ほら ti ta ta ta
「Marionette Fantasia」（Garnet Crow)
Look ti ta ta ta
When the glass hands strike twelve
On the holy night, the seven-headed shadow
reaches out for the powerless doll
"Marionette Fantasia" (Garnet Crow)
I've never really thought the covers for the Kindaichi Shounen series to be really attractive, but lately, they have been really boring...
my last review of the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R ("The Young Kindaichi Case Files R") series. Logistics is one reason: my orders are usually centered around Detective Conan, which is nowadays usually released almost a month after Kindaichi Shounen. But the other reason is content: most stories in Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R are longer than one volume, meaning I often can't review a complete story if I only do one volume: usually I can only do the end of one, and the beginning of another. So lately, I've opted to do reviews of two volumes in one go, which should result in reviews with slightly more depth than "we'll have to wait until the next volume to see what the result is".
We first start with Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R 8, which was released in January. This volume starts with a rare short story of only three chapters. In Why Was The Fireplace On?, freelance writer Itsuki takes Hajime and Miyuki along to the reading of the last will of a publisher, who used to look out for Itsuki in his early days. He suspects trouble, as there's a nephew with need for money, a niece with the same needs, a mistress and a self-proclaimed daughter of the deceased. And indeed, The reading is done at the holiday villa park run by the mistress near a lake and things soon heat up. The climax follows when Itsuki discovers the self-proclaimed daughter's dead body in her lodge. With all the doors and windows locked and the knife that cut her neck in the girl's hands, it appears to be suicide, but Hajime quickly suspects something sinister lies behind this.
It's a very short story for Kindachi Shounen, and while I generally prefer short stories over longer stories, I do have to say that especially lately, this format has not been the best for this series. In comparison to Detective Conan, there is usually less information per chapter (because of the way dialogue is written and the layout/size of the comic boxes) and it usually results in bland-feeling stories. Add in the fact that this is one of those 'hey, did you know about this neat bit of trivia that allows you to solve this puzzle?' story, and I think you can understand why I am less than enthusiastic.
First thing I have to note: I'm pretty sure that lately it's been Hajime who's been randomly giving the murderers funny names. In the beginning of the series, the murderers would adopt names like "Phantom" or "After-school Magician" in a Scooby-Doo-esque way, The last few years though, it's Hajime who names his invisible enemies. Imagine yourself being a murderer, doing your best at completing your task and suddenly being called by a random name like Antlion by some kid. There's that post-modern look at heroes and how they create their villains (Batman is a famous example, but it also works for series detectives), but here it's really Hajime who is painting the murderer as some lunatic.
Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R has felt like a return to the original series since the start, with more stories set on islands and stuff, and this one is no exception. Even the length is reminiscent of the old stories. While the core trick isn't that complex, the available pages are put to good use to paint a very atmospheric story. I often think a lot of Kindaichi Shounen stories feel hasty, despite being quite long. Here there's a good pace, without feeling dragging. Overall, I'd say this story is one of the better efforts until now. Like I said, the basic idea behind the murders isn't that complex, but the overall structure is done quite well, which is a lot more entertaining than an incredible trick, but executed badly. The level of this story reminds me of the better Tantei Gakuen Q stories, which had a lot of series that are not masterpieces that will be mentioned in the Canon of the Genre per se, but are really well-made detective stories.
The story does have an unbelievable chain of coincidences though. Most of it is not needed to actually solve the crime, but it does make the characters and the motive a bit weak, as there's simply no way that could've happened by coincidence. Detective fiction does not need to be realistic, but by the time you have circumstances that in no way can be coincidence, you do want a better explanation than "Meh, it happened".
Overall though, I'd say Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R 8 & 9 were good volumes, because of The Hitogata Island Murder Case. Why Was The Fireplace On? on the other hand is a story I will have forgotten about in a week or so. Volume 9 also features two chapters of the next story, but I'll hold reading those until the next volume is released. Whether I'll do a review of volume 10 on its own, or one of 10 and 11 will depend on the contents of volume 10.
Original Japanese title(s): 天樹征丸（原）、さとうふみや（画） 『金田一少年の事件簿Ｒ』第８＆９巻