"In the name of my grandfather... and my own honor!!"
"The Young Kindaichi Case Files: Young Kindaichi's Road to the Final Battle"
Doing these Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO reviews of each episode as they are broadcast is luckily not as time consuming as I had initially feared: with these multi-episode stories, I can usually skip a week until the whole story is broadcast!
Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO
Pre-series TV Special 2 (January 4, 2014: The Prison Gate Cram School Murder Case
Episode 1 (July 19, 2014): The Murderer of the Silver Screen
Episode 2 (July 26, 2014): The Game Mansion Murder Case
Episode 3 & 4 (August 2 & 9, 2014): The Will-o'-the-Wisp Island Murder Case
Episode 5 & 6 (August 16 & 23, 2014): Young Kindaichi's Road to the Final Battle
Episode 7 (September 6, 2014): The Yukikage Village Murder Case
Episode 8 & 9 (September 13 & 20, 2014): The Rosenkreuz Mansion Murder Case
Kindaichi Hajime, grandson of the great detective Kindaichi Kousuke, his childhood friend Miyuki and club leader Makabe make their way to the Grand Dragon Hotel to watch a hypnotist show. Hajime allows himself to be hypnotized, but seems to be a bit drowzy even after the show. The Grand Dragon Hotel is also the center of a police investigation into the abduction of its owner by someone calling himself the Count of Monte Cristo. Hajime initially gets involved as a suspect in the case, but Inspector Kenmochi vouches for the high school student detective and asks Hajime to join the investigation. That night however, Miyuki, Makabe and Kenmochi's subordinate receive a message to go to a certain room: there they see how Hajime stabs a knife in Kenmochi's chest. Hajime claims he doesn't remember a thing, as he is still kinda dazy from his hypnosis session, but with several witnesses and the fact nobody else was present in the room, the police has little choice but to arrest Hajime. He promptly escapes though and discovers he has been set-up by Takatoo Youichi, a man who designs murder schemes for other people, whom he had met earlier in Malaysia. Can Hajime prove his innocence, discover the identity of the Mount of Monte Cristo and get his hand on Takatoo in Young Kindaichi's Road to the Final Battle.
The original comic version of Young Kindaichi's Road to the Final Battle was released in 2000 and served as the finale of the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo series (the series restarted four years later). As such, it was plotted as a grand scale story with a slightly different feel from the 'normal' series. Sure, Hajime had been on the run as a suspect in older stories too, but those were very early stories and this time, Hajime's big nemesis Takatoo was also involved. I loved the story as a series finale: it had a sense of dread because Hajime was on the run in a foreign country (the original story was set in Hong Kong), Takatoo was actively trying to get Hajime and his allies out of the way and basically every important recurring character, including those who had only made appearances in the novels, chipped in to help Hajime prove his innocence. It truly felt as the final story of the series, which is why I was very curious why this particular story had been selected to be adapted as episodes five and six of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO and whether it would work.
And I would say it didn't work. The elements that made the original story interesting, were not present and because the story had to be simplified to fit in the runtime of two episodes, the live action adaptation of Young Kindaichi's Road to the Final Battle just feels strange. It's not that I don't understand why things had to be changed from the original story (in fact, it can work out quite fine). For example, I understand quite well they can't shoot another episode on location in Hong Kong. But a lot of the original story's sense of thrill was derived from the fact Hajime was on the run in a foreign country, with (initally) no friends around. Heck, he couldn't even speak the language! So then I think, why choose to adapt this story at this stage of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO, if you can't possibly utilize all its potential?
The original story also worked because Hajime had been foiling Takatoo's plans for years in the comics: they were rivals, enemies who knew each other. In this live action series? They crossed paths just once. Gone is the tension between the two. Heck, the police officers in the live action series shouldn't even have heard of Takatoo! The original story also worked because Hajime's friends whom he had met during his adventures worked together to help him? In this live action series? It's the friggin' fifth episode, so of course he hasn't made trustworthy allies yet whom suddenly band together for Dramatical Performance, it's just the usual gang.
Of course, there is still an attempted murder mystery and while I do like the main trick behind the Kenmochi stabbing (the victim was Superintendent Akechi in the original, but he doesn't exist (yet?) in the live action series), I still feel a lot of the story depends on seeing Hajime trying to prove his innocence and his friends helping him. We as the viewer naturally know Hajime isn't the murderer and believe he is innocent, but the fact that all his friends within the story also believe in Hajime's innocence, despite what they saw with their own eyes, and help him is quite important for this story to work, also as a mystery. I'd say it's a lot easier to guess the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo because a lot of the good smoke and mirrors of the original story were removed for this adaptation.
In the end, I think I'm not sure why this story was selected for adaptation halway in the series. Its best elements only come to life as a series finale, so at least have Hajime made some important friends in the series, at least have Hajime have confronted Takatoo more than once before doing this story. I think this story would have worked great as NEO's series finale, but now it's just wasted potential. And it's not just the 'yeah-it's-the-finale-everyone-shows-up-again' theme.The mystery-plot loses quite a lot of its impact because of the smaller scale (and it becomes a lot more easier / obvious too), all because it's done at the wrong part of the series.
I've quite appreciated the way they did the adaptations in Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO until now, but this is the first time I really think they did it wrong. Production values were good as ever, but this was not the right story at the right time. Really a shame. And it makes me curious as to what story the team thought was going to be a better series finale than this story. Next week is an adaptation of The Yukikage Village Murder Case. I liked the original comic version for being a bit different from the rest, so looking forward to it!
Original Japanese title(s): 『金田一少年の事件簿Ｎ』 サブタイトル「金田一少年の決死行」