will follow later on.
      I just looked stuff up on Japanese and I could find the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools, which also provides a list of those schools (http://www.catholicschools.jp/member/) This tells me there are 20 catholic 4-year universities, 16 2-year colleges, and a total of 139 catholic schools (8 on Hokkaido, 14 in Tohoku, 48 in Kanto, 11 in Chubu, 29 in Kansai 11 in the Chuugoku/Shikoku Region and 28 on Kyushu or Okinawa) associated with this organization.
      The schools below university level weren’t divided by levels in that list though and many of them are elementary + middle school or middle + high school (so basically 2in1). It’s also common for Japanese private schools in general that one organization has several schools all over the country. E.g. my Japanese university I am studying at right now has some schools that belong to it and one of them is on Hokkaido, despite the university itself being in Kansai.
      If you look at the Japanese Wikipedia, you also find nice lists of Catholic Elementary Middle and High Schools, as well as lists for other Christian schools. There really are a lot if you set that in relation to the number of Christians in Japan, especially in Kanto and Kansai, which are the regions where probably most Manga or Anime take place since most authors will either be from a town or city there or have moved there for university/work.

      The problem with your search is that you naturally looked for the stuff in English. Lots of Japanese schools and even universtieis(!) do not have pages in English and even if they have, those pages include barely the same amount of information as the Japanese ones. It could be that you’re able to find some of the schools listed on that catholic schools page, if you look for the school’s name in English and the English page just doesn’t say it’s a catholic school or they spelled catholic wrong etc. etc. Happens more often than you might think.

      Another thing that has to be kept in mind as well though is that most of those Christian schools are seen as very prestigious. Most Christian universities are viewed as very good universities as well so entering a school that is associated with one of those universities is something really good for your future. This is naturally reflected in fictional stories as well.
      What I btw think is highly overrated in fictional works, not only in Japan, but in Europe as well, are boarding schools.

  6. I can’t really answer the question as far as to answer your questions about kanji, but I would wager that the reason that the Japanese are so fond of word games is that their language makes it possible. It’s much easier to make a pun in a language which has a somewhat limited variety of sounds to be made, and is also coupled to a system of writing that also allows different concepts to be expressed with nearly the same symbol. You’ll see an example of this latter idea in the next chapter.

    As far as comics go in America, I think the lack of variety isn’t due to the fact that printed comics were “abandoned”, it’s more that they were regulated out of existence due to moral guardianship. Parents and religious groups lobbied against the subject matter presented in the pulps, and with the passing of the Comics Code, it effectively killed that means of expression. However, there’s a lineage of “alternative” comics that survived abroad (think AD 2000) and got transplanted back into the States as the Comics Code was crumbling. It may be mostly superhero stuff, but there’s a few comics that lie outside that trend, and I think they may be more in line with what you’re thinking for manga. I don’t think there’s quite the outlet for experimentation as there is in Japan, but it still exists nonetheless.

    I think part of the development of the pulpy style of manga titles is that Japan didn’t really have this problem. The war decimated what would be considered “role-models” of the previous generation, so in a way, the Japanese had to redevelop a culture. This created a void, which allowed rampant experimentation in form and style to develop. I think Japanese writers tend to be more focused on their genre, and they understand for the most part how their genre works and how to use it to shape their story. I can’t really argue the point about mystery stories here in America, because I don’t really do a whole lot of reading in that genre. The point about police procedurals and technology-based stories on TV stands, though, but that’s an entirely other medium. Those shows are geared more to keep the viewer wondering “what’s the next twist going to be” while keeping them in front of the tele long enough to view commericials. I suspect many American mystery books aren’t like this (or weren’t until recently, as the current slate of TV mystery shows are probably coming back in and influencing book writers) for the sole reason that they don’t have this goal in mind.

    More broadly, I think it’s unfair to say that American writers in general abandon the roots of their chosen genre. A look at steampunk shows that a lot of the tropes that made up Victorian-era literature, such as Wells, are at least making their way back into the subculture in a more visible form than they were. I think a lot of the things you mentioned remained floating around in sci-fi circles for decades after they disappeared from the “mainstream”, but they always crop up here and there. Robots (although not of the giant variety) show up in the 20s (Metropolis), 50s (Ray Bradbury comes to mind) and so on throughout the 20th Century.

    It’s also easy to forget there’s some cultural filters in place. There simply hasn’t been enough time to sort out a lot of the shit. We only remember Sherlock Holmes it was a set of well-crafted mystery stories, and because it remained a gem in the vast wastes of the imitators it inspired. Given time, I think the modern classics in the mystery genre will probably make themselves more well-known as time passes by. As for the stuff from Japan, what you end up reading over here in English is generally the cream of the crop, because no one wants to spend their time translating and typesetting, and if you’re a legal publisher, licensing a manga with a terrible story. (Believe me, they do exist.)

