The Detective Is Already Dead, Vol. 1

By nigozyu and Umibouzu. Released in Japan as “Tantei wa mou, Shindeiru” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel.

Sometimes I sabotage myself. I hear vague things about a title, like how acclaimed it is or how the premise sounds cool and does not have anyone be transported to another world, and I get inflated expectations. Let’s face it, I thought this title was going to be a lot more serious than it actually is. The color pages started to clue me in, and by the first scene in the book I was snarking as if this was a new volume of In Another World with My Smartphone. Fortunately, around the halfway mark of the book, the author stops pretending to be another author and buckles down to an actual story and it gets better – the back half easily outstrips the front. I’m saying this right away so that folks won’t abandon the book when it has the heroine reach into the hero’s mouth and say things like “I’ll double-kill you” (something which, I counted, she says three times). This is especially jarring as she’s otherwise nothing like H*tagi S*njogahara at all.

Our hero is Kimihiko, who has a knack of getting involved in sticky situations. Four years ago, on a flight, he met Siesta, a detective who asked him to be her assistant. Sadly, Siesta was killed a year ago (it’s not a spoiler, look, it’s in the title), and now he’s trying to live a normal Japanese high school life. This lasts literally half a page, and then he runs up against a) a young woman with a recent heart transplant, who is looking for something but she isn’t sure what; b) a famous idol singer who needs someone to protect a very expensive and valuable sapphire; and c) Siesta’s OTHER former assistant, who gets along with Kimihiko about as well as oil and water, and who is searching for her legacy. And of course, none of these are actually the main plot, which is that Kimihiko and his friends are being hunted by an evil organization… the same one who killed Siesta.

As I said, this starts badly. The nature of Nagisa’s dilemma is easily discovered, and she loses any sharpness she had in her character after this is discovered. (You could argue this is because of the resolution of her internal dilemma, but it’s not presented that way.) Then it gets better. Yui is a deliberate take on the cutesy teen idol, but she’s hiding several secrets. The back half turns into an action movie, and also really draws out the fantastical elements of the book, which I was also not expecting. Throughout this we get flashbacks to Siesta and Kimihiko working together, and see how close their relationship was. (It also gives Siesta a bit of humanity that she’s somewhat lacking through the rest of the book – note the only times we hear about her being silly are offscreen and in third person from Kimihiko.) The book also ends with a nice “this can now become a series” plot extension.

And indeed it has. If you like action series like Strike the Blood, and don’t mind dialogue that sometimes sounds like it was written for the screen rather than to sound natural (also like Strike the Blood, come to think of it), this is a good, solid read. Just try not to think of Bakemonogatari when you first meet Nagisa.

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