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After a savage mass murder at a remote Nagano ski resort, most of the guests leave the mountain complex. As a storm brings down the phone lines and cuts off the hotel, vacationing private investigator Satoshi Suzusaki hunts down the killer as further murders occur. Accompanied by his foster-daughter Asuka, he interviews a succession of suspects, discovering a web of intrigue that includes blackmail, sexual assault, black magic, and experimental gene therapies.
Despite the usual cavalcade of sick sex and gratuitous violence one would expect from Urotsukidoji-director Takayama, the first half of MotN is also a simplistic but engaging whodunit. Satoshi collects a number of carefully balanced clues and artifacts, interviewing suspects and collating information that regularly contradicts the viewers' expectations and even prompts suspicion that perhaps he is really the murderer. However, with the arrival of his lover, Mina, the dramatic tension snaps. Bearing a satellite phone that allows Satoshi to reconnect to the outside world and the Internet, Mina throws in several extra variables, and the plot spins wildly out of control. Instead of a sedate unmasking in the drawing room, the finale breaks the rules of detective fiction by keeping several last-minute surprises up its sleeve, stretching the viewer's suspension of disbelief with a series of disguises and linking events to a previously unmentioned gang rape at a distant pharmaceuticals company.
In its continual return to computer-screen research, MotN betrays its origin as a game for the Sega Saturn. The characters and their quirks are meticulously distributed-onscreen titles give extra details about people's names and the times of critical events, while sudden revelations come accompanied by fast-forward flashbacks, which are cheap and easy with digital animation. Asides reveal that this is only the middle chapter in a loosely linked trilogy-Satoshi is the amnesiac survivor of a former crime, and the killer escapes to set up a sequel. If there's any real "mystery," it's what was cut for the anime version, as early scenes belabor the point that Asuka's adopted status has been somehow revoked, setting up but forgetting an incestuous subplot, while Abdul Al-Hazred's titular Book of the Dead appears but only as the most tantalizing of MacGuffins. A rare case of a game plot that seems to have genuinely required the traditional 30 hours' immersion to make proper sense, reduced here to 60 minutes of sleuthing, dotted with moments of brutal sex and slasher-movie gore. Part of the Discovery Series. NV