Murder, Magic, and Madness: Kindaichi Spin-off Manga

narutaki_icon_4040 It has been a long, long time since TokyoPop released some (nearly all of it actually, 22 volumes worth out of 27) of the original Kindaichi Case Files by Youzaburou Kanari and Fumiya Satou manga stateside. This was in their early days, with 100% Authentic emblazing the covers. In Japan, long has Kindaichi reigned alongside Detective Conan as an institution.

Still, in the last year it feels as though there has been an extra resurgence for the Kindaichi franchise. A new anime has premiered, more live action has been announced, and two spin-off manga series have debuted. In a shocking twist, those spin-off manga have been made available for English-speaking fans via Kodansha’s MangaBox App.

hisui_icon_4040 I always felt like Kindaichi Case Files was Green Arrow to Detective Conan‘s Batman. Batman and Green Arrow are similar enough that they get constantly compared to each other but different enough that you can’t call them carbon copies of each other. The thing is Batman has always just been a major tier above his fellow billionaire superhero. As the current Arrow TV show proves the Green Arrow character is hardly forgotten but at the same time he is just always one step behind the more popular character. But let’s make it clear: Kindaichi is still a popular manga detective character. It is not like Detective Conan is Transformers and Kindaichi is Gobots. That is just an insulting comparison. It is just that any big anime fan has probably heard of Detective Conan but you would not be super surprised if American fans were unaware of Kindaichi.

So this Kindaichi renaissance is a bit unexpected but not utterly surprising. The main benefit of this recent surge is that we are now getting a lot of this new material in this era of simulcasts and simulpubs. When Crunchyroll picked up The File of Young Kindaichi Returns it was pretty hard to miss the announcement if you watching anything streaming but MangaBox is not anywhere near as high-profile. So as manga bloggers and detective aficionados we felt it was our duty to talk about these two titles that you can read for free.

narutaki_icon_4040 MangaBox is a free digital manga site and app from across the pond. It gives you the chance to sample and keep up with various Kodansha titles with new content released on a daily basis.

The web reader is very simple, chapter comes up in the browser and you can page through either with the arrow keys or clicking at the sides of the image. It readjusted its size for my browser window and doesn’t seem to have a zoom option which might be a problem for those with smaller monitors. Also, you can’t jump ahead, you just have to keep paging through if left off somewhere in the middle. It became clear that the website was really just a giant advertisement for the app.

There isn’t a way to purchase the manga on MangaBox so sometimes you can’t read up to the latest chapter available because earlier chapters may have already been taken down. However, the first chapter is always up. I was pretty confused at first by this, this system isn’t clearly stated on the web where I was primarily using it. The app is a bit better which Hisui used.

hisui_icon_4040  MangaBox is an odd duck as it stands now. It is a free way to read a wide variety of manga slightly outside of your normal purview. That is great. The problem is it clearly wants to be a pay site but you can’t pay for chapters yet. The first several chapters of any manga are available in “digest” form. Then past that point all the chapters come out in little batches every day. They are then bundled weekly as if they were all titles in an anthology magazine. After a certain number of weeks any chapters not in the initial digest chapters are taken off the site. There seems to be an option to buy older chapters on the app but that part of the program is not done yet.

This means that you can always read the first few chapters of a series but past that there is no way to read any of the expired middle chapters. When we wrote this review the first three and last five chapters of Kindaichi Case Files: Takato’s Side were available but there was no way to read the 8 chapters in between. So I could have skipped to the end but I would have missed everything else. As it stands that is less than ideal but if you read this article 6 months from now you won’t even be able to skip to the end and get some conclusion. If this was just a commercial for the print releases that would be fine but as it stands they really need to start giving you some method to see the older chapters by either letting you buy old chapters or selling a subscription that lets you read their back content. That is not that important with something episodic like Spoof on Titan but it could be hard to keep an audience with any title that has story arcs until there is some solution in place.

As a side note the iPhone app constant asks you if you want to read another “eipsode” instead of episode. Someone should really correct that. Also you can really tell that this is based on the Japanese app because they have the ability to mention to people what chapter you are reading with LINE.


narutaki_icon_4040 Kindaichi Case Files: The Mini-Vacation pairs Seimaru Amagi with Awabako for a silly take on these well-known characters. The art has a more modern feel with cute, rounder proportions which also adds to the humor.

This spin-off is a series of comedy shorts often poking fun at the fact that wherever Kindaichi and Miyuki go horrible or at least bizarre things have usually happened. I love that jumping off point because it is something that mystery fans and writers are always aware of.

