Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Brand New Story

「もう謎は解きたくないんだあああ~!!」
 『金田一37歳の事件簿』

"I don't wanna solve mysteries anymore!!"
"The Case Files of the 37-year old Kindaichi"

The adventures of Kindaichi Hajime, grandson of the famous detective Kindaichi Kousuke, and his childhood friend/not-quite-girlfriend Miyuki as chronicled in the comic series Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo ("The Young Kindaichi Case Files") originally started serialization in 1992, but the series is still going strong in 2018. After the initial series, consisting of the original Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, the CASE series and a series of short stories, the series went on a hiatus (during whih the creators worked on Tantei Gakuen Q). Hajime and Miyuki then returned in 2004 for a "second season" with several series: a more-or-less annual series ran between 2004-2011, which was followed by the 20th Anniversary limited series (2011-2013) and then Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R (2013-2017). Save for some select stories set in the past, these series were all about Hajime and Miyuki as 17-year old students at Fudou High, the high school with a rather alarming rate of students and teachers who either end up as a murderer or a victim.

So people were quite surprised when late last year, it was announced that Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R would stop serialization in the weekly Shonen Magazine (a magazine aimed at children and teenagers that has always been the home of the series) and that a new series would start in the bi-weekly Evening (aimed at a teenage/adult audience). But the most shocking news was the title: Kindaichi 37-sai no Jikenbo ("The Case Files of the 37-year old Kindaichi). The first volume collecting the first 8 chapters was released in June 2018, and as the title suggests, this new series is about a 37-year old Kindaichi Hajime, who is not a slacker in high school anymore, but a single, lowly ranked employee of the firm Otowa Black PR. It's been twenty years since we last saw Hajime, and while we know of all his detecting exploits in his past, it seems that he has had more than enough of his share of gruesome deaths, as the 37-year old Hajime really doesn't want to solve any mysteries anymore. Fate however has different plans for him. Hajime is given the task to supervise a new dating tour organized by his firm: five eligible men and five eligible women who have had no luck in love are to spend a few days in a resort hotel on a faraway, small island, where they'll get to know each other and hopefully find a partner. The problem? Said faraway island happens to be Utashima, the place where Hajime solved no less than three seperate murder cases, which were all connected to The Phantom of the Opera. The original Opera House where all those murders took place was destroyed the last time Hajime went to Utashima, so he hopes nothing goes wrong this time, but his wishes are of course not heard. While Hajime tries to do a good job of conducting the perfect dating tour by organizing games for the participants etc., the curse of the Phantom appears to be too strong, as it doesn't take long for one of the bachelorettes to be killed on the island, but the body disappears without a trace. And that's only the start of this fourth appearance of the Phantom...

This won't be a full review of this fourth Phantom story, as it continues into the next volume which won't be released until October, so I'll only give my first impressions of this new series. Note that the series is about a twenty years older Hajime, but that it's not set "twenty years in the future". The series is set in contemporary times (of time of writing), as has always been in the case in this series (like how The Kindaichi Fumi Kidnapping Murder Case how had everyone using smartphones and GPS functions, even though in Kindaichi The Killer pagers were like the pinnacle of consumer communication technology, even though there should only be one (1) summer vacation between those two cases). Anyway, as Evening has a slightly older audience, we see bit more graphic nudity (although for jokes) here compared to the older series, but this is still mostly the Kindaichi Shounen we know, even if Hajime's far less eager to throw himself in the mystery solving now. Which isn't actually too strange if you realize how many deaths he's seen in his younger days. It's pretty interesting to see a Hajime who doesn't want to solve the mystery himself anymore, who simply wants to do his job in a good way and who even calls Akechi for official police assistance in the case. A reluctant Hajime isn't a new concept: the third live-action drama series (starring Arashi's Matsumoto Jun as Hajime) started out like that, and the live-action drama special of The Vampire Legend Murder Case (with KAT-TUN's Kamenashi Kazuya) had a Hajime who absolutely hated being reminded of the fact he was the grandson of Kindaichi Kousuke, but I think the reluctant Hajime works best in this new series, as unlike those live-action Hajimes, this Hajime seems to be simply tired of all that excessive mystery solving, rather than just being a teenager rebelling against his talents or blood. For long time readers, we also have quite a few of cameos of familiar faces in this first volume (phew, Souta wasn't murdered in those twenty years).


