Scientific Taskforce – Murder in Moscow by Konno Bin

黒いモスクワ – 今野敏

Audiobook.jp has added two novels featuring the team of eccentric crime solvers called ST. I listened to Case File: Blue when it was the only one available and appreciated it as a straight forward mystery for listening practice, but I wasn’t too into the story as it centered around a ghost. It turns out a ghost comes into play in this one as well—I guess Konno likes ghosts—but I found this one had more to offer.

First, most of the book was set in Moscow. The Japanese investigators interacting with the FSB, former KGB, officers was an interesting dynamic. It raised the question of how much the organization has been influenced by its history versus how it has changed with Russia’s evolving political landscape.

I enjoyed the descriptions of Russian scenery, customs, and food. I have no idea if they were accurate, but I like having a window into another culture from a third culture. Even if there are stereotypes, they are likely subtly different from the stereotypes I would be exposed to in my own culture. Hopefully, this kind of interaction can slowly paint a more accurate picture.

The other reason I preferred this novel to Case File: Blue is the references to martial arts. ST member Kurosaki, is featured in this book as seen by the use of “black” in the Japanese title, which is one of the characters in Kurosaki’s name (they all happen to have colors in their names). Kurosaki is at an advanced level in several schools of martial arts. In this novel, he is a rising star in a fictional school. I couldn’t understand the details of the martial arts descriptions, but the part I could pick up was something fresh to listen to. If you are deep into martial arts maybe you would enjoy this aspect of the book, as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

There is nothing else like Konno’s novels on Audiobook.jp, so I highly recommend them if you searching for a light and fun mystery story. Although the title is quite intense, I look forward to listening to the remaining book, Murder by Poison.

この頃Audiobook.jpで今野敏のSTシリーズのオーディオブックが二冊発売されました。今まで今野先生の作品の中で青の調査ファイルしか売られていなかったですから、それを楽しく聞きました。面白い推理小説として、それに日本語の聴解練習として、かなり好きでした。だが内容は幽霊の話を中心としていた点にはあまり気に入らなかったです。今回の作品にも幽霊が出ます。もしかして今野先生は幽霊が好きかもしれないですね。だが幽霊は別にして、今回の作品の方がよほど面白い点が多かったです。

一つ目の面白い点はモスクワの設定でした。日本人の捜査員とロシアの旧KGBであるFSBとの交流を見るのが好きでした。外からの見方を通して、FSBという組織が歴史や政治的の進化にどのように影響されているということは注目されてます。

ロシアの景色、伝統、や食べ物の描写は面白かったです。どのくらい本物のロシアを描かれているかわからないですが、それでも第三者の文化の見方からロシアの文化を見るのが好きでした。ロシアはどのような国と言えば、アメリカ人としての先入観があります。日本人なら微妙に違う先入観があるでしょう。そういう違う先入観を比べたりすると、脳内のロシアのイメージは少しずつ真実に近寄るかもしれないと思います。

青の調査ファイルより好きだった他の理由といえば、それは武術が出ているからです。タイトルは「黒いモスクワ」ですから、やはり黒崎というSTメンバーは注目されています。彼はいくつかの流派の武道に高い地位を持っているらしいです。この小説では、空想の流派の中伝免許を誰よりも早くとってうわさと嫉妬の対象になっていました。僕は武術に詳しくないですが、それにしても武術を説明している部分は面白かったです。何かの武道の経験を持ちの方はこういう要素を気に入るでしょう。ただ、軽く読んでいただければいいと思います。

Audiobook.jpで今野先生の書いているような作品は今野先生のもの以外はないです。軽くて楽しい推理小説を探しているなら、当作品を推薦します。これから、タイトルは少し怖くても、もう一冊の「毒物殺人」を聴くのを楽しみにしています。

Japanese Audiobook Review: I Want to Eat Your Pancreas by Sumino Yoru

(君の膵臓を食べたい – 住野 よる)

This story starts with the funeral of a high school girl, so you know it’s going to be depressing from the beginning. However, preparing the reader at the beginning in some way makes it more light-hearted than if Sumino decided to spring it at the end.

Sakura, a buoyant and outgoing high school girl who is terminally ill, meets an introverted boy, who prefers to live out his life engrossed in novels rather than dealing with the world. They form a deep bond over their shared secret about her illness.

I like that the story involves a lot of daily life activities, such as school, eating, and travel. Not living in Japan myself, it is always fun to read about daily life. Also, the story’s focus on normal activities means there is a lot of every day back and forth conversation, which I enjoy even if it’s just because it’s in Japanese.

