Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Alterna Novelization Synopsis
What follows is a commentary on and synopsis of the two volumes of 999 Alterna, a paper-and-ink novelization of the digital 999 visual novel. It's written for an audience already familiar with the game, so instead of recapping every event, it for the most part simply notes where and how the book's narrative diverges from the game, as well as any significant added character moments. (The page-by-page notable-event format, though, is abandoned in favor of a straight synopsis near the end, where the book's version of events deviates heavily and at length from the game's.)
Note: If you haven't played 999, you might be unfortunate enough to be familiar with it through its very off-putting sequels, the first of which features an Art Bell plot and Next Media Animation news graphics, and the second of which is what might be delicately termed a "guro yandere crapfest." 999 itself is a quality game, a good mystery with a unique premise and strong, nuanced cast that's restrained in its use of violence, and it's completely self-contained. If you haven't played 999, this isn't the optimal way to experience its story; if you're interested enough in the title to be reading this document, then play the game first.
SPOILERS for the 999 game, of course, are present throughout this document. There's also a Virtue’s Last Reward spoiler in the entry for pg. 207, about which absolutely no one should care. The character names from the English-language version of 999 are used for convenience.
This document also has an extended mention of self-harm at the pg. 183 entry.
pg. 5: Fittingly, the book begins with a Chapter Zero.
pg. 5: A bit of misdirection at the start: the book opens with the beginning of the nonary game from nine years before the story's present, with the explosion on the ship in which the kids are kept, in order to trick you into thinking the current crew's really at sea. “Now, then - I wonder how many of them will be left alive at the end?” enthuses the gamemaster.
pg. 15: It's Chapter 1: Chance Encounter, and other Nonary Game contestants can be heard skittering back and forth outside the door to Junpei's room in the wake of their successful escapes.
pg. 17: Junpei in pre-abduction flashback going on about how he has less than six months to go before graduation and yet he hasn't got a job or employment prospects, establishing his "extremely unremarkable guy" anime protag bona fides. He goes on to say that "I hadn't experienced any failure or setbacks in my life. I didn't oppose the adults around me; I'd gone through life doing as they said and going with the flow - a good little boy, never really asking any questions." Now, free to do as he wishes, he finds himself at a loss for motivation: "I'd sleepwalked through my life so far; there was nothing that truly grabbed my heart." A bit different from the Junpei whose determination and willingness to fight for justice led Akane to select him to be her savior.
pg. 18: Narration establishes that this takes place in autumn.
pg. 19: Zero's voice in flashback sounds "staticky" during his/her appearance in Junpei's room.
pg. 23: Junpei cannot figure out his door lock, even though the only puzzle he faces in the novel consists of "insert card key into card reader," and he starts out with the card key on a lanyard around his neck when he wakes up. (It falls off him onto the floor while he's stumbling about after waking.) Santa has to shout instructions through the door in order for Junpei to not drown (the water gets up to his shoulders here). Nevertheless, Junpei's door is slightly rusted shut, and the Ninth Man is dragooned into helping Santa shove it open. (Junpei is, again, useless in this effort.)
pg. 25: Junpei mentally disses Santa's outfit, describing "something like black leather belts wrapped around his neck in what perhaps was an attempt to be fashionable."
pg. 26: Junpei pins the Ninth Man to be about 50 years old. Ninth Man kvetches about Santa stopping to help Junpei, claiming they have "no particular obligation to save him," and runs off ahead of the two boys. When he sees the wall of water coming down the hallway, he panics, heads for the exit, and starts to slam the door to trap the water - as well as Santa & Junpei - inside. Only Santa shouting threats stops him.
pg. 29: Clover runs up for her introduction, and Junpei is immediately flushed beet red and noting her "sweet scent" and all hot & bothered at mere being in the proximity of a girl, deathtraps be damned. Better not move in there, brah; it'd be heck to deal with her brother. Also, Junpei notes that Clover has "red" hair - um, pretty sure that's screaming pink, dude.
pg. 32: Clover seems to have injured her right leg; she's dragging it a bit as the group goes up the stairs. After the Ninth Man skitters off and Santa remains marshalled in the face of another threatened flood, Junpei notes that "unlike Bird's Nest, Silver Hair was cool & collected in any situation."
pg. 34: As Junpei & Kubota climb the stairs to higher decks (Clover's told Junpei to go & scout ahead while she struggles with her leg), they meet Ace & Seven coming down another staircase. Junpei hears Kubota audibly gulp behind him as he sees Ace.
pg. 34, but in Part 6 of the chapter now: Junpei is totally freaked out by Seven, gaping at his "face scarred up like Frankenstein, which practically screamed that he was not a respectable person. ...There was something unbalanced and totally creepy about this man."
pg. 35: Lotus "sashays" down the stairs. Snake and June were with her, but, like Kubota, she ditched her crew because they were "dawdling" - to Seven's great anger; he shouts that "one of them's sick!" (Lotus responds that she's "not their babysitter" and tells Seven to go check on them if he's so concerned.) The Lotus/Seven argument is quelled when Ace volunteers to go back and check on 2 & 6.
pg. 37: Junpei notes that Seven's breath smells like tobacco. Seven takes charge and, saying that A Deck above has no working doors and therefore no exits, orders everyone down to B Deck to look for a way out. He takes Junpei by the shoulders and literally shoves him down the stairs (not so like he falls, but...well, you know), and brushes aside Clover's inquiries if he's seen her brother with: "Chit-chat later." He shoves Clover forward as well, and she does fall. Junpei's concerned about her and rushes to her side, but Clover in her own way is as business-minded as Seven, saying, "Leave me alone! I said I'm fine!" (She brushed Junpei's previous attempts to help her up the stairs aside just as brusquely.)
pg. 38: After witnessing Junpei's flailings with Clover, Lotus whispers in Junpei's ear: "No time to play around right now. The water's right behind us!" Junpei smells liquor on Lotus's breath and surmises she might be drunk.
pg. 40: In what is perhaps the most faithful recreation yet of the game's ineconomy of prose, we spend an entire page confirming that the number 4 & 5 doors won't open after spending the final bit of the last chapter-part on the same subject. Seven continues to be more shouty and bullying than he is in the English version of the game.
pg. 41: Junpei spots the RED by the door and tries scanning his keycard through it. Clover whispers "I don't think that'll work," whereupon Seven yells "HOW WOULD YOU KNOW?!" right at her. Man, Seven is a jerk here. Granted, they all believe themselves to be still under threat of drowning, so perhaps novel Seven's unwavering, albeit aggressive, focus on the problem is preferable to the game's "let's stop to talk about Kurt Vonnegut while dying of hypothermia in a meat locker" spates.
pg. 42: Junpei wonders why no one but Seven (well, and Clover, but he doesn't mention her) is helping him tackle the door problem when Snake makes his grand entrance on the staircase. Whether it's because the slackers (Lotus, Santa, Kubota) already know what's going down with the nonary game or it's because they're all transfixed by Captain Prince is up to you. Junpei describes Snake much as in the game but adds: "His noble features were tinged with a bit of sorrow."
pg. 43: Ace seems to have a spark of recognition (or at least suggestive confusion) when looking at Seven's...face? Er? Ace waves him away with a "it's nothing" when Seven notices and asks about it, however. Ever the detective, though, Seven then clues into the fact that Snake is blind. Lotus is disbelieving at first ("Don't be ridiculous! The boy was running around right with the rest of us before..."), but Seven cuts her off to conclude that "You just weren't planning on tellin' us, were you?!" (Snake: "There is no need for concern, however. I face practically no limitations in my daily activities." Seven still decries Snake’s initial reluctance to disclose matters, countering that there’s “nothing embarrassing about having to ask for help.”)
pg. 44: When Lotus asks if there are any other doors to try, Junpei recalls a door painted black he saw on C Deck. He runs down to check it, but on the way, he runs across...
pg. 45: ...Akane - not on the staircase, but seated in the dance hall. (Lotus had sat her down there after she had difficulty standing from her intense fever.) Junpei is struck dumb, time stops, he can't breathe, etc. Then an explosion hits, and Junpei has to grab the staircase railing for balance and June goes skidding across the ballroom floor. Somehow, this all ends just as in the game, with a whoopsy-daisy Meet Cute tumble and Akane straddling Junpei.
pg. 47: Novel Akane left Junpei's sixth-grade class when her mother died of illness and she had to go live with her father, supposedly. Junpei still remembers the smile & the wave she gave him at their parting. Bringing his mind back to present Akane, Junpei takes care to admire, in turn, her "straight black hair," her "spotless, innocent eyes," her "tiny nose," and her "cute, puckered lips."
still pg. 47: Zero announces him/her/themself over the loudspeaker with what I believe is the original version of Snake's "All of the cards are in hand" line: "It seems as if the board is set. All the pieces are assembled." ("Koma wa subete sorotta you da ne," and, OK, I'm taking some artistic license by splitting that into two sentences. If I'm right, I can see why Aksys's translators went with a more lucid card metaphor instead of board games.)
pg. 51: The ninth part of Chapter 1 (the novelization is spread out over two books, which have nine chapters total, each containing nine smaller parts) ends with a bit apparently from Akane-of-9-years-ago's perspective: "I... I see another me before my eyes. But if that's true...then who am I?"
pg. 54: Chapter 2: Rules: The numbered doors are called the "Numbering Doors" in the Japanese version's Engrish. The bracelets are instead "bangles."
pg. 55: Troublng admission from Junpei in this context: "I wasn't very good with numbers." Meanwhile, Akane is already breathing hard and trying to steady herself from her fever. Clover pops up and suggests it was something she once had called "angel fever" (enjeru netsu), but when I Google this to find out what it is, I learn there's lots more to come on that subject in this book, so hang on.
pg. 57: Zero, reading the rules, starts going on about the Titanic, and Seven asks a question no 999 character would when faced with a non sequitir: "What's that got to do with anything?"
pg. 59: Akane's fever is gone again, even though there really wasn't anything going wrong with her plan before to trigger its appearance.
pg. 60: Zero hasn't planted little handy rule cards on everyone this time, so Seven has to ask, and Snake explain, what a digital root is. Seven can't even add 2 + 7 + 6. Guys, c'mon.
pg. 61: Jumpy goes down with Ace, Seven, and Snake to see about that door he saw on C Deck. (Snake gets in the party by saying that due to his sensitive hearing, he can gauge whether or not it's flooded on the other side of the door by knocking on it.)
pg. 63: Ace tries to get out of Junpei how he knows Akane, but Snake cautions him against saying too much, as he did before with Clover. (Snake is leading the search party, BTW.)
pg. 64: Snake speculates that Zero is probably "watching them," which is the exact opposite of his opinion on that subject in the game. ("Oh, I'm not so sure of that," etc.) Seven chooses to be known by his bangle number and suggests the others do the same ("So Hot Oniichan here can be Two, and you can be One, old man--"), but Snake dismisses that as "too simple," hence, Cool Code Names. In his internal thoughts, Junpei is a bit incredulous at this: "Our lives were hanging in the balance, but here they were, laughing and picking out nicknames for themselves. Had they taken Zero's use of the word to heart, and decided to enjoy the experience as just that - a game?"
pg. 66: The group finds Junpei's door, but it won't open. It also discovers the elevator (locked with a keyhole for a cylindrical key), the left of its two doors painted yellow.
