Jan 22, 2018
A great work of art is more than just an expression of the self that resonates with others. No matter what, that great work of art wouldn’t have existed without the culmination of experiences you have as an artist.
Learning and experimenting on how to express your ideas in ways that work—in the process, learning your own identity, and what makes you and your style unique. That is the struggle of being an artist. Everyone is different, and even if you are a drop of water in an ocean of talent, if you stretch your own capabilities to the limit, you are guaranteed to find someone
out there who enjoys you (and your work) for being uniquely yours.
The Forgetful Detective series is a Sherlock Holmes-esc detective series with an emphasis on understanding certain fields of craft to solve a larger mystery—which in turn, is constantly being crafted before your eyes.
It’s a detective series exclusively about art, and the value one puts on it. Anything one considers an expression of the self through a medium (of any kind) and how the value is perceived by many different parties, play key roles in how the mysteries are constructed and solved.
The series follows Okitegami Kyouko, a detective who cannot gain experience in her field of work because she has a peculiar case of amnesia. Residing in the Okitegami Detective Agency, she wakes up every morning with limited memories of her past, and absolutely no knowledge of her present. The letter or memo left behind by her previous self, tells her that she is Okitegami Kyouko, the Forgetful Detective. But she has no idea why she is in this position to begin with.
“Who is Okitegami Kyouko? Who created Okitegami Kyouko?”
The woman working under the name Okitegami Kyouko is a work of art herself—perhaps something that is handcrafted—both in reference to how her character has been hinted to be created by someone else, the main “culprit” of the series, and her wonderful fashion sense.
Kyouko, as a character, embraces the concepts that make a person imperfect—that makes a human a human and how art draws from and celebrates imperfection. To see the subtlety and nuance in an individual, even when speaking hypothetically, is why she is such a great detective.
Solving a mystery for her is much like solving a puzzle—rather, solving a puzzle of a painting from the inside-out. Hypothesizing the legitimacy of the core concept before piecing together the full picture. “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must (should) be the truth.”, as long as it starts with the premise being legitimate. As long as you can account for all evidence without relying on speculation—and Kyouko is never given all the evidence. Thus, with a perspective and imagination as broad as a piece of art is perceived, she finds ways to draw out the motive or the suspect to come to her conclusion. Almost as if all the pieces throw themselves at her.
A normal detective’s job hinges on the idea that, as a normal and non-amnesiac individual, you can learn from your experiences and catch criminals easier as time goes on. Your eye trained to see the motive in the nuance left at the scene before finding the right theory that fits all the evidence. And perhaps you would see so much in your time as a detective that no matter what atrocity lay before you, you would no longer bat an eye. Something like a hard-boiled detective?
But Okitegami Kyouko is the exact opposite of that idea, somehow perfectly fitting for that description.
Even though she never gathers experiences, she catches criminals or solves mysteries as her trade, and usually solves them with near perfect deductions in a single day. Because she can only solve things in a single day, she has a reputation as the “Fastest Detective”. In addition, because she loses her memories every time she falls asleep with seemingly no trace of them lingering whatsoever, there is no risk of trauma being afflicted to her.
Of course, this ability to “reset” is her greatest weakness, as something that can easily be exploited if the culprit can just knock her out, notwithstanding how it prevents her from learning things permanently. But it is also her greatest strength, as this also allows her to look at things objectively, without bias, as her slate is clean. This also feeds into her privacy policies of being the Forgetful Detective—truly, the ultimate private investigator.
The narrative is structured pretty peculiarly—there’s no apparent timeline from what I can gather, though I wouldn’t be surprised if one developed. Most novels follow a single narrator, but that narrator may change at each volume (or even be third-person). The structure of the plot is pretty loose in nature until the eventual mystery starts kicking in, which is usually a culmination of everything that happened and themes that have been discussed since the beginning of the mystery, or even the beginning of the series.
It’s pretty standard for mystery series to have sort of a loose plot until every detail is revealed, and for each mystery to seem kind of outlandishly coincidental or just plain absurd, so it’s the execution that matters the most.
NisiOisiN crafts the narrative in each of his novels one nuance at a time, and I think that’s the true strength of this work, in regard to each mystery—that everything has a reason. Not that everything was intended—rather, that the world is put together so fluently that explanations are natural.
Except maybe Kyouko herself—we don’t know the explanation behind her and indeed we might never know. But given that this series is in the same universe as Monogatari, and Kyouko is HEAVILY implied to be Hanekawa Tsubasa when she’s 25; I think even that mystery can be explained by (super)natural theories.
I find it most ironic and at the same time very fitting how NisiOisiN is the one writing this. As a monstrously prolific author (with loads of experience to build upon), I can only imagine his entire schedule to be indulging himself in his own art, probably having Microsoft Word opened 24/7 and his $399 chair acting as his bed. (But can you do this!!!) As someone who wanted to be an illustrator, but found a passion in writing—as someone who’s historically released 12 books with 300 pages in length in a single year, and whose output is still just as high today, NisiOisiN seems to only think about art and his childhood fantasies of being Sherlock Holmes. No wonder he’s taken to this series as possibly the fastest series he’s consistently released content of since Katanagatari.
And indeed, I love NisiOisiN for his style being uniquely his, so it’s really meta and ironic how these themes are incorporated into the narrative—it really shows he understands how his fans actually see him, and that he doesn’t write for anyone but himself—not to gain more fame by trying to appeal to a larger audience. I think that just happens naturally.
There are many different forms of art that NisiOisN tackles in each novel, in context with each mystery and the people involved. A novelist that, in his legacy, might reveal if he committed suicide or not after releasing his 100th book. How did the price of a painting change from 200 million yen to 2 million yen, by the same, unbiased appraisal—when nothing about the painting changed? Why would a famous mangaka trade in 100 million yen for a mere 1 million yen? Why did a girl try to commit suicide over a seemingly uninteresting story? What did a famous framer have in mind for his ultimate masterpiece—a culmination of all his experiences in his field, before getting stabbed?
Some of these questions are preludes to a bigger mystery, or perhaps the entire mystery itself—it’s how NisiOisiN ties together these already thought-provoking questions into a larger (thematic) narrative is what impresses me to no end. Not to mention, he writes in such a way that you cannot possibly read it without trying to solve the mystery yourself using the clues given. Even as a devote fan of his, I often find myself getting the rug pulled out from under me by the smallest details—most of which spurred me to think in the first place. He truly is a master of subverting biases—and revealing how your biases shape your perspective—whether that be the mystery at hand, or in general.
With what is translated right now, we only really have a glimpse at what the larger mystery of Okitegami Kyouko looks like from afar. I would really love to give my impressions on how it all shapes up, but I suppose all we can do is introduce and extrapolate fan-theories of whether Aikawa Jun will make an appearance or how Kyouko is without a single doubt, Hanekawa.
But whether or not that fan-theory is true, that shouldn’t dictate whether or not you enjoy this series—in fact, I recommend even people who aren’t familiar with Monogatari or any of Nisio’s works to read it, because it is ultimately its own series with its own ideas and is absolutely fantastic. If you are interested, indulge yourself in this great work of art.
And the themes inherent to these books should matter, because at the end of the day—while art is an interpretable medium meant to be interpreted in personal ways, the person or people behind them is often ignored or glanced over. I found my favorite writer in NisOisiN, and I feel like I can understand what makes his style his—and that in itself has been a massive inspiration in my journey to find my style as a fellow artist. I can only hope this gets an anime or more people read these books, so the messages can be spread.
**Review Updated as of November 18, 2018
*I am keeping this at a 9/10 until I read a little more. :P
**ORIGINAL REVIEW AFTER READING VOLUME 1***
(I don't know which is better in terms of structure, but I hope they may complement each other)
There is a lot you can say about the Boukyaku Tantei Series, but since none of them had been said yet and I don't have the resources to say more, I will say what is necessary to convey just how great this series is.
If you are familiar with NisiOisiN, the famously prolific author widely regarded for his masterpiece, the Monogatari Series, and also responsible for the Zaregoto Series, the Ningen Series, the Saikyou Series, the Densetsu Series, Katanagatari, Juuni Taisen and Medaka Box (etc.), then it should be easy to clue into the quality of the Boukyaku Tantei series. (I fully am willing to give this a ten when I finish more of it)
After reading the first volume, I can say that this series somehow exceeded my already-high expectations given my love for the author. The first volume ironically focuses heavily on a similar scenario- admiring someone, like someone you look up to because they saved your life multiple times (even if they will never know they did). Like your relationship with your favorite author, perhaps?
Okitegami Kyouko is head of the Okitegami Kyouko Detective Agency. She can solve the toughest cases within a day, the fastest detective.
