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.)