pg. 69: Affirming that there is no way out but the numbered doors and that he has to play the Nonary Game to survive, Junpei swears to win in order to save Akane. Well, this always leads to profitable ends.
pg. 69 again: People keep nodding in response to assertions that Snake makes. You know he can't see that, right?
pg. 69 still: The other group members have chosen cool code names offpage, in between chapterlets.
pg. 70: Lotus, objecting to the "go through the numbered doors" idea, asks Clover to back her up. Clover kind of demurs sheepishly and clutches at Snake's hand, whereupon Snake protectively answers for her. Clover overall seems more timid and less peppy and confident than she did in the English version of the game. It's not an improvement.
pg. 70: Junpei mentally complains that Santa's code name doesn't really suit him. Santa here doesn't care whether or not they go through. Seven, fed up with his impudence, tells him to "keep up the attitude, see where it gets you," which the book interprets as a threat. The character assassination of Seven continues.
pg. 71: Ace scratches his beard for a bit when asks his opinion on going through the doors, then offers: "I'm against it. I think we should remain here." Lotus brightens at this solidarity among the older members of the group (minus Seven), remarking: "All you young idiots care about is showing off!"
pg. 73: Akane gives the deciding vote, saying that she wants to stay with Junpei (who's for going through). Unlike in the game, where Junpei comes to her rescue by offering a nickname, Junpei can't even recall how June got her code name.
pg. 74: Even though there's already a majority, Lotus approaches the Ninth Man for his opinion. He responds by taking her hostage instead of Clover. (To be fair, she did suggest just before that he take the code name of "Q-Tarou" because of his "googly eyes," so perhaps he is, in part, justified.)
pg. 77: Junpei, sensibly, thinks that they'll all drown if they waste time on antics like this, so he tries to talk Kubota down. It does no good, of course.
pg. 78: The Ninth Man unlocks the No. 5 door by ordering Lotus and Akane to scan their bracelets, then scanning his own. Lotus is calm and initially won't cooperate, levelly asking: "And if I refuse?", for which Junpei admires her guts.
pg. 82: After being ordered to scan her bracelet, Akane scampers back to hide behind Junpei and clutches his hand (though he offers it first). The female characters in this book do a lot of running to men and grasping at their hands for protection.
pg. 84: After the Ninth Man flees, a few people keep trying to open the door to go after him by pulling the lever on the RED without authenticating - including, weirdly, Snake, who should know better. (The pulling thing happens in the game, too, but it's implied that Snake is off tending to Clover.) Also, Santa doesn't help in this effort, establishing a running trend of novel Santa not exerting himself - whereas in the book, he's kind of pushing the team forward at this stage.
pg. 87: And the Ninth Man fulfills his character duties by blowing up.
pg. 89: The group opens Door 5 to find the remnants of Kubota. We get the "grotesque flower" simile, plus a few more: "His head was split open like a pomegranate; if the face hadn't been staring straight at us, we wouldn't have recognized it as anything human. His skin, newly carbonized, had ruptured, and a sticky stew, cooked by the flames of the explosion, oozed up through the cracks." Also: "He had no limbs. They had been blown off, flung in four directions."
pg. 91: Junpei mentally berates himself: "I had been taking all this too lightly. I had been told that we would be putting our lives on the line, but it hadn't really hit home for me that someone could actually die - I never considered it a possibility. But Zero was serious. He didn't care if we all lived or died." Seven exhorts everyone to stop wasting time and get a move on, but no one else is in the mood to act.
pg. 94: Snake pulls his smug quiz on Zero's rules, only with Seven instead of Santa. Seven has to ask Junpei for help, because we have to make Seven as stupid as possible in the novel.
pg. 97: The card in Snake's pocket opens with "as you bear the handicap of being sightless." The English version puts this line as: "Since you are not blessed with sight, I shall bless you--and only you--with information" - a wording I think is better.
pg. 99: The info on Snake's card is much the same as it is in the game, save for 1) a warning against trying to prop the numbered doors open, since the DEAD won't activate unless the numbered door is shut, 2) a bit more explicit explanation of the function of the bracelet ("it will send a signal to the bomb in your body, blowing you to atoms," versus the game's "instructing it to explode"), and 3) a lack of the "let us discuss how to remove the bracelets" part. (Zero's closing words to Snake are also a bit more explicit, noting that "you may use this information to your advantage--or to kill.")
pg. 100: After everyone else is stunned by the info on Snake's card and the bomb revelation, Santa gloats smugly that they'd better "not [give] Zero an excuse" to blow any of them up. The author is really heavy-handed in signaling his involvement.
pg. 101: Junpei asks again if anyone knows anything about Zero. "They all kept silent, merely observing each other's expressions. It seemed as if they each actually did know something but, after gauging everyone else's reactions, had decided to remain quiet. ...Was I really the only one in the dark?"
pg. 102: Lotus, instead of Santa, is the one who speaks up first about seeing Zero wearing a gas mask when she was abducted. (Seven remembers that he got grabbed when he was "zoning out & watching TV," incidentally. Guess he doesn't have (or isn't pretending to have) amnesia here?)
pg. 103: In the Zero kidnapping comparison, Junpei notes that he is the only captive who managed to lose the card key and almost drown in the starting room. Akane, meanwhile, claims that she "doesn't really remember" how she got on board the ship and says that she's been having gaps in her memory as of late. She gets "a splitting headache" whenever she tries to remember what she was doing before she woke up in the room. (Meanwhile meanwhile, Seven seems to have a spark of recognition while watching Akane & listening to her story.)
pg. 104: For some reason, only Seven and Lotus are shocked to discover that Snake and Clover are siblings. (Incidentally, Snake and Clover here indeed did wake up in the same room together - so why was Clover wondering about his whereabouts in the opening?)
pg. 106: Seven gives his "You connect the dots between the victims, and that leads you to the perp" line, and Junpei begins to suspect that the man might have a brain after all. Is Seven just playing dumb instead of amnesiac here, then?
pg. 106: For some damn reason, everyone decides to start finding out the common thread between them by exchanging their addresses (or at least identifying the prefectures in which they live). That kind of defeats that purpose of code names, guys. (Everyone lives in Japan's Kanto region, by the way.)
pg. 107: Lotus brings up the fact that Zero couldn't possibly have kidnapped everyone in one night acting alone and brings up the possibility that he or she is part of a larger organization. Seven thinks this is a ridiculous idea. Lotus continues that Zero could part of an army or research organization. "A research organization..." muses Ace; "that could indeed be a possibility." (I see that Lotus has what were originally Ace's lines in this scene, whereas Seven has Santa's "I mean, c'mon! A guy's dead!") Snake agrees with Lotus's organization idea, BTW, but refers to her as "obasan," a word that describes somewhat older women, to which Lotus naturally takes offense. 999, you can make fun of Lotus's age, or you can show off her skin. You can't have it both ways.
pg. 108: OK, now Snake is talking about how it's also possible that this is the work of one person, going on about how if Zero just had a big enough car, he or she could totally have piled all nine of them in there. He is really invested in this big-car theory. Snake, you are off your rocker.
pg. 108: Santa, in another of his blatantly villainous speeches, expounds on how Zero has staged the game "for his amusement - to pass the time," and that he'll be "sitting back to savor their agonizing deaths with a glass of wine or something."
pg. 109: The group has again wasted 90 minutes right at the start, and Seven urges them to move. (Santa, conversely, feigns annoyance at having to move.) Ace gets Seven's line about hating to have to jump when Zero says "jump." There's a lot of incidental switching of line attribution in the novel, often to dubious effect.
pg. 112: Junpei has newfound respect for Seven when he's the first to volunteer to go in Door 5 to calm down everyone else: "He wasn't just muscle. I'd gotten all wound up with emotion, but it seemed like he had a good read on the room."
pg. 121: Santa yawns as he approaches the RED. You're really overselling it, man. Junpei is conflicted, since he owes Santa his life, but he's acting like an ass.
pg. 122: Another Part 9 concludes the chapter: "No one realizes I'm here. I finally understand that now. I'm not part of this world. That's what I thought...as I peered into the open door."
pg. 127: Chapter 3 is entitled "Pandemic," so I assume we're gonna be getting more on that "angel fever" Clover mentioned.
pg. 128: While looking for the DEAD on the other side of Door 5, Junpei opines that he feels he's under additional pressure because "he and Santa were the only men in the group, and Santa absolutely could not be counted on."
pg. 129: Santa lingers on the other side of Door 5 once the others have gone through, smirking, "If I just stand here, you guys all blow up." He then shrugs his shoulders and "skips" across the door when Junpei calls him out on it. Junpei then threatens to punch Santa and is stopped only by mention of the need to find the DEAD.
pg. 132: Junpei preemptively seizes Santa's wrist and slams his bracelet against the reader when they reach the DEAD.
pg. 132: The team comes across a heavy oaken door painted red in the room. Junpei notes that it's the same as a purple door he saw on A Deck and the black door he saw on C Deck.
pg. 133: An LCD monitor is mounted above the door handle. When Junpei touches it, a fanfare sounds, and orange text on the screen asks: "WHAT'S THE NAME OF THIS SHIP?" Junpei is flabbergasted at the thought that they're just going to have to solve puzzle after puzzle to proceed.
pg. 136: The team searches cabins B92 & B93. Santa, though, sits down by the DEAD and does nothing, claiming a "weak consitution." Lotus grabs him by the leather straps around his neck and drags him to the room.
pg. 137: Akane discovers some sort of wooden jigsaw sphere on the bed in the cabin they're searching. Junpei tries messing with it, thinking the red key might be inside, but nothing comes out. Akane is impressed, or pretends to be impressed by his puzzle-solving skills anyway. We learn that Junpei was actually obsessed with Rubik's Cubes in elementary school ("nothing had captivated me so before or since") and was so good at them that he attracted throngs around him during recess. (Apparently, Rubik's Cubes were "all the rage" during Jumpy's elementary school days, so did Junpei go to school in the '80s, and the novel version of 999 doesn't take place in the future, or was there a revival of the fad in his youth?)
pg. 139: Junpei actually complains that being able to solve Rubik's Cubes quickly is not a marketable skill in the workplace.
pg. 140: Akane finds a map of the ship, so it's mummies on the Titanic time. Actually, it's the "Hey, have you heard about the Olympic?" Junpei Hour. Akane counters with a new-to-the-series Titanic rumor: about J. P. Morgan, the "actual" owner of the ship, cancelling his passage on the maiden voyage at the last second, with several of his friends suspiciously following suit. Akane says he claimed illness but instead was enjoying a holiday overseas. (Incidentally, in Googling this, I came up with this page on that gold mine known as Reddit arguing that Morgan got the idea from that Futility book Akane mentions in the game to sink the Titanic to knock off several of his business competitors, who were on board the vessel. I mean, this is 999, after all; let's just bask in the conspiracy theories.)
