FIVE TO TRY: Japanese Thrillers Even Mystery Lovers Can Enjoy

Mysteries and thrillers have had such a wedge driven between them that for the two to overlap is often a spectacle worth noting as rare exceptions, such as the spectacular “puzzle boxes” of film director Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar). While the western incarnations of these exceptions are often highly well-documented in our little blogging niche of the internet, those crossovers between purified detective stories and thriller from Japan are significantly less publicized than their straightforward honkaku (“authentic”) detective story counterparts.

And so, cribbing the title of this post from Jim Noy’s “FIVE TO TRY” posts over at his spectacular blog, The Invisible Event, I intend to offer to western fans of Golden Age mysteries and detection five Japanese thrillers which appeal even to our specific sensibilities! These aren’t just any old “mystery-thrillers” or “thriller-mysteries” or whatever other permutation of genre names you want to think of; these are thrillers which contain a style and nature of plotting which I believe should specifically appeal to fans of the Golden Age standard and method of mystery plotting!

So, below are my five picks for Japanese thrillers which I believe even those in our little nook of the internet can enjoy!

Death Note

The quintessential Japanese mystery-thriller, Death Note is predominantly a manga series about Light Yagami, a high-school student who discovers a supernatural notebook called “The Death Note”, writing in which allows Light Yagami to kill any person as long as he knows both the real name and face of that person. Now going by the alias of “Kira” (Killer) ascribed to him by the media, Light Yagami is tracked down by a master detective who goes by the enigmatic name of “L”.

Death Note is the very first entry that came to my mind when I decided to compile a list of thrillers which I believe even English-speaking authentic mystery fans could read and enjoy. The series is possibly the most well-known “cat-and-mouse” thriller from Japan to English-speakers, with the story following both the perspectives of the criminal Light and the detective L in equal measure.

Despite its supernatural premise, the eponymous Death Note is guided by a set of strict, unbendable rules which dictate how it can and cannot be used, making it a verifiable example of the hybrid mystery. Furthermore, while L can sometimes resort to “moon logic” (wildly convoluted or counterintuitive reasoning), typically his reasoning is based on information the audience is also privy too. And since Light/Kira’s responses are equally guided by reasoning based on information known to the audience, it can be said that despite being labeled a “supernatural thriller”, Death Note is as much a fairplay detective story as any other inverted mystery, in which we’re equally capable of reasoning along with both sides of the crime: commission and detection.

I recommend this most to people who: like inverted mysteries and capers; don’t mind supernatural elements in their mysteries; enjoy following the psychology of the villain.


Billed by Wikipedia as a “psychological thriller”, LIAR GAME is a multi-media franchise which began with a manga (Japanese comic book) about Nao Kanzaki, a naive college student who is suddenly sent 100 million yen (roughly $760,000 USD) and instructed that is now a competitor in the Liar Game Tournament, a multi-stage competition in which participants are encouraged to cheat, betray each other, and lie in order to get their hands on each other’s money!

…A problem, indeed, for the “foolishly honest” Nao Kanzaki.

In this tournament, the competition is split into various stages in which contestants play games of wits to overcome their opponents and win their money. For instance, the very first game is a game called “Minority Rule”, in which contestants are asked to answer yes/no questions. If your answer is the minority, you move on to the next round of the game, but if your answer is the majority you are immediately disqualified… Of course, however, as players are permitted to lie, there are three questions you must ask yourself every round: (1.) how many of my competitors does this question apply to, (2.) how many of my competitors know the answer to question 1, and therefore (3.) how likely are the competitors to lie, and is it beneficial to me to answer correctly or lie?

As Nao Kanzaki moves through the various stages of this tournament, instead of keeping the money for herself, she begins to use the earnings to buy her contestants out of their debt and, hopefully, slowly dismantle the Liar Game Tournament Organization from within the game itself…

LIAR GAME is almost certainly the closest thing you’re going to get to “fairplay mystery plotting” in something which is, frankly, not even a “mystery” at all. Rather than dealing with murders or thefts, in LIAR GAME the puzzle is always “how can Nao mathematically maximize or even guarantee her chances at winning each game?” Information is never hidden from the audience, and with a close enough understanding of the rules, the player is constantly in possession of all the details they need to see Nao’s path to likely or certain victory! In every game, outcomes can be forced, rules can be cleverly exploited, and nothing is ever left entirely up to chance or victory. A stage for many complex math puzzles and logic problems, LIAR GAME is almost like a mystery story in which you follow a protagonist who has to solve, not crimes, but purified riddles! Something like The Hunger Games, but with competitive puzzle solving.

This genre of story is not uncommon in manga, often called “gambling” or “game” stories, but very few few manage to be as good as LIAR GAME, which is as complex, satisfying, and fair as any crime story!

I recommend this most to people who: like riddles, logic problems, and math puzzles; are interested in game philosophy, game theory, and logic theory, especially as it applies to gambling; enjoy heavily rule-dictated conflicts.

Raging Loop

“Werewolf” is a social deduction board game in which players are randomly assigned roles like “Townsperson” or “Werewolf”. Every round of the game is separated into two stages: nighttime, in which the players assigned the role “Werewolf” secretly select one person to kill (remove from the game), and daytime, during which players debate about who they believe the Werewolves are, vote them out, and then kill them.

However, imagine if instead of a board game, these rules dictated the real murders and deaths of real people in a cursed mountain village out in rural Japan. Then, you’d have Raging Loop.

In the “visual novel” (a video game with lots of text that mostly only exists to tell a story) Raging Loop, Haruaki Fusaishi bikes into the mountains with no idea of a destination. However, during his trip he gets stranded in a remote mountain village which, he discovers, has been the battlegrounds for a war between the God of the Mountain and the demons of Yomi (Hell)…

In order to keep the battle fair, rules have been established: at the start of the “war”, a random number of villagers are killed and replaced with Werewolves who take on all of the traits of the person they’re replacing! Every night these Werewolves are allowed to kill one person of their choosing, and every day the survivors debate amongst themselves who they believe are the Werewolves. And, if they believe they’ve found an impostor, they vote, and the accused person is hung by the cliffside… If all the Werewolves are exorcised, the Mountain wins, but if the Werewolves ever outnumber the surviving humans, the survivors are murdered and the mountain is overcome by the Yomibito…

While competing in this bizarre murder game, Haruaki is murdered and discovers he has the ability to go back in time and make difference decisions by dying. Using this ability, Haruaki tries to stop the deaths. But, as he continues to change things in the village, the “game” begins to take on different, progressively complicated permutations, putting Haruaki more and more at risk of being unable to overcome this bizarre curse…

Raging Loop‘s first three chapters are very interesting exercises in mystery-writing in which you, the player, read about the characters participating in a murder game following specific rules. While early on the characters are comically awful at Werewolf, which might be frustrating to real-life veterans of the game, it helps ease newcomers into understanding the concept, and as the games progress and more and more characters compete in the game, the games begin to get more creative and more deceptive!

Because the murders are based on the real rules of a real-life “mystery game” which are easy and intuitive to understand and we have access to all the same information as the characters, despite being easy to sum the game up as a psychological horror game, it also means we have the ability to reason along with the players as they play the game. It’s easy to intuit what the characters will do (to the same degree as it’s possible to do it in the real-life party game), and it’s possible to reason about who is and isn’t the Werewolf on the same level as the characters within the narrative. Using a heavily rules-dictated conflict makes this a fantastic thriller game for fans of mystery fiction, as it hits a lot of the same notes, focusing on tight strategizing and clever logic required for the characters to survive!

While the chapters following the multiple “games” aren’t nearly as interesting, the first 20 or so hours of the game are fantastically fun mystery-thriller fare! Check out my friend “Bad Player”‘s review here.

I recommend this to people who: like social deduction party games; are interested in psychological horror; enjoy conflicts in which the players are forced to apply creative strategic thinking in order to survive/come out on top.

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a game best experienced knowing as little as possible, but what I can say is that it’s a supernatural horror-mystery puzzle game in which the player is tasked with investigating the truth behind seven curses befalling seven groups of people…

The game’s narrative is incredibly dense and complex, and while it’s the furthest thing from a traditional detective story on this list, it is still a satisfyingly complicated mystery tale involving the interplay between a giant collection of brain-teasing plot threads and puzzles which mystery fans should enjoy if they’re comfortable with a more heavily video game-ish experience.

I recommend this most to people who: like J-horror; enjoy ghost stories; are comfortable playing video games

The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria

 Kazuki Hoshino is an average student at an average high-school trying to live an average high-school student life without anything getting in the way of his very peaceful, un-compromised existence. Hoshino’s ardent commitment to maintaining as unspectacular an existence as humanly possible has attracted the amusement of a being named “O”, who wishes to give Hoshino a “Box” — a wish-granting implement that will give him anything he asks for. When Hoshino rejects the wish, insisting he doesn’t want anything he doesn’t already have, “O” decides to make it his mission to subject Hoshino to as gruesome conditions as he can until the high-schooler relents and accepts the “Box” to wish for his everyday life back…. in an experiment to test the furthest possible limits of human homeostasis.

