Monday, December 29, 2014

The Scarlet Letter

何処か遠くの街に居るあの人へのHappy Birthday
「Happy Birthday」 (杏子)

I cry out loudly to the skies above this lively city
To that person somewhere in a faraway city Happy Birthday
"Happy Birthday" (Kyouko)
The previous post was actually meant as the last update this year, but the mailman decided differently. This time, the real last update of 2014, a Short Short post with a selection of great drawn and animated mystery from Japan. Also, I have to mention it again: why do they always release Kindaichi Shounen and Detective Conan on or around the same day?!

Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R 4 ("The Young Kindaichi Case Files R 4") continues the Fox Fire Float Murder Case which started in the previous volume and is a surprisingly well-made story. The news of the death of a childhood friend brings a group of ex-boy and girl scouts back together, now all grown up as high school students. One of them is Hajime, grandson of the famous detective Kindaichi Kousuke, who still has fond memories of a camp trip many years ago (in which the kids got lost for two days, and Hajime managed to save one of the girls who was bit by a poisonous snake). But death seldom rides alone, and during their stay in the little village, more of Hajime's friends are killed, with all murders being 'decorated' following local fox legends. It is obvious that one of his friends must be the murderer, but who and why?

When I say that The Fox Fire Float Murder Case is a good story, I mean that in the sense of its dramatic qualities. As a mystery story, I'd have to say that it's not a particularly strong story: the tricks the murderer performs are not difficult to guess and even the identity of the murderer is incredibly easy. And like always, the motive is Revenge Because of A Tragic Past. What did I like about the story then? Well, it's neat to see that Hajime is actually part of the Tragic Past. Usually, we see a murderer crying about something horrible (s)he had to suffer because of the victims and we're presented with some sort of long flashback that is supposed to get you emotionally (the mileage on the effectiveness of that may vary). This time however, flashbacks to camp are spread throughout the story, in the form of Hajime talking about his own past. It makes the actual narrative-aspects of the story much more enjoyable, as we have a murderer from Hajime's own personal circle (in the past). The ending in particular is fantastic. The personal angle been done before, for example in The Yukikage Village Murder Case, but like in that story, The Fox Fire Float Murder Case feels fresh because it approaches the series' formula from another angle. The mystery plot is a bit weak, but overall I think this was a solid story that continues the quality of the R series.

Detective Conan 85 is a volume I've been waiting for for a long time. It's already been half a year since the previous volume?! I remember a time when the wait between volumes was about three months. Anyway, this is the volume fans have been waiting for for years. Literally. The Scarlet Truth Revealed gives answers to questions first raised in volume 58, which was originally released in 2007! While after seven years, I think most of the faithful readers had already guessed most of the truth behind the infamous Raiha Pass Incident, which has been the main propulsion for the plot of Detective Conan the last couple of years (especially with the confirmation they put in Detective Conan: Dimensional Sniper), but it was still a pleasure to read this story: once you realize how carefully Aoyama has built this story, the hints he hid throughout the years, it's just amazing.

Seriously, think about it: for seven years, Aoyama has been carefully leaving hints and clues, spread across a variety of 'minor' and unrelated stories, all as a build-up to this moment. Seven years! And the hints have been completely fair, but at the same time I doubt anyone had figured out Aoyama's master plan in details. I too had guessed most of the truth behind the Raiha Pass Incident, but I had overlooked quite some little details that showed how careful Aoyama planned this story, but also how fair he has been these seven years. It's too bad this is a difficult story to 'just' recommend: as a detective story, purely looking at its qualities as a mystery story, the whole Raiha Pass Incident story (starting in 2007) is a fantastic story. But because it is spread across different minor stories, it's also near impossible to ask someone to 'just' read it: you'd have to go through almost 30 volumes of Detective Conan to get the full effect! (But the pay-off is incredible).

The volume also contains The Trap of the Headless Shogi Player (coded message based on shogi terms and another Traffic Agent Yumi love story) and A Mystery Sunken in A Midsummer Pool (dead body suddenly appearing in a hotel pool), but they are just boring compared to The Scarlet Truth Revealed. Wait, no, The Trap of the Headless Shougi Player is boring even without the comparison.