Junpei goes on to mention that part of the Olympic was repurposed into a restaurant known at the Celebrity Millennium. This is actually true, if by "part of," you mean "just the wooden paneling."
pg. 144: Akane mentions how the staircase she descended looked just like the one in the romantic last scene of Titanic. Akane loves Titanic and even has the DVD. Junpei hasn't seen it.
pg. 145: Finding nothing in their cabin, talk turns to Akane's off-and-on fever. Akane says she's never been sick like that before, except for one time she was hospitalized in middle school, right after she moved. Junpei mentions that he's been hospitalized only once, too - with angel fever.
pg. 149: Apparently, according to Akane, the angel fever virus never leaves your body; it just goes dormant. Junpei mentally likens it to the chickenpox virus lying dormant in the nerve cells. He then recalls how shingles can occur from the chickenpox virus resurging during times of low immunity in the body; I presume the reader is supposed to draw a parallel to the angel fever virus and what's happening to Kanny at this point.
pg. 154: Junpei steadies Kanny and guides her to a bed. She coughs several times, and Junpei observes that her symptoms sure look like angel fever. Once you've had angel fever, though, you're supposed to have developed immunity and be unable to get it again. (This runs a bit contrary to his implied chickenpox-related conclusions from several pages ago.)
pg. 157: Junpei wonders, as per Santa's earlier words, if it might not have been easier for them all to have died earlier, to spare them the horrors that were surely waiting ahead - with only death at the end anyway. "And even if I did manage to escape," Junpei continues, "all I had waiting for me was the prospect of a dull workaday life consumed by the rat race. Just whiling the days away, with no hopes or dreams for the future...if long years of that were all that was in store for me, then dying here and now would be far easier."
pg. 158: Lotus bursts in announcing that she's found the red key (taped behind a picture frame in her cabin - of a funyarinpa?) while Junpei's tearing the cabin apart in search of Akane. They run to cabin 93 to check for her, though Lotus says she would've noticed had Akane come in. They ask Santa - who's sitting on the couch, entranced by the painting, which is of a funyarinpa - if he's seen Akane, but he completely ignores them and gives no response. (Lotus attests that he didn't help at all in searching cabin 93. "Do you really want to survive?" Lotus rages at Santa, but given his previous thoughts, Junpei feels as if the question has significance for him as well.)
pg. 167: Lotus comes back; she's tried all the doors, and even tried the key in them, but they won't budge. The red oaken door presumably leading to the next room she hasn't tried; she was saving that for when they all got back together. Santa suggests they leave, and Junpei's all "not without June," of course, but Santa says "she's not here" - and since Junpei didn't guess the thing in the funyarinpa picture correctly, he's not obliged to tell where she went. He relents, though, and gives his answer: "The other side." Junpei then loses it and punches Santa so that he flips over the sofa.
pg. 173: Lotus suggests that Zero abducted Akane by way of a secret door. Junpei starts to go look for it, but Lotus nixes the idea: it'd be sure to be locked. Lotus, who is being very calm and methodical in this scene, states that Junpei has looked all over for her and shouted for her, she clearly isn't nearby, and they simply don't have a couple hours to search for hidden passageways. It would be better if they used the key to move to the next room; there might be a hint to June's whereabouts there.
pg. 174: Lotus inserts the key into the monitor, and a fanfare plays. There's still, though, the matter of answering the monitor's question: "WHAT'S THE NAME OF THIS SHIP?" Junpei presses the "ANSWER" button on the touchscreen again - whereupon a skull mark appears on everyone's bracelets & a beeping starts, just like with the RED/DEAD countdown, and an 81-second timer appears on the monitor. Oh, dear.
pg. 180: The group arrives in the galley. Junpei starts yelling for June, but it's no good. Lotus, meanwhile, is disappointed that they're not at the exit; Santa smirks that Zero "ain't gonna let us get out of here that easily."
pg. 183: Santa takes a frozen package of what looks like hot dogs and wonders aloud if they can eat them, but sniffs them and determines they're no good. (Can you do that with frozen food - tell if it's bad by smelling it? Frozen food doesn't typically have much of a scent in my experience.)
pg. 191: Junpei asks Lotus what happened to the girl under the tree that one night. Lotus says she doesn't know - when she asked about her at the hospital reception desk to thank her, she was told there was no such patient. She showed the staff a photo of Nona, since she looked so much like the girl, but this led to nothing.
pg. 193: Santa waltzes in; he's found the key. He wasn't really searching for it, he explains; he just happened upon it while he was looking for something to eat.
pg. 193: Lotus mentions that Santa's sister must have had a time of it with a brother like him. "She's gone," he replies. "Died from angel fever." Junpei notes that "His reply was instantaneous, delivered with his usual poker face. But it was then I realized - that even though I'd always thought of him as cold-blooded, I could see that his eyes were filled with deep sadness. Maybe he'd shown me a glimpse of the real Santa. Maybe the rest was just him putting up a front."
pg. 194: The group fits in the key, types in "angel fever," and goes to take off - when they hear the sound of a door opening behind them. "Jumpy! Thank goodness!" It's Akane, who flies into Junpei's arms and just sobs. Akane starts in about being left alone and being so frightened, which utterly confuses Junpei: "Where have you been?" "What're you talking about, Jumpy? I was asleep, in the bed - in cabin 92!" Junpei has no explanation, though he doesn't think that Akane's lying; he resolves, however, to belay such considerations until they get out of here.
pg. 197: Another Part 9, more mysterious narration: "......Was it nine years ago? I heard them talking, and everything became clear. How could this be? Was this some sort of trick? Who could be behind it?"
pg. 201: Chapter Four: Where? (or The Search, in the Japanese underneath), and the group arrives in the infirmary. In addition to the three numbered doors, there's one door with no marks and no handle. There's also a whiteboard on the wall with a message: "Today's death toll: 1".
pg. 206: Snake's group came out an orange door, if anyone cares. They found their first key in a dresser drawer, and the second in a shaker behind the bar. Zero's game in the novels is turning out to be a lot like the old Nickelodeon game show Finders Keepers. (I do hope Zero moves on to GUTS and works in the Aggro Crag at some point.) Their monitors asked the same questions as did the ones in Junpei's group, both of which Snake answered handily.
pg. 207: Clover confirms that both Snake and she had angel fever, with Snake catching it from Clover nine years ago. Clover's case got only to level 1, but His Majesty got to level 3 - because he hasn't physically suffered enough with losing his sight and an arm, apparently - and earned himself a two-week hospitalization.
pg. 211: Lotus asks how the other group found out the true name of the ship. Snake smiles slightly and says that he, naturally, couldn't see the staircase that misled everyone else; instead, when he woke up, he noted the pervasive antiseptic & medicinal smells through the vessel. He also felt that the walls of the ship were rather old, so he theorized that they might have been on a hospital ship that had been active during wartime. When Clover mentioned that the staircase was straight out of the movie Titanic (does the novel take place in the future, too? If so, why are there still so many avid fans of this movie?), he concluded that they had to be on the Titanic's sister hospital ship.
pg. 217: While searching for the innards of the RED, Junpei turns over recent strange events in his mind and identifies Snake as a dubious character, finding his preternatural composure to shade "beyond admirable into suspicious" and "his extraordinary sense of smell" to be "indisputably threatening." This is the first time in human history that anyone has been threatened by a sense of smell.
pg. 218: As Junpei is traveling down a long corridor, his attention is arrested by a single black door amidst all the white ones. He feels that something must be behind it, but it doesn't open.
pg. 222: Time to go search for Snake and Clover. Junpei is the first to go after Clover when she bolts ("We can't leave two people behind!"), followed right along by June - then Ace and Seven, each with a variation of "guess we've got no choice." Seven pulls Santa along before he can respond (no "couple of idiots" line here). Lotus comes along at Seven's prompting because she "can't open a door by myself."
pg. 224: Jumpy & June go back to search the rooms behind Door 4 for Snake, noting that his mysterious disappearance was just like Akane's before. They don't mention this to the larger group or Clover, though - which really makes no sense, considering how close the parallels are in this continuity. (Even if Snake hadn't disappeared, it seems implausible for someone in their group not to mention, "Hey, June disappeared for a good chunk of time during our search. She thought she was still in the cabin, but we sure couldn't find her. Zero might be snatching & grabbing people temporarily, so be on the lookout.")
pg. 230: Novel Santa has, of course, abandoned his post and left Clover alone to sob. Santa is found looking at the RED in front of Door 3, where he pops "who do you think put back the RED?" quiz, which novel Junpei is unable to answer, after dismissing both the possibilities of Snake and Zero. Santa offers that it was "one of the eight of us"; when Junpei counters that the person would've fessed up if so, Santa answers: "Man, you're naive. Ever occur to you that one of us might be lying?" Junpei protests that there's no reason to lie about finding the RED. Santa: "Well... Might be awkward for them if they got found out." "What do you mean, 'awkward'?" "Dunno. ...But I can hazard a guess. ...They probably had something to do with Snake's disappearance."
pg. 234: Lotus makes her "someone's gotta be sacrificed" play. Jumpy can't figure out all the bracelet/door combinations to confirm the idea that all seven of them can't make it through, so he goes to the "Today's death toll" whiteboard, located in the corner of the room, to do some combinatorics. When he gets there, he sees that Today's Death Toll has been updated from 1 to 2. That's just mean, Kurashikis. (Or maybe Ace did it just to be a smartass.) Junpei quickly wipes it away with his palm so that Clover doesn't see it.
pg. 240: Novel Santa is noncommittal to the idea of sacrificing someone, as he is to any idea offered in the course of the novel. Lotus nevertheless counts him as an "aye" ("Well, we'll just count that as 'yes'"). The voting otherwise goes as in the game. (Lotus is more forceful than gleeful here, though - no giggling.)
pg. 242: Ace, at the end of his "I'm staying behind" speech, adds that "I'm the oldest of us. I'm the slowest, and the slowest-witted, and I'm obviously
pg. 244: When June looks to Jumpy for support in her last pleas for Ace, he can't find any words of support to offer her, "hollow and fake" or otherwise: "I was painfully aware that she was asking for my help, but I could find no advice to give."
pg. 245: Soporil-Beta is called "Mandraine/Beta" here; Tumblr user whenyousayrun informs me that the latter is indeed the drug's name in the Japanese-language games as well.
pg. 246: June appears to be a bit more frantic at Ace's evident sacrifice, and Junpei notes, as he looks at Ace going to sleep, that "it was just like he had settled into his deathbed..." Despite the dialogue being pretty much identical for most of the scene, there's a greater sense at this point that Ace's decision means curtains for him.
pg. 248: Lotus brings up that they have to choose doors without being reminded of it by Santa - who, speak of the devil, has been working out who can go in which door while the "obnoxious human drama" about Ace was unfolding. Door 3 is flatly off the table, since they don't have the numbers to do it. Akane has tears in her eyes as they realize they'll be separated etc. etc. etc. I didn't have patience for this in the game, and I don't now.
pg. 253: Junpei asks Akane to go through door 8 with Lotus because he feels that she's the most dependable of the other players and thinks that her motherly instincts and love for her lost daughter will lead her to watch over Akane. Er, Junpei, did you miss the part just now where Lotus abandoned a sobbing Clover to talk to you about betraying the other members of the group? Did you forget Lotus's "I'm not their babysitter" line when Akane was having a fever attack before? I know we've got to get to True Ending party formations somehow, and in the game, that happens through info Junpei won't get here (the idea that you've gotta be able to talk with Clover instead of her being stuck in a room with Science Boy), but...c'mon.
pg. 255: And we've come to another Part 9: "Junpei's thoughts reach me: 'Do your best, Akane.' And I cry out in prayer: You, too, Jumpy - don't you give up, either! I wonder if my thoughts got through to him?"
pg. 256: And we go out with a Part 0, with a person whom the reader is led to believe is Zero but who is probably Ace from the first Nonary Game thinking that the participants are taking too long and need some "new terror" injected into the proceedings, as he looks at a gun in his inside pocket. "It is when we are staring death in the face that we unlock our true potential," says probably-Ace, and that's the end of Vol. 1.