During this experiment to push Kazuki into accepting a wish, more and more of the people in his life are given “Boxes”, and these “Boxes” take the wisher’s deepest desires and externalizes them into supernatural phenomena… all entirely centralized around disrupting Kazuki Hoshino’s average, everyday life!

In order to restore balance to his existence without wishing the “Boxes” away, Kazuki Hoshino, along with Maria Otonashi, must continue to (1.) discover what the nature of the supernatural phenomenon targeting them is, (2.) figure out what manner of which produced the phenomenon, and (3.) figure out who would make such a wish and convince them to unhand their “Box”…

The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria is, strictly speaking, a “supernatural psychological thriller” novel series told in the form of semi-episodic mystery stories. There are seven volumes in the series, each one focusing on a different incident with a different wish produced by a different “Box”, and in each case the protagonists are required to deduce details about the wish and wisher, making this another honest-to-God example of the hybrid mystery plotting style. While it isn’t strictly-speaking always fairplay, and the first book is more of a straight-forward supernatural drama, some of the books like Volume 2 really get close to purified detective fiction, including genuinely fair clues, clever logic, and format-breaking storytelling that make this a super interesting and enthralling supernatural detective series.

I recommend this most to people who: are comfortable with high-school drama; are interested in supernatural mysteries; want a series that gets progressively more surreal over time; are interested in psychological drama.

While their shin-honkaku brethren are more publicized in our nook of the internet, these five and more represent how varied and intelligent the world of Japanese thrillers can be, and just how amenable they can be to the sensibilities of lovers of puzzle plots and Golden Age mysteries. Oftentimes they can be found not far from the hallowed grounds of authentic mystery we love so much, so if you choose to pursue any of these stories, happy sleuthing, and good reading!

Death Among the Undead (2017) by Masahiro Imamura, trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2021)

This is not a review of Death Among the Undead by Masahiro Imamura.

When I first discovered Golden Age mysteries I was 15 years old, a freshman in high-school whose only experience with mystery fiction was my fondness for the the still eminently wonderful Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney video game franchise, a few odd parodies in cartoons, the odd Sherlock Holmes story, and occasionally catching my aunt watching Criminal Minds or crime documentaries in the living room while she folded clothes. I heard the name Agatha Christie thrown around a few times, I knew she was the most famous mystery author (no, the most well-sold author of any genre in any language!), but it never occurred to me there was any link between this silly lawyer video game I enjoyed and the types of mysteries this Agatha Christie lady wrote… Her works were old and Ace Attorney was new, so surely I’d have no interest with these dusty old “classics”?

But then I stumbled across a recently-translated interview with Takumi Shu, the creator of Ace Attorney, who began listing his inspirations for the series. Agatha Christie’s name didn’t come up specifically, but a lot of authors whose names I’ve heard in relation to hers were mentioned — John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, Anthony Berkeley. I realized that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney wasn’t a style of plotting unto itself, but a modern reinvigoration of a whole sub-genre of similarly-written mystery stories I simply had no idea existed!

So, finally, after going back and forth on whether or not it was worth it to read her novels, I decided to ask my high school librarian and go home with a borrowed copy of The Mysterious Affair of Styles under my arm. I read it on the school bus, even though the bullies tried to rip it from my hands. I read it at my house, even when the sun began to set and I was supposed to be in bed. I read it over breakfast instead of eating, even though I knew I was supposed to be hungry. By the time I even made it back to the library, I’d devoured the book whole and was already ready to ask my librarian for a copy of Murder on the Links.

The book was exactly what I thought it wouldn’t be! It was just like that collection of puzzles, riddles, and clues in Ace Attorney, and just the kind of mystery writing I’d fallen in love with and thought didn’t exist anywhere else! A whole genre of exactly the kind of story I’ve always wanted to read existed, against my knowledge, and I didn’t know about it!? No, no, no, that just wouldn’t do! I was already struck by the possibilities of plot and theme and setting, inspired by the potential of tricks and misdirection, keen on picking apart clues and breaking down alibis. This was a whole new world that felt like it was built just for me, and I was ready to explore!

…Fast forward seven years.

I am a third year in university. I still love Golden Age mysteries, but the room left for genuine surprise felt… narrower. Yes, I still stumbled upon brilliant and unprecedented gems of the genre, but after obsessively feasting into every corner of the Golden Age mystery I could find, it became less and less often I felt like the explorer I did as a freshman in high school. I was enjoying the mysteries I read, but so many felt like I was just amusing myself with variations and remixes of ideas I’ve seen dozens, hundreds of times before. I am not an explorer anymore; I am a hiker, traveling up and down the paths I’ve become comfortable and complacent in. Yes, sometimes you find that the odd traveler has come by and left a large stone carving or dug a lake near the path, but outside of these diversions, it is the same path. I found myself walking the path a little less frequently, and doing it for shorter periods at a time. I was no longer staying out until the crack of dawn, instead using the first sign of darkness as an excuse to return home…

It almost feels silly to say I’ve reached this point so quickly…

But then one day I noticed a change in the path that really stole me away. Most changes in the path are minute at worst, like someone shifting the pebbles in the road, and one-off diversions at best, like a fireworks show that comes suddenly, amazes you with its spectacle and explosive ambition, and then dies away again. But this was more than just a negligible modification to the road I’ve been walking for seven years; it was a whole other walkway, branching sharply off to the east. Equal parts eager and hesitant, I curiously followed the path and found at the end of it a copy of Death Among the Undead by Masahiro Imamura, sitting in the middle of a grassy grove.

What the Hell?, I thought. Death Among the Undead? Undead, as in… zombies? But the world’s tired of zombies already! I’m tired of them, dammit! and I gracelessly put the book down, weaved my way back through the three-lined path and continued along the well-worn hiking path I’ve become accustomed to.

Every time I revisit the road, walking through the growing depressions of my own feet in the pebbles, I see that path branching off towards the east and I feel my own hypocrisy. I was complaining about the monotony of the hiking path. I was complaining that I didn’t feel like an explorer anymore! Well, there you go! A murder mystery with zombies. That’s as different as you can get, idiot! I kept waiting for the next fireworks show or for the next traveler to come by and drop a new artwork along the path, because I realized I wanted something different, but I didn’t want something different, did I?

Confronted with my own absurd hypocrisy, I stomped into the wooded path to the east, angrily snatched the book up off the grass, planted my ass there and told myself I would not move until I’ve given Death Among he Undead its fair shot and read the whole damn thing from beginning to end.

And I did. I read the whole book in two sittings, and just like with Mysterious Affair at Styles I read late into the night until the bags forming under my eyes began to ache and throb, and even then I didn’t stop until I knew I wasn’t getting the most out of the book reading it like that. I went to sleep right there in the grove, woke up, and immediately dove right back into the book until I had entirely finished it.

And then I stood up and returned to my hiking path… only, it wasn’t quite the same anymore. The road beneath my feet phased transiently from pebble to cobblestone to wood to asphalt, the curves in the path began to shift up and down, and left and right like waves. The trees weren’t only green anymore, now taking on hues of blue and purple and orange, and only sometimes were the trees even trees, as sometimes they took on the forms of stone towers and steel-paneled, probing lights. Every step along this well-worn path suddenly felt like I was diving into a brand new world, a shifting world at once always recognizable as the one I love as well as a scary, alien world totally beyond my expectation of what could even be.

But I didn’t hesitate. I dove headlong into this same-different world.

I was an explorer anew.

Death Among the Undead by Masahiro Imamura is a work that awoken me to new possibilities in the mystery story. Hybrid mysteries… Those puzzlers in the tradition of Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr were running their course, some would say. There’s only so much you can do in our world to commit murder and get away with it!

Long ago I’d have agreed with them. It’s only reasonable that the puzzle mystery genre would die; our world is defined by too many limitations. I felt disheartened that such limitations could only be overcome in inimitable, bombastic fashion, and even those options were dwindling day by day. It wasn’t until Masahiro Imamura that I realized that the natural answer… is simply to go beyond our own world.

Masahiro Imamura’s debut is a fantastic locked-room mystery with three impossible crimes in them, all of which use zombies as a murder method. Three impossible crimes which simultaneously could not be committed by humans, for the corpses have been eaten, and yet could not be committed by zombies, as they are incapable of entering the locked and sealed rooms and then escaping. It is a brilliant and wildly imaginative mystery novel that can only exist due to its fantastical and supernatural elements.

