Mayumi has been inducted as the sixth member of the Pretty Boy Detective Club. And although Michiru the Epicure oh-so-helpfully (read: snarkily) remarks they don’t give an employee discount, it’s the only place Mayumi can turn to with her latest problem: money! But no, not a lack of cash; it’s the fact some strange businessman dropped a wad of bills and then gave her a whopping 100,000 yen as a reward for returning it to him. In many circumstances, this would be a segment on a local news program.
Well, the incident is newsworthy…because the bills are counterfeit.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the first volume in this series was because while I expected it just to be a school mystery story, it actually had sci-fi elements. This time around, I knew anything was fair game, and it was going to be hard if nigh impossible to top its predecessor. Well, The Pretty Boy Detective Club: The Swindler, the Vanishing Man, and the Pretty Boys takes place shortly after the first, and it comes across as more of a school mystery story with its tone and sitcom/teen movie-like story of going undercover at a rival school.
And Kamikazari Middle School has a very not school-friendly activity going on: gambling! So, of course, in the middle of all these classic games comes mental games as Mayumi and the others (particularly Nagahiro, whom Mayumi is still repeatedly horrified by his fiance’s age) search for clues in this underground casino. Then, while you might be lulled into false sense of normalcy, the plot follows a similar path to its predecessor in its development and twists.
Not only that, judging from this second volume, the Pretty Boy Detective Club are going to cross paths with antagonists from both novels in the future. You might have predicted a NISIOISIN series would automatically be a big enough hit to get multiple volumes, but the novel is already establishing multiple rivals and outside forces who may not necessarily be villainous, but they aren’t all on the up-and-up.
One area where The Swindler, the Vanishing Man, and the Pretty Boys improves is in regards to the characters. As Mayumi gets to know her fellow club members better, I could picture and keep the five apart more easily than the first. Which is really important since this series appears to only be including opening and closing images of characters.
Speaking of Mayumi, she has started wearing the boys’ uniform, and she mentions being a bit shocked at how accepting people have been of it. You can still question why Manabu can’t just make this the Pretty Person Detective Club, but it’s also not like Manabu isn’t willing to wear dresses for an investigation. Maybe the author will continue playing with gender norms in the future.
Anyway, the novel stumbles when it comes to the big showdown. We have Mayumi all hyped up, determined to crack the case, and when she finally figures it out…the next chapter has moved on to the next morning. I know this is a common narrative technique. In a novel like this, though, where the 30+ chapters can be just a few pages long, it seems bizarre. I also wish the story had better explained how Mayumi was signing clues to Manabu without getting caught.
It’s unfortunate, as while sequels tend to struggle to top the original, The Swindler, the Vanishing Man, and the Pretty Boys is mostly on par up to that point. Fortunately, it chooses to have its big narrative faceplant at the last moment, not disrupting the rest of the novel too much. With the quirky cast of characters, a narrator who has a bit of attitude, and not-so-obvious solutions to the mysteries, I had a good time and am ready to see the Pretty Boy Detective Club on the case again.