    Finally, I think some of the perceived differences between the American and Japanese writing styles is in the way that the “mainstream” is catered to. In America, it seems that this is accomplished by producing “large” products that appeal to the broadest categories possible. To do this, some elements have to be stripped out, and you get the “sterile” product that you mention. In Japan, it’s more like this is accomplished by producing many “small” products that may not appeal to very many people, but make up for their lack of reach with sheer numbers.

    My apologies if some of this sounds like I’m talking out my ass. I’m a geology student, not a critic.

  7. To Umin: Thank you for your information. You are right, I only have English sources of information. The only way to learn new things is to put your ideas out there and bounce them around. I am frankly amazed at the number of Christian schools in Japan, considering that Christians are only a tiny fraction of the population.This might be more aligned with a Christian missionary endeavor than a reflection of the needs of the Christian population. The Protestants in particular were famous for running missionary schools, especially in China prior to the communist takeover.

  8. To Oyashiro: Thank you for your information. As far as the Comics Code Authority is concerned, that body in fact no longer exists. Its influence seems to have dissipated during the 1980s, and Marvel quit using it altogether by 2001. There is a Wikipedia article on the subject, and I notice that in fact none of my new comics have the seal any longer. But actually, I thought that comic books were better written when the code was in full effect. It takes a real writer to tell an interesting story without relying on cheap shock effects. I used to learn some interesting things from reading American comics, but that has not happened for a long time.

    My comments were mainly directed at the mystery genre because I was commenting on the Getenrou chapter, and I think that what I said in that regard was valid. The science fiction genre is different. In fact, the science fiction community makes a notable attempt to keep its classics in print. When I go through a bookstore, it is easy to spot books by Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Herbert, Heinlein, Lovecraft, E.E. Smith, John Wyndham and so on still on the shelves, many of whose stories are 40 or 50 years old or even older. Specialty publishers keep even more of them in print. Disney is about to release the John Carter movie, and that is based on a Burroughs novel which first appeared in a pulp magazine in 1912, a hundred years ago. I saw three different publishers had different editions of the book out this month alone. I do not think there is any problem with the science fiction community remembering its roots. I have two problems with modern science fiction. First, there is little new serious science fiction being written. Most of it is Star Wars/Star Trek formula material or outright fantasies. Second, there are few fresh ideas being introduced. It appears to me that the bulk of modern science fiction is in well-established subgenres: space travel, robots, disease epidemics, utopias, dystopias, time travel, space wars and so on. All these things were done to death a long time ago. Star Wars and Star Trek are franchises and they can’t permit much change.

    In short, it seems to me that the problem with American detective stories is that they lack the formal structure required of a detective story so that it can generate new ideas within the genre as to how to handle a detective story. The problem with American science fiction is not that its practitioners forget the past but that they are bounded by it and don’t generate new ideas either. These seem to me to be problems associated with genres in the late stages of development as they become sterile. I think this is a generalization, but I don’t notice anyone proclaiming a new Golden Age for these genres either.

    This problem appears to me to be compounded when we look at American comics. I don’t see any new ideas there at all. The most notable event of the last few months in American comics was DC’s “new 52.” The problem with that was that as far as I could see every single issue was a retread. They even reached all the way back to the 1970’s to give a comic to the obscure “I, Vampire.” In fact, their announced intention was to reboot and simplify their characters for a new generation of readers. The problem is that I didn’t see a new idea in the entire batch of comics, except, oddly enough, for their revamp of Jonah Hex. Already they have canceled at least four of the new comics. They don’t just remember their roots, they are strangled by them. There is nothing wrong with any of these characters, per se. The problem is that they aren’t doing anything new with them. I recently read an article somewhere where the author stated that the development of a comic comes to an end when its fans get old enough to be hired by the company to write the stories. In other words, the education of modern comic book writers is to read other comic books. This was not always the case. Alfred Bester was one of the most important science fiction writers of the 20th century and he also wrote for the comic books. He stated that his method of generating new ideas was to go to the library and read random books. He stated that he always came away with one new idea per book. This is the kind of thing that I do not see in American comic books. The problem is that many American comics are franchises or brand name products and so do not permit much change. That is not to say that there are no original American comics, just that there few of them and they don’t seem to last too long.

    I am not saying that everything Japan produces is gold; Sturgeon’s law applies there also. I am sure that the scanlators go for the cream. But it appears to me that the Japanese are making a greater attempt to bring new ideas to the table than the Americans for at least three reasons. First, most manga have a finite lifespan with a beginning, middle and end. This forces the writer to come up with a new idea for his next manga. Second, most manga writers appear to be freelancers rather than corporate cogs, so they are under greater pressure to come up with something original. Third, the sheer quantity and cheapness of published manga permits experimentation with a minimum of risk. Many of these conditions also used to prevail in the U.S., and I think we were better off for it.

    As far educational backgroung goes, that seems to me to be irrelevant. I am only an amateur critic myself and popular culture is my hobby.

    I am glad I found your site and I hope to learn a lot here. Thanks for your response.

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