"A detectives fights evil with the power to see through the truth... with deductions!"
"Detective Academy Q"
The last two days (which is probably almost a week before the actual publishing of this post) followed the same pattern:
- *Read the Tantei Gakuen Q manga after dinner*
- *Stop halfway through a story to sleep*
- *Can't fall asleep because story bothers me*
- *Give up sleeping around two, read until the morning*
Anyway, this will be the last post about in this series discussing the cases in Tantei Gakuen Q ("Detective Academy Q"). Oh, and just for those interested: the anime of this series is a pretty faithful adaptation of the manga, but handles only until the first part volume 7 (of the bunko release), leaving out a couple of short stories in the middle, but adding a couple of original stories to (the soundtrack was sadly enough never released, though I absolutely love this 'I've totally solved' BGM that starts here (spoilers episode 1)). The anime lacks a proper conclusion to the battle with Pluto and the mystery behind Ryuu's past and it also switches out Kerberos for an original character called Sir Anubis (who for some reason is the only high ranking Pluto agent not having a Greek name).
The live action series on the other hand has a distinct Akihabara-geek setting and most stories are heavily rewritten to only feature the original tricks in different settings. The pilot special for example is also about the entrance exams, but has elements of The Detective Academy Entrance Exams, The Secret of the Old School Building and The Princess Maya Legend Murder Case. The series does have a satisfying conclusion, as it properly adapts the important battles between Pluto and DDS, including the final case of the manga.
But now, a review of the final batch of Q Class's cases.
Detective Academy Q
「迷Ｑ!?」: Volumes 1 ~ 4
「迷宮」: Volumes 5 ~ 8
「MAKE★YOU」: Volumes 9 ~ 12, Premium
In Kiken na Contact ("Dangerous Contact") and Kangoku kara no Message ("The Message from the Prison"), Q Class is brought by Nanami Koutarou to the high security cell of Kerberos, the captured top agent of Pluto, as a special schooltrip. Fearing he might hypnotise his guards, Kerberos is handcuffed at all times and forced to wear an eyemask. Nanami offers Kerberos to appeal for a lighter sentence in exchange for information on Pluto, but Kerberos refuses and declares he will have escaped the next time they will meet again. Kerberos also leaves Q Class with a curious note that is supposed to point them to the identity of the spy inside DDS (which is a lot more complex than seems at first sight). So no, there is no real mystery in these two chapters.
It is back to normal DDS activities are Chinureta Hanazono ("The Bloody Flower Garden"), when Ryuu and Kuniko (from A Class) are sent undercover to investigate the case of a bleeding Holy Mary statue. I think that 'normal' bleeding statues cry, but this particular statue bleeds from her back and the blood forms the word murder. Which kinda seems like some kind of announcement of murder. One little problem: the school is actually an girls' high school. Ryuu is thus forced to crossdress during the story. What is even more mindboggling is that he is forced to take up the role of the prince in a play at the school, meaning he crossdresses as a woman who crossdresses as a man.
During the rehearsals, the head of the school (who also played the villainess vampire Carmilla in the play) is found stabbed to death in her dressing room. Everybody was at the stage during the time of the murder, making it seem like someone from outside did this, but we all know that is never the case with detective stories. The case is pretty simple, as all the hints point to a certain solution. The best part of the stories are undeniably the hilarious reactions Kuniko (who has a crush on Ryuu) has whenever she sees crossdressing Ryuu.
ESCAPE IMPOSSIBLE is the best story of this volume and what a fantastic story it is! Kerberos thinks it is about time to escape and sets in an escape plan in motion that would have made Arsene Lupin proud. Yes, Kerberos might be an expert in hypnotism and highly intelligent, but hey, he wears an eye-mask, his hands are cuffed and he is locked inside a private cell, so that is safe, right? Heck, there is even a hidden trap within the prison building preventing any person to leave it alone (doors only work if two or more people approach them). And yet the guard dog of Hades manages to break free. What makes this story almost even more amazing is that Amagi had actually hidden hints about how Kerberos would escape in previous stories, even before Kerberos was captured!
