Friday, February 11, 2011



"Did that person kill somebody?"
"The lover who threw her away. She locked him up in the cellar of her mountain house and killed him."
"And you arrested her, Mr. Furuhata?"
"So, where is she now?"
"A lot happened, but she has gone to America and has a happily married life now."
"That's suprising"
"What I want to say is: people can start all over again."

Having read all of the manga of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo ("The Casefiles of Young Kindaichi"), the only thing left are the novels. Which are quite nice actually. At least a lot better than the Meitantei Conan ("Detective Conan") novels. The novels are all written by Amagi Seimaru, the main writer for the series and thus don't differ too greatly in quality from the main series.

Four Kindaichi Shounen novels are actually available in English, but Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo: Onibijima Satsujin Jiken ("The Casefiles of Young Kindaichi: The Murder Case of Will-'o'-the-Wisp Island") isn't one of them. Is that a shame? Not really, though it isn't really bad either. The story is familiar: because young Kindaichi spent all of his money, he can't finance the vacation he promised Miyuki. That's why the two apply for a part time job on a remote island, to get that vacation feeling in another way. The island is being used by a medical cram school as a training camp for their students and among the students that arrive there, there are of course not very nice people. Because otherwise, nobody would die.

One night, most of the students and Kindaichi and Miyuki participate in a kimodameshi, which involves peeking through a keyhole into a room. But as Kindaichi looks through the keyhole, he sees one of the students being hanged by a shadow. A panicking Kindaichi gets the key to open the room, but it turns out to be empty. All the people think Kindaichi was just trying to prank them, but the next the day the student whom Kindaichi thought was being hanged, has disappeared. And then other hanging bodies are discovered. Because very, very few Kindaichi Shounen stories feature just one murder. And it all ends in a classic Kindaichi Shounen Way of course.

Kindaichi Shounen, originally a manga, in novel form does make you think about the format. I still think the comic form is great for detective fiction, as I do strongly think that images add an useful dimension to the genre. Many great stories from Meitantei Conan, Kindaichi Shounen and Tantei Gakuen Q ("Detective Academy Q") have visual clues, which simply wouldn't work as well in classic proze. Of course, some tricks are harder to pull off in comic-form, but the reverse should hold too, and crime fiction should make more use of the comic format, in my opinion. While there are quite some interesting detective manga available, it seems they don't really seem to be as popular in the English-speaking spheres as in Asia. For example, why hasn't Tantei Gakuen Q, one the best available, been released in the States yet? With sleeper-game-hits-turning-into-big-names like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, you'd think that at least among fans of modern Japan media, there would be at a sign of people wanting more detective manga released. It might be interesting to see what percentage of the 'orthodox' detective reader knows of gems like Detective Conan too.

So while the Kindaichi Shounen novel series, in general, is quite interesting, I can't help but think I'd rather had read the stories in manga form. 

Original Japanese title(s): 天樹征丸、さとうふみや 『金田一少年の事件簿 鬼火島殺人事件』

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