But it’s also personally important to me because it is the novel that turned me onto new possibilities in detective stories. The ability to take Agatha Christie and put that kind of writing into fantasy worlds, or science-fiction worlds, or zombie apocalypses… No, I’m not talking about occult detective fiction like The Dresden Files, but 100% authentic Golden Age-inspired puzzle plots inspired by the worlds beyond our own.

It’s a potential I have become passionate about exploring. It’s the whole reason I study Japanese, to explore all of those fantastical mysteries that have followed Death Among the Undead. Nothing fascinates me more in the genre at this very moment than the possibilities those wildly creative authors in Japan have unlocked by tapping into this unexplored frontier of murder and mystery. My mind is flurried with thoughts, feelings, ideas, theories, daydreaming, all of the brand new stories that can come from a little dip into the surreal and fantastical. Reading Death Among the Undead makes me feel lost in the very same lovely way that I felt when I first walked into my library and asked for one copy of The Mysterious Affair at Styles — suddenly I don’t have expectations or ideas, I’m not endlessly savvy in tropes and tricks anymore, and I’m struck head over heels with the infinite potentiality of mysteries from worlds beyond.

This is not a review of Death Among the Undead by Masahiro Imamura. I am not qualified to write a review, because I love the book way too much to be truly impartial. All I can say is that this novel was so fantastically superb, imaginative, creatively ambitious, and awe-inspiring it motivated me to learn a whole other language. I couldn’t go another day without acknowledging this book on my blog beyond its inclusion on my list of my favorite impossible crimes… It’s brilliant, and has tapped into a new level of passion and interest in the genre I never knew I could have.

This is not a review of Death Among the Undead. This is a love letter, and a thank you.

Detective Conan Volumes 16 to 29 — 14-Volume Review Lightning Round

(*Note, although this is the sixteenth in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t updated my Detective Conan reviews in a while. The last update was a review of volume 15, nearly a third of a year ago… This is NOT because I haven’t been reading it, but quite the opposite: I’ve been reading it between classes, while bed-ridden with sciatica, at the hospital waiting to be diagnosed with sciatica, during mental health burnouts, over lunch… It’s such a breezy and easy to read series that it’s become a go-to comfort read for me when I feel like I haven’t touched enough mysteries lately.

I’m actually at book 30 in Detective Conan now, and reviewing these somewhat weekly means I’ll never catch up and never have room to discuss any other non-literature mysteries! So I kept putting off writing new Detective Conan reviews, but then continued reading the series until one day I realized… oh no… I’ve only reviewed half of what I’ve read!

Suffice it to say, this was unideal. Anxiety set in (as it always does when I’m facing the most insignificant problems a person has ever faced) and I had no idea how I was ever going to catch up with myself reviewing them one measly book at a time!

…So why review them one book at a time? Why not write one massive catch-up review post, covering all 14 volumes I’ve read since I last updated the series, and continue from there? Does this seem inefficient and inelegant? Probably.

But I’m still doing it. It makes me feel better.

Detective Conan is one of if not simply the largest “classical-styled” mystery series in the entire world, boasting exactly 700 disparate mystery stories across 1109 chapters of 104 books, and 1067 episodes of 31 seasons of television (only counting the stories original to the television adaptation), and that’s before taking into account video games, novels, movies, audio plays, and other random, obscure micro-entries… and the franchise isn’t even done yet, as it’s slated to continue in full force later this year! Suffice it to say that when I set out to consume nearly 2200 micro-units of media for review on this blog, I was making a huge commitment of time, energy, and effort, not to mention sacrificing my integrity in the eyes of more conservative mystery readership…

Naturally the project sometimes gets away from me, as I’ve read 15 whole books in the series since I last reviewed it. If it were one or two books I was behind, that’d be one thing, but 15…!? That’s not reasonable at all. I was simply not on top of the project. In order to get myself back on track, I’ve decided to carry out the worst plan in the history of plans and cram 14 reviews into one by going through a lightning round review of all 41(!) stories I’ve read but have yet to cover on the blog…


I don’t want to waste too much time on this preamble for a rushed and slapdash review, so without much further ado, let’s start with…

Volume 16 (1997)

Volume 16 only fully starts on Chapter 4 with Casebook 043 – Elementary School Mystery Case (Chapters 4-5), a Junior Detective League case borrowing from Japanese schoolkid mythology of every school having “seven mysteries”. The Junior Detective League investigates running skeletons and moving statues, but the solution is intentionally silly and not entirely interesting, even if the “motive” is really cute.

Casebook 044 – KAITO KID and the Black Star Case is a landmark case for the series, as it is the first crossover between Detective Conan and Gosho Aoyama’s other series Magic Kaito. Magic Kaito is a heist series about a magician-turned-supercriminal who seeks to steal every gem in the world until he can find the magical jewel that is responsible for his father’s death..! The protagonist, KAITO KID, often crosses over with Conan in heists told from the detective’s perspective, and this blend of heist fiction and classical detection results in an exceptionally fun and outstandingly unique story in this franchise. A+!

Casebook 045 – Famous Potter Murder Case (Chapters 10-2) involves a famous potter and his proteges excitedly showing the famous Detective Richard Moore their work when the potter’s daughter-in-law accidentally breaks his magnum opus… She’s naturally torn-up with grief, so when she dies by hanging in the shed the very next day, when everyone was together in the living room of the house with an alibi, it’s determined that her death must’ve been a suicide…

My biggest gripe with Conan alibi tricks is that the cases tend to get lazy by giving everyone a perfect alibi, highlighting the very existence of an alibi trick and making the tricks less functional and more obvious as a consequence. What’s here is a decent idea for a trick, but the cracks on the foundation become more apparent when your set-up shouts “hey, everybody look! Alibi here! There’s an alibi trick here!”. Some later Conan stories handle this better. Middle of the line story.

Volume 16 is fairly unremarkable if not for the exceptional KAITO KID case. It’s hard to recommend the volume on the weight of one story alone, but it is a landmark, so I’d suggest checking out the anime adaptation of this story to get context for future KAITO KID crossovers (of which there will be many)

Volume 17 (1997)

Volume 17 opens with Casebook 046 – Scuba Divers Attempted Murder Case (Chapters 3-5), in which a bride-to-be almost drowns after being bitten by a rare, poisonous sea-snake! But a chance observation by Conan, as well as Richard’s ex-wife Eri, leads to the realization that this seeming “accident” way well be murder.

The motive for this one requires a little tolerance for what is and isn’t taboo in other cultures, but it’s actually a really good plot with a smart visual clue. It recalls the last Attempted Murder case in Casebook 21 – Poisoned Bride Attempted Murder Case (Volume 8, Chapters 8-10) in that it involves a tragic misunderstanding that is resolved by the end of the case. I think the resolution works better in this case than that one, but this isn’t as good a mystery. Still, a really solid one!

Casebook 047 – Hospitalized Robber Case (Chapter 6) isn’t very interesting. It’s Die Hard but condensed into a single chapter of Detective Conan. My least favorite story in the series. Next.

Casebook 048 – Mysterious Clocks Mystery Case (Chapters 7-9) is a Junior Detective League code-cracker, only instead of the Junior Detective League it’s Conan and the Moores… Even if the JDL are absent, the case about a mysterious house where all of the clocks go off at once isn’t interesting or fair, giving it the same standard of plotting as those JDL stories… Also underwhelming.

Casebook 049 – Historical Actor Case (Chapters 10-2) sees Richard Moore summoned by an actor well-known for period pieces to act as reference for an upcoming detective film, but when they all witness the murder of his wife in the next-door apartment, Conan has to find a wrinkle in the open-and-shut case against the tenant… The case isn’t entirely original, as it recalls a particular Ellery Queen story, but it’s still a decently fun case that I enjoy well enough, with a pretty solid spatial trick.

Volume 17 seems split evenly between the good and the bad, but the bad stories are actually quite short. If you’re willing to pick up Volume 18 to finish Historical Actor Case, Volume 17 is a worthwhile addition for signed-on fans of the franchise!

Volume 18 (1997)

After finishing Historical Actor Murder Case, Volume 18 opens with Case 050 – Jimmy’s First Love Attempted Murder Case (Chapters 3-5), in which a fire starts from the inside of a house with a young woman inside, even though all of her friends were out at the time, singing karaoke miles away and in full view of each other…

Another “all of the suspects have an alibi” one, but the trick here is actually a really unique method of lighting a fire with an alibi, so it stands out from other, similarly-structured cases! A pretty cute and novel short form case, and one of the better stories from the series!

Case 051 – Lady in Black Kidnapping Case (Chapters 7-8) is another “thriller with logic” case involving the Junior Detective League involving the kidnapping of one of their classmates’ brother… It introduces Anita, an important character, but the case is otherwise not interesting at all and teases plot developments that don’t pan out.