I'll write a review of the actual mystery plot when the second volume's out, but I'll leave a picture here now with the goodies included with the Special Edition of this first volume: a postcard with the cover art of the very first volume from 1992, a memo pad, three clear folders with Hajime, Akechi and the Phantom, and an "invitation" to become a suspect in a future story (someone is chosen from those who send in their invitation to the publisher). I don't have much merchandise of mystery series actually, and this is the first time I got anything of the Kindaichi Shounen series (though I do have the OVA DVDs...). Anyway, as for now, Kindaichi 37-sai no Jikenbo is still the mystery series we have known for so long, only with more responsible Hajime and I'm having a good time.

But to flesh out this post a bit more, let's go back to the past: Kindaichi-kun no Bouken 2: Dokurozakura no Noroi ("The Kid Kindaichi Adventures 2: The Curse of the Skull Cherry Blossom Tree") was released a few days before Kindaichi 37-sai no Jikenbo. Kindaichi-kun no Bouken is a new series of children's novels in the Kodansha Aoi Tori Bunko label, which started earlier this year (I have a review of the first volume here). This series is about the adventures Hajime and Miyuki had as sixth graders, as members of the Adventure Club of Fudou Elementary. The club is supervised by their HR teacher Kanae, and the club activities include investigating and reporting on strange events. Whereas their first adventure was set on an island, this second adventure takes place at their own school. One October morning, the children of Fudou Elementary find some mysteries words written on the blackboard in the class. Hajime quickly realizes this is only part of a message, and checks out the blackboards in the other 6th grade classes to find the complete warning: "Stay away from the Skull Cherry Blossom Tree". The Skull Cherry Blossom Tree is a cherry blossom tree that stands in the corner of the playground, which when in full bloom, resembles like a skull due to some lesser-grown parts in its foliage. Lately, the school's been thinking about cutting the tree to place new playground equipment there, but this message seems to be warning the school against that. The message also reminds of one of the seven mysteries of Fudou High, the ghost story of the Skull Teacher, who was based on the teacher who planted the cherry blossom. Is it his ghost who wants to protect the tree?

Like the first volume, this is a rather mediocre mystery story, even if you consider it's for a younger audience. There is little focus, with some smaller mysteries which aren't really interesting. The idea is that the mystery should be about who the Skull Teacher is and why he's doing what he's doing, but most of the time, the novel feels like a random collection of ideas. The mystery of a Skull Teacher who suddenly appears in the corridor is okay, with good clewing, but the mystery of the children being locked up in the school basement is incredibly simple and not really well-thought out: the moment a certain observation is made by Hajime, it becomes painfully clear what has happened, making any attempts of misdirection completely useless. The motive of the culprit for doing all this is also incredibly convoluted, considering there are far easier ways to do what they set out to do. I think I compared the previous volume to the two children's novels based on the Gyakuten Saiban/Ace Attorney games, released in 2016 and 2017 and written by Takase Mie, in my last review too, but there's a good reason for that. As children's novels spin-offs of established franchises originally aimed at an older audience, they have a lot of common ground, but it's clear that the Gyakuten Saiban children's novels were so much better as mystery stories, even when considering they're for children. The two volumes of the Kindaichi-kun no Bouken series up until now however are far less inspired.

Though it's kinda fun to see how the Kindaichi-kun no Bouken series does try to flesh out the setting of the series. In the review of the first volume, I already remarked it was a nice touch having semi-regular Souta as one of the members of the Adventure Club (as we knew from the main series Souta had been friends with Hajime and Miyuki since they were kids). In this second volume, we even have Senke appear as a semi-rival to Hajime (Senke's a semi-regular of the early stories who first appeared in The Hanging Academy Murder Case). I mean, come on, Senke of all people!

