Tuesday, September 9, 2014

ReturN: File 5

「夏の幻」 (Garnet Crow)

A summer illusion
When I close my eyes
You are the first I see
"Summer Illusion" (Garnet Crow)

I had forgotten that the currently running Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO ("The Young Kindaichi Case Files NEO") had a scheduled broadcast break last week: episode seven was on just last Saturday. But I am actually happy I don't have to write these episode reviews every week. Anyway, let's move to today's review!

Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo NEO
Pre-series TV Special 2 (January 4, 2014: The Prison Gate Cram School Murder Case
Episode 1 (July 19, 2014): The Murderer of the Silver Screen 
Episode 2 (July 26, 2014): The Game Mansion Murder Case
Episode 3 & 4 (August 2 & 9, 2014): The Will-o'-the-Wisp Island Murder Case
Episode 5 & 6 (August 16 & 23, 2014): Young Kindaichi's Road to the Final Battle
Episode 7 (September 6, 2014): The Yukikage Village Murder Case
Episode 8 & 9 (September 13 & 20, 2014): The Rosenkreuz Mansion Murder Case

In episode seven of the live action series, The Yukikage Village Murder Case, Kindaichi Hajime (grandson of detective Kindaichi Kousuke) and fellow Mystery Club members Saki and Makabe travel to the little village of Yukikage. Hajime visited the village once, three years ago, and is now back to reunite with his old friends in the village and to see a local weather phenomenon: the summer snow, which always falls in the early morning of the Bon Festival. At first, Hajime is happy to be with his friends again and see that nothing has changed, but appearances deceive. Everyone has changed in those three years. One friend might have given up on her dreams. Another has trouble finding work after having left school. One has even commited suicide last year. The only one who has not changed in three years, is Hajime. For Hajime, it becomes painfully clear things have changed, when one of his friends is found murdered on the morning of the Bon Festival. But the only footprints left in the summer snow, are those of the victim herself.

The original comic version of The Yukikage Village Murder Case has an unique position within the long running series. Not only is it a fairly short and simple story, but it is also the most personal, most intimate, most emotional adventure of Hajime. Whereas most stories are about spooky legends, greed and REVENGE!!, The Yukikage Village Murder Case dealt with themes of growing up, of change and of friendship. It was about Hajime realizing how people don't stay always stay the same, how friendship and human relations are quite fragile and about having to deal with a victim and murderer from his own personal circles. No other story of the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo comic has ever been so emotional and even the rather similar adventure in the novel series (The Heretic House Murder Case) doesn't hit the buttons quite as right as The Yukikage Village Murder Case. A lot of the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo stories have Hajime yelling against the murderer about how he's wrong and all of the stories try to feed you A Story To Cry By, but the link with Hajime himself, and the way he has to cope with everything made The Yukikage Village Murder Case one to especially remember.

The live action adaptation does most of it right. To start with what they did wrong: why have Saki and Makabe join Hajime in his trip to Yukikage Village? The original comic was fantastic because nobody else of the cast appeared in the main story. Heck, even childhood friend Miyuki didn't appear. It was just Hajime who visited his own past, with no extended cast, no ties to the 'present', but himself. It's what made the story so personal. In the TV episode, basically everyone comes along (except for Miyuki), which kinda distorts the focus on Hajime that is crucial for this story to work at maximum capacity. I get that for these shows, they want to get all regulars in, but still... I am fairly happy with the rest of the episode. There's some of the best acting until now in this episode (also a bit of the worst, sadly enough) and the whole nostalgic atmosphere is conveyed quite well. Points go to the absolutely heartbroken Hajime who first has to swear he'll find the murderer of his friends, and then has to denounce another friend as the murderer.

As for the impossible murder: the setting is quite classic (a field with only the victim's footprints), but I liked the trick behind it and the set-up for the hint (which is tied to the setting). I have seen variations on the same trick in other (older) stories in the meanwhile, but for me, this was the first time I encountered the trick. Another part of the mystery, that functions as a condition for the reader to fish out the murderer, is actually improved compared to the original comic version, as it is a looooooooot more believable now. Good job there. And because the original story was quite short, it actually fits nicely within the fifty-minute runtime of an episode.

I'm quite content with the episode on the whole. Save for the fact that I wish this episode didn't feature all of the regular characters, it's a great adaptation of a simple, yet memorable story. Next week (and probably the week after) will be an adaptation of The Rosenkreuz Mansion Murder Case, which was one of the best stories of the last few years, so expectations are high!

Original Japanese title(s): 『金田一少年の事件簿N』 サブタイトル「雪影村殺人事件」


  1. I'm actually curious about the Heretic Mansion case. It's the one Kindaichi story I've never been able to obtain, and I can't read kanji without the hiragana, so light novels are a no go unless put in anime form. If you could please, could I get some details about the story/case/trick? Or point me towards where such details couldbe found?

    1. I don't remember the details anymore, but it was about Hajime visiting some old friends: four orphaned children who were all adopted by someone, all of them a genius in their own fields. Hajime had become friends with them over the summer or something like that and they had an adventure in an old creepy abandonded mansion once. Years later and a chance look at an old newspaper cutting makes Hajime realize he might have been the witness of a murder during the adventure in the empty house. His visit to the friends however is the start of new murders, all revolving around the book "Jashuumon". I don't remember the trick really, but like the Yukikage Village story, it was a minimalistic story with a limited cast and less focus on the mystery and more on how Hajime deals with his friends.

    2. And let me guess....one of his friends ends up being the murderer? :p

  2. Is the Glass Hammer episode from the TV Show as good as the original novel? (not talking about kindaichi)

  3. I don't know why Saki and Makabe getting too much screen time. in manga they are nothing more than side character but live-action treated them as one of main character. atleast Miyuki would be the one showing up if producer want Hajime not came alone.

    I have so high expection about RosenKreuz since IMO is best Kindaichi case since 21st century and it's one of my all time favorite case. I prayed to god that producer don't mess it by change storyline(like they usually do) this case too beautiful to change anything. too bad we don't see it in anime version(can't understand animator though)

    But atleast actress of character I care so much is good enough. so i think an adaption will be OK.

    1. I want to keep my expectations in check because of the Count of Monte Cristo adaptation, but I do think Rosenkreuz is easier to do right.

  4. Umm, I didn't find your Spiral review

    1. I would be surprised if you had, because I never wrote one for Spiral, though I occasionally refer to the series in other reviews.

    2. Oh, I remember TomCat over at Beneath the Stains of Time wrote one in the past!