back cover: In honor of the game's denouement, the text on the back cover is right-side up, but the illustration is printed upside-down.
pg. 10: Chapter 5: Déjà Vu, and Seven is carrying Clover under his arm as they race for Door 7's DEAD.
pg. 12: Seven drags the mannequin off the table and discovers a message written in red underneath: "WE'RE NOT GUINEA PIGS." This appears to frighten Seven, then trigger a memory flashback for him; he clutches his temples and mutters: "Aoi...Raito no...Naka...ne..."
pg. 14: Novel Seven reveals that he hasn't had amnesia just for the duration of this kidnapping: he's been an amnesiac for the past nine years. He doesn't remember what his name was, where he lived, or what his life was like before nine years ago. "I washed up on Kujukuri Beach nine years ago last summer, when I was saved by a fisherman on his way out. I was wearing just an old ripped-up T-shirt & jeans. Didn't even have any shoes on, that I remember." Seven goes on to say that he didn't have anything on his person, either - just a crumpled-up convenience-store receipt. "The receipt told me that I'd bought a bento box at a convenience store in the city. I had nothing else to go on, so I went to Tokyo - but I didn't find anything. Even now, I have no clues."
pg. 15: Seven: "Sorry. Ain't the time for this kinda talk now. Let's seek a way out." Roll credits. ...Wait.
pg. 16: Clover finds the locked door of the room behind a cloth screen. This time, it's painted pink, and it has the odd detail of a crystal doorknob. We also get another quiz: "WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE SUBSTANCE BEHIND THE WHITE SMOKE THAT KNOCKED YOU OUT?" Junpei guesses (not into-the-computer officially, just in his head) that it's "anesthetic gas" (masui gasu), given its effects, but then checks himself and imagines that it's not that easy. Seven suggests they find the key first, then worry about the answer.
pg. 17: The group starts searching for the key. Clover is initially out of it, but eventually, "as if realizing that she'd need to move forward to find Snake," starts searching frantically near the partition. Jumpy, meanwhile, takes the medicine cabinet but realizes that it's locked. "If you're looking for the key, it's here," offers Seven, reaching through the small crack between the cabinet and the wall to retrieve the key. Junpei is shocked: "How did you know where the key was, Seven?" Seven is at a loss to explain and actually rather shaken once Junpei brings up the point. "So...I have been on this ship before?" "But this is a hospital ship, isn't it?" reminds Junpei, who doubts that Seven is a doctor and therefore wonders why he knows the location of the ship's medical supplies; "What would you be doing here?" "It's because you're an Esper," murmurs Clover.
pg. 22: Junpei complains that the labels of the bottles in the cabinet are all in Western text and thus difficult for him to understand.
pg. 22: Junpei finds the key in the medicine cabinet. Or, rather, he finds a key - but it's yellow, not pink. It can't even fit in the pink door. In a fit of pique, Junpei angrily flings the key, intending to hit the floor - but his throw just happens to go wild, and the key just happens to strike a bottle that Junpei just happened to have placed on the floor earlier. The bottle just happens to break, and inside just happens to be the pink key. Maybe you're the one with the psychic powers, Junpei.
pg. 26: Seven counts down from three to...zero, and furthermore, everyone knows to move on zero, somehow. That they've got the digit on their minds is understandable, I suppose.
pg. 28: Seven's job is to read the label on the bottle while Junpei punches it into the screen, but Seven has trouble with English and can't read the bottle well. He chokes out "Man...Mand...", and Clover finishes with "Mandraine" (Soporil), remembering what Ace injected himself with earlier. Incidentally, everyone's shouting and jabbering, and I don't see how they're not breathing the gas in.
pg. 29: After they escape, Clover's having a hard time, clutching her chest, and asks to rest a bit, so Seven asks Junpei to stay with her while he scouts ahead.
pg. 35: Actually, speak of the devil: Akane's with Seven, as well as Santa and Lotus. Like in the game, the other group went through the Laboratory. They got the question through Akane remembering the name of the sedative with which Ace injected himself. She also found a black key in their medicine cabinet - upon which Seven trumpets their own find of an extra key. "Never overlook a clue, no matter how small - textbook investigation protocol." (But you didn't have anything to do with finding the key, Seven - not the color-coded keys, anyhow.) Akane entrusts the black key to Junpei; she says she's afraid she'll lose it.
pg. 37: Lotus hurries everyone forward: "If we keep this up, we might escape ahead of schedule!" The door leading back to the infirmary is an automatic sensor door, for some reason.
pg. 38: Part 9 again: "I couldn't help it. It was a horrible shock: the revelation that came from Clover's lips about the Nonary Project. That's impossible! I screamed. Please...someone help me...... But my pleas reached no one."
pg. 39: Chapter 6: Murder. Apparent murder of Snake, or murder of apparent Zero? I'm not sure we have enough space to do the "fake Snake body" subplot. Then again, we do have four chapters and about 230 pages left. The denouement takes a bit, though.
pg. 40: The text confirms that the group's returned to the infirmary through the unmarked door between Door 3 and Door 7.
pg. 40: Ace, with whom the group has naturally reunited, is the first to suggest that the extra keys they found can be used to unlock the locked doors they've encountered on other floors (Lotus is the one to voice initial puzzlement at this suggestion; though she's made the group leader, she's often framed as the clueless one. Trade-offs.) The black key, Ace continues, can probably be used in the black door Jumpy found in his search of the infirmary - which is probably the other side of the black door he found on C Deck that's mentioned on pg. 44 of Vol. 1; if the group passes through this door, they can access the great hall again and go back to the locked elevator - which probably activates with the yellow key, as one of its doors was painted yellow. Jumpy pumps his fist at this realization.
pg. 43: Clover, Ace, and Seven go off to investigate Door 3, as per the game. Lotus & Seven's "be careful" exchange from the game is present, though Seven takes a moment to flash a grin and actively flirt ("Smitten by my charms, huh?"), and Lotus's denial, while identical in content, is stuttery and tonewise more not-that-I-like-you-or-anything rather than actively mercenary.
pg. 48: Santa lies down on a bed in the infirmary, saying that he doesn't need to come along on a scouting-out trip and that he'll just wait here for the Door 3 group to return. Lotus starts moving toward him menacingly, but Akane stops her, saying that there might as well be someone to greet the Door 3 folks if they get back early.
pg. 49: Junpei thinks back to how Kanny was so good at playing the piano and used to play for him a lot. He asks if she still plays, and Akane replies with a faltering "Ah - y-yes...". Junpei goes on that Akane always dreamed of becoming a piano teacher and comments that she "must be going to a music school or something now, right?". Akane, though, doesn't answer; she can only stare blankly, like a deer caught in the headlights. At length, she confesses that she "can't really remember that well." "Don't tell me you've got amnesia, too!" Junpei jokes, forgetting that Akane did indeed say she was having gaps in her memory earlier.
pg. 54: The black door on C Deck indeed leads Junpei et al. back to where they started, the Great Hall with the clock.
pg. 56: On the way up, Junpei wonders whether he should tell Lotus Clover's news about Nona's death. He doesn't come to a conclusion before the ride ends.
pg. 56: The elevator takes the crew to from C Deck to A Deck and Doors 1, 2, and 6. (Junpei checks the RED units on each, just to make sure they're functional this time.) Lotus points out that they can go ahead and go in Door 1, forgetting what Akane said earlier about them not being able to go in Door 9. Junpei brings it up and tells Lotus to knock it off. Lotus: "All right! I was just mentioning possibilities..."
pg. 57: Speaking of which: Junpei brings up the possibility of using the elevator to visit the lower floors. Lotus is incredulous at this, pointing out that the lower floors are flooded. Junpei points out that the elevator isn't wet, so it has to be safe - but, unlike in the game, the elevator has multiple possible destinations, and while they hear the elevator arrive from another floor while they're on C Deck, it's not mentioned whether it came from above or below. The game also has Junpei send the car down to E Deck, hear the doors open down there, then confirm that the car is dry after its return before venturing below with June; novel Junpei does this only after the fact. How much confidence you place in Junpei's initial assertions here boils down to how watertight you think the Nonary Game elevator shaft doors are and whether they could hold back possible floodwaters on E Deck like the other doors in the site, but what I'm saying is that Novel Junpei, and the novel itself, are considerably more cocky in his assertion than events warrant. (The text makes fun of Lotus for doubting Junpei, describing her expression as "bewitched by a fox," a Japanese expression that effectively means "dumbfounded.")
pg. 60: Akane squeezes into the elevator at the last second, insisting on going with Junpei to investigate despite him telling her to stay behind. Junpei puts a hand to her forehead and tousles her hair. Akane reflects on another memory: a time in elementary school when she had mentioned that she had never seen a dolphin before - "And, Jumpy, you told me, 'Then let's go to the aquarium during summer vacation!'. That made me so happy!" Akane had to go live with her father that year, though, so they never got to go.
pg. 63: The pair arrives on E Deck, which is dry, but completely sealed in by steel plates painted indigo. "...We're surrounded by the ocean here...aren't we?" asks Akane. "Yeah, I guess," says Jumpy. "Then there could be dolphins swimming right by us, right on the other side of the wall," muses Akane, giving a slight smile.
pg. 65: The group returns to the infirmary to discover the Door 3 crew back and the news that Snake is dead. Seven has an "aghast" expression; all the blood is drained from Ace's face; and "Clover looked as though she might fade away at any second." (Novel Santa is, of course, unfazed. He's the one who breaks the news to Junpei et al., though at least he has the courtesy to do so in a whisper.)
pg. 66: Junpei, Akane, & Lotus go to investigate Door 3 and see Snake's body for themselves. (Ace mentions that they've propped the rear door open with a pillow.)
