Wednesday, August 17, 2011


「愛のバラード」 (金子由香利)

Thinking I should not die, I keep calling out your name
during the long night, waiting until the morning comes
"Ballad of Love" (Kaneko Yukari)

Like always, pattern-like behavior here is usually nothing more than a coincidence. Suddenly a lot of English in my post-titles? A week long of reviews of Western mystery novels? Reviews of debut works one after another? It's really, really nothing more than coincidence. To be totally honest: I usually select the next book to read on basis of... page count and readibility. I don't look at summaries, reviews, I don't plan for one review to fit thematic with a next review. I just estimate how much free time I have and how much one book should take.

So the fact that I'm discussing Inugamike no Ichizoku ("The Inugami Clan"), right after Akuma no Temariuta and Gokumontou is not because I wanted to do a Kindaichi Kousuke series this week. It wasn't because I procured all the Ichikawa Kon movies at the same time ('cause I didn't). It wasn't even because I refered to Inugamike no Ichizoku so often in my review of Akuryou no Yakata. Things just happened this way. Call it fate.

To start from the conclusion: Yokomizo Seishi's Inugamike no Ichizoku, is a masterpiece. And actually a masterpiece English readers can read, as a translated version was released many years ago already. Actually, The Inugami Clan is the very first Kindaichi Kousuke novel I read and I still love it. It has everything: a fight over an inheritance between the three families of the Inugami clan, a beautiful heiress, a series of murders with a sick meaning behind them and even a man walking around in a rubber mask  (is less funny than it sounds). What's not to like? The bloody battle for the inheritance family patriarch Inugami Sahei started with his devilish will is nothing less than sadistic and the truth private eye Kindaichi Kousuke uncovers makes this one of the best mysteries ever.

Publishing firm Kadokawa Shoten started releasing the Kindaichi Kousuke novels as paperbacks in the 1970s and Kadokawa Haruki had a brilliant idea when he followed his father up as the president of the firm in 1975: the Kadokawa company was to enter the movie industry, with a focus on making movies of the books it published. Cross-media promotion was the way to go according to Kadokawa Haruki. Kadokawa Shoten had a deal going on with movie studio Shochiku for a movie adaption for Yokomizo Seishi's Yatsu Haka Mura, but as that movie was delayed, Kadokawa Haruki pushed its own movie plans and one year later, a movie adaption of Inugamike no Ichizoku was released by Kadokawa Pictures. And there was much rejoicing.

For the film was a big succes. Kadokawa Pictures had pretty much gambled on Inugamike no Ichizoku, but it certainly payed off.  And that wasn't surprising. The movie was beautiful, with fantastic shots, great music and a grand cast. In fact, the movie is at least as great a classic as the original novel and one of the greatest mystery movies ever in my opinion. The film is very faithful to the original source material, but Ichikawa Kon's directing and the actors really add an extra dimension to the story. And the cross-promotion scheme of Kadokawa Haruki also succeeded: the movie was the second biggest earner that year in Japan and Kadokawa Shoten also profited from boosted sales of the paperbacks.

Ishizaka Kouji shines in this film: even though he was the seventh person to the Kindaichi Kousuke part on the screen, he was actually the very first to be faithful to the character of the novels. Ishizaka also added a lot of his own little touches to the character that other actors have taken over (especially the suitcase Kindaichi carries, which is a personal item of Ishizaka). For many people, Ishizaka is the definite Kindaichi. And funny: Yokomizo Seishi himself plays the Nasu Hotel owner!

In 2006, Ichikawa Kon released a remake of his own masterpiece (his final movie actually) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original. And surprisingly, Ishizaka Kouji once again starred as Kindaichi Kousuke! He was 35 when he played in the original movie, so here we had a 65 year old Kindaichi Kousuke. Nobody complained though, because everyone knew Ishizaka had to be Kindaichi. There was just no other way around it. Katou Takeshi also played his familiar detective in charge again (though this time, he's called Todoroki instead of Tachibana), while other actors from the original came back in other roles (as Yokomizo Seishi isn't alive anymore, Mitani Kouki played the Nasu Hotel owner!)

The remake is actually very faithful to the original, with many shots copied 1:1 from the original movie. I still prefer the original version a bit, but the two movies are really so much alike that it mostly doesn't matter which one you see. There are some slight differences though of course and Ishizaka Kouji intentionally played Kinidachi in the remake as an older, more wiser Kindaichi in the remake. If you happen to be able to see both movies: compare the eye-movements of Ishizaka during his confrontation with the murderer. The whole scene is shot pretty much the same, but this is definately a different Kindaichi. And yes, I'd rather seen Ichikawa Kon film a new Kindaichi movie with Ishizaka rather than a remake, but what's done is done.

Inugamike no Ichizoku is, whether you choose the novel or one of the movies, a great mystery. It's regarded as one of the masterpieces in Japanese detective fiction and all formats will show why. I myself am even inclined to prefer the '76 movie over the original novel! Actually, the world needs more of these grand scale classic movie mysteries!

Original Japanese title(s): 横溝正史 『犬神家の一族』

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