Anyway, Kindaichi 37-sai no Jikenbo is one series I'll definitely continue to read, as it's the official continuation of the series, and it's pretty interesting to see Hajime acting differently this time. Not sure about the Kindaichi-kun no Bouken series though: the two volumes up until now were rather disappointing as mystery stories and while I like how it incorporates little things from the main series, I can't say that's enough to keep me hooked. We'll see how that ends up. Anyway, the next volume of the 37-old Hajime is scheduled for October, so until then, I guess.

Original Japanese title(s): 天樹征丸(原)、さとうふみや(画)『金田一37歳の事件簿』第1巻
天樹征丸(文)、さとうふみや(画) 『金田一くんの冒険2 どくろ桜の呪い』

15 comments :

  1. I was excited when I espied the cover for the first volume of 金田一37歳の事件簿 at a local manga website. But I must say, much of a fan as I am, the update doesn't seem to have done much to the series? Kindaichi still looks the same as he did in the original volumes, and the blowback to the Opera House Island makes me wonder if new territory will be chartered.

    Then again, I'm eagerly awaiting the release of these volumes in Chinese. Coincidentally, I've the Second Opera House Murders novel (translated into English!) sitting on my shelf, awaiting to be read.

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    1. True, it's not too different from the earlier series, though Hajime has definitely changed as now he's a simple employee. In this series, he doesn't even dares to say the murderer is among them, as that'd be rude against his customers :P

      I have the English release of the novel too. It's a bit darker than the manga, I felt. It's also the basis for the first animated movie, which actually pre-dates the animated TV series, and features Yamaguchi (Shinichi/KID in Conan) as Hajime, whereas Matsuno would do Hajime starting with the TV series. At least four of them are available in English (Second Opera House, Shanghai Mermaid Legend, The Computer Mountain Villa and The Lightning Festival), though you might know the other novels already from the TV anime adaptations.

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    2. The formula indeed seems to not have changed, but why bother changing something that works? Probably there'll be some nice Takato backstory at a future volume perhaps explaining why Kindaichi is more reluctant...

      I'll admit I'm most intrigued by the lack of Miyuki so far. Clearly she'll be back by the end of this story, but somehow it seems to me that they're keeping her away thus far to throw at the end the "bombshell" that she's has gotten married to someone else.

      I also really-really love the fact that the volume cover resembles so much the first one from the original series.

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    3. Ho Ling,

      Yes, I’m aware that some of the other novels also received an English translation. But the only one I could purchase without blowing my budget was the Opera House one, and even that wasn’t cheap. 😞 I have all the other novels in Chinese.

      Good to see that the adult Kindaichi doesn’r Act like the teenage Kindaichi. Looking forward to the full review when the second volume comes out! 😬

      Yannis,

      I’m guessing the update from a teenager to an adult Kindaichi was based on lower readership and sales...? And so it would be interesting to see if the update is merely cosmetic, or if more will be achieved by the update.

      I was initially wondering about the cover, and then realised that it’s meant to hearken back to the very first cover! Like you I like the echo from the past. 😊

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    4. I'm quite fond of this cover too (Kindaichi Gaiden did the same). Note that the similarities between this new cover and the first are even more obvious with the normal edition: the Special Edition has a red cover, while the regular edition is in blue, like the original cover.

      I doubt Miyuki got married to someone else, if only because Souta still refers to her as Nanase. Still, no doubt she'll return soon, but it's pretty funny to see Hajime's new sidekick/subordinate for now, as she's quite different from Miyuki.

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    5. Jonathan I'm not aware of how much kindaichi sells. Maybe and most probably you are right.

      To be honest, I'm waiting for the case to be completed(and translated) first before reading it carefully. Right now I'm merely peeking it so my idea of Miyuki being married is just a gut instict thinking that it would make for a nice twist. We'll see...

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    6. I think some people are even hoping that this series is meant to be a set-up for a new TV drama series starring Doumoto Tsuyoshi once again (who is about the right age now for the older Hajime).