Case 052 – University Professor Murder Case (Chapters 9-1) is a locked-room mystery in which Anita and Conan visit a university professor to retrieve Black Organization contraband, only to find the professor murdered in his locked-and-sealed office…

This is a unique take on the locked-room mystery because the case all but tells you from the get-go that the solution is a specific kind of string trick, and what the string trick was. However, the solution leaves another problem: how did the string escape from the room? I didn’t like the case at first because the string trick is rather silly, but once I realized the point was more the mystery of the disappearing string I lightened on it a lot. It’s actually a pretty novel locked-room mystery that I enjoy! Easy recommendation.

Volume 18 is a pretty solid entry into the series that’s worth checking out if you’re a signed-on fan. Not only does it contribute important plot development (something I don’t care about because it’s the most glacial narrative in the history of writing, but…), but it also has two pretty good cases bookending it. It isn’t one of the all-time great volumes, but a pretty good one worth checking out.

Volume 19 (1997)

After giving us the conclusion chapter to University Professor Murder Case, Volume 19 starts with Casebook 053 – Mystery Writer Kidnapping Case (Chapters 2-4), in which a mystery author appears to be leaving clues to his kidnapping in his serialized manuscript. Another boring code-cracker, which involves knowledge of three(!) languages to solve, and is just as tenuous and unbelievable as always.

Casebook 054 – Stabbed Wallets Murder Case (Chapters 5-8) has Conan visit Harley’s home of Osaka, where a serial killer with a bizarre M.O. is on the loose: first, he strangles his victims, and then he stabs their wallets…

Not a very interesting case for the first proper “serial killer” story, involving a tenuous “missing link” that makes no sense and reveals a pretty nonsensical motive for the killers. There’s one solid trick in the mix, but it’s a pretty unremarkable story, silly and unambitious.

Casebook 055 – Stadium Indiscriminate Threatening Case (Chapters 9-1) is a Junior Detective League story, but is more of a “thriller with logic” case as a man holds a stadium of over 26,000 soccer fans hostage with a bomb threat in exchange for millions of yen! Despite being a “thriller with logic” case, which are rarely fair, this one is pretty solid for being surprisingly fairplay with its solution and having some neat, clever developments. Not my kind of story personally, but pretty solid for what it is.

Volume 19 is one of the weaker volumes of the series so far, and it’s not even close. Despite the fairly decent Stadium Indiscriminate Threatening Case, nothing here stands out as worth going out of your way to read, nor is it important to read for context into the overarching narrative. Wholly skippable.

Volume 20 (1998)

Casebook 056 – KAITO KID and the Magic Lovers Murder Case (Chapters 2-6) is a fan-favorite of many Detective Conan fans, including TomCat of Beneath the Stains of Time, but I wasn’t as enamored with it. This no-footprints-in-the-snow mystery involving a murder at a meeting of an online magician fangroup has an overly technical, machine-based solution that doesn’t really do it for me. The solution represents a type of trick most people immediately think of when thinking about murders committed in snow without leaving footprints, too…

Also, KAITO KID hardly figures into the story. Don’t get excited, all 1 of you Magic Kaito fans…

Case 057 – Sealed Bathroom Murder Case (Chapters 7-9) has Richard Moore and Conan on the scene when a woman breaks into her taped-shut bathroom to find that her sister has committed suicide within….!

The solution and set-up are lifted entirely from Clayton Rawson’s landmark locked-room mystery story “From Another World”. There’s a neat touch with how Conan identifies the killer, a brilliant fatal visual clue that’d function well in an inverted mystery, but the locked-room mystery’s shameless pilfering knocks this story down a lot.

Case 058 – Blue Castle Murder Case (Chapters 10-3) is a four-chapter long JDL code-cracking case with a lot of padding and failed attempts at horror and suspense. The code is fair for English-speakers for once, but it still makes for an unremarkable story. We’ve been getting too many of these code-crackers…

Volume 20 is another pretty underwhelming and not very good volume in the series that isn’t worth seeking out to read in my opinion. Unremarkable all the way down.

Volume 21 (1998)

Casebook 059 – Jimmy’s First Murder Case (Chapters 4-7) has Rachel falling asleep on an airplane, reminiscing on the first murder case Jimmy (Conan) ever solved, also on an airplane… a case in which an unsavory tabloid photographer is murdered in a bathroom after boasting about the compromising photos he’s gotten of a prominent American politician!

The case offers some cute lore for Conan as a character, and is all-around a pretty well-written, well-plotted detective story with a fun alibi trick at its heart. The disappearing weapon element isn’t very interesting, and recalls an earlier story in the series, but the rest of the case is pure, good, un-gimmicky mystery plotting. Good stuff!

Casebook 060 – Treadmill Murder Case (Chapters 8-10) is the first in a series of stories called “Police Love Story” about the will-they-won’t-they romance between police detectives Wataru Takagi and Miwako Sato.

A semi-inverted mystery about Conan suspecting a man of murdering his wife, even though the man was at the police station when the crime occurred, the technical trick here isn’t very interesting, and a variation of a classification of trick the series is obsessed with… It’s a somewhat okay-ish variation on the concept, since it relies on environmental elements of which you are aware, but it’s not a favorite.

Casebook 061 – Wedding Day Murder Case (Chapters 11-3) is a pretty underwhelming and bogstandard locked-room mystery about a butler being murdered in a locked-room. There’s a decent double-bluff at the end with a string trick being proffered as a false solution, but the true solution is still an old dodge. However, I enjoyed the way the killer misdirected away from the trick, making this an unremarkable locked-room mystery but a decently smartly-done whodunit.

Volume 21 is better than the previous two volumes, with a higher average of quality, but is still not quite good enough to unambiguously recommend. If you’re a signed-on fan, I can say this is a decent volume worth your time, but people only looking for the highlights should just look for the anime adaptation of Jimmy’s First Murder Case.

Volume 22 (1998)

Casebook 062 – North Star Murder Case (Chapters 4-7) focuses on a professional robber who, after bungling a jewelry store robbery, murders the owner of the store on a train before impossible vanishing from a guarded compartment… All of which reminds Conan of an unpublished mystery manuscript written by his father!

The solution to this impossible disappearance isn’t very interesting, as it’s obvious and the clues are rather crude. I appreciate the framing device of excerpts from the father’s manuscript highlighting pivotal moments in the case, but the manuscript’s connection to the case is boring and hand-waved away. Not a very good one at all.

Case 063 – Serena Attempted Murder Case (Chapters 8-10) sees Serena, Rachel’s long-time best friend, the target of a serial killer who murders young blondes! If you can’t see the conclusion to this cheap dime-store thriller-esque narrative coming from a mile away, I don’t know what to tell you. Corny and not interesting.

Volume 22 contains no full stories worth reading, and doesn’t finish a very good story either. Not worth reading at all, and one of the worst volumes we’ve seen in a long time.

Volume 23 (1998)

Casebook 064 – Movie Theater Murder Case (Chapters 1-3) sees rotten real estate agent murdered inside of a failing movie theater after boasting about shutting the place down! His dead body is hung in front of the projection’s booth in the middle of the movie theater’s swansong marathon of every Gomera movie, in the attendance of which was none other than Conan and the Junior Detective League…

This is my second favorite Detective Conan case of all time so far, as it’s brilliant from top-to-bottom. The movie theater setting is exploited to produce a truly brilliant and unique alibi-trick, with some of the series’ best visual clues to top it all off. The Junior Detective League are restrained and quite helpful in this case too, allowing the story to side-step a lot of the typical pitfalls of JDL-centric plots.

Fantastic little setting-oriented mystery story, unambiguous recommendation!

Casebook 065 – Cruise Ship Murder Case (Chapters 4-9) is the first proper long-form case we’ve seen in a while, focusing on a cruise ship where the vengeful, once-thought-dead former head of a crime group is thought to soon resurface… And, naturally, in his wake he leaves many corpses!

This isn’t my favorite long-form Conan, as the trick at the heart of this one is a crude artifice I’ve seen and gotten bored of elsewhere, but despite the unambitious trick this is still a smartly-plotted, well-written detective story with tight reasoning that is plenty worth reading! Really good stuff!

Casebook 066 – Innocent Suspect Case (Chapters 10-2) is another entry into the Police Love Story series, in which Miwako Sato is handcuffed to the escaped suspect in a murder case in a bathroom! Despite the fact the man was alone in his locked-and-sealed apartment with the victim, he insists he’s innocent, and the two police officers decide to do a little more inquiring into the case with the Junior Detective League…

Surprisingly, another pretty good Junior Detective League murder case. The core trick at the heart of this Judas Window-esque locked-room mystery is silly in a very natural and believable way, and I actually kind of found myself being amused at not seeing the solution ahead of time. I wonder if I’d like this one as much returning to it, but as it stands I thought this was an amusing and comical take on the problem even if the melodrama of Sato being handcuffed to a toilet in a building that’s soon to be demolished unnecessary.

Volume 23 is one of the best volumes in the series so far! This is the first volume containing three stories in which I think all three stories are truly good and worth reading, and it contains my second favorite story in the whole franchise! Absolutely check this one out, it’s good stuffs, this!

Volume 24 (1998)

Casebook 067 – Blackout Murder Case (Chapters 3-6) is an unfortunately unremarkable story on the heels of Volume 23. As Richard is consulting a client, a man winds up electrocuted to death in a bathtub after a blackout! But who could’ve committed the murder, and how!

The murder method is one I’ve seen repeated in a few other stories, and the alibi “trick” shows Conan‘s age, as the tool required to make it work is much more well-known to us in the modern world and something we’d think of immediately. Not great.

Casebook 068 – Hotel Party Case (Chapters 7-11) sees Anita and Conan tailing a member of the Black Organization to a hotel party, whereupon they’re chased down by grunts from the group following a seemingly-impossible murder committed in the dark!

This is a plot relevant case, so naturally is of interest to those who care about that sort of thing, but as an independent murder murder is quite thin and unmemorable. Not worth reading unless you’re invested in the overarching story of Detective Conan.

Sadly another short and unpleasant volume not worth going out of your way to read unless you’re a signed-on fan of the overarching narrative of the series. Supposedly, Gosho Aoyama starts to shift his focus away from disconnected murder plots to more connected stories, so I wonder if that’ll cause my interest in the individual cases to dwindle going forward…

Volume 25 (1999)

Casebook 069 – Skating Rink Murder Case (Chapters 1-3) sees a woman shot to death in the bathroom of a skating rink during a fireworks show. Sure enough, she has a dying message in her hands implicating a friend of hers, but when the friend is revealed to be entirely innocent Conan is forced to figure out who would want to commit this murder and frame the friend…

The dying message repurposes a trick used earlier in the series, but the dodge here is equally effective as there is really smart psychological trick played here to give the killer a false alibi! As I’ve never used the tool used to produce the alibi, I think it’s probably a little unconvincing, but the forced association trick at the heart of this one is really neat in concept. Love it a lot, fantastic little case!

Case 070 – Tottori Spider Mansion Murder Case (Chapters 4-8) sees Harley and Conan investigating a series of suicides instigated by the Spider Mistress’s Curse, which have just recently been bookended by the impossible murder of a doll-maker in his locked-and-sealed shed, with his entire body strung up in a spiderweb-like arrangement of string…

The core murder method recalls a Father Brown tale, and it’s a murder method repurposed in a certain famous Kindaichi Case Files story… but an extra twist is put on the knot with a really smart piece of misdirection involving the state of the body and the spider imagery that disguises a pretty brilliant piece of alibi trickery which elevates the story beyond the fact it (obviously, from the set-up) turns on a variation of string trickery. Throw into the mix a haunting aesthetic and tragic motive, and you’ve got yourself a pretty great Detective Conan locked-room mystery!

Case 071 – Cave Murder Case (9-1) is another Junior Detective League code-cracking in which the kids need to solve a riddle to escape from a cave before they’re murdered by a group of thugs whose murder they’ve just witnessed. Putting Conan out of commission to force the JDL to reason for themselves was a smart idea, but they end up guessing instead of reasoning, making the set-up feel wasted and their victory unearned. Not very interesting or good.

Another fantastic volume with two all-time great cases! Although Cave Murder Case is disappointing, Skating Rink and Tottori Spider Mansion are two fantastic mystery plots that both begin and end within this volume. Unambiguous recommendation for this volume for those two exceptional stories!

Volume 26 (1999)

Casebook 072 – School Play Murder Case has an attendee of the high school play be poisoned by his drink… This is a really well-clued and well-written detective story, a fact sorely undercut by the fact the solution turns on a trick that has passed from cliche on to riddle on to punchline since its conception. It’s a shame, too, because some smart reasoning shows up in the denouement of this one…

Casebook 073 – Restaurant Elevator Murder Case is another inverted mystery from Detective Conan, in which a man murders his soon-to-be father-in-law in an elevator while using his wife as an alibi.

This is actually a really solid inverted mystery, with the killer being caught on a brilliant Furuhata Ninzaburou-styled slip of the tongue trap, but the fact the case has to share room with Conan (Jimmy) and Rachel’s romance plot does mean the investigation is a little thinner than I prefer, making the killer come off as a bit of a trivial pushover. Still, really good one, even if it falls behind the franchise’s better inverted mysteries.

Casebook 074 – Music Box Mystery Case (Chapters 8-10) sees a young woman attempting to figure out the secrets behind an apparently valuable music box her dead pen pal left her, despite the fact the antique shop says it’s worthless…

The story that follows ends up just being Scooby-Doo but played 100% seriously and with none of the humor of whimsy. Unremarkable.

Volume 26 does mark a sudden shift to more plot-relevant cases, as the first two cases each try to move along Jimmy and Rachel’s romance, and in both cases it does seem to come at the expense of the story. While the first two cases are decent and solid respectively, I can’t recommend wholeheartedly you go out of your way to read this volume unless you’re a dedicated fan of the series as-is. If you are a Detective Conan fan, though, this isn’t a terrible volume that could be worth picking up to fill some holes in your reading.

Volume 27 (1999)

Casebook 075 – Suspect Richard Moore Murder Case (Chapters 1-3) has Richard Moore become the prime suspect in a murder after the woman he drunkenly hooked up with was murdered in her locked and sealed hotel room! His separated wife and lawyer, Eri, sees to the investigation to prove him innocent…

The trick at the heart of this one is a pretty unremarkable variation of the kind of gimmick we’ve seen a few times within and without this series, so it wasn’t a very interesting case. The way the killer was caught is fun, but didn’t elevate the case any at all.

Casebook 076 – Sato’s Father Murder Case (Chapters 4-6) is another Police Love Story case, as well as a Junior Detective League case focusing on arson! Unfortunately, the code-cracking is, as always, unfair, tenuous, and unfun. The “parallel plots” reveal at the end is kind of amusing, but minor.

Casebook 077 – Arcade Murder Case (Chapters 7-9) sees a brutish bully murdered at an arcade in the middle of a career-defining match in a virtual reality fighting game! Only, of course, with everyone’s eyes on the game, there are no witnesses as to who may or may not have murdered the gamer…

This is actually another exceptionally good case. Although it might be somewhat easy to see through the core deception, the trick at the heart of this is novel, unique, and informed brilliantly by the video game setting. It is a much more clever utilization of video games than the disappointing Mantendo Bombing Case from Volume 12. Despite the ease with which some people will see through the alibi trick, Arcade Murder Case is easily my new third favorite case, with a unique plot informed by a unique setting.

Casebook 078 – Bear Hunter Murder Case (Chapters 10-2) is a Junior Detective League case in which Mitch and Anita flee from a murderer whose crime they’ve witnessed! Unable to come out into the open without being shot, Anita is forced to come up with a message to communicate with Conan so he can save their lives…

The misunderstanding behind the motive makes this a surprisingly sweet story, but the clues and plot are otherwise rather unremarkable. Decent motive misdirection, but not impressive in any other way.

Volume 27, sadly, wasn’t a great volume. Arcade Murder Case is an exceptionally novel murder mystery, but the other three stories don’t make the volume worth recommending for one case alone. I recommend everyone go check out the anime version of Arcade Murder Case as soon as possible, as it’s truly a wonderful case!

Volume 28 (1999-2000)

Casebook 079 – Old Photograph Murder Case (Chapters 3-5) has Richard commissioned by an old lady who seems to lie about insignificant things to find an old friend of hers to recover a photograph he accidentally took from her. When the friend is located, however, he is found murdered inside of his apartment after having eaten breakfast…

The alibi trick at the heart of this one recalls my favorite episode of Alibi-Cracking, At Your Service, and can be seen as a forebear to that exceptional episode. While it’s still a very clever idea in Detective Conan, I found this variation of the trick less impressive or convincing. Not that it’s a bad case by any means, I think it’s a pretty fun short-form murder mystery. It’s just somewhat inferior to another, similar story.

Casebook 080 – Mermaid’s Curse Murder Case (Chapters 6-10) has Harley and Conan investigating a letter from a woman who claims to be cursed to die by mermaids after she lost a talisman purported to grant eternal life… In investigating the woman’s disappearance, they explore an island with bizarre mermaid-worshipping religious practices and an annual celebration that results in three more murders…

There really isn’t much of a meaningful misdirection to speak of outside of a fairly clever double-bluff about the identity of one of the victims. This case revolves around a trick that I’ve always found to be somewhat corny and uninteresting, and it’s a rather unambitious variation of it too. It’s also a somewhat inferior long-form case as regards the plotting and cluing. Sadly not much better than decent despite its good reputation.

