Friday, December 19, 2008

The Kindaichi Case Files: The Magical Express (manga, vol. 16) by Yozaburo Kanari (story) and Fumiya Sato (art)

Hajime Kindaichi is a high school student who is regarded by his classmates and teachers as something of a loser. However, he's actually a brilliant crime-solver, and the grandson of Japan's most famous detective, Kousuke Kindaichi. In this volume, the police have received a mysterious puzzle box containing a twisted marionette and a note from "The Puppetmaster" saying that something bad is going to happen on a certain train, on a certain date. The police enlist Hajime Kindaichi's help and plan to ride the train on that date. Also on the train at the same time is a magic troupe - after the Puppetmaster employs some misdirection, the first victim is discovered to be one of the members of the magic troupe, whose body is staged to look just like the twisted marionette.

Kindaichi and the police continue to investigate after the train has reached its destination, even as more members of the magic troupe continue to die. It eventually becomes clear that the deaths are linked to the magic troupe's past and the death of one of its former members.

This is the first time I've ever read anything in this series. It's not really the kind of thing I'd buy, since I doubt I'd ever want to reread it, but it was still fun. Basically, it's got an old school mystery feel, with the kind of clues that allow you to either solve the mystery yourself or at least get most of the way there. At certain places in the volume, previous events are summarized and all the characters are listed - the ones who have died and can therefore no longer be considered suspects are grayed out.

Overall, I liked this volume. The artwork and story are both clear and easy to follow, which is a plus for a mystery. Even though I jumped into this series at a rather late stage, the character info at the beginning of the volume helped me understand some of the character dynamics. Besides, it's not like the character dynamics and premise of the story are all that complicated (or very original) - the important thing is the mystery, and that was entirely self-contained in this volume.

As far as extras go, there's really nothing besides the page of stuff at the beginning designed to introduce new readers to the recurring characters and the series. However, since this volume costs the same amount as Tokyopop's other titles ($9.99) and is maybe twice as thick as the volumes of other Tokyopop series, there's still a lot here for your money.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Tactics (anime TV series) - Kantaro is a folklorist who can see monsters (in the loose sense of the word) that others can't. All his life, he's been determined to find and befriend the demon-eating goblin. One day, he does, but the relationship is a bit bumpier than Kantaro might have hoped. Those who'd like another series composed mostly of one-shot stories and mysteries might like this anime. In addition, there's one particular episode involving a doll-maker that might appeal to those who enjoyed the marionette dolls in this volume of The Kindaichi Case Files.
  • Case Closed (anime TV series); Case Closed (manga) by Gosho Aoyama - High school detective Kudo Shinichi is well-known in Japan as a genius crime-solver. Unfortunately, after he is drugged by two mysterious men in black, he wakes up to discover that his body is now that of a child. Shinichi hides his identity as he tries to find clues about the men in black through the clients and cases of a pathetic, second-class detective. Those who'd like another story involving a boy crime-solver and one-shot mysteries might enjoy this title.
  • Descendants of Darkness (manga) by Yoko Matsushita; Descendants of Darkness (anime TV series) - Even after death, there's paperwork to do and criminals to catch. Tsuzuki Asato is a somewhat goofy (yet powerful) shinigami (god of death) whose job involves ensuring that the dead remain properly dead and out of the lives of the living. Tsuzuki gets a new partner, Hisoka, and the cases they investigate keep bringing them up against Muraki, a serial killer. Muraki seems to know an awful lot about Tsuzuki and Hisoka's darkest secrets. Those who'd like another story involving (at first, anyway) one-shot mysteries might enjoy this title.
  • Black Jack (manga) by Osamu Tezuka; Black Jack (anime TV series) - Black Jack is brilliant unlicensed doctor who helps those who'll pay him, those he takes mercy on, and those who touch his heart. He doesn't need to follow the same rules other doctors do, and he can do things for his patients that few other doctors are capable of. Those who'd like another series with an old school feel (actually, this really does count as old school) and one-shot stories might enjoy this title.
  • The Prestige (live action movie) - Robert and Alfred are rival magicians obsessed with coming up with the ultimate magic trick. When Alfred performs a trick so fantastic that it appears to truly be magic, Robert desperately tries to figure out his secret. Those who'd like another story in which characters will do just about anything to get the secret of an ultimate magic trick might enjoy this movie.
  • Murder on the Orient Express (book) by Agatha Christie - An American businessman is stabbed to death on the Orient Express, and Hercule Poirot is determined to discover who murdered him and why. Those who enjoyed the "murder on the train" aspect of this volume of The Kindaichi Case Files and who would like to try to puzzle through an even more complex mystery might like this book.

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