I really hate horror stories of any kind or form. Aside from a fact that I’m scared of ghosts, I have the view that those kind of stories tend to lead people to become cowards. Nevertheless, a chance to read horror stories recently came to me when one of my colleagues in KAORI kindly lent me an the novel Occultic;Nine in e-book format published by J-Novel Club. Originally published in Japan by Overlap Bunko, this is the first novel from Chiyomaru Shikura and illustrated by pako.
Maybe some of you are familiar with the author’s name, since he is more famous by his other works: Steins;Gate, Chaos;Child, and Robotics;Notes. As executive director in the, game company 5pb, he has gained renown to fans of mystery-related games. However, this is his debut in writing a novel instead of game scenario.
Yuta Gamon is a NEET (a young person not in employment, education, or training) who is also the admin of an occult website named Kirikiri Basara. The site hosts news of supernatural occurences that are told to be refuted brutally by its readers. He works together with Ryoka Narusawa, a beautiful girl with a bit weird personality, who was indirectly chosen as a correspondent for his site.
Those two could be said to be the main characters. However, in this novel, each chapter uses the first person perspective of different characters, who did not recognize each others at first, to explain the story. There is Aria Kurenaino with her service to curse people; Miyuu Aikawa, the idol-fortune teller who opens live streaming service via Niconico site; Toko Sumikaze, who is a writer of an occult magazine; and many more.
This is what makes this novel interesting. You are invited to read different stories, and inderectly, Shikura instructs you to figure out by yourself what is exactly going on in the story. Instead of inciting fear through the various supernatural stories shown here, it is easier to become more curious in uncovering what is actually happening.
At first, every character walks separately. However, as the story goes on, those people start to build connection with each other, connecting with an unexpected way. The pleasure of reading this novel is when readers begin to realize the various references that are spread in several chapters in this novel, which actually have significant role in shaping the story.
The more I read, the more I realized that Occultic;Nine is not the usual horror novel that invites fear with a lot of surprising scenes. Instead, you will be made to think of what actually happens in the story. For example, in the first part of the novel, there is a scene where lots of people are drowning in a lake. The scene is inserted vaguely in the next chapters. Then it is indicated that there is a relation between the “drowning” scene with the characters involved. When you realize the connection between characters or the supernatural cases that appear in the story, then the surprise will either leaves you with a smile or haunts you.
Another thing of interesting is how the supernatural stuff are presented here. On one side, Yuta Gamon is the owner of a website that refutes the existence of the occult. But on the other side, some characters seems to be showing without doubt that they have the ability to use supernatural power beyond human logic. This contradiction makes the occult in the story an uncertain thing: whether it really exist or just rumours. This also makes readers want to find out whether the problem in this novel will be solved through rational or occult method.
Basically, there has been a long history of treating the presence of the occult in a mystery fiction as something taboo. Ronald Knox, a writer from The Golden Age of Detective Fiction, has codified a set of rules of writing mystery fiction, one of which states that “All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.” The gist of this rule is that the presence supernatural causes renders the problem in the story could not be solved logically by the reader’s own efforts, which, in the minds of those who treat mystery fiction as puzzle game, would make the reader lose the pleasure of thinking while reading the story. This is interesting when we consider that Occultic;Nine seems to put the idea of the occult front and center.
So the question is: does it happen that way in Occultic;Nine? To firmly answer this, it would still take reading the following volumes to find out what is the position of the occult in the story, really. However, personally, I think that even if the occult is something that really exists in the story, that doesn’t change the fact that this novel can arouse the reader’s curiosity. The novel has set forth the problems at the earlier parts of the novel, and provides bits of supporting information that the reader can spend their efforts to arrange into a whole. Sounds difficult? If you are a fan of mystery stories, this is an interesting challenge instead.
Before reading Occultic;Nine, I have enjoyed one of writer’s work before in the Robotics;Note anime. I certainly enjoyed the mystery-building that is offered by Taneshima Island -and the Gunvarrel giant robot- background. But I didn’t expect the writer can also surprise me more with a horror novel. I can enjoy reading this novel even though I was only able to watch one episode of the anime version because of how fast the conversation are progressing in that anime.
In sum, even if you hate the horror genre, but you still have a love for mystery fiction, then you could enjoy reading this novel. Reading Occultic;Nine is not only about following the tales of some humans, but also to think of the fate of the characters involved in it. You will be invited to read a puzzle, stray pieces that requires to be arranged to its whole shape.
The Indonesian Anime Times | written by M Razif Dwi Kurniawan