Junpei asks Akane to stay put and holds her back with the palm of his hand; then, followed by Lotus, he checks out the scene. And...the description of the corpse is much the same as in the English version of the game, though there are no creative spaghetti similes. (The left hand is outright "torn off" to expose the ulna, though, instead of the arm just being cracked open.)
pg. 72: Upon returning to the infirmary, Junpei's eyes immediately go to Clover, who is sitting on the edge of a bed, hanging her head...well, described as she is in the game. Meanwhile, Santa comes back in the room, and Junpei is filled with renewed disgust at him upon spotting his bloodstained sneakers.
pg. 72: Seven broaches the idea that Snake was murdered, as it takes three bracelets to open a numbered door. (He starts his assertions in his usual voice but switches to a whisper midstream, "as if realizing that Clover might be listening.") He asserts, naturally, that Snake had to have been killed when they split up to look for the REDs, noting that no one has an alibi since they were all separated. "...Are you saying there's a killer among us?!" protests Akane. "Yeah, and not just one, either. There's gotta be at least two for sure." Ace here interjects to warn against statements that
pg. 76: Akane is quick to agree with Ace's assertion that Zero killed Snake.
pg. 76: Junpei, and not Clover, makes the declaration that "I think Zero is one of us." Man, they're taking everything away from her, aren't they?
pg. 80: In all the commotion, Lotus remembers to mention that they found the next set of numbered doors. Junpei is upset because he thinks that Lotus bringing it up makes it sound as if she found them herself. Shut up, Junpei. It was her idea to go out on a scouting trip and use the keys, and she was in the lead during the expedition. It's not as if your genius voyage to E Deck was what found the doors. Of course, this being Lotus, claiming the credit was probably her intent. But still: shut up, Junpei.
pg. 80: Clover initially refuses to leave, telling everyone to leave her alone. "I...I don't care what happens to me anymore. My brother's gone...so there's no point in me going on, either. I'm staying here..." I miss Axe Clover. Even non-Axe Path, Just Plain Depressed Clover had a fire & drive that this version lacks.
pg. 84: As the group heads for the doors, Junpei's mind races though the combinations of people who could have opened Door 3 to kill Snake, robbing Clover of another of her character roles in the game. He dismisses the 4 & 6 combination out of hand - not because it's unthinkable that Clover had a hand in killing her brother, but because "Akane couldn't be Zero." He finds the 3 + 7 combination much more plausible. That's good. Go get an axe, Junpei. You're almost to a point where one's handy! (He also briefly considers combinations of three or more perps but rejects them due to sheer practicality of numbers and to the fact that "if four people were in it together, they should have been able to make a bigger move by now.")
pg. 88: Lotus brings up how this makes eight doors so far and that the next one has gotta be Door 9. Junpei is again disturbed at the prospect that at least two people are going to be left behind coming up, wondering if he can be so cold as to abandon them.
pg. 89: Another Part 9: "I tried to take my brother aside and tell him all the strange things that were happening to me. But he only laughed at me. It was like he didn't believe me. It was only natural. I couldn't hold it against him. I mean, I could barely believe it myself."
pg. 92: Chapter 7: Battle. Or Confrontation, as per the kanji below the katakana. ETA from the future: Perhaps "Infodump" would be better, given events.
pg. 99: The whole folderol about team assignments is rendered moot, as everyone has been funneled to the same room. It's pitch dark, and no one can find the DEAD. Panic reigns. June, holding Jumpy's hand in the darkness, asks nervously: "Jumpy...is it our destiny to die here after all?" In a line I'm surprised isn't Santa's, Junpei replies: "Destiny can eat shit! Your future's whatever you make it!"
pg. 101: Ace finds the lights. Well, he was involved in drawing up the floor plan, after all. The illumination reveals the chart room - which here is shaped like a C, with Junpei & Akane right in the C's middle/"hinge". Lotus then finds the DEAD, and there's a brief commotion as Santa insists his team deactivate first, as they entered first and are in more imminent danger of blowing up. He punches Seven in the face to get him away from the DEAD.
pg. 102: A review of the doors reveals that Door 2 also leads in here, so no engine room or confinement/torture room on this ship. The group wonders why Zero had everyone immediately meet up in the same room. Ace
pg. 105: The room search begins, and Jumpy observes the location of the light switch, next to Door 2, noting that it was "nothing short of a miracle" that Ace found it. He also recalls that the moment the lights went up, he instantly knew how the room was shaped, about the existence of blind spots at the two far arms, and that he couldn't get a view of the entire room from his vantage point. He wonders how his brain came by that information.
pg. 105: Junpei notes two other doors in the room besides the numbered doors: one to a control room, and one to the "captain's cabin." (I assume that these are the doors to the back left and right he mentioned on pg. 101, or where the numbered doors are located in the chart room, and that the numbered doors are located along the C's "spine". If not, this begs the question of what Ace was doing in the right blind spot.) Kanny wonders aloud if Zero's in the latter door, recalling Zero's opening speech about being "the captain of this ship." Everyone freezes at this statement. At this, Clover, "as if sleepwalking," staggers toward the door crying "GIVE ME BACK MY BROTHER", shoving her way into Zero's office while everyone else sits around just gawking at her like a gormless lemon. She then lets out a scream, which shakes everyone from their reverie and into the room...to discover Musashidou's body. When the hell did Ace have a chance to kill him?
pg. 108: Jumpy tells Akane not to come in the room and sends Ace to investigate the control room, telling him to get everyone else out of here (including Clover, presumably, so Clover is again denied a crucial scene). Ace shuts the door behind him, leaving Jumpy alone with the corpse - and Seven, who's stayed behind. Given Junpei's suspicions, our hero is none too happy about this turn of events.
pg. 109: Junpei: "I was astounded at how I was able to inspect the corpse with such detachment. My heart must have been completely paralyzed in the face of the mounting tragedies. I had had more than enough of this game. If it didn't end soon, I would wind up completely broken inside." Prophetic meta commentary for the sequels, which feature nothing but such people.
pg. 110: The author corrects a perceived oversight of the game as Junpei & Seven find some sort of waterproof garment rolled up & stored next to the murder weapon.
pg. 110: The face of Musashidou's bracelet is smashed, so they can't tell what digit it was. Its presence alone, however, is enough to cause Junpei to dismiss him as being the real Zero (there's no overkill "z e r o" monitor display in the office in the novel). This leads Seven to wonder, "who is he, then?"; the big man searches the body and finds a purple key in one of the pants pockets.
pg. 111: Disturbing detail: Junpei notes as he helps turn Musashidou over that the body's still warm.
pg. 111: Junpei puts Musashidou at about fifty, which seems a bit young.
still pg. 111: Seven examines Musashidou's hands and notes that the man had an interest in playing the guitar, indicating the calluses on the fingertips of his left hand. I don't really picture Musashidou as a guitar player, but this sparks Junpei's memory - of Clover's lament over how Snake was no longer able to play his "beloved guitar," and of how he made his silver clovers with just his right hand.
Suddenly, Seven finds a photo by the window in the corner of the room. It's the photo of the four masterminds behind the Nonary Project, ahead of schedule. Junpei naturally recognizes three of the four immediately - and "from the smiles on their faces, it was clear that they were good friends."
pg. 120: The control room is "packed & lined with meters & gauges, but none of them seemed to be working." Clover mentions that the group found a blue key dangling from the captain's wheel.
pg. 121: Leaning on the aforementioned "ship's wheel gleaming black," Lotus asks Junpei about the identity of the dead man in the captain's quarters. Junpei leaves the explanation to Seven and heads for the purple door.
pg. 121: And the doors have stopped fooling around, because the question is now: "WHO KILLED THE MAN WEARING BRACELET #2?" Also: "YOU ONLY GET ONE TRY."
All eyes are on Junpei, and he starts in on his Poirot parlor scene - agreeing that he won't input the answer unless everyone else accepts it. Junpei starts by pointing to Akane and asking Ace who she is (as opposed to asking Ace who Junpei himself is in the Safe ending). Everyone else stares in blank puzzlement at Junpei's question, but Ace's face "twitches, as if he were having some sort of muscle spasm." When Ace identifies her as, well, Akane, Junpei counters that it's instead Santa - that he and Akane swapped clothing on the sly to confuse Ace. Ace is instantly furious and losing his composure at Junpei's "revelations," spitting everywhere when he cites the bracelet numbers to refute Junpei's assertion. It's over-the-top, and - really, author, you didn't want to use that excellent moment from the game when Ace's facade drops all at once and he becomes this wasted husk? Really? (Well, I suppose it does rely heavily on the game's visuals & audio.)
just stopping to note our place: pg. 129: Junpei then accuses Ace of the Room 3 murder, at which Ace looses "a vulgar laugh from the depths of his throat." Junpei presents the same three pieces of evidence that he did in the game, except with the following differences: a) Junpei puts together that Snake's left arm is fake through, naturally, Clover's previous comments about making his silver charms with "just his right hand" and about him being unable to play guitar after his accident; b) when Junpei brings up the matter of Snake's hand being fake, Lotus is able to draw the appropriate conclusion immediately - she doesn't have to wait for Junpei to note that the corpse behind Door 3 had an arm that was flesh-and-blood and therefore cannot be Snake; c) it's Lotus, not Santa, who interrupts Junpei's explanation to ask what Junpei means by Ace's past; d) Ace reveals his identity when Junpei claims that there was a previous Nonary Game hosted by "the CEO of Cradle Pharmaceuticals, Gentarou Hongou," and Ace flies off the handle, shouting, "I have a position. I have prestige. I have made a name for myself. You are nothing but a young upstart. It is self-evident where the credibility here lies." (Also, e) Akane interjects a "that's right" comment in support of Ace when he argues that he couldn't have opened Door 3 to commit the murder due to a lack of bracelets, and f) Seven actually gets to the point of laying a hand on Ace's shoulder (as opposed to just threatening to search his coat by force) before Ace comes unhinged.) Otherwise, the dialogue is 90% taken straight from the Safe ending. I have to say that this scene still doesn't wholly work for me; it's still difficult for me to believe that Junpei is this clear-headed & in control here (even though novel Junpei is a little more on the ball overall than his game counterpart).
pg. 141: Hongou notes that he naturally couldn't identify Snake's face but knew him from by his "clear voice" and the fact that he couldn't see. During his murder of Nijisaki, Ace also, upon seeing the "VACANT" sign on the RED, is bewildered as to why the unit works now and idly wonders if "Snake" put it in, but then dismisses the point as "unimportant." There's also the small touch of Ace "kicking" his victim into Door 3 (so the narrator speculates, anyway) instead of merely shoving him in for an extra spot of contempt. (A "ghoulish smile," though, still crosses one side of Ace's face as he reflects in apparent satisfaction at the murder. Junpei notes that "anything resembling human warmth had fled from Ace's eyes. His lips and tongue alone moved, the latter writhing & slurping slimily as if he were some sort of reptile.")
pg. 142: Instead of asking Ace if he killed Clover - which is impossible, since she's alive in the novel - Junpei follows up by asking if he killed the man in the captain's quarters. He reasons that if the killer were one of the players, he or she would have had an extremely limited time window after passing through the numbered doors to commit the crime, which would have been further narrowed by the need to get past the obstacle of the long desk in front of the door...so since Ace was the one who was closest to the door, apparently, he has to be the murderer. Um.
Junpei, though, then moves on to a more plausible explanation: Ace was behind the first Nonary Game, so of course he'd know how the rooms were arranged and how to move efficiently through them. (He also insinuates that since the light switch was by Door 2, and that the players had no choice but to split themselves between Doors 1 and 5 if they wanted to move forward, Ace must have known that the light switch wouldn't be found immediately, thus giving him time to commit the murder.)
pg. 144: Ace then goes on to detail how he engineered Kubota's death. Junpei isn't particularly surprised ("I had already guessed that long ago," Junpei arrogantly drones), and his unimpressed reaction irritates Ace. Ace also refers to Kubota as his "loyal underling" here; otherwise, his explanation of his motives etc. is straight from the game.
pg. 145: The narration explains that Ace knew Kubota by his bird's-nest hairstyle, which explains, I guess, Kubota's hairdo change in the photo.
pg. 146: Upon finishing his confession, Ace says: "Why the looks of contempt? ...If I hadn't done away with Zero, he might have killed us all!" Junpei, however, counters that Ace should know the man in the captain's quarters isn't actually Zero, citing basically all the objections I had above. Junpei then goes on to note that Ace's other two killings were the results of obvious setups and that Ace was doing just what Zero wanted: "Zero was manipulating you, Ace. He used you to do his dirty work and murder Kubota, Nijisaki, and Musashidou without soiling his own hands."
pg. 153: Another Part 9: "The end of the game is almost here. I wonder if everyone will be able to get out safely? ...And...what about me?"
pg. 156: Chapter 8: Zero, and the group runs after Ace & Lotus...only to find themselves out near the grand staircase again, with no idea of where Ace is going.
pg. 157: Upon reaching the elevator, the rescue party indeed discovers via the display above the doors that the car has gone to E Deck. The group recalls the elevator and flies into the car (quickly informing Seven that E Deck is indeed not flooded - he takes a big breath before the doors reopen anyway). Upon arrival, they discover that part of the plates blocking their path has moved, indicating the presence of a door; Jumpy mentally notes that Door 9 must lie within. "My heart pounded in my chest with a strange exhilaration - a mixture of anticipation and fear. I felt weak in the knees. It was a kind of carefree abandon - nothing that could be dismissed as mere jitters." He then starts thinking again about how only three to five people can go through the numbered door, and how can he leave two people behind, and can he really come through and play the game, etc. Dude, at this point, you think that there's only one 9 door, and Ace is already headed for it. Even if you catch up with him, you're not going to negotiate with him.
pg. 158: The group reaches a junction with a wooden door each to the center and left. Akane tries the center door but finds it locked; Jumpy turns to the left-hand door, "fix[es] it with a glare," and hurls himself against it. However, the door is not locked, and he lands on his back with a small howl.
pg. 159: The Ace situation settled, Akane points out the second No. 9 door, here hidden behind a white lace curtain (and so small "it might have been mistaken for a window"). Here, it's Lotus, not Ace & Junpei, who wonders aloud why there are two 9 doors and posits that one might be a trap - quite a turnaround, since in the game, it's she who provides the refutation of this idea. (These lines are instead given, naturally, to Akane and Santa in the novel.)
pg. 170: At the elevator, Junpei admonishes Akane for coming - it's "dangerous," and besides (he thinks), he doesn't want her to see the corpse in the X-ray room. Akane, though, protests that she'll be OK with Jumpy: "I'm not looking to distrust everyone, but it's not like it's really safe with the others," considering that "there's the possibility that one of them might be Zero." Plus, Akane says, "I...I have something I really want to tell you, Jumpy."
Akane returns to the original subject - "There's just something I had to tell you, Jumpy...before we went our separate ways again." "Don't say that," Junpei counters; "After we get out of here, we'll see each other as much as we like! ...I've got something I want to tell you, too. But I won't say it now. Once we're out of this ship, and safe - then we'll talk. So you wait till then, too - OK?"
pg. 180: Junpei screams Akane's name and searches the control room, and then the other rooms, but cannot find her; he notes that even the floor where she lay retains no trace of her body heat. He reaches the captain's quarters when suddenly, he hears a voice: "If you want to save her...bring the bracelet to the chapel..." Junpei looks around but sees nothing but the corpse; he stays his breath and listens, wondering if he's hearing the voice of Zero. The voice continues: "There's no time. Hurry..." - and it's at this juncture that Junpei realizes that the voice has no outside source; he's hearing it directly inside his own head. Junpei stops his ears, but the voice is ceaseless in its bids for him to hurry.
pg. 183: Everyone freaks out when a blood-spattered Junpei makes his return. Junpei explains about Akane disappearing, whereupon Seven objects: "So you just ditched her and sauntered back here? Wasn't she someone special to you?" Junpei dismisses this: "...She's not alive anymore. ...She was a ghost." He continues that surely Seven has realized that she was the Akane who died nine years ago, and he mentions her full name - whereupon Ace's face twitches a bit in apparent recognition, "and my suspicions about Akane turned to certainty."
pg. 185: Speaking of bracelets, Clover jumps in to point out that with Akane gone, the group's situation has greatly changed: they can now escape through Door 9 with their 3+4+5+7+8 bracelets. All they have to do...is leave Ace behind. As before, Lotus is all for this, but Junpei objects. "He's a murderer! We have no reason to save him!" screams Lotus, but Junpei says, "We have no right to judge him." I'm sorry, Junpei, but Lotus is right here. Hongou's a danger to the group, and he has the legal system in his pocket. There'd be a reason for your guys to pause in your escape at this point, but it should be out of concern for Snake, not Ace. It still doesn't make sense that novel Clover's apparently completely forgotten about her brother.
pg. 197: I hope you're ready for one very long Fallacy of the Talking Killer speech, except - spoiler warning - it's not a fallacy here, as no one goes after Santa when they have the chance. (Also, after this point, there’s so much to detail that noting our position by page number is not gonna work anymore - arguably, it hasn't been working for a while - so we’re gonna just take a straight shot to the end from here on out.)
Seven, "his face frozen in a complex expression that could be read as either rage or pity," either recognizes or deduces that Santa is Aoi. I'm honestly shocked the book's letting anyone else do or figure out anything at this point. (Santa's comment when Lotus asks for explanation: "We all went by our real names in that game. We thought that nicknames were for losers.") It's noted that Santa now has "a big grin spread across his face - you'd swear he were another person."
Santa also mentions that he's Akane's big brother, and Junpei is just utterly bowled over by this, despite the fact that Akane mentioned her brother Aoi a little bit before. If Jumpy can figure out everything he has in the last five minutes, he certainly could have figured that out. Anyhow, Junpei objects that Akane never reacted at all to Santa's presence or called him "brother," but Santa shrugs that off with a "Well, can't help that. She just lost all her memories from the shock of seeing me again after nine whole years." That's limp. Will reserve judgment until we find out whether this is a ruse or not. Meanwhile, Junpei mentally notes that Santa's story isn't consistent - here, he's saying that Akane merely lost her memory, whereas back before, he said his sister died.
Seven, though, steers the conversation back to the game itself, asking if Santa's the "mastermind" behind it. Santa nods and says: "Looks like you enjoyed it! That puts a smile on my face! It was a pain in the ass to set up; glad to see all my effort wasn't wasted!" Seven asks about his motive - "Revenge for nine years ago?" Santa: "In part. ...I could never forgive the men who killed my sister." He then looks at Ace: "Gentarou Hongou. I wanted you to put you through hell - through a fate worse than death. That's why I included you in the game with Kubota. Did you enjoy it?" Ace, though, still can't get over the fact that he was Aoi, whereupon Santa taunts him for not being able to recognize faces (and points out that his voice has changed since then). "President Hongou, you performed beyond my expectations! All I had to do was slip a note under your pillow - one little note telling you 'if you want to survive, win the game'! I never dreamed that you would sink your teeth into your role with such gusto! Everything went exactly as I planned it. It all went a little too smoothly - I was actually starting to get scared there." Ace "laughs at himself" upon learning of his deception.
Santa continues to Fallacy of the Talking Killer himself, going over aspects of his plan Junpei already covered in his Poirot scene. He does reveal that he knocked out Snake with gas during the search for the RED and then put his bangle on Nijisaki; this prompts Ace to ask, not unreasonably, why Door 3 opened if the 9 bracelet was actually 6. Santa replies that he put Musashidou's bracelet (which has a value of 3 in the novel) to the RED beforehand. He also rigged the readout on the Door 3 RED to not display an asterisk for the first bracelet put to it ("shorted out the leftmost side" of the readout, Hongou supposes), which is the reason for the whole Seven's bracelet seemingly not registering during Clover et al.'s Door 3 excursion in Chapter 6. That's pretty weak & contrived, novel. (Also, speaking of shaky novel developments: How could Santa know that Kubota would order Akane to put her bracelet to the Door 5 RED, thus ensuring the 6/9 deception?)
(Speaking of the Fallacy of the Talking Killer, why hasn't anyone made a move on Santa yet? It's not like in the game, where he has a gun and an apparent hostage!)
(Also, when Junpei figures out the Door 3 thing, Santa "claps his hands in glee" at his prey's cleverness like a Bond villain.)Anyhow - and, man, are the explanations piling up here - Junpei objects that if Musashidou's bracelet was used during the search for the RED, how did he get in the captain's quarters, which required accessing the locked elevator and a numbered door? Santa brushes this off by boasting that he had a master key to get past all that, and - OK, come on. This is just going against the rules. There would be no reason for Santa to have the whole 9/6/3/0 bracelet deception if he were just going to discard the rules in one particular case instead of assiduously playing by them throughout. This smacks of a last-minute fix for a plot hole the author noticed just before press.
Santa finishes up his speech by recounting Musashidou's death: even Santa himself wasn't sure it would go off as he planned, but: "When I saw poor Musashidou's body, I just wanted to burst out in applause - good job!" Despite Santa's apparent exuberance, Junpei observes that, "contrary to his words," Santa seems to "just exude rage from every pore."
Naturally, then, it's an excellent time for Lotus to jump in with an idly curious question about what Cradle was planning to accomplish with the Nonary Project. No questions about your daughter's fate, Lotus? No fear that your life is in the hands of this apparent maniac? No anger from anyone? No moves against him? Really? Santa asks Ace to take the stage and explain, but Ace chooses to remain silent, his head downcast. Santa gleefully takes up the slack and explains that in developing a vaccine for angel fever, Cradle researchers discovered that level 3 patients had all developed "acute psychic abilities" due to changes in the cerebrum brought about by the infection. "Fueled by rage," he then goes on ranting about the experiment to prove Sheldrake's theories.
Santa explains about the morphogenetic field, using much of Snake's explanation from the library in the game, tying in the Apollo 13 disaster too (as an example of how the Q & A teams were supposed to work, one examining an exact replica of the other's life-threatening situation). As Santa continues his tale, Lotus starts becoming overwhelmed with horror and panic, as she's realizing what happened to her daughter - that she drowned for a "crazy" idea. Ace gets indignant at this: "What are you saying? My plan was flawless!" He also directs an "and I would've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you meddling
(Also, in the novel, of course, Site Q is the Britannic, not the Gigantic.)
Seven, however, ignores Ace in favor of asking a long-overdue question: Where's Snake? (Clover chimes in as well, as the author has apparently remembered that she should be concerned about her brother.) "Don't worry," replies Santa; "You think I'd harm a former comrade-in-arms? Just make a thorough search of this room later on." Lotus, meanwhile, asks why the innocent other players had to be "involved in all this" if all Santa wanted was revenge. "Actually, you're more important than Hongou and his vermin. And I'm counting on you to work real hard for me from here on out," he smirks.
It's then that Santa takes a gun out of his pocket. "This isn't a toy." He then throws Junpei the number 6 bangle - "My final present to you." The countdown on the pipe organ is almost to 2,000 seconds - a little more than half-hour.
Santa then turns to Clover and says: "Clover. I've done something unforgivable to you. Snake was too clever. I couldn't have him catch on to my plan and try to interfere. That's why...I used your life as a bargaining chip." Santa explains that Snake's card (switched from in his pocket to under his pillow, like with Hongou) contained a threat against her life if he talked (no "detonate her bomb" threat; just a short & brutal "I'll kill her"). Here, however, that message is the only information Snake's card contained; Snake took it upon himself to inform the others of the rules of the game, only pretending that the card contained these explanations, so that the group would progress more quickly and avoid drowning. (It seems, even with my limited knowledge of Braille, that it would be difficult to pass off one message as another due to sheer discrepancy of length.) Santa admires him for it: "He's really got some head on his shoulders!" (Santa, in fact, spends a conspicuous amount of time in his monologue lavishing praise on Snake. Author shipping?)
He then pulls Snake's bracelet out of his pocket, noting that he pocketed it while examining Nijisaki's corpse. (How big are Santa's goddamn pockets? He had a gun and a bulky bracelet in there?) He extends his hand to Clover, offering the bracelet to her...but this is merely a ruse, and he uses the distraction to take Clover hostage again - physically, this time, with the gun. He orders Junpei to throw him the number 3 bracelet, and Junpei has no choice but to comply.
Someone, though, has finally decided to take advantage of the distraction - Ace, who has cut his bonds using Clover's earring while Santa was yapping on. (How big & sharp was this earring?) He "bellows like a beast" as he dives for the number 6 bracelet, still on the floor, then snatches Clover from Santa - "If anyone makes it out of here alive, it's going to be me!" - and heads for the second, smaller number 9 door. Santa and Seven (holding the knife) try to go after him, but he's using Clover as a shield, because this author has absolutely no idea what to do with this character. "Sorry. Looks like I've won," says Ace; he scans his own bracelet with the number 6 & number 2 Clover's holding to leave. He doesn't let Clover go, though; it looks as if he's going to keep her as a human shield until he's through the door. This will (so Junpei believes) blow Clover up, as her bracelet hasn't been scanned. He tries to think of a way to save her, and settles on stomping the floor (????)...
...but it's a moot point, as when Ace pulls the lever on the RED, the door still won't open. Ace releases Clover and starts clawing at the lever with both hands (whereupon Junpei has to yell at her to move away - good God, this author and Clover).
(Note: Ace is not dead, though the narration sure seems to set the stage for it.)Anyhow, Santa hauls his prize of Clover over to the RED and leaves. He makes a parting comment about how there's no bomb in his gut set to explode - so I guess there are actual bombs in everyone in the novel? He then tells Junpei, "The rest is up to you. ...You'll soon find out what I mean. There's only one way to save her. To save my dead sister - to save Akane." He then drags Clover through like a sack of potatoes.
But, before Santa leaves, Ace - who apparently is not dead - yet - uses his last burst of strength to rise and straggle through the doors. ("I don't want to die here... I don't want to die... Don't leave me...") Junpei: "We heard Ace's dying scream precisely 81 seconds later." That's pretty weak, novel. That's a cheap, arbitrary way for Hongou to go out, and I don't believe he'd actually do that, bleeding out his saphenous vein or not.
Now, only Junpei, Seven, and Lotus remain. The door to the elevator hallway closes, trapping them in the chapel. They can't go all through a 9 door - but, as Lotus recognizes, Seven and Junpei can, using the number 6 bracelet Santa left. So another woman is rendered useless to the plot. Good job, author. Lotus, however, takes this in stride as she does in the game, with a "sad smile" here: "Looks like it's Game Over for me, huh. And right before the end, too!" Seven then launches into his "you think we could leave you?!" speech from the true ending, with his eyes "fixed on Lotus, as if to drive home his sincerity."
The three begin to set about finding a way to save everyone - when Junpei begins hearing the voice in his head again. The voice's words coincide with the text of this chapter's Part 9: "It's starting. It's finally starting. The final experiment that will decide everything." Suddenly, sirens begin to blare throughout the chapel...and the floor in front of the altar begins to open. Out of the cavity rises some sort of "dome-like capsule." "Shit. So it's starting," says Seven. "What do you mean? What's starting?" asks Lotus. But it's Junpei who answers: "The final experiment." (Recap, in case you've missed it: The final experiment is starting.) Seven is startled and asks Junpei how he knows that - but Junpei doesn't reply; as has happened so often throughout the game, he doesn't know how, but he gets the sense that he's seen this all before.
Chapter 9: The End, and the kanji imply a sense of death.
Akane continues to narrate from Part 9 before:
I was watching. I saw everything through his eyes.
It all began with that deafening explosion - the one that happened about nine hours ago, when the ship in which we were all trapped began to sink.
Nine-Years-Ago Akane then details the initial Hope, Faith, Love, and Luck scene, as in the game, except with silver clovers instead of real ones. (Little Nona is particularly enchanted by the clovers, remarking how pretty they are.) Light mentions that he spent two months making them, in the hopes that the pains of his labors would get through to his "crybaby little sister" how much she meant to him. (The "crybaby" seems like the author talking, not Light, and it is indeed an addition exclusive to the novel; the game's text doesn't have it, in Japanese or English.)
We skip ahead to the chapel, where everyone except Akane, Aoi, Light, and Nona have gone through the big number 9 door. Group People We Know is about to check in at the smaller 9 door when, as with Junpei's group at this point, sirens start blaring. (Little Nona, frightened, rushes under a desk to hide.) Akane points to the altar, where the floor is splitting apart and a weird, clear plastic dome (that Akane notes "was like something out of a sci-fi movie" and "did not fit the surroundings at all") is rising up into the room. Inside is a capsule that contains...a Rubik's Cube.
As you perhaps have guessed from the title, the Rubik's Cube will be filling in for sudoku in the role of final boss this evening.
Back to Junpei's group, which is confronting its own Rubik's Cube. Junpei starts spouting off about how this was an additional task the second group had to solve before they could use the second 9 door. Lotus asks how he knows this, but Junpei ignores her, as, again, he doesn't really understand himself. Seven, though, confirms this, stating that this was the scene he came upon nine years ago when he busted in through a window in the ceiling.
Back to Akane's group. Ace's voice (Akane refers to it as "Zero's voice") comes through a speaker in the wall to mock the group for not "think[ing] of yourselves first" and being so "foolish" as to let the others escape before they did. "This door isn't the same size or shape as the others. What made you think it was an actual numbered door?" Akane in her mind notes that she actually did suspect the door might be false but had decided to sacrifice herself to make a moral stand: "A victory claimed at the expense of others would only mean the loss of our own souls." She suspects that Aoi, Light, and Nona had the same idea.
(Note: I assume that Akane's sections are narrated from the viewpoint of her younger self, but her vocabulary and manner of speaking are often too sophisticated for a middle-school student. I don't know if this is intentional and it's meant to be college-age Akane narrating all along (the narration has a very in-the-moment feel, though) or if the author just wasn't paying attention to such matters. I tried to strike a somewhat age-neutral tone before, but it's frequently impossible to do so with her dialogue in this chapter.)
Ace claims, however, that "I have a soft spot for fools who value the lives of others over their own. In fact, it is that very emotion - that strong sympathy for others - that I've been looking for. Congratulations! You've been chosen." Ace - or, rather, Zero - notes that the cube contains a chip that will activate the RED; it'll open only once it's solved, of course. "Then let us at it already!" shouts Aoi, but, oh - Ace (using dramatic pauses, relishing his role as MC) has another twist in store: if they don't do it quickly enough, then the bomb in the heart of the ship will send them to the bottom of the sea. No incinerator here. According to the pipe organ, they have about 25 minutes. Nona screams in horror; Ace subsequently reassures her that they're located quite close to the bomb, so "the pain will be only momentary; you'll be released from your suffering almost instantaneously!"
Oh, one more thing. Ace thinks the 25-minute deadline is too generous, so he notes that he won't be opening the capsule until the timer, currently at ~1586 seconds, hits...999. Roll credits! Kind of. "I pray for your successful escape," says Ace/Zero, and his voice then fades.
Back to Junpei and crew, who have 1300 seconds remaining. Junpei says, even though Ace didn't mention it, that the capsule will open only at the 999 mark. Seven, though, points out that even if they do solve the cube, all three of them can't escape with the bracelets they have. This discussion is interrupted, however, by a sudden loud hammering from within the coffin (that even causes it to shake a bit) and shouting: "Let me out!" Novel Snake isn't gonna get ignored like he was in the Knife & Axe endings, dammit. The group recognizes Snake's voice and runs over; Snake, meanwhile, "voice calm as ever," identifies Junpei from his voice and Lotus & Seven from the sound of their footsteps.
Back to Akane, whose mind flashes to Junpei when the pipe organ countdown briefly displays his birthday (1214). Nona points out the coffin, which has so far escaped the children's notice. Aoi tries to open it, but the lid won't budge. Light inspects it and discovers a keypad - whereupon Akane remembers a nine-digit code that was written inexplicably on the wall of the X-ray room. She wrote it down on her own palm just in case it had a later use. (Note: She's written it on her right palm, which indicates that she's left-handed.) She punches in the code...
...Back to Junpei, and Snake again asks if they can't find a way to get him out of the coffin ("I'm dying of boredom"). The group is dumbfounded - but, all of a sudden, Junpei comes out with a nine-digit number. He dumbly enters it into the keypad, and it unlocks the coffin. Out comes Snake, clad in the black robes ("as if he were going to summon some sort of demon later"). Snake asks how Junpei knew the unlock code, but Jumpy is, naturally, at a loss to explain ("I couldn't just say, 'the voice in my head told me'"). No time for that, anyhow, as, according to the countdown, the Rubik's Cube is about to unlock.
...Akane's group, meanwhile, has a more bizarre discovery: though they had been hoping that the coffin would contain something to aid in their escape, they instead find that inside is...a gun. Aoi lifts it up, and though the kids think it might be just a toy, it turns out to be the genuine article. But why put a gun here? they wonder. The answer comes to Akane unbidden: Suicide. In case anyone in the room couldn't take the terror of their own imminent demise, they now had an easy way out. The atmosphere of despair in the room grows heavier.
Just then, though, Seven dramatically breaks through the ceiling. Like in the game, after leaving and coming back with sheets for a rope, he hoists Akane to safety. He then gives her instructions on how to escape, and she runs away, hearing the footsteps of her fellow prisoners behind her. They reach the point where they can see natural sunlight - but Light then notices from counting footsteps that they're missing one of their number and asks if someone fell behind. Akane looks back and sees that Nona is missing; Seven, surprised at Light's question, answers that he saw only three kids in the room.
Akane puts it together: Nona had a tendency to run & hide "like a small animal" when confronted with something frightening; the sight of Seven's hulking form and scarred face (consistently played up as intimidating & kind of monstrous in the book) must have scared the little girl. Akane was the only one of the group whom Nona trusted and to whom she listened; therefore, Akane blames herself for Nona's absence, for not paying attention to her and making sure she escaped. She pushes her brother aside and runs past Light & Seven to the chapel. She runs through the corridors, of course, instead of taking the sheets - and on the way, she notices a couple strange things: doors in her path that were shut are now wide open; doors that were locked are now unobstructed. Akane senses a trap but pushes forward.
Upon arriving, Akane calls for Nona - and finds her behind the altar. Nona, however, has plot-conveniently sprained her ankle and says she can't walk. Akane asks Nona to persevere just a little while longer; taking out her clover pendant, she asks Nona to remember Light's words from earlier. "We can't give up. We have to have faith till the very end." On cue, the guys arrive, and Akane asks Seven to carry Nona. The group begins to leave.
Just then, though, an arm seizes Akane and drags her back into the chapel. Aoi lunges to save Akane - but Hongou, armed with the gun from the coffin, promptly shoots him in the shoulder. Hongou then fires another shot at Seven's feet and barks: "Back to the staircase, all of you - unless you want me to blow a hole in her head!" Seven asks Light to look after Nona, scoops up Aoi (who is losing consciousness due to blood loss), and quietly leaves. Uh, no, author. I don't think Seven would be that complacent in any timeline.
Hongou slams Akane back in the chapel. She discovers that Hongou has cut down the makeshift rope Seven created. She also notes that three bracelets have been entered into the RED of the number 9 door (she doesn't specify which of the doors). Seven reappears in the hole in the ceiling above; Akane asks about her brother. Seven says that they gave Aoi some medicine from the infirmary and that he'll be fine when he gets to the hospital. For some reason, however, Seven failed to come back with another sheet-rope, despite that the infirmary had approximately 10 billion beds and that he couldn't have possibly stripped them all the first time. Oh, author. (But then, this is an issue in the game, too, isn't it.)
Akane's countdown has hit 999, so the capsule containing the Rubik's Cube opens. Akane takes it in hand...
..."No need to worry! I've got a way with Rubik's Cubes!" Junpei enthuses. He checks the time, sees he has 13 minutes left, and wonders if he'll be able to make it in time. Dude, the world record for solving a Rubik's Cube is like single-digit seconds. 13 minutes better be ample time for you.
...Akane's heart is pounding. She narrates that her access to Junpei's mind had been cut off a while ago, so she can't rely on his knowledge of Rubik's Cubes. As a result, she's as overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible task as Rapunzel before the room of straw; "I could only stare blankly at the cube as time ticked by, second by second." She doesn't know how to get even one face to line up, let alone six; she cries and cries, feeling the task impossible.
"Akane...don't give up!" Akane looks up toward the ceiling and sees her brother through the hole in the ceiling, supported by Seven. (Goddamn it, Seven, if you want to help, go make another sheet rope.) Akane asks if he's all right, but Aoi merely continues: "Akane...didn't you tell me? That you saw your future self...and me...... So I'll do something...to help you somehow... You just concentrate...just think about saving yourself..." Akane is puzzled - what can Aoi possibly do in his state?
(Note: As you've by now probably surmised, Akane is not in any way Zero in the novel. The second Nonary Game is solely Aoi's initiative, part of his promised plan to help Akane.)
Less than eleven minutes left. Akane clutches the clover Light gave her and prays: Help me, Jumpy!...
..."Akane?" Startled, Junpei stops and looks around for the source of her voice. Seven and Lotus are confused; Snake, however, seems to have sensed something. "Akane! Can you hear me? Answer me! Akane!"...
...Junpei hears Akane's voice reverberating directly in his mind. She asks if he's in the chapel; he confirms he is. "But how did you know that?" he wonders - and then he remembers Santa's parting words...
...A little over seven minutes left. Akane takes the cube in hand and yells an immortal 999 line: "Jumpy! I don't have time! Help me! If I don't solve this Rubik's Cube, the ship will explode!"...
..."Got it," Junpei answers, and sets to work. He then, with his lines from the game, realizes why the Nonary Game was held, and why he was brought here - to...solve a Rubik's Cube.
A snag, though - Junpei realizes that his cube (which by this time is almost done) is in a different configuration than Akane's, so solving his won't help her. "I tuned my consciousness to Akane's - and what Akane was seeing was broadcast into my mind, across time." With difficulty, Junpei reconfigures his cube to match Akane's. Lotus is concerned, wondering to whom Junpei is speaking and why he's reshuffling their almost-complete cube, but Snake advises her to trust Junpei: "All we can do is watch over him. Just like nine years ago..."
...Akane narrates that she's finally realized why her brother "had kidnapped Junpei and the others nine years from now and begun this horrible game again. ...He saw me now, at this moment, and realized that my consciousness was connected to Junpei's nine years in the future through the morphogenetic field." She also supposes that Aoi was responsible for Junpei contracting angel fever and having it progress to level 3. She mentions, though, that the incubation period for angel fever is five to 10 years, so he must have had to wait a while in order to put his plan into action and host his second game - until Junpei came down with viral symptoms. She also supposes that he brought Seven and Light back to this room to observe as they did nine years ago, to recreate the conditions of the first Nonary Game's conclusion as closely as possible to activate the field - and that he used Lotus to sub for her daughter Nona. (So that's the author's reason why Lotus is filling in for Clover here.)
...With two minutes left, Junpei finishes matching his cube to Akane's. He takes a deep breath, thinks, This is for Akane!, and starts solving the cube...
..."Junpei's thoughts were clear as crystal to me. My hands began to move as if by their own will - and in a flash, the cube was solved. It was as if I were watching magic happen." And Akane has a minute to spare, too. "Did it work, Akane? Did it come through?" Aoi asks. Akane answers in the affirmative, "thanks to Jumpy." With less than sixty seconds to go, she registers her bracelet, pulls the lever to the RED, and runs out the now-open door - to where Aoi, Seven, Light, and Nona are waiting...
...Junpei, meanwhile, has his own sixty-second countdown with which to deal. Warning sirens have begun blaring, and the lights have begun to dim. "What're you standing around for!? Get out of here!" Lotus shouts. "You can use your bracelet together with Seven's and the number 6 bracelet to open the 9 door!" (It can be presumed that Light can simply walk through unharmed because he no longer has a bracelet on - given that we have been told that everyone does have active bombs in the novel - but this is never mentioned.) Seven is disturbed at the prospect of leaving Lotus behind, but she counters: "GET GOING! Are you going to put my stoic determination to waste?!"
Junpei, however, insists that he can save Lotus too - for he has realized that the 9 on the second door is, in fact, a q. ...Despite the fact that, er, we haven't had any hex-related puzzles in the novel to clue Junpei in on hexadecimal. Oh, man. Anyhow, everyone registers, everyone flies out the door - but with all Junpei's explaining, the group's run out their time limit. Yet, somehow, there's no explosion. Huh...
...Akane deactivates her bracelet at the DEAD. She wheels around to encourage everyone to hurry -
Seven notices that the skull marks on the other kids' bracelets have lit up, so he hurries the other kids to the DEAD. Aoi continues to wail for his sister, and Nona is crushed by guilt: "It's all my fault...it's all my fault she's...!" Akane continues to shout and attempt to attract their attention; Light, "seeming to sense something," turns toward her for a moment and calls her name...but then turns back.
Suddenly, an explosion rocks the ship, and black smoke begins to billow out from the chapel door. Seven rushes everyone up the staircase - Akane following, unbeknownst to them. "I began to feel a bit warm, as if I had a fever. But it wasn't just heat I felt - it was as if any sense of pain or fatigue had left my body. I ran as fast as I could, but I didn't feel short of breath. I was like I wasn't in my body. It was all hazy to me - like I was watching myself in a dream." Sensing something, Akane looks downward - and discovers that her very legs are disappearing, leaving only an outline behind.
Akane begins to panic - but then (really) she remembers Junpei's inspirational "destiny can eat shit" line from nine years in the future. She keeps on running as she realizes the truth: she is now a Schrödinger's Cat, "both alive and dead...the question of my existence had not yet been settled. The future could change; Junpei might not contract angel fever, might not participate in the Nonary Game, might participate but give up halfway through - all these were possibilities. It wasn't yet certain that he would save me nine years in the future. Until that time, no one could say whether or not I had been rescued. So I was now something like a ghost, neither living nor dead...and would perhaps remain such for nine years, until the day came when Jumpy would save me."
Akane is distracted by a cry from above - at the top of the staircase, Seven has noticed that Nona has climbed over the railing and is poised to jump. Sea water is inundating the floor below from the explosion, and Akane knows Nona can't swim. Frantic, Nona just keeps repeating, "It's all my fault...it's all my fault...I'm so sorry, Akane!" Seven tries to grab her...but Nona jumps, falling into the whirlpool below. "Nona!" Akane cries...
...Junpei's party continues running toward the exit, Junpei blabbing about hex all the while. (Novel Lotus is, at least, familiar with hexadecimal, though Junpei still does the explaining.) The group reaches the exit door...
No, I don't know what Akane was doing in her brother's bathroom. Don't ask me.
...Junpei et al. exit to find...the Tokyo skyline! I bet you thought I was going to say Nevada. (Light surmises the deception without being told, because he doesn't hear the sound of waves or the smell the salt air. His sister, meanwhile, doesn't even get to drive everyone back. Aw.) Santa steps out from behind an abandoned water tower and explains that he didn't have the money to reconstruct the ship, so he just borrowed the abandoned Site Q. (Then how did you have the money for anything else?! Are you not a stock market baron in this continuity?)
Besides Santa is Clover, who, upon spotting her brother, runs into his arms in joy ("I'm so glad you're alive!"). Snake smiles, embraces her, and tousles her hair. Santa watches the scene with a "faint look of sadness in his eyes."
Santa turns to Jumpy and says, "Sorry for getting you involved in this." He also tells Junpei not to worry about blowing up, as the book has now decided that he didn't actually put bombs in the other players' stomachs. Santa then pulls a remote control out of his shirt (??? where could he hide one in that tank top?) and presses a button which causes all their bracelets to release and clatter harmlessly to the ground.
OPINIONS FOR WHICH NO ONE ASKED
Well, it's certainly a competent adaptation, and it does have its good points. As I mentioned, I like how the first volume gives a good sense of escalating stakes, the streamlined narrative highlighting how the situation keeps getting worse for the players: the disappearance of their demonstrably most-competent member; then being forced (apparently) to sacrifice of one of their crew; then Junpei being separated from an ill June. The last chapter is effective in how it portrays past & present happening at once. We do get to see some interesting stuff like Santa outright confront Hongou; some good Jumpy & Akane scenes; Clover being motivated to survive by the idea that she has to tell the world what a wonderful guy her brother was; the group having to deal with a recaptured Hongou after his heel turn - before the climax, not when most everything is said and done; and the thing with the false bracelet numbers actually being the means for the reveal of the identity of Zero, not an interesting-but-pointless after-the-fact revelation.
I don't think there's enough of those scenes, though. The major problem here, I believe, is that, unlike the best of the game-adaptation novels, it doesn't really take the story new places, and the changes it does make generally aren't ones for the better. Granted, the 999 plot is so interconnected that you can fool with it only so much before it all collapses like a Jenga tower, but the lack of novelty is still a problem, particularly when the game you're adapting is itself a novel already. The character work in particular is an issue: You can pick out significant problems in pretty much everyone but Ace and Junpei. The expansion of Lotus's role is interesting, and the approach to Santa is...different, spinning him as near-totally predominated by severe trauma instead of a calculating mastermind - though I doubt his fans will find his overemphasized brattiness endearing. Clover is a near-complete disaster (she's blamed for everything that's gone wrong in Snake's life, has nearly all her scenes given to someone else, and is included in the game only as a hostage); making Snake actively testy toward her is also completely wrong. Junpei, on the other hand, is given way too much to do by the plot to pick up the slack for the characters the author refuses to let have the spotlight.
I can see why Akane's role was drastically changed - the author (or franchise honchos) wanted give Akane & Junpei a clean happy ending, and I can respect the need to have that exist in some official form out there. It does, though, remove a good deal of dimension from not only her character, obviously, but the overall scenario. The DS game is careful to give violence its proper berth - incidents of it are isolated, presented as appropriately horrible, and not played for exploitative thrill - and it has an observant thread on how being the victim of violence can change people (markedly, in how it can make them be more inclined to commit violence themselves). Having the murders committed in the course of the game just brushed off (for which the current Zero is partly responsible, and which Zero clearly desires; let's not embrace Saw logic here) and tying everything up with a conventionally happy ending somewhat trivializes what's been done to the characters and how Zero must have changed inside, mentally, to be able to do what he/they did. I think the story needs to end on the slightly unsettled note that the game does - the idea that everything can't go back to just peachy normal.
That's it. Special thanks to NorseFTX for their invaluable game script compilation, which made comparing lines a heck of a lot easier.
By R. Capowski, RACapowski@sceneryrecalled.com, 9/27/2016. 999 is the property of Aksys & Chunsoft has not sanctioned this document.