But she is also the forgetful detective.
That is because she forgets everything when she falls asleep. Her mind restarts as the next day begins.
It's a similar scenario to "The 50 First Dates" starring Adam Sandler, only no one is trying to hide it from Kyouko and this isn't some cheesy romance.
We follow the tall and timid, Kakushidate Yakusuke. Because of his abnormal height and shy demeanor, trouble always seems to follow him around- that is, everyone always suspects him for crimes he didn't commit. He has been in many small incidents and big ones and even has the world's greatest detective on speed dial. (Aikawa Jun possibly?)
"Kakushidate", if discerning from pronunciation, means "concealing a bad past", and the kanji for "Yakusuke" literally translates to "trouble". "Okitegami" means "a letter left behind", or "a letter from the deceased". "Okitegami Kyouko Detective Agency" translates to the "Deceased Detective Agency". Trust me, this shit is important.
Yakusuke is introduced to us as a part-time lab assistant who is suspected to have stolen the lab's backup SD card for which contains the research the lab has been working on, therefore it is confidential. Yaku calls up Kyouko to come to his defense and this case ends with Kyouko finding the true culprit with seemingly just a few clever metaphors for how the SD Card is similar to Kyouko's memory.
It's the way Boukyaku Tantei expands upon these core ideas introduced at the beginning left me in awe by the time I reached the final chapter. I didn't expect it to go on- what seemed to be a tangent to deliver a cool thought experiment- to build up to themes about how readers see their favorite authors and connecting it to the mysteries it presents and thematically connecting it to how Yaku feels towards Kyouko.
As the forgetful detective, no matter how many times Yakusuke begs upon Kyouko for help, she will never remember him or what she has done for him and vice versa. Every time they meet, they have to introduce themselves as if it was the first time, thus meaning there is never going to be progress in their relationship, at least from where we are at the end of the first volume.
Ultimately, we are left with more questions than answers at the end of the first volume (there are 8 volumes so far), but I have no doubt these questions will be answered and there is a very clear end goal question that is set up. "Who is Okitegami Kyouko?" and "Who made Okitegami Kyouko?". If you want, you could also add in "How will Yaku hook up with Kyouko by the end?", but let's not dive into the realm of ships right now.
I think what really hit me, however, was the thematic similarities in both main characters. Yakusuke is someone who is too scared to move on his own. He is a static character. Stuck in his own time, in his own mind. On the other hand, we have Kyouko, who has daily amnesia and no longer has the ability to remember experiences she has by doing this job. She is involuntarily stuck in her own time, and can't do anything about her own mind. In the end, I just really love their pairing.
But of course, we wouldn't be done discussing a NisiOisiN work without discussing the meta elements within the story. Some of which are pretty simple, such as the example from earlier, that mystery of the SD Card was used as a metaphor for how her memories work, and how the mystery behind it works. I just realized that everything that happened in that case to the SD card also happened to Kyouko's memory... However, that is just the story commenting on itself, and not exactly 'meta'.
The genre this series looks to comment on is the formulaic mystery-of-the-week type anime, the likes of Gosick, Beautiful Bones -Sakurako's Investigation-, and I guess also Hyouka. Which means that there is much more mystery than there is fanservice, so don't come in from Monogatari expecting a lot of detailed descriptions of Hanekawa's panties.
As expected of NisiOisiN, he breaks the rules of the premise to do exactly what it was intended to do. Yeah, the MC is the one who calls in the detective, but this time everyone thinks its the MC! Then it was, 'we're not actually going to focus on the crime itself, to emphasize that point we won't even introduce the culprit'. And the most obvious of all, that the way the MC calls in the detective has to be formulaic, thus everyone needs a clean sheet (Kyouko's memory) for every case. Okay, I am sure I missed a lot, but I have only read the volume once, in comparison, I've read Bakemonogatari after watching the anime twice, so it's much easier for me to notice the meta there than I can here.
What was it intended to do? Be an engaging mystery with interesting lead characters.
Speaking of the Monogatari series, this also wouldn't be possible to be complete if I didn't mention the mention the fan theories about Okitegami Kyouko possibly being Hanekawa. To be honest, after reading the first volumes, I am definitely eager to know whether that is the case. In some ways, I even WANT it to be the case, but we all have to remember that NisiOisiN is a troll and we should read with caution so we don't get
What did you think of this review?