In Sorezore no Kiro ("Their Own Crossroads"), Kyuu and Ryuu manage to track down two more of Kuzuryuu Takumi's art and they decide to split up to save time. Ryuu is heading for the Seiryuukan Hotel, a building designed by Kuzuryuu, while Kyuu is looking for the Senrinryuu puzzle box. Kyuu finds the box in Tsuribashimura Satsujin Jiken ("The Hanging Bridge Village Murder Case"), located deep in the mountains in Yozara Village, which can only be accessed by crossing a hanging bridge. Knowing that everything made by Kuzuryuu has a secret, Kyuu challenges the box, but he can't seem to open it. At the village, he also learns of an artist who has not left his cottage for a year. The artist was witness to a murder in the village one year ago and he declared that he would make the identity of the murderer known through a sculpture. He has now invited all the suspects in the case to the village and intends to reveal the statue, and the identity of the murderer. The artist also knows how to open the puzzle box, so Kyuu is eager to meet him too. Naturally, the artist gets murdered and the statue destroyed before he managed to tell anyone how the murderer was. And the bridge is destroyed too, cutting the village off the outside world, to complete the picture.
This story is also used to develop the character of Kyuu a bit more, as Kyuu meets a private detective in the village who used to be a disciple of Dan Morihiko and his assistent Renjou (Kyuu's father). It is fun to hear stories about Renjou from someone who, while a student of Renjou, has very different thoughts about what it means to be a detective, as Kyuu (and Renjou) have rather idealistic views about that.
The village full of artists reminds of Arisugawa Alice's Soutou no Akuma, especially as in both stories the village gets sealed off from the outside world because a bridge breaks down. The story is also a throwback to old Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo stories that focus on checking out alibis by checking out the distance between the victim's cottage and the suspects' locations during the time of the murder (for example The Hiren Lake Murder Case and The Amakusa Treasure Murder Case). While not inherently bad, this focus on spatial and temporal locations of people are usually rather boring to read, as it comes down to a long list of moving icons on a map, plotted against a timeline. Even with a visual medium like manga, it is not really comfortable to read and I think these kind of alibi-checking things work the best... in videogames, where interactivity enables the 'reader' to quickly check out differences between two (temporal or spatial) points. In the DS game Nishimura Kyoutarou Suspense Kyoto, Atami, Zekkai no Kotou Satsui no Wana, there are bonus train alibi tricks scenarios to solve which make perfect use of this and are not confusing at all.
Kyuu returns to the normal world in Sara ni Fukaki Yami he ("Towards a Deeper Darkness"), having solved the riddle of the puzzle box. There he found a picture of Kuzuryuu Takumi and an unknown boy looks a lot like Ryuu. Ryuu confirms that the boy is his grandfather, King Hades, head of Pluto. He also tells Kyuu that he has no memory of before he was five years old. The story then changes to a discussion of Q Class about what the code Kerberos left them means. The code is supposed to point to the identity of the spy within DDS, but Q Class comes up with three possible interpretations, pointing to three suspects: the teachers Hongou, Maki and Katagiri.
In Saiaku no Yokan, Dan Morihiko calls a meeting with his senior DDC detectives, discussing with them who the spy might be. The other half of the story is about Ryuu taking up a part time job as a private tutor, which continues in Kiken na Katei Kyoushi. This is a hilarious thriller (paradox?). The mother of Ryuu's tutee is killed by her lover's wife and the murdereress is just about to leave the house, having hidden the body, when Ryuu arrives, who naturally assumes that she is the mother of his tutee. She can't afford to have been seen in this house, so she decides to pretend to be the mother until she finds a chance to kill Ryuu. This story mirrors a set of short inverted stories in Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, where Hajime and Kenmochi always happen to stumble upon a complex murder plan in motion, with the murderers trying to act as normal as possible (the most hilarious of them is probably Murder Restaurant, where Hajime and Kenmochi enter a little cafeteria whose master has just been killed, forcing the murderer to pretend like he is the master).
Kako Kara no Shoutaijou ("The Invitation from the Past"), Spy Tsuiseki Sakusen ("The Spy Chasing Plan"), Aratanaru Shuppatsu ("A New Departure") and Yochimu wo Miru Onna ("The Woman Who Sees The Future") set up the stories to come and deals with two major plot points. One is investigation of Q Class into the identity of the Pluto spy. While Q Class doesn't find out who the spy is, his/her identity is made known to the reader. The other plot point is the National Talent Development Research Center, the place where Megu had been to develop her photographic memory. She is invited to a reunion as the building will be taken down soon, though she hesitates because of a strange case that happened there. Ryuu has a deja vu when he sees a picture of the research center, making him and Kyuu suspect that Ryuu's past might be connected to the center.
