Friday, March 10, 2017

On The Rocks

Crime, it's the way I fly to you (Snake Eater) 
"Snake Eater" (Cynthia Harrel)

Yes, yes, I know, I'm behind with my Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R ("The Young Kindaichi Case Files R") reviews... Today's volume was released back in November... Oh, and now for something completely different, but apparently I'm already over 700 posts here on the blog.

The White Snake Brewery Murder Case, a story collected in volumes 10 and 11 of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R, starts with Inspector Kenmochi traveling together with Hajime and Miyuki to the village of Hakuja, as the police has received information a murderer-on-the-run might be hiding there. The village is the home of a particular, white-ish water source, which has a tendency to 'twist' when it's flowing, resembling a white snake. The spirit of the White Snake is said to watch over the village, and the White Snake Sake brewed here, which uses the white mineral water as a key ingredient, has brought prosperity to the villagers for many decades. Hajime and the other, pretending to be normal tourists, attend a tour of the White Snake Sake Brewery, which also allows them to take a peek at the inner sanctum of the brewery, where the moromi (the main mash) is allowed to further ferment. But then the body of a recently returned son of the brewery owner is found inside one of the mash containers. Is this the work of the murderer Inspector Kenmochi is chasing, or is something else going on at the White Snake Sake Brewery?

First thing that I noticed: while Hajime is indeed the grandson of Kindaichi Kousuke, and a brilliant young detective himself, who has shown countless of times throughout the series that he's great at solving mysteries, you do have to wonder what Inspector Kenmochi was thinking when he decided to take two high school students along on his mission to find, and capture, a desperate murderer on the run in a remote village. Usually Hajime and Miyuki get involved with murder cases by accident, so there's little you can do about that, but I think there might be some problems about a high-ranking police detective taking minors along on a dangerous task.

Though I have to say that in general, The White Snake Brewery Murder Case is actually a very weak story. It is eleven chapters long, which is the norm for long stories in this series, but it feels barely any denser in terms of actual content than a short story. The obi of this volume says "One Of The Most Complex Cases Of This Series, Completed!" about this story, but The White Snake Brewery Murder Case is in fact probably one of the simplest stories of the series. The solution to the problem of the corpse in the container is incredibly obvious from the start. It is very likely the first thing that pops in mind once you're presented with the whole setting, and I kept hoping it was just a red herring, but alas, it turned out the simple, least original solution was indeed the correct one. This on its own doesn't mean disaster though, as a good mystery writer can, with effort, weave different ideas and plots together to make a whole stronger than its parts, but I think series writer Amagi was on an off-day, because the other elements of the mystery plot proper were as poorly inspired as the main trick. From the way the murderer gives themselves away, to the often-seen 'psychological trap' Hajime uses to prove who the murderer is: the ideas themselves are poor, and it all feels like disjointed ideas, rather than a whole story.

There is for example a whole back story surrounding the family of the owner of the brewery, which is supposed to spring all kinds of surprises on the reader, but it fails miserably at that task as once again, the most obvious, the simplest answer to any question always turns out to be the correct one. There's nothing tricky about this plot, nor anything that feels like it was constructed to entertain the reader.

And what I lament the most is perhaps how the setting goes to waste. Save for film sets, 'normal' work places are not very commonly used as a setting in this series actually, at least not for the longer stories (they do feature more ofen in the short stories). While The White Snake Brewery Murder Case is not the first long story to feature such a location, it is still rare enough for me to notice it, as usually Hajime and Miyuki find themselves in more unique (and often isolated) locales. This type of setting is much more in Detective Conan, as The Sleeping Kogorou is hired by clients from various backgrounds. The White Snake Brewery Murder Case can be fairy informative about how sake is brewed (if you're a total amateur like me), which is always one of the things I like about these kinds of specialist settings, but to have it used on a bland mystery plot....

Of all the stories ever since the series returned with Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R started in 2014, The White Snake Brewery Murder Case is probably the worst, as the mystery plot is by far the least inspired. Everything is too obvious, even it is not even entertaining in its obviousness, as the presentation of the plot and the way the clues are presented are rather crude (c.f. Gyakuten Kuukou, a book written for children and very simple, yet plotted and structured in a very good manner). I can only hope volume 12, to be released in April, will be return to form for this series.

