June 18, 2017

Prison of Dusk


Although best known for her Twelve Kingdoms novels, Fuyumi Ono also writes horror novels and manga, such as the Ghost Hunt series. She wrote Shiki as a homage to Stephen King's Salem's Lot. (The anime series can be streamed at Yahoo View.)

"Prison of Dusk" (Rakushou no Goku) begins with a justice in the Kingdom of Ryuu trying to discern the motives of a serial killer (so the first half of an episode of Criminal Minds). Except the man is in custody and there's no question of his guilt.

From there, the bulk of the story concerns the verdict in light of the weight of evidence (so the second half of a Law & Order episode). Justice Eikou and his magistrates must weigh public opinion against the emperor's own sentencing guidelines.

The problem is, the public wants the accused executed, and the faster the better. But the emperor has apparently taken capital punishment off the table.

From the start, the author dispenses with the typical red herrings and strawmen. The accused is definitely guilty, definitely remorseless, and understands the consequences of his actions. All that's left is the debate over capital punishment itself.

There's more dialectic here than story, and Fuyumi Ono pretty much leaves no rhetorical stone unturned.

And then toss in the twist that in the Twelve Kingdoms, bad things happening can literally mean that Heaven is casting a "no confidence" vote (it's the ultimate court of appeals). The result is a modern debate cast in medieval fantasy terms.

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Comments:

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
Is Ono really most famous for 12 Kingdoms? I originally learned of her because of her horror novel. Her earliest work in the 12K series, Mashou no Ko, almost reads like a horror novel to me too. I say almost, since I didn't find it particularly scary because I knew the context of the things happening around Taiki. But I might have been spooked had I not read all the other novels first. Right now she
6/22/2017 6:14 AM
 

# posted by Blogger Eugene
Fair point. The particular focus of an author's fan base is not necessarily going to line up with her wider reputation. But at least sorted by "recommended," ten of the top twelve of Fuyumi Ono's novels on Amazon-Japan are Twelve Kingdoms. And sorted by "amount sold" on Honto, eight of the top twelve are Twelve Kingdoms, despite Hisho's Birds being the only new addition to the series in over a decade. Her latest Twelve Kingdoms novel (when it comes out), should also give a big boost to the franchise.
6/23/2017 10:05 AM