Megu, Kyuu and Ryuu go together to the reunion in Psychic Murder. The National Talent Development Research Center wasn't only for children with an exceptional high IQ, but they also tried to find develop psychics, some of them also present at the reunion. Megu tells about a mysterious locked room murder case that happened in the past, where a man inside a small lodge was found dead, his body smashed with three axes. Nobody could explain how someone manages to kill the victim and get away from the little lodge and it was always thought that one of the psychics at the center must have done it. And the tragedy is repeated, when a murder happens again under the same conditions!
The murder is almost suprisingly easy to solve, because the hint behind the trick is clear the moment it appears in the story. At first this is a bit disappointing, as up until now all plans made by Pluto were quite complex, but it is actually logical why this plan seems so simple to solve. The whole purpose of this story was to present the reader with a story with faults, with red herrings that were completely unnecessary. Amagi wrote a detective story that seems good, but is full of faults on purpose, making use of popular tropes used in average detective fiction. It is pointed later on in the story by all the detectives present that this was a horrible plan that really should not have been made by Pluto in the first place (well, ignoring the whole murder is bad thing). It almost feels like Writing Detective Fiction 101, where Amagi points out faults in the murder plots other writers make.
Wana ni wa Wana wo ("A Trap for A Trap"), Tokihanatareta Kioku ("The Released Memory"), Kokuhaku, Soshite... ("Confessions, and...") and Kawanu Michi ("Roads That Never Cross") deal with the aftermath of Psychic Murder, with the identity of the Pluto spy revealed and Ryuu confessing to Dan Morihiko that his life story and the fact that his grandfather is King Hades, boss of Pluto. They also release the hypnosis memory lock placed on Megu by King Hades, helping her remember that she used to friends with Ryuu at the Research Center for a short time. Unbeknown to the others, a memory lock on Ryuu is also unlocked, making him remember something about seeing his father commit suicide when he was young. Finally, Dan Morihiko tells Kyuu that he knows who King Hades is and how their destinies as detective and criminal were decided in their youth, when they were best friends.
Meitantei Kerberos ("The Dark Detective Kerberos") is an extra story about the third case the top Pluto agent Kerberos handled when he was just a rookie in Pluto. Having constructed a complex murder plan for his client, he is surprised to see that his client has been murdered before she could execute Kerberos' plan. Furious with the one who killed his client and messed up his perfect plan, he swears to find the murderer for his own honor. As a detective story, it is decent, but the story's main attraction is definitely seeing someone who up until now has only appeared in a purely evil role as a detective. OK, he is definitely not solving the case for something like justice, but as we have seen how smart he was when he escaped from the prison, it is really exciting seeing Kerberos solving a murder. The fact he is basically a murderer though does make the conclusion quite exciting, as it is not clear what he'll do with the one who messed up his plans.
Owari no Hajimari ("The Beginning of the End") is what says it is and the end is the extremely long Seiryuukan Satsujin Jiken ("Seiryuukan Murder Case"). The Seiryuukan are nine buildings designed by Kuzuryuu Takumi, one of them being the old school building at the DDS. The buildings are all named after the nine Dragon children. Four of them once belonged to Ryuu's family, but due to his father's disappearance, the four Seiryuukan have gone to his family's helpers, who manage the Amakusa assets. Having his memory unlocked in the last story, Ryuu remembers the image of his father hanging dead in a room in their old house, which is nowadays Seiryuukan Hotel. He decides to leave Q Class and investigate the supposed murder of his father alone. At the hotel, there is a convention of the owners of the nine Seiryuukan buildings (including the four current managers of the Amakusa family, who had the strongest motive for doing away with Ryuu's father). At the same time, the remaining members of Q Class are charged with investigating the convention, because it was apparently organised by someone pretending to be Dan Morihiko and they suspect something might happen during the convention.
Which happens. Ryuu is found near the body of one of the managers holding the murder weapon, which is kinda suspicious. While the scene of the crime has two entrances, one of them was blocked off and the other entrance was under constant camera surveillance, proving that only Ryuu entered the room after the victim. Ryuu is thus seen as the main suspect in this case, but he escapes during his escort to the police station. More murders happen (among the managers of the Amakusa holdings) and every time Ryuu is spotted near the scene of the crime. What is even more disturbing is the fact that the victims are all murdered following the legends of the Dragon children (i.e. the owner of Koufuku, who likes water, is found in a bathtub).