Casebook 081 – Girl Clubbing Murder Case (Chapters 11-2) is a serial killing case about a man killing ganguro (dark make-up) girls in a department store. The motivation is absurd, and the only noteworthy part of the story is one piece of misdirection about the killer’s body type and the attempt to give Inspector Meguire some development. A fairly mediocre case.

Another middle of the line Volume with a couple of decent moments but nothing unambiguously worth going out of your way to read. I don’t recommend this to any but the most dedicated of hardcore Conan fans looking to fill in some gaps in their reading.

Volume 29 (2000)

Casebook 082 – Bus Hijacking Case (Chapters 3-5) is a somewhat interesting “which-of-the-three” case in which Conan realizes that one of three people sitting in the back seat of a bus are communicating to a group of bus hijackers, but it’s impossible to tell how they’re communicating.

Unfortunately, what follows is more of a “thriller with logic” case, with pretty thin investigation/cluing into the culprit’s identity and not very memorable in resolution. Mediocre.

Casebook 083 – Dog Lover Kidnapping Case (Chapters 6-8) has a rare purebred dog kidnapped from a house of dog-lovers, and Conan on the case to discover who the culprit is.

There’s one somewhat neat clue surrounding the whereabouts of the dog, but the motive and method leave this story feeling plain and uninspired.

Casebook 048 – 3 K’s of Osaka Murder Case (Chapters 9-11) sees three western celebrities visiting Osaka for an event, when a murder is committed inside of a hotel in which the three men were alone! However, all three men have alibis proven by the fact they were turning lights on and off in front of hundreds of witnesses, making this crime impossible…!

The set-up is a really neat lead-in to an impossible alibi situation, but the resolution is underwhelming and flat-out unbelievable. This is a fan favorite case for the way it develops Conan’s character, but as a mystery it’s mediocre and middle of the line.

We finish off this long 14-part review with one final unremarkable volume, with not a good story worth going out of your way to read or watch in any form…

Overall, this batch of 14 is far from being the most consistent in the series. A lot of mediocre and underwhelming stories interspersed with a fair bit of good and truly fantastic cases leave this section of cases feeling balanced (or, perhaps, mixed…).

Special notice to Volume 23, which is truly exceptional and contains my second favorite case in the series, and Volume 25 which contains two great stories well-worth reading, including a terrific impossible crime! Add to the mix my third favorite case in Arcade Murder Case, and we still see plenty of truly good cases coming out of this series well worth seeking out for fans of classical detection!

To wrap up this long post, my ranking of all 84 stories we’ve read so far… My 5-point system has been expanded to a 10-point system in order to better account for more nuance between similarly-enjoyed stories.

*Newly reviewed cases are italicized and bookended with asterisks*

{10/10 — Favorites}

1.) Moonlight Sonata Murder Case (Case 018, V. 7 Ch. 2-6)
*2.) Movie Theater Murder Case (Case 064, V. 23 Ch. 1-3)*
*3.) Arcade Murder Case (Case 077, V. 27 Ch. 7-9)
4.) Tengu Murder Case (Case 030, V. 11 Ch. 8-10)
5.) The Art Collector Murder Case (Case 015, V. 6 Ch. 2-5)
6.) Tenkaichi Fire Festival Murder Case (Case 017, V. 6 Ch. 9-10 V.7 Ch. 1)
7.) TV Station Murder Case (Case 028, V. 11 Ch. 2-4)

{9/10 — Great}

8.) Bandaged Man Murder Case (Case 012, V. 5 Ch. 1-5)
9.) Wealthy Daughter Murder Case (Case 024, V. 9 Ch. 7-10, V. 10 Ch. 1)
*10.) Skating Rink Murder Case (Case 069, V. 25 Ch. 1-3)*
11.) KAITO KID and the Black Star Case (Case 044, V. 16 Ch. 6-9)
12.) The Night Baron Murder Case (Case 020, V. 8, Ch. 2-7)

{8/10 — Very Good}

13.) Bonds of Fire Murder Case (Case 042, V. 15 Ch. 10, V.16 Ch. 1-3)
*14.) Tottori Spider Mansion Murder Case (Case 070, V. 25 Ch. 4-8)*
15.) Poisoned Bride Attempted Murder Case (Case 021, V. 8, Ch. 8-10)
16.) Art Museum Owner Murder Case (Case 009, V. 4 Ch. 1-3)
*17.) Jimmy’s First Love Attempted Murder Case (Case 050, V 18 Ch.3-5)*
*18.) Jimmy’s First Murder Case (Case 059 V. 21 Ch. 4-7)*
19.) Elementary School Teacher Murder Case (Case 039, V 14 Ch. 9-10, V.15 Ch. 1-3)
20.) Scuba Divers Attempted Murder Case (Case 046, V. 17 Ch 3-5)

{7/10 — Good}

21.) Gomera Murder Case (Case 036, V.13 Ch. 8-10)
*22.) University Professor Murder Case (Case 052, V.18 Ch. 9-10, V.19 Ch. 1)*
*23.) Cruise Ship Murder Case (Case 065, V. 23 Ch. 4-9)*
*24.) Restaurant Elevator Murder Case (Case 073, V. 26 Ch. 5-7)*
25.) TWO-MIX Kidnapping Case (Case 040, V. 15 Ch. 4-6)
26.) Library Employee Murder Case (Case 026, V. 10 Ch. 6-7)
*27.) Old Photograph Murder Case (Case 079, V. 28, Ch. 3-5)*
*28.) Innocent Suspect Case (Case 066, V. 23 Ch. 10, V. 24 Ch. 1-2)*
*29.) Historical Actor Murder Case (Case 049, V. 17 Ch. 10 V. 18 Ch. 1-2)*
*30.) Stadium Indiscriminate Threatening Case (Case 055, V. 19 Ch. 9-10 V. 20 Ch.1)*

{6/10 — Decent}

31.) Richard’s Reunion Murder Case (Case 023, V. 9 Ch. 4-6)
32.) Mysterious Shadow Murder Case (Case 004, V. 2 Ch. 1-3)
*33.) Bear Hunter Murder Case (Case 078, V. 27 Ch. 10 V. 28 Ch. 1-2)*
34.) Loan Shark Murder Case (Case 041, V. 15 Ch. 7-9)
35.) Lex Band Vocalist Murder Case (Case 013 V. 5 Ch. 6-9)
*36.) Sealed Bathroom Murder Case (Case 057, V.20 Ch. 7-9)*
*37.) Wedding Day Murder Case (Case 061, V. 21 Ch. 11, V. 22 Ch. 1-3)*
38.) Diplomat Murder Case (Case 025, V. 10 Ch. 2-6)
39.) Suspicious Uncle Murder Case (Case 038, V. 14 Ch. 4-8)
*40.) School Play Murder Case (Case 072, V. 26 Ch.2-4)*
*41.) Famous Potter Murder Case (Case 045, V. 16 Ch. 10, V. 17 Ch.1-2)*
*42.) Mermaid’s Curse Murder Case (Case 080, V. 28 Ch. 6-10)*

{5/10 — Average}

*43.) Treadmill Murder Case (Case 060, V. 21, Ch. 8-10)*
44.) Holmes Enthusiasts Murder Case (Case 033, V. 12, Ch. 7-10, V. 13 Ch. 1)
*45.) Bus Hijacking Case (Case 082, V. 29 Ch. 3-5)*
*46.) Hotel Party Murder Case (Case 068, V. 24 Ch. 7-11)*
*47.) 3 K’s of Osaka urder Case (Case 084, V. 29, Ch. 9-11)*
*48.) Suspect Richard Moore Murder Case (Case 075, V. 27, C. 1-3)*
49.) Illustrator’s Assistant Murder Case (Case 035, V. 13, Ch. 5-7)
50.) Mantendo Bombing Murder Case (Case 032, V. 12, Ch. 4-6)
51.) Hatamoto Family Murder Case (Case 007, V. 3 Ch. 1-6)

{4/10 — Mediocre}

*52.) Sato’s Father Murder Case (Case o76, V. 27, Ch. 4-6)*
*53.) Stabbed Wallets Murder Case (Case 054, V. 19 Ch. 5-8)*
*54.) Music Box Mystery Case (Case 074, V. 26, Ch. 8-10)*
*55.) Blackout Murder Case (Case 067, V. 24, Ch. 3-6)*
56.) Triplets Father Murder Case (Case 034, V. 13 Ch. 2-4)
*57.) KAITO KID and the Magic Lovers Case (Case 056, V. 2 Ch. 2-6)*
*58.) Girl Clubbing Murder Case (Case 081 V. 28 Ch 11, V.29 Ch. 1-2)*

