Here at Anime UK News, we’re big fans of author NISIOISIN and today I’m delighted to be reviewing the latest of his light novel series to make it into English: Pretty Boy Detective Club. With an anime adaptation in the works, this is the perfect time to jump into the source material – but is it worth it? Let’s find out!
Our story centres around Mayumi Dojima, a second-year middle school student at Yubiwa Academy. Mayumi is about to celebrate her fourteenth birthday, which will bring an end to her childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.
Ten years ago Mayumi was convinced she saw a brand-new star while on a family camping trip and that inspired her to become an astronaut. However, since then she’s been unable to lay eyes on it again and her parents (fed up with her obsession) made her promise to give up her dreams if she couldn’t find it again by her fourteenth birthday.
Just as Mayumi is about to give up her search, she encounters the Pretty Boy Detective Club. The group is known at the school for solving many mysteries, but no one truly knows who they are or their reasons for solving cases. Mayumi is shocked to discover that the group is made up of five of the most popular boys at the school and her world is about to be turned upside down as they become interested in her problem…
The boys quickly decide to take on the case of the missing star and together with Mayumi, they begin to re-enact the camping trip she went on as a child. While she’s not convinced she actually wants to investigate with the Pretty Boy Detective Club, our heroine gets wrapped up in the chaos and before long, she’s looking up at the stars with these famous boys.
The rules of the Pretty Boy Detective Club stipulate that you have to be (1) pretty, (2) a boy and (3) a detective. Ultimately the leader of the group, Manabu Sotoin, admits that the rules were made to fit around the group that came together as the club and don’t mean that much. This is good, since Mayumi is neither a boy nor a detective (she argues she’s not pretty either, but I disagree) and would quickly feel out of place among the group in the long run if they were so exclusionary.
In this first volume of the series, there is a lot to take in. Between Mayumi’s case and meeting the members of the club, there isn’t a lot of breathing room. By the end of the book, I felt like I had a grasp on who all the characters were, but beyond Mayumi, I’m not sure I truly knew them.
With six main characters and then some villains to think about, that is a lot to squeeze into a relatively small page count. This release comes in at roughly 250 pages, but that’s deceptive since this book is quite a small size in terms of height and width. If it were the size of Vertical’s Monogatari releases, then I think the page count would be closer to 160-180.
What I would have liked NISIOISIN do is introduce us to half the club, with the other half to follow in a later book. It’s not uncommon for series with a large cast of characters to introduce them more slowly over multiple instalments and that would have no doubt allowed me to grow attached to the characters more quickly.
If you don’t already have prior experience with NISIOISIN’s books or have a particular attachment to his works, then Pretty Boy Detective Club is unlikely to be the one to sell you on them. While it ticks all the boxes for me (solid mystery, intriguing and likeable characters), it falls short of the polish that series such as Monogatari have. In a lot of ways, I feel the forthcoming anime will be a better introduction and that’s fine, since these books will be here waiting for you after.
If you are already a NISIOISIN fan then you’ll probably get on with this book just fine. There is plenty to like and, as always, the author delivers an engrossing story with witty dialogue and interesting characters. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of mysteries the Pretty Boy Detective Club tackle in the ten volumes to follow.
It’s also worth noting that like Monogatari and Zaregoto, this series doesn’t have any illustrations within the story. There are a couple of images (drawn by Kinako) showcasing the cast at the front and back of the book, but otherwise that’s it. This isn’t a particular problem, especially considering the already short page count, but I would have liked some more images all the same.
Pretty Boy Detective Club Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Vertical and has been translated by Winifred Bird. The translation reads well with no issues to note. As previously mentioned this is a smaller release in size than Vertical’s usual releases, but I certainly like the change since it’s more comfortable to read – like a Japanese tankobon. The series ran for 11 volumes in Japanese and Vertical has Volume 2 set for an English release in December.
Overall, Pretty Boy Detective Club offers another satisfying read for fans of NISIOISIN’s works. Newcomers to the author will likely be put off by the overabundance of characters and little development, but I think there is an interesting story to be found if you’re willing to stick with it.