One of my favorite genres growing up has been detective fiction. My childhood was accompanied by the likes of Kindaichi, Conan, and Sherlock Holmes. In fact, I even own the complete manga collection of Kindaichi Case Files and Arsène Lupin. However, I have not read anything of the sort in a while. Thus, when Gosick was first announced, I highly anticipated its release. Not only was the anime in an exciting genre, it also has the bonus points of being by the mangaka, Amano Sakuya, who draws some of the cutest loli in a delicate, detailed style.  Yet upon revisiting the genre, I am surprised at my changed feelings for detective fiction after all these years, even if episode one seems to have all the things my expectations promised: loli in gothic Lolita, 1920’s flavors, and even a locked room mystery.
The locked room mystery is a common trope among detective stories written in the Golden Age of detective fiction (1920’s and 1930’s). Even more recent manga such as Conan and Kindaichi commonly base most of its puzzles around this idea. The mystery describes a seemingly impossible crime committed at places where no one could have entered or left. For example, the first mystery presented in episode one of Gosick is a very classic, albeit simple, locked room mystery. A woman is found dead in her locked room, where no murderer could have entered or left. Of course, it does not take much imagination to quickly realize who the murderer was. There was only one gun fired at the door, and the old woman died of a gun wound on the other side of the door.
Still, even if the mystery involved ingenious puzzles and mechanisms, I doubt that we, with our present knowledge, would have that much difficulty in finding the murderer, or at least we would know how to do it. The advancement of technology and forensics has made these types of closed space murder easily solvable. Investigators today could not only determine the gun that killed the old lady, but the angle from which it was fired, the way gun powder residue fell, and other microscopic evidence that would be relevant. Further, the mystery is, in essence, confined to a room, where all the evidence is gathered in one place for forensics teams to canvas. Moreover, at times, even just circumstantial evidence or a DNA or fiber match would be enough to convict, and thereby eliminating the need to figure out the particulars of how the murderer entered or left a scene. Detective brilliance is thus a bit undermined when we know other, more meticulous ways to solve the mystery.
Additionally, shows such as CSI and Law and Order have made crimes, detective works, and trials increasingly transparent to the laymen.  Murders in real life rarely happen as they do in 1920′s detective fictions. Today’s murders do not emphasize flashy tricks or clever maneuvers to get the murderer in and out of closed spaces. Instead, the difficulty in solving crimes is in pinpointing the persons who might be relevant from a sea of people, and then finding the incriminating evidence to bring criminals to trial. On the other hand, the detective work presented in Gosick and Sherlock Holmes is often a type of multiple choice. We know the potential suspects already; there is little need for major footwork or background check. It is a self contained, clearly set-up puzzle detached from reality. The difference between these two modes of crime-solving is the subtle difference between free response and multiple choice – a minor distinction with huge implications.
If we were to look at the second mystery in Gosick, the murders on Queen Berry, we would realize the limitations of multiple choice detective fictions. Let us forget the various obvious tricks – such as the wallpaper and the double lobbies (from which we could have easily deduced the murderer at that point) – and pretend for a moment that we have no clue about the murderer. Surely, by the last murder, we would know without doubt who killed the others, for it cannot be either Victorique or Kujo. The big revelation at the end is then quite unimpressive. The deaths themselves have eliminated the wrong choices. The only impressive thing Victorique does is point out some of the minor lies.
Perhaps this is why Gosick was set in 1920s, both for old time nostalgia’s sake and more importantly, to make Victorique’s genius matter.  But this underscores the main problem I have with Gosick and the genre. Neither the crimes nor the detective work feel authentic. Rather, murders feel more like a brainteaser or a game, perfectly set up for us to play. I still really appreciate such detective fiction though. It is incredibly fun to watch brilliant minds at work… Though Gosick falls far short of brilliance.
- Amano Sakuya is also the mangaka behind Konohanatei Kitan, a wonderful manga about a bunch of kitsune mononoke working at an inn for youkai. Just as Gosick is full of gorgeous gothic styles, Konohanatei Kitan has its eastern spiritual flavors.
- CSI, Law and Order, and others may still be dramatized for TV, but I think they present a fairly accurate picture of today’s crimes and the justice system.
- This post is a very wild tangent off of 2DT’s post on the 1920 flavors in Gosick.