This is a really long case, befitting the final case of this series and resembles the final case Kindaichi Hajime had to solve in his first season. In both stories a protagonist is set up as the murderer in a serial killing case and forced to work on the case while fighting time. In both stories, the mastercriminal behind it all is something who has no direct part in the murders, only planning the whole thing out. The plan in this story is what you would expect from King Hades, head of Pluto, but it does rely on some 'coincidences' (that are explained, but then we get into the question of what is considered realistic, even in manga). There is a locked room mystery in it too, but not as amazing as you'd hoped from the final story (it is a nice trick though). Overall, it is quite a complex and satisfying story, made even more perplexing because the reader also knows that multiple owners of the Seiryuukan buildings are in fact Pluto members in disguise, adding another layer of mystery to the story.
Honoo no Hate ("At the End of the Flames"), Saigo no Present ("The Last Present") and Tantei Gakuen yo Eien ni ("Detective Academy Forever") deal with the aftermath of the Seiryuukan Satsujin Jiken, resolving some little plotlines like the mystery behind Ryuu's father and the future of Q Class. These chapters really do nothing more than cleaning up for the ending of the series.
But in reality, the series has one little sequel. Tantei Gakuen Q Premium was released two years after the serialisation of the original series ended and is a standalone volume. The story is set some time (two years?) after the ending of the series, with Nanami Koutarou having taken over the function of director of Dan Detective School. The members of Q Class have all grown up a bit and Kyuu and Megu actually being a couple now. Which for some reason was already sorta established at the end of the series, but they apparently kept it secret to the others until now (at least they thought so). The first story, Senritsu no Alibi ("A Melody Alibi"), a contestant in a violin concours is attacked brutally just before it is her turn. Kyuu and Megu were present at the contest, as they came to see one of Megu's friends perform. The story showcases the five's strong points, which is nice, but the story lacks... impact. There is nothing really baffling to the case at first sight and while the basic idea of the alibi trick of the murderer is pretty smart, it is full of holes and could have been solved by the normal police.
The same holds for Time Limit ni Idome ("Challenge the Time Limit!"), where the perfect suspect for a murder has an ironclad alibi for the murder. The murder was commited in Osaka around three, but the suspect left Tokyo by car at twelve and could not have made it to Osaka before three. The police is actually the one confirming his alibi, as the suspect was caught on camera for speeding on the highway. The solution to this conundrum is almost painfully easy to deduce.
The final story Ai to Kanashimi no Misshitsu ("A Locked Room of Love and Sadness") is a multi-layered locked room mystery, the victim being a teacher accused of bullying around students (until they commit suicide). There are some interesting particulars to this case (including a trope not used before in this series), but it is fairly disappointing. In fact, the only real point of interest is the ending of the story, where Kerberos returns on the scene with a newly rebuilt Pluto, challenging Q Class again in a new fight between good and evil.
Tantei Gakuen Q Premium suffers a lot from being a one-shot, featuring three mediocre short stories. It would have been so much exciting (and probably more interesting) to have had a long story, like the annual one-shot stories Kindaichi Shounen nowadays has. Now it is a standalone sequel that really adds nothing substantial to the whole series. The ending seems like a pitch for a new series of Tantei Gakuen Q, with the return of Pluto, but it has been since five years since Premium was released I don't see that going anywhere. The 'problem' with Tantei Gakuen Q is that it is not fit for the annual one-shots of Kindaichi Shounnen, as it is much more focused on bringing an overall storyline between the cases. The stories collected in Premium lack an overall storyline, resulting in a boring volume that should not be the end of an awesome series.
Because this is really an awesome detective series that no fan should miss. The impressive amount of impossible crimes is something that really makes this series worthwile, but Tantei Gakuen Q also manages to succesfully combine the shounen teamwork formula with a true orthodox detective story, resulting in an original setting. The overarching storyline of Q Class and the criminal organisation Pluto especially make this series feel distinctly different from other detective series because of its cohesiveness. The series is really addictive because of the ever-developing main storyline combined with solid detective stories that few series will manage to match.
Let's hope that Q Class will return in the future again!
Original Japanese title(s): 天樹征丸（原）& さとうふみや（画）『探偵学園Ｑ』 第９巻～１２巻 （文庫）, 『探偵学園Ｑプレミアム』