Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Kindaichi Case Files: The Undying Butterflies (manga, vol. 17) by Yozaburo Kanari (story) and Fumiya Sato (art)

While looking at a magazine article, Kindaichi, a crime-solving high school student, sees a murderer from one of his previous cases, someone who's supposed to be dead. Kindaichi, his friend Miyuki, and Itsuki (a reporter) travel to the Madarame Estate to check out this man they think is the murderer Eiji Touno. Shimon Madarame is a famous butterfly enthusiast - he has supposedly revived an extinct species of butterfly, one that is known for its ability to glow in the dark. Although Kindaichi and the others in his party have come to investigate the man who looks like Eiji Touno (Shimon Madarame's assistant, Hikage Miyama), there's something unsettling about the Madarame household. Shimon Madarame's youngest daughter hates him for some reason, and all Shimon seems to care about is butterflies - his daughters are even named after butterflies.

The Black Butterfly of Death, a butterfly with marking that look a human skeleton's ribs, keeps getting spotted, and, one by one, Shimon Madarame's family turns up murdered, beginning with his youngest daughter. Shimon's middle daughter is barely saved by Miyama (the two are secretly in love with each other), and Kindaichi must race to discover the murderer before all his or her intended victims have been killed. In the end, it's discovered that something in Shimon Madarame's past is a vital clue to discovering the identity of the killer.

I was actually kind of shocked when I discovered who the killer was in this volume - I mean, the thought of it is kind of icky, when you think about his relationship to the Madarame family and what he was doing in order to get close to them. In some ways, I enjoyed this volume more than volume 16 - the ending was so tragic. The entire Madarame family was just so messed up and doomed. Even if those daughters hadn't been killed, this wasn't ever going to be a happy family.

I loved the artwork in this volume, too. The use of the butterfly patterns in the daughters' kimonos was lovely, even if it was also kind of creepy (another example of Shimon's obsession with butterflies).

One thing I did wonder about was the single page in which Shimon Madarame had his wife tied up on a wall, wearing a butterfly kimono. It was actually somewhat disturbing. Did he torture her to punish her for once having loved someone besides him? How could she continue to stay married to someone like that? I know she explains her reasons at the end of the volume, but that's some crazily long-term vengeance.

Overall, I really enjoyed this volume, even though I've never read the volume in which Touno was introduced (volume 6). I still found everything easy to follow, and I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery on my own. As far as extras go, there's not much, other than a page at the beginning introducing newcomers to the series to the premise and three characters (Kindaichi, Miyuki, and Detective Kenmochi, who doesn't even show up in this volume).

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Loveless (anime TV series); Loveless (manga) by Yun Kouga - Twelve-year-old Ritsuka's life isn't very normal - his older brother died not too long ago, his mother is physically abusive, and a strange 19-year-old man named Soubi has shown up, claiming to have known his brother. Soubi says he is Ritsuka's Fighter, while Ritsuka is a Sacrifice. Ritsuka slowly comes to understand what this means, as he learns to battle other Fighter-Sacrifice pairs who may be able to lead him to knowledge about his brother's death. Those who'd like another anime with a suspenseful aspect, in which butterflies play a role, might enjoy this series.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 an episode involving a mother and her two daughters that reminded me a bit of this volume of The Kindaichi Case Files.

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