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10&11巻

12 comments :

  1. When you described where the body was found and that the explanation was rather obvious, I immediately thought of Nicholas Blake's There's Trouble Brewing. Sounds as if they might have very similar solutions to match their almost identical murders.

    Hey, it wouldn't be the first this series "borrowed" from other detective stories. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read that book, though the method here is, as far as I know, fairly specific to a sake brewery setting (as opposed to other drinks), so I do wonder how similar they are (or if they are indeed).

      Delete
    2. Only way to find out is if you read There's Trouble Brewing or a scanlation turns up.

      Delete
  2. Hello, have you ever heard of this game ?

    http://images.gamekult.com/blog/imgdb/000/000/563/361_2.jpg

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3EHZClWLgg

    http://image.jeuxvideo.com/images/jaquettes/00040117/jaquette-treasure-report-the-mechanized-legacy-nintendo-ds-cover-avant-g-1304674713.jpg



    it seems to look a lot like Professor Layton

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I had heard of it, and yes, it does resemble Professor Layton.

      Delete
  3. Ahhh... Why does TomCat only appear when you review the weaker of the entries to Kindaichi R? Perhaps 人形島殺人事件 would have helped to change his opinion, if ever so slightly?

    Slightly disappointed to hear that this isn't a good mystery, as I saved up both 人形島殺人事件 and 白蛇蔵殺人事件 to read, as a treat; I usually only manage to save up one spare case while the existing one is still being serialised.

    Anyway, if you had to rank all the Kindaichi cases (not including games...), which would emerge in your top 5?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pffft, I guess I'd mention the Seven Mysteries of Fudou High, The Wax Doll Castle Murder Case, the Prison Gate Cram School Murder Case, the Rosenkreuz Mansion Murder Case and Young Kindaichi's Road To The Final Battle. Though I also like some of the short stories a lot...

      Delete
  4. Nice review. What's your take on the culprit? Some people said despite the predictalbe twist, they are "different" in a way.
    Speaking of which, have you heard about "Y no Hakobune", a manga written by Amagi mostly about middle-school math puzzles?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I myself didn't consider the culprit of this story special or different in a particular memorable way... I wonder what those people meant specifically.

      Hadn't heard about that manga, but not very surprised: Amagi (Kibayashi) is extremely prolific as a writer for manga. Though I still wanna read that series where he himself solves occult mysteries together with some other people based on manga editors (Amagi/Kibayashi was originally an editor before he became a writer).

      Delete
    2. Let's see, based on what I read... (ROT13)
      Vg'f nobhg ubj gur phycevg'f raq jnf fubja nsgre trggvat pnhtug. Juvyr zbfg bs gurz unir rvgure urnegjnezvat be grnewrexre zbzragf jvgu Xvaqnvpuv nsgre erterggvat jung gurl'q qbar be fhpu, guvf crefba qbrfa'g orpnhfr bs jung unccrarq gb bar bs gur erznvavat fhfcrpgf. Jung fbzr ernqref fnvq nobhg vg gung guvf phycevg vf urnegyrff, cebonoyl yvxr Gnxngb.

      Yeah, no surprise there with different aliases and all. Just want to know whether you'd read the manga or not.
      Wait. There's a series with himself as the main character? That gives a mixed feeling, but it's still interesting. What's the series called?

      Delete
  5. Great post, amazing to hear that this series is back up and running! How did it end up starting again? I would love to track down some of the original Kindaichi case files but they are so hard to come by (at least at a good cost).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The initial series ran from 1994-2000, but it has been running in an irregular serialization schedule since 2004. There was basically one new story each year in the period 2004-2011, 2011-2013 had the semi-regularly running 20th Anniversary series and the current series started in 2013, with a weekly serialization schedule.

      I recommend watching The File of Young Kindaichi Returns anime series, which adapts most of the stories of the post-hiatus era (2004~now). It's a very solid adaptation (great music and voice acting!) and is the easiest way to catch the more 'recent' stories. You can watch it for free (with some commercials in between) at Crunchyroll: http://www.crunchyroll.com/the-file-of-young-kindaichi-returns

      Delete