{3/10 — Bad}

59.) Shinkansen Bombing Case (Case 010, V. 4, Ch. 4-6)
60.) Conan Edogawa Kidnapping Case (Case 014 V. 5, Ch. 10-11, V.6 Ch. 1)
*61.) Dog Lover Kidnapping Case (Case 083, V.29 Ch. 6-8)
*62.) Blue Castle Murder Case (Case 058, V.20 Ch. 10, V. 21 Ch. 1-3)*
*63.) Lady in Black Kidnapping Case (Case 051, V. 18, Ch. 7-8)*
*64.) Mystery Writer Kidnapping Case (Case 053, v. 19 Ch. 2-4)*
*65.) North Star Murder Case (Case 062, V. 22, Ch. 4-7)*

{2/10 — Very Bad}

*66.) Elementary School Mystery Case (Case 043, V. 16, Ch. 4-5)*
67.) Medical Professors Murder Case (Case 027, V. 10 Ch. 9-1, V. 11 Ch. 1)
68.) Haunted Mansion Case (Case 006, V. 2 Ch. 8-10)
69.) Idol Locked-Room Murder Case (Case 003, V. 1, Ch. 6-9)
70.) Roller-Coaster Murder Case (Case 001, V. 1, Ch. 1)
71.) Magician’s Suicide Case (Case 037, V. 14 Ch. 1-3)

{1/10 — Least Favorites}

72.) Moon, Star, Sun Code Case (Case 031, V. 12, Ch. 1-3)
73.) Soccer Player’s Brother Kidnapping Case (Case 019, V. 7, Ch. 8-10, V. 8. Ch. 1)
74.) The Monthly Presents Case (Case 008, V. 3, Ch. 7-10)
*75.) Mysterious Clocks Mystery Case (Case 048, V. 17, Ch. 7-9)*
76.) Twin Brothers Case (Case 016, V. 6, Ch. 6-8)
77.) Kidnapped Daughter Case (Case 002, V. 1, Ch. 2-5)
78.) 1 Billion Yen Robbery Case (Case 005, V. 2 Ch. 4-7)
79.) Coffee Shop Murder Case (Case 029, V. 11 Ch. 5-7)
*80.) Serena Attempted Murder Case (Case 063, V. 22, Ch. 8-10)*
*81.) Cave Murder Case (Case 071, V. 25, Ch. 9-11, V. 26 Ch. 1)*
82.) ORO Treasure Map Case (Case 011, V. 4, Ch. 7-9)
83.) Amy Kidnapping Case (Case 022, V. 9, Ch. 1-3)
*84.) Hospitalized Robber Case (Case 047, V. 17, Ch. 6)*

“Fox’s Wedding” by Tsumao Awasaka (1985) trans. by Steve Steinbock (2021)

G.K. Chesterton’s parish priest Father Brown, a “detective” known for his use of purely intuitive reasoning to solve crimes often of a seemingly divine nature, can be said to be in many ways the seed from which the Golden Age of Detection sprouted. Being the ur-example of many then-innovative forms of trickery and misdirection much more refined than the crude mechanics of the yester-year, the writings of Chesterton are very much the prototypes of the puzzlers of the mid-20th century. This is an influence that has spread through nearly all detective fiction written since; not only, of course, in the English-speaking world, but all the world over…

The influence of Father Brown’s intuitive reasoning has had more than an impact on the style and nature of just mystery plotting; he’s influenced full-blown successors across the world! In 1985 Tsumao Awasaka would publish Aa Aiichirō no Rōbai (or The Dismay of Aa Aiichirō), the first in a trilogy of mystery short story collections featuring the eponymous photographer whose intuition and ability to “see and hear things the rest of us miss” sees him accidentally stumbling into and solving crimes alongside the police.

The Aa Aiichirō series owes its identity to Chesterton and Brown. It’s easy to see how the protagonist, reasoning almost entirely from intuition, has Father Brown to thank for his inspiration, but the Chestertonian influence goes much deeper! The most important contribution of that old sleuthing priest, and the most defining feature of Aa Aiichirō as a series is that the stories are predominantly divided into two categories. Impossible crimes feature heavily in both series but, as Ho-Ling of Ho-Ling no Jikenbo elegantly puts it, the more important inspiration is in what he calls the “whatthehell” stories.

Whatthehell” stories are those Father Brown tales where it’s ambiguous what the exact nature of the mystery really is. Father Brown will be witness to events that seem odd (or, perhaps, events so apparently mundane and everyday it’s impossible to figure how or where a mystery could exist at all), and will only at the end of the tale use his great intuitive acuity to reveal that, all along, something hinky has been going on behind the scenes…

One such example of these “whatthehell” stories is the immensely enjoyable “The Queer Feet”, in which Father Brown, taking the confessions of a sick man in a locked room within a high-end hotel, hears outside of his door footprints which “seem to walk in order to run” and “run in order to walk”. From just this observation, Father Brown recognizes (1.) that a crime has been committed, (2.) the exact nature of the crime, (3.) the identity of the perpetrator, and (4.) how the perpetrator avoided detection, in one of the most shocking bits of reasoning in the mystery genre.

About half of all Aa Aiichirō stories fall into this category of “whatthehell” stories that served as a calling card for Farther, least of which not being “Fox’s Wedding”, originally published in 1985 as “DL2-gōki Jiken“, or “The DL2 Incident”…

“Fox’s Wedding” takes place in Miyamae, an island city off the mainland of Japan which has developed a peculiar superstition involving earthquakes. 150 years ago, a great earthquake passed through Miyamae, toppling buildings and laying waste to two-thirds of the city. This earthquake, seemingly, was foretold by a rainstorm… As similar rain-summoned earthquakes begin to rage through the city on the same day, under the same conditions, every 50 years since, the inhabitants of Miyamae have accepted that the city is fated to face deadly disasters every 50 years…

Not a year after the last destructive earthquake, Detective Inspector Hada Sanzo is at Miyamae’s Municipal Airport, awaiting the arrival of a plane that had a fraudulent bomb threat called against it… The moment the airplane touches ground, Hada Sanzo bears witness to a series of bizarre events! A man comes off the plane and appears to trip himself on the stairs on purpose… before strolling over to Hada Sanzo and insisting he was the target of that bomb threat! After demanding the inspector do something about it, the man strolls off with his hired valet Higuma Goro, a man with a criminal history of irresponsible driving that killed a young child, and trips himself on purpose again on the stairs leaving the airport, to go home to a house built on the ravaged ground of the recent earthquake…

From just these seemingly disparate observations, the photographer Aa Aiichirō, who at the time was photographing a bizarre geographical formation from the airport’s tarmac, foretells an attack on Higuma Goro! But of what nature is this attack, and how did Aa know?

This perhaps overtly basic and uninspiring set-up lends itself to a fantastic and surprising resolution that showcases Aa’s intuitive reasoning. A mixture of minute observations and a strong grasp on human nature lends itself to Aa’s aid as he builds a profile of the assailant’s bizarre psychology and deduces the truth behind a seemingly inscrutable man’s seemingly inscrutable motivation for attempted murder…

Just the same as G.K. Chesterton’s “The Queer Feet”, “Fox’s Wedding” uses a contradiction or paradox in character and behavior to divine the criminal truth of bizarre and seemingly innocuous oddities. The explanation is equal parts shocking and natural, totally bizarre yet entirely reasonable. But, like G. K. Chesterton’s more “intuitive” mysteries, “Fox’s Wedding” toes the line between entirely fair and abjectly cheap. While you do have the same information present as the detective when he solves the case, it can be argued that the intuition is a bit close to guessing, and I don’t believe it’s possible for the reader to deduce the solution before the end of the story…

But, for all the ways it can be argued “Fox’s Wedding” is an unfair mystery, it doesn’t detract from the effect of this story. This amazing story (localized with a fluid and natural translation from Steinbock) captures the essence of plotting of the best “whatthehell” tales from the oeuvre of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown to produce a truly unique detective story with a truly novel solution. Those who love Chesterton for his artistic and literary prose will be lost on Awasaka Tsumao, but those who want to see the Chestertonian plotting carried on into the modern world can do no better than this debut from Japan’s heir to Chesterton. If this is the standard of the stories going forward, I can only hope to one day read the follow-ups…

Alibi Cracking, At Your Service – Season 1 (2020) by Yoshihiro Izumi (based on stories by Ōyama Seīchiro)

That “the alibi is the locked-room in time, where the locked-room is the alibi of space” is a philosophy typified by such authors as Roger Ormerod and Tetsuya Ayukawa. To their mind, the two are merely opposite sides of the same coin, a dichotomy of impossibilities dictated by physical inaccess and those defined by chronal inconsistency. That the two are merely parallels of each other also raises an interesting question: for any passionate disciple of the locked-room mystery, the BBC drama Johnathan Creek, a show about a magician’s assistant who uses his knowledge of illusion to solve seemingly impossible crimes, exists… but what about those interested in a classically-plotted show focusing on the impossible alibi problem, its direct counterpart?