The best part of the book was the evolution of the relationship between Sakura and the main character, as well as their individual development. He’s not actually a true hikikomori, as Sakura calls him, although he may be on the path to becoming one. While she, on the other hand, is the kind of person that needs to have others around to realize she’s alive. They begin to learn from one another in a relationship that would have never happened under normal circumstances.

On the audiobook side, there were a couple of things about the recording I want to mention. Sakura calls the narrator nakayoshi-kun, meaning something like, “person I’m close to,” and there is always a pause before the kun. It seems like during the first reading an incorrect name was used, then they went and overlayed the correct name. It makes me wonder what they said before. Also, Sakura’s laugh is quite annoying, but maybe it’s supposed to be that way.

The language is simple, with lots of dialogue, and the story is filled with everyday interactions. This is a great candidate if you are looking to get into your first fiction audiobook in Japanese.

Japanese Audiobook Review: Snow In the Desert

Snow In the Desert by Isaka Kotaro (砂漠 – 伊坂幸太郎) is a coming of age story spanning the four college years of five friends. Surprisingly, it never showed up on any of the lists of recommended books on Audiobook.jp—I was only able to find it by searching for Isaka Kotaro directly—so I would like to recommend it here for anyone searching for fiction on the site. I’m guessing it is not a great seller as an audiobook or they would be promoting it more heavily, but on Amazon.co.jp the reviews were decent. I wasn’t too excited about the book, as the synopsis didn’t draw me in, but from the very beginning, I found it enjoyable to listen to because of the narrator, the characters, the relaxing tone. Also, it reminded me of what it was like to have plenty of free time.

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Japanese Audiobook Review: Mr. Tsubakiyama’s Seven Days

I recently listened to another audiobook from Audiobook.jp called Mr. Tsubakiyama’s Seven Days by Asada Jiro (椿山課長の七日間 – 浅田 次郎). I didn’t know much about Asada or this book beforehand, but I noticed excellent reviews on Amazon, so I thought it was worth a try.

I wasn’t into the style at first. After thinking about it a while, I realized it had to do with the setting, which I didn’t find engaging. Primarily, the setting is what draws me into a book—The windowless programmers’ compound on an isolated island, housing an imprisoned evil genius, in  All Become F. The dizzying maze of midnight Pontocho and Kiyamachi in The Night is Short, Walk on Girl.—This book’s opening, with flower-lined, calm and nearly empty streets leading to an administrative building, didn’t have enough of an edge to draw me in.

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Japanese Audio Book Review: Scientific Task Force, Case File Blue – Konno Bin

Finding a Japanese audiobook source

Sometimes it’s challenging to find time to read, but it may not be quite as hard to find time to listen to an audiobook. I have wanted to listen to current Japanese novels in audiobook form for years, but in the past I have not been impressed with the selection available.

I would like to listen to current fiction, but most of the fiction available when I first started searching consisted older works from the public domain or offerings that tended towards self-help. Since I couldn’t find anything I was interested in, I have been listening to podcasts to maintain my audio connection with the Japanese language.

Lately I took a another look at Amazon’s Audible and was surprised to see more current fiction like Convenience Store Woman and several mystery novels by Konno Bin. Filled with excitement about all the books I could now listen to, I applied for the free trial right away!

Only, I was quickly deflated by the geographical restriction for the credit card billing address. Amazon didn’t want my foreign money, and I still don’t have access to their small, but growing collection of current fiction read aloud by professional narrators.

Fortunately I found another source, called Audiobook.jp, formerly known as FeBe. The selection is much smaller, but the system is far less restrictive. I was immediately able to purchase Scientific Task Force, Case File Blue with no obstacle related to my geographical location. For a review of Audiobook.jp, check out SelfTaughtJapanese.com.

When I downloaded the iOS app and signed in, it synced right away making the book available for download. On the website, I was able to download mp3 files that seemed to be DRM-free, meaning I can listen to the book however I like, and I get to keep it regardless of the future of Audiobook.jp. I like this better than a monthly subscription, such as Audible’s, where you lose everything if you stop paying or they may decide to remove your favorites from the library. That said, for the increased selection, I would sign up for Audible in a  heartbeat if Amazon would allow it.

My first audiobook purchase

(ST警視庁科学特捜班 青の調査ファイル  – 今野 敏)

The novel I chose to purchase from Audiobook.jp is a police procedural mystery that is part of a series involving the Metropolitan Police Force’s Scientific Taskforce, or “ST”, consisting of several members with special skills. Here is a brief introduction of the characters, which appear in the many novels of the series.

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