Miyuki has the best reactions as she is continually hit with awareness of all the deaths she has witnessed. That sounds grim, but it just ends up being hysterical. Especially because Kindaichi is much less fazed by anything, more his usual self but taken to an extreme. Miyuki isn’t exactly the best part of real Kindaich Case Files but she sure is the best part of Mini-Vacation!

I got a kick out of these first three chapters, all very short, and didn’t feel like I needed to remember each case to find it funny.

hisui_icon_4040 The Kindaichi Case Files’ claim to fame is that the killers usually go into a detailed examination of why they did what they did more than how they did it when they confess to their crimes. In fact every Kindaichi animated story I have seen has been several episodes with the last episode mostly being the killer laying out the details of their motive and what tragedy drove them to take a life. So while there is a bit of humor in the series it is best known for its melodramatic endings. Those grand operatic endings alongside the normal genre tropes of any mystery series lend a series like Kindaichi Case Files to a wide variety of parody.

All the chapters seem to be call backs to previous places Kindaichi and Miyuki have gone and certain traumas and events they experienced there (they do use some flash backs in thought bubbles that use material from the original manga that is still in the original manga’s style). Unlike the main story that are no grisly deaths and twisted murders. The most dangerous it gets is when martial arts that Kindaichi defeated breaks out of jail to kick his ass. That guy is conquered with an embarrassing photo album. This is hardly Monster + Seven.

While one or two of the jokes probably would have more impact if you have read the cases they are spoofing but I still got most of the jokes regardless. If you want to see a gentle little ribbing of the genre in general or Kindaichi in particular than this is worth taking a look.

narutaki_icon_4040 Kindaichi Case Files: Takato’s Side pairs Seimaru Amagi with the original artist of Kindaichi Case Files Fumiya Satou for a more serious look at the origin’s of Kindaichi greatest rival Takato.

The first chapter is kind of amazingly boring. It mostly consists of Takato meeting and joining the magic club at his school. Then we finally get a death in the last three pages. I know it sounds awful, but that I what I was wanting and waiting for. The introduction of the group felt stilted, like it was just going through the motions before leading up to the important thing: the murder. At least the mystery itself has not only a locked room hook but also a gruesome execution that makes you very curious about how it was pulled off.

Still, Takuto doesn’t feel all that engaging himself, he feels so blah in the personality department as a lead at this point. I could easily flip past pages just to find out how the murder was pulled off without caring about the why.

hisui_icon_4040 While I felt like you could go into The Mini-Vacation cold I do feel like we were missing a dimension with this story. It is not that you would be lost by just reading this story by itself. Nothing in the baseline narrative structure requires you to have read the main story. But I feel some of the impact of this being Takato’s story is diminished because we are not long time fans of the series. I think Kate’s boredom with the first chapter might not have been as great if she knew the protagonist.

Since I have never seen a story with Yoichi Takato I thought he was a slightly twisted rival to Kindaichi. A dark detective that had far less morals that his peer. But as the second chapter went on I did a little research and found out that  Takato is in fact a psychopathic mastermind. A mixture of Johan Liebert and Professor Moriarty. The Ano Kata to Kindaichi’s Conan Edogawa. He usually sends lesser criminals after Kindaichi while keeping his own hands clean. That makes me wonder if part of the thrill of the first chapter is supposed to be waiting to see when Takato‘s mask of humanity starts to slip away. Experienced readers know that a terrible monster is actually the main character and are waiting to see if and when he plays his hidden cards.

Beyond that it is a fairly standard set up. A teacher sees the brilliant but isolated Takato and gets him to join the school’s magic club in hopes that it might make him more sociable. After a few days he is a regular member of the club but all of that comes to an end when one of the members of the club is murdered. Takato looks for the killer but you get the feeling to see more if they are worth recruiting than to avenge the murder of one of his classmates.

Like Kate said the main problem is Takato is sort of bland. While a bit of his nastier personality occasionally floats to the surface most of the time he is so compartmentalized that he comes off like a robot. So the murder and the trick around it is interesting but Takato comes off as sleepwalking though the case. I wonder if it is a case of a character that is good in small doses in the shadows but finds it hard to maintain the audience’s interest when fully in the spotlight for an extended period of time.

narutaki_icon_4040 More mystery manga is always welcome, especially for a seminal series like Kindaichi. Digital releases seem like the way to go for many of these Japanese titles that publishers don’t see as viable for release in the U.S. If only we could get the main series as a digital manga release!

hisui_icon_4040 I’m glad to see a detective series playing on TV and being serialized on the web that is not a silly parody or about a creepy NEET. Cuticle Detective Inaba and The Severing Crime Edge do make us a happy pair of Reverse Thieves. So something in a more traditional and solid formula is very welcome. I look forward to seeing more titles like this.


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