In 2018, detective fiction author Ōyama Seīchiro, known for his themed short story collections, published アリバイ崩し承ります (Aribai Kuzushiuketamawarimasu, or Alibi Cracking, At Your Service). Alibi Cracking, At Your Service was a collection of short stories focusing on Tokino Mitani, the granddaughter of a clockmaker who took over his shop following his death. However, the store offers a bizarre service in addition to clock-selling, -cleaning, and -repairing: because her grandfather said that “anything to do with time is the business of a clockmaker”, her shop also deals in the secret service of cracking a guilty person’s seemingly airtight alibi. This is a service often employed by a prideful member of the police force, who has come to secretly rely on her talents when he’s certain he’s found the guilty party in a murder but can’t seem to place them at the scene of the crime.

In 2020, the Alibi Cracking, At Your Service collection was adapted into a Japanese mystery drama of the same name, covering seven of the original stories. As I can’t yet read Japanese, I cannot speak for Ōyama’s bonafides as an author, and I can’t comment on the television series as an adaptation of an existing work. Because of that unfortunate limitation, although I herein refer to Ōyama’s plotting, assume that I am speaking purely on the adaptations as stories that exist in a void.

As both the title and premise indicate, all of the stories in this series revolve around the theme of “alibis” as a matter of course, and it manages to wring a surprising level of variety from such a specific theme. Most of these stories take the form of semi-inverted/impossible alibi problems, in which we know the killer’s identity but not how they committed the crime while managing to manufacture a seemingly airtight alibi, leaving the question of “howdunnit” hanging in the air. A few other episodes, though, do deal with other variations on the concept, such as the stories adapted into episodes “The Alibi of the Mountain Villa” and “The Alibi of the Beautiful Sister”, which deal with the inverse problem of “providing an alibi to an innocent character”. But even when the series is indulging in its more conventional alibi plots, the versatility in how alibis are established (and cracked) is salient, as in episodes like “The Alibi of the Dead”, where a dying man confesses to murder but is given an alibi based on the time and place in which he died, or “The Alibi of the Download”, in which the killer was with his friend at the time of the murder, a fact proven by the friend remembering that the killer downloaded a promotional song that was only available until midnight that night, and still yet in “The Alibi of the Murder Weapon” in which the time of death is established by the time the murder weapon was deposited into the mailbox, and for every moment this could’ve happened the killer naturally had an alibi!

The average quality of the stories is also quite high for what essentially amounts to an authorial collection, which will be made abundantly clear during the individual story breakdowns. While I think few of the stories are truly brilliantly ground-breaking, equally few are overtly derivative, obvious, and underwhelming. While there is one episode which stands out as particularly original and clever, and even made it onto my list of my 30 favorite mystery stories ever written, the typical episode of Alibi Cracking, At Your Service features tricks that, in their most basic form, are immediately recognizable to any detective fiction aficionado, but Ōyama still manages to get a lot of mileage out of time-worn concepts, twisting them into new forms where it’s nothing short of impressive he could do that much with that idea. Even when he falls back on concepts so old-fashioned that, if I were to spoil them in this blog post, you’d roll your eyes at the basicness and banality of the idea, the way the unique qualities of the alibi’s set-up inform new and genuinely inspired variations of these solutions showcase Ōyama’s skills as a detective plotter. He isn’t just mindlessly copying things he’s read before, he’s building on them.

But while the plotting is genuinely skillful mystery-threading, the acting and direction of the show is worth further scrutiny.

Tokino Mitani (depicted by Minami Hamabe), despite her adultlike talents at cracking alibis, is bubbly and childish, down to every episode’s pivotal moment taking place during (tasteful) scenes of her eating a smorgasbord of sweets and confections in the bathtub while she mulls over the case, or is pouting that she got yelled at for overstepping personal or professional boundaries that she didn’t recognize were boundaries. The lead police officer of the show, Saji Yoshiyuki (Yasuda Ken) is deeply prideful and professional, hating his reliance on a teenage girl to solve his mysteries for him. Mitani, however, relishes in the work, often trying to get him to consult her on mysteries he doesn’t even need help with. He’s in a fierce rivalry with one of the policemen working under him, Detective Tokai Yuma (Narita Ryo), otherwise known as “Junior”, the young son of a high-ranking politician and who is also fiercely in love with Tokino Mitani. Since Saji needs to be seen as a superior in the force, and is embarrassed, he keeps his consultations with Tokino strictly confidential.

There’s a lot of over-acting and exaggerated melodrama, and it’s frequently very cheesy, just enough to be charming, not too much where the characters begin to feel unrealistic, but enough that those who don’t typically consume Japanese comedy mysteries could easily find it saccharine and annoying. None of the characters are particularly deep, though, and all of them can be accused of being bidimensional cut-outs. Of course, their dynamics are solid and the characters are charming enough to behold, but only enough to carry the individual plotlines — you won’t walk away from the show remembering the depths of the characters of Tokino Mitani or Saji Yoshiyuki, at least. None of the actors do a bad job, but the tone of the show they’re working with, combined with the thinness of their characters, makes this saccharine corniness a directorial quirk of the show.

It’s also a tone the show is often quite bad at carrying. A lot of comedy typical of the worst of Japanese comedy screenwriting is present in this show, and few of the jokes land. There’s only so many shows that can be written where an adult man is wrongfully accused of having a romantic attachment with a teenager until, I hope, screenwriters realize it wasn’t a very funny joke the first.

Ultimately, though, character depth is not a prerequisite for a good mystery, or even a good story, and riotous laughs aren’t necessary for a tonally silly show. Tokino Mitani, while not a particularly impressive character, is one of the most adorable super-detectives in the mystery fiction genre, and she’s an endearing, precious presence to follow through crime scenes, and her charm helps carry a lot of the quirkiness of Alibi Cracking, At Your Service. Better yet, Alibi Cracking, At Your Service offers a variety of competently-constructed alibi plots perfectly balancing spatial and chronical misdirection that should please fans of tricky, classically-plotted mystery stories. For its faults I still can’t deny having enjoyed the show on those strengths alone, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a drama that deals with alibis as a rule.

Episode 1 – “The Alibi of the Dead” sees Tokino Mitani and Saji Yoshiyuki meeting for the first time at a store that sells Tokino’s favorite snack. Neither gets the opportunity to enjoy a meal, though, as a disoriented man shambling down the street ignores their shouts of warning and is struck dead by an incoming car. In his last moments, the man confesses to the murder of his girlfriend at her apartment…

…only, however, this is simply impossible!

Even with the most liberal estimates of time, Saji realizes, based on the distance from the crime scene to the site of the crash that killed the man, it would be impossible for him to commit the murder at her established time of death, and then walk to the storefront street in time to be run over by that car. The distances are too great, and no matter how much you stretch the logical limits of when the woman could have been killed it’s impossible for any man to cross the city in the allotted amount of time.

And so, Saji is stuck with an unusual alibi: the time the killer died doesn’t permit for him to have committed the crime! And if he can’t crack this alibi, it means that someone else must have committed the crime..! If his confession is true, how could this crime have been committed by this dead man?

“The Alibi of the Dead” serves both as a lovely introduction to our core characters, with Saji desperately trying to prove himself a competent detective and refusing to relent to the nosy Tokino’s requests to allow her to investigate, and as solid snapshot of this show’s competency and creativity with the alibi plot. The set-up quickly establishes a fairly clever variation on the “impossible alibi” problem, with a known killer’s time of death seemingly acquitting them for the crime, and the solution is very neat indeed!

The resolution to “The Alibi of the Dead” turns on a pretty corny but certainly unique trick that not only permits for the dead man to show up to his death on time, but also kind of turns the “semi-inverted alibi problem” plotline on its head — using the dead man’s alibi trick to reveal how this episode had nothing to do with alibis at all and how, in retrospect, this episode doesn’t even qualify as an “alibi plot”! If it relies on no less than three glaring conveniences and coincidences for the plot to even work out, that is something of a smudge on what I still consider to be a fairly neat and clever ending to a promising pilot episode of this show!

Note, though, that the version of the show that exists online has incorrectly translated subtitles. One line of dialogue is translated incorrectly in such a minor but also such a fundamental way that the plot of the episode becomes utterly incomprehensible if you don’t know Japanese and are incapable of realizing the mistake the translator made. I was able to recognize the mistake, but to explain the mistake also inadvertently points you in the direction of the solution. I will be able to supply a version of the show with corrected subtitles in the future, and if you’re interested in seeing this version of the show leave a comment below and let me know so I can sign you up to be able to view it!

In Episode 2 – “The Alibi of the Stalker”, Dr. Hamazawa Kyoko, a professor of pathology, is interrupted in her university laboratory by her ex-husband and current stalker barging in, yelling at her, and demanding her students leave so that two can talk in private. It’s therefore only natural that when Dr. Hamazawa winds up stabbed to death inside of her apartment that very same night, the police immediately hone in on this man as the obvious suspect. Only, