Rantings of a newly minted manga fanboy: Kindaichi Case Files

As a great lover of anime/manga fair-play mysteries, and impossible crimes, I was excited enough when I learned about the existance of Case Closed, aka Detective Conan, and pleased to see it had a good following in Japan. Thus, I was even more pleased to find out, through a message board about the show, about Kindaichi Case Files, a manga about Hajime Kindaichi, a high school student known as a slacker. But this is because he’s lazy; he has a keen, brilliant mind, inherited from his grandfather (a well-known Japanese [fictional/literary, I believe] detective). Like all good detectives, he finds himself in the middle of tragic, sordid tales of hate, greed, and revenge a little more often than your average citizen, and he always finds the truth.

Best of all (for me), the impossible crime seems to be a recurring theme of the series. All of the stories have involved a locked room, or a crime in which all the surviving suspects seem to have unshakable alibis (often presented as trying to frame a particular person as the only possible killer, when it’s actually someone else). How did someone kill an actress live on camera when every suspect was at least a 20 minute’s drive away from the scene? How did the After-School Magician, his murder victim, and his occult ceremony vanish from a room in less than half a minute? How was the bride-to-be decapitated when she was lying alone in a stone-walled church whose only entrance was barred from the inside? Did the killer dressed up as the Phantom of the Opera really jump to his death from a hotel window, or did he somehow manage to disappear from a hallway without being seen by two separate groups of people at either end? If you have fun answering those kinds of question, this is definitely the series for you.

The art style is nice and realistic, though it does use typical manga visual humor conventions occasionally when the situation calls for it (as Kindaichi can be a comic character). The mysteries so far have been fabulous. The clues are always there, if you know how to look. In the tradition of Ellery Queen, when Kindaichi announces “This case is solved!”, you know you have the clues necessary to reach the same conclusion he has. Of the seven of eight volumes I have that have been released by TokyoPop so far, I completely figured out one, mostly figured out another, figured out the killer (but not the method) for two, and failed to guess correctly in the remaining two (in one case, because I was completely bamboozled by the carefully placed red herrings).

In fact, in one case (“The Legend of Lake Hiren”) had a HUGE clue that I completely missed, and I have NO idea how: the murderer, seeking the killer of the girl he loved and only knowing that (s)he was a passenger on a particular sunken cruise ship whose initials were S.K., invites every person who fit that bill to an isolated resort and starts killing them one by one. Of course this means that of the 12 people present or invited to this resort, EIGHT had the initials of S.K. Only four did not: a writer who was using a pen name (and whose real intials were, of course, S.K.), the two detectives, and the murderer. And despite repeated listings of the suspects’ names, I DID NOT NOTICE THIS until almost the very end. HOW? HOW THE HELL did I miss this?!? Is it because the names were Japanese? Could the writer possibly have gotten away with this in prose form?

Sorry for going on about this, but I really fell in love with this series. I ended up buying every volume I could get my hands on, and I don’t usually do that with anything. I encourage all mystery lovers to check it out.

(Oh, and if you do, do whatever you can to start at the beginning of the series, because occasionally suspects from previous cases either pop up or killers referred to, which could spoil unread previous volumes.)

I’m hooked on the series as well. I suspect that we’re the only two Dopers who do like it, though. When I’ve tried to start threads about it before, they’ve all died a horrible, grisly death, and the perplexing part – I’ve never actually witnessed anyone entering or leaving the thread!

That means… the killer is somewhere on this message board!

I’m actually not quite so impressed with the mystery side of the stories, since they all seem to hinge on some implausible back-story that the audience never could’ve known about. The story that you mention was the only one where the clue was something that I thought I could’ve figured out on my own.

However, I love the rest of the books – the way all the characters are laid out for you, the character design, the way they really establish characters (even murderers) as sympathetic, and the way the book manages to be truly scary. Especially if you’re reading it alone in the house at 2 AM, as I usually am.

Well, as I said in my OP, I have a pretty good record of sniffing out the murderer. My most recent failure was in “No Noose is Good Noose” because I had no idea about when that particular kind of flower blooms, and, as I said, because the red herrings suckered me. But I DID make correct deductions in other volumes based on the clues given to me.

It seems that the backstory stuff is only really important for motive, and not generally necessary for figuring out who committed the crimes or (even more interesting in many volumes) how they were committed. My record for figuring out the locked room/impossible crimes is generally pretty good; I only failed to deduce out the method a couple of times. Of course, I’m a locked room fanatic, so it may just be hard to fool me that way. :slight_smile: