The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide The File of Young Kindaichi Returns
Apr 5th 2014
Review: First of all, I think the Japanese executives who enforced this English title were looking for something to the tune of "Kindaichi Case Files Returns." Oh well. It's not like this was a show with much appeal in the west anyway. Based on a long-running mystery manga, like over 20 years long-running, Kindaichi Case Files is a proto-cessor of Detective Conan, which is to say they aren't actually related, but it sure seems like it. Serialized only two years prior to Conan, Kindaichi is composed of episodic mysteries solved by a brilliant-but-unusual teen detective alongside his spunky and violent childhood friend turned almost-girlfriend and a swappable cast of sidekicks. They're pretty much the same show, but while Conan never stopped running on TV, "Returns" is a return to animation for the Kindaichi franchise after being restricted to comics-only adventures for the last 14 years. Being a huge fan of Detective Conan myself, I'm biased in its favor over Kindaichi Case Files, whose conceit of starring a lazy pervert teen is not as interesting as Shinichi Kudo's self-serious ego being restricted to a five-year old's body, and the side characters of Conan seem more unique than Kindaichi's as well. (Early in the episode, an agent mistakes Kindaichi's gal pal for a famous model and says "Are you Ran?" With Detective Conan on the brain, I laughed at the screen, "Yeah, you wish!")
That said, Kindaichi aims to compensate for its shrug-worthy premise by starting off with a bang, and its premiere case is a solid attention grabber that Conan might have saved for a theatrical movie. Kindaichi and friends are off to China after his lady friend Miyuki is offered a glamorous trip to participate in a modeling show there, doubling for a paranoid incognito model. The adventure starts off light and entertaining, and the pace only ramps up from there as kidnappings beget chase scenes beget a search for treasure ending in an unexpected murder. The episode feels like it's only five minutes long, and the main characters' lives are at stake from the get-go rather than diverting attention to the suspects of the week.
The short version is that if you enjoy Detective Conan and don't mind swapping its lovable characters out for some new faces in the formula, Young Kindaichi Returns may be worth a look. Production-wise, it's wonkier-looking than Case Closed, and the characters may take some sweetening on new viewers, but a mystery show is a mystery show, and Kindaichi Returns has taken off with its best foot forward.
The File of Young Kindaichi Returns is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.
Review: I love a good mystery. Not those “hide some backstory” mysteries that shonen action shows peddle, but a mystery. A big Agatha Christie stumper, where red herring come flopping out of the woodwork, suspects lurk around every bend, and clues are squirreled away in obscure corners of the story. The kind where you have to race some sharp sleuth to the answer and afterwards can look back in pleasure on how the author tried to bamboozle you. Now, it's a little early to say if Kindaichi Returns is going to be one of the good ones—this episode barely even gets us to the central murder, much less to the case's conclusion—but the signs are good.
Kindaichi Returns, as the name suggests, is a sequel. But don't let that deter you. The show's basics are easy to pick up on, and the show's classical mystery structure is pretty much universal. Our detective is, quite naturally, Kindaichi. He's the grandson of a famous sleuth and at least rumored to be a genius, though you wouldn't know that from his awful grades and slobby demeanor. His best friend is Miyuki, a girl he's known since kindergarten. When she gets an invitation to go modeling in Hong Kong, she accepts and brings Kindaichi along. And when she disappears from a mall dressing room, it's game on.
There are things that are off about Kindaichi Returns. Kindaichi's hideous rat-tail for one. And Taiki Matsuno's performance, which has that awkward quality that comes when an actor has aged out of his/her role. There are also a lot of too-convenient coincidences and plot contrivances. But the things that matter are in place. The show's mystery is multi-pronged and, more important, multi-episode. The herring are a-flopping, the suspects a-lurking, and best of all, I haven't already solved the damned thing. Which, for a mystery, is definitely the way to start.
The File of Young Kindaichi Returns is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)
Review: Although Detective Conan (aka Case Closed) preceded it into anime form by a few months,the manga Kindaichi Case Files actually predates Detective Conan’s source manga by a couple of years, hence making it one of the earliest titles in the mystery manga genre. (In fact, the similarities between the two in basic concept – an ace teen mystery-solver with a pretty childhood friend who has a very similar appearance in both cases – are enough that Kindaichi could have been an influence on Conan.) It had an anime series and a couple of movies which spanned most of the late ‘90s and has had live-action adaptations since, so the franchise has never really gone away in Japan. This newest anime form is doubtless linked to a recent 20th anniversary revival of the manga.
No familiarity with the earlier content is needed to jump right in on this one, however, as the original series (like Conan) was largely episodic and the first episode of this one casually scatters the basic details throughout: Hajime Kindaichi is a seemingly lackadaisical high school student, albeit an incredibly smart one. As the grandson of a famous detective, he and longtime friend Miyuki Nanase often wind up being involved with mysterious criminal cases that typically involve murder. In this case Miyuki's nearly identical appearance to a model for Tokyo Girly Mode gets her an invite as a stand-in at a show in Hong Kong when the original model disappears. On their arrival in Hong Kong they meet a classmate visiting with his family, but that doesn't prevent Miyuki from being kidnaped by people who think she is Ran, the original model. Hajime and classmate eventually encounter the original Ran and discover that this may all have to do with a dragon tattoo Ran has, which is supposed to be the key to a lost, highly valuable diamond. With Ran now posing as Miyuki, they go to Girly Mode to see if they can ferret out the culprit. But a mysterious murder awaits them there.
This first episode is apparently the first of a two-parter, and it is a well-paced affair which offers a mystery with interesting twists but nothing too gimmicky. It does start off with a fairly graphic stabbing which is connected to this treasure in as-yet-unexplained ways, and it does update the franchise to employ up-to-date technology like smart phones. The artistry, though hardly spectacular, is also a significant step up from Detective Conan. If mystery series are your cup of tea then this one should work just fine.
The File of Young Kindaichi Returns is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Some of you may remember Hajime Kindaichi, fictional grandson of the Japanese equivalent of Columbo, from the manga series published by TokyoPop, to say nothing of various other media incarnations, including anime and live action dramas. If you were a fan then, you're probably as excited as I am... now to see him back, and while this first episode is really just setting up the case, it certainly looks promising.
Perpetual high schoolers Hajime and Miyuki, along with their underclassman Saki, find themselves in Hong Kong for this introductory case. Miyuki is stopped on the street by a producer and asked to fill in for a missing model in a prestigious fashion show in Hong Kong. Miyuki is tickled not only to be asked, but that she even looks enough like model Ran to fill in, and so the gang heads off. Once there, however, mysterious events begin to happen, culminating in the death of a man involved in the fashion show, thus setting the stage for Kindaichi to begin his investigations. As set ups go, this is fairly solid, with backstory going back twenty years and a murder/kidnapping combination that is pretty intriguing. The unfortunate thing is that because it is all set up, we don't get to see much of Kindaichi in action. So far we've had a lot of characters introduced and the basics of the crimes played out, and not much else. Presumably there are a lot of clues sprinkled around, but since we don't really know where this is headed yet, it's hard to pinpoint anything definite. I kind of wish that this had been an hour long show, or at least first episode, to really get things going.
Readers of the manga will find the characters comfortably familiar in their looks, if not in voice – Hajime's voice is a little higher than might have been expected – and the busy backgrounds of Hong Kong are interesting, showing contrast between slums and more prosperous areas. Characters occasionally appear off-model and most movement is kept to a minimum, but animation is certainly serviceable enough. The real draw to this show lies in the writing, and right now it's a little hard to say if that will live up to (my, at least) expectations. It looks like a solid start, however, so if you've been missing this series, it's worth checking out its latest version...but I'd maybe wait until episode two is up as well.
Kindaichi Case Files Returns is available on Crunchyroll.
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