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    7. Ho Ling,

      I, for one, am hoping for a new TV series with Doumoto Tsuyoshi as adult Kindaichi. 🤩 I was the same age as him when he first took on the role as teenage Kindaichi - which makes me the same age as both the actor and the adult Kindaichi this year. 😎 The coincidence only serves to strengthen the connection I feel towards Kindaichi.

      Yannis,

      In which translation would you read the Kindaichi manga? My suspicion about lower readership and sales is based on the slower pace with which the installments for Kindaichi R have were released. I blame all these speculations on the knowledge of the ruthless manga system I gleaned from the Bakuman manga. 😅

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    8. Kindaichi Shounen R's release schedule was pretty regular, I think? Like Conan, it was, on average, a bit more than three months per volume, which is normal as it ran in a weekly (as opposed to the biweekly now). Perhaps the readership's average age was growing older, so they decided to move to Evening? That does happen often. I suspect Conan's average readership is a bit more varied, as it's basically always been on TV and in the movie theaters for nearly a quarter century (so always drawing new/younger audience) while that's not the case for Kindaichi Shounen, so while series like the R anime and NEO drama series would likely have drawn new readers, I wouldn't be surprised if on average, the audience was relatively old compared to Conan.

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    9. Jonathan I am reading the fan scanlation. If you don't speak Japanese, it seems the only way!

      Yes for sure Kindaichi has an older fan base than conan.

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    10. I’ve seen statistics somewhere that Conan’s supposed shounen demographics is these days consistently non-existent.

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    11. Well, the movies lately have definitely been aimed more at the older audience of Conan, but I don't think it's that dramatic. For Dimensional Sniper, they released the following demographic data (so slightly old):

      M: 36% / F:64%
      06~12 years: 9.6%
      13~15 years: 11.4%
      16~19 years: 22.8%
      20s: 31.2%
      40~59: 16.2%

      This is of course pertaining to this particular movie, but even then, I think that the intended audience for a magazine like Sunday is 6~17/18 years old, which still makes up the bulk of the audience. The people in their twenties are of course those who grew up with Conan and still watch the movies, and that's also also an extremely large group, but it's not like the younger audience is anything near non-existent.

      With Zero the Enforcer, I expect this data to be skewed much more towards the older audience though. I haven't seen it yet, but man, the older female audience is absolutely in love with this film, with even news segments reporting on them.

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  2. It's still ofcourse too soon to judge as all series need to take the time to kick off but I figure that Hajime being some employee at a company sounds like something that they could have already made an overarching story for - you know the boss has connections and stuff is going down in the backgrounds yada yada hard-boiled series style (Hotel Dusk: Room 215 comes to mind for some reason) but we'll see whether the authors go for it.

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  3. Do you know if there is a good (legal) way of reading the old and new Kindaichi case Files, for an English reader? Would love to catch up on everything.

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    1. I'm afraid that very little is released officially in English. There are the 17 (or so) volumes published by the late Tokyopop, but those have been out of print for a long time. Japanese publisher Kodansha also published a few volumes of the series in a bilingual format (English + the original Japanese text) for learners of English: one volume (The Amakusa Treasure Hunt Murder Case) is of a case not translated by Tokyopop.

      Kodansha also published a few English translations of this series, again for Japanese learners of the English language. The New Kindaichi File (= first novel), The Shanghai River Demon's Curse, Murder On-Line and The New Kindaichi Files: Deadly Thunder have long been OOP, but they're out there, at least.

      The easiest, and by far the best method I think is to watch the 2014-2016 anime series The File of Young Kindaichi Returns, which can be seen legally for free (with commercials) at Crunchyroll (http://www.crunchyroll.com/the-file-of-young-kindaichi-returns). The series adapts a great number of the post 2004 stories (as well as a few from before 2001 that weren't adapted in the original 1997-2000 anime series). It's a very competent adaptation (with great music and voice acting!), with most stories taking about 3 or 4 episodes (of 20 minutes).

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