"What are you two?"
"Parallel lines. Parallel lines that never cross. That's what Kindaichi and I are."
"The Young Kindaichi Case Files: The Rosenkreuz Mansion Murder Case"
And with this post, I end my review series of the live action series Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO (The Young Kindaichi Case Files NEO), which ended yesterday. I was actually quite surprised to hear that this series was only nine episodes long, which is a bit shorter than most TV dramas, but there it is.
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
Hajime, grandson of the famous detective Kindaichi Kousuke and Takatoo Youichi, a professional planner of murder schemes, have stood twice against each other (here and here). But this time, the two must work together. Takatoo has been invited to the Rose Cross Mansion, where a rare blue rose is to be unveiled. But Takatoo isn't there to look at pretty flowers: he is told that his sibling, a person Takatoo himself has never known, will be present too and that he or she will be killed. Takatoo has experiences with planning murders, but none with preventing one, so he asks his nemesis Hajime to help protect his sibling, for which in return he will give himself up to the police. But Hajime (accompanied by childhood friend Miyuki and Mystery Club president Makabe) is not able to prevent murder in the Rosenkreuz Mansion: everyone is locked up in the mansion and one by one guests are killed in locked rooms and neither Hajime nor Takatoo have an idea of who Takatoo's sibling is and who is committing the murders and why. Can the two paralllel lines of detective and murderer finally join their powers and uncover the identity of Rosenkreuz in The Rosenkreuz Mansion Murder Case?
The last two episodes of the on the whole great Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO series are an adaptation of 2013's The Rosenkreuz Mansion Murder Case. It was the easily the best Kindaichi Shounen released in years and I was quite enthusiastic about it in my review of the original comic version. So how did these final episodes fair?
As a mystery, this is still a great story. It features two locked room murders, of which I absolutely love the first one (where someone is stabbed in the ground, lying on a bed of flowers, filling the room to show that the door couldn't have been used by the murderer). The other is only a locked room murder if you accept that one witness is innocent (ironically enough, Takatoo in this case), but is again a locked room murder of the likes that puts it among the best of the long-running series (though it resembles a certain case in Tantei Gakuen Q, from the same author, a lot). The quality of the tricks behind the locked room murder and the scale of the story was definitely a high point in recent years and it translates fantastically to the small screen.
I liked especially how efficient use of CG made the exact layout of the Rose Cross Mansion clear: you get maps and all in the comic, but here a short, simple animation showed in an instant how the building looked like. Simple, but effective. Seems like a small point, but in detective stories with maps and all, it is quite important to show them to the viewer in an easy-to-understand way. In the TV drama Kagi no Kakatta Heya, the contents of each locked room was usually of importance, and the way they used small models of each room was perfect for that series, but in this episode, you just need to understand where all rooms/staircases are and the mini-map animation was more than sufficient.
I do have one complaint, and that is that one big change that kinda messes up the story: in the original story, the closed circle stays intact until the very end, with no means of escape from the Rose Cross Mansion's grounds for the cast. But in the TV version, the police arrives about halfway through the story, which should seriously hinder the murderer's plans in reality, but they skip over that in the TV adaptation (in fact, the plan should fail almost immediately the moment more people arrive from outside the mansion...). I really dislike this change and thought it very disappointing, as it weakens an otherwise really strong locked room murder. Other minor changes include the fact Takatoo does not know the gender of his sibling in the TV version (he did know in the original comic version), and slightly different guests at the Rose Cross Mansion (Mystery Club member Makabe wasn't there in the original). Unlike the adaptation of Young Kindaichi's Road to the Final Battle (episodes five and six) however, this story with Takatoo works within the context of the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO series and I enjoyed these episodes immensely better than Takatoo's previous adventure. As the last story, this was a great choice and the production definitely felt like a series final, though it leaves the door open for further adventures.
Looking back at the whole Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO series, I must say that this was an excellent series. The adaptations were quite faithful to the original stories and whenever changes had been made, most of them had quite some good reasons and I agreed with quite a few of them, like changing little details to make the mystery plot more believable etc. (I am not really convinced of the necessity of existence of the other Mystery Club members though...). The stories selected for adaptation was also surprisingly good, keeping a good variety across the whole of nine episodes. And the main cast and the production team did a great job. There was solid acting from the main cast, while the production team really did their best at presenting a fun and fair mystery series. I complained a couple of times that the stories had been simplified a lot because the camera focuses a lot on the clues, but I do think the intent, that is, the intent of presenting an absolutely fair mystery by showing what is important, is good and while I think it backfired in some episodes, it worked great in other episodes. And there was the eye to little details that made the series fun. For example, did you notice that the coded message in the opening theme changed every time?
Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO borrowed a lot from the original 1995-1997 live action series directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko, from musical cues to visual aspects like the dynamic camerawork and even clothing. I would describe NEO as the cleaner version of the original series. It's been almost twenty years since the original series and while they are similar, NEO features better acting, more streamlined directing and obviously looks beter. Looked at as a TV series on the whole, NEO is definitely the better one. Personally though I still prefer the original series because it's a bit rough on the edges; I am a big fan of director Tsutsumi Yukihiko (he also did Trick) and he has a certain quirkiness that is hard to copy completely. The original Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo live action series was one of his earliest works, but it still has a certain atmosphere that, while for a part imitated by NEO, is still quite unique.
But I feel the same about the final episodes of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO as for the whole series. A good adaptation that is sure to satisfy the fans of the original series, but it is also great as a mystery plot on its own. Let's hope more will follow.
Original Japanese title(s): 『金田一少年の事件簿Ｎ』 サブタイトル 「薔薇十字館殺人事件」