To commemorate the twentieth birthday of Detective Conan, a TV special was broadcast on December 26. Titled The Disappearance of Edogawa Conan - The Worst Two Days in History, this special was not only 'just' an anniversary special, it was also heavily promoted as being based on a script by film director Uchida Kenji. The special starts with Conan witnessing a suspicious deal going on in the local public bath, but before he's able to do anything he... slips on the floor and hits his head. The two mysterious men, one the infamous hired killer Kondou, the other a tricksman called The Ad Lib Dragon, abduct Conan (claiming to bring him to the hospital), but in True Great Television tradition, they discover that Conan has lost his memory because he hit his head. The two men are apparently busy with some kind of big deal, and they are told by their boss to bring the now helpless Conan along, as a child will come handy for their plans. Meanwhile, Haibara and professor Agasa find out that Conan has been kidnapped by dangerous people and try to locate him.

I am divided about this TV special. It is definitely a good mystery story. I've never seen anything by Uchida Kenji, but I loved the mystery plot and especially how it played with the viewer's expectations. Neat scene cuts, fairly well pacing (the middle part is a bit boring, but there's a reason for that) and good stuff is done in the ninety minutes runtime. As a mystery movie, I can easily recommend this to any viewer. On the other hand, I am pretty sure this was not originally written for Detective Conan. This was just a story Uchida had and rewrote to add in Conan and the gang. Most of the story is actually about the legendary hitman Kondou, the current job and the other crooks involved in the business and you can just feel that Conan was just added to the original story. So I quite liked it as a standalone mystery story, but not really much as a Conan story, as the Conan link was just so obviously added in the plot at a much later stage.

But in the I-definitely-liked-this category: the first half has an almost unbelievably active Haibara. The first half could easily have been called Detective Ai. Actually, make me a Detective Ai special!

And that wraps this post and this year up!

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4巻、青山剛昌 『名探偵コナン』第85巻、青山剛昌(原) 『江戸川コナン失踪事件 ~史上最悪の二日間』


  1. Oh, that's great. I'm merely 10 volumes removed from the beginning of that ingenious sounding, seven year spanning storyline. But a great note to end the year on. All the best for the next one!

    1. FWIW, you're already at the build-up to this story. And best wishes to you too!

  2. If there's one thing that Kindaichi does right, it's definitely it's ability to mask up the somewhat fillerish pages and/or episodes with great and heavy atmosphere. That's why cases like the Snow Demon case and Kenmochi the killer cases felt like they were worth it at the end of the day.
    Well to be honest this kind of makes me worried about how many ideas the authors have left, because Hajime is not the only main character of the series. The main antagonists have tragic past, Kenmochi has tragic past... "Ehh... Throw one for Hajime also"? Though that's what I kind of also mean with the fact that they can hide these kind of moments with great atmosphere.

    As for Conan... What can I say? "Amuro" is definitely one of my favourite characters ever by now. It's kind of interesting because I didn't think of him too much in the past.

    Never heard of the special, is it a movie?

    1. No. You say it yourself, it's /not/ a movie, it's a special. An original TV special. It was broadcast just last weekend.

  3. Who do you think is the most intelligent between Shinichi Kudo, Hajime Kindaichi and Ayumu Narumi?

    1. I don't really care for these Superman VS Gokuu-esque comparisons between series actually. But I can say that Hajime's IQ is stated to be 180, and I think Aoyama once mentioned that Shinichi's IQ is probably actually surprisingly normal (then again: Kaito's IQ is said to be 400). Don't know about Ayumu, it's been too long ago since I read Spiral.

      But Conan probably has the highest IQ, considering he has the same mind as Shinichi, but is a lot younger.

  4. why do they always release Kindaichi Shounen and Detective Conan on or around the same day
    Kodansha release their manga every 17th of each month and Shokagukan release every 18th. it just a coincidence they release in same month.

    Where is Kindaichi's volume left off? end of Fire Fox case or have another new case? or Fire Fox not complete finish yet? maybe I confused since Kindaichi used to have 1 case per 1.5 volumes. so 3 cases in 4 volumes sound unfamillilar

    1. The thing is, Shogakukan and Kodansha don't release /all/ of their manga on the same day, even from the same publications. Conan 82 for example was released on January 17, 2014, while Gin no Saji 10 released on January 8, 2014, even though both run in Sunday. So while I know it's just a coincidence, I do think it's funny that both the release day and month often coincide. Not that I complain. It saves me the hassle of having making seperate orders.

      And volume 4 ends with the Fox Fire story. Long cases in Kindachi have been closer to 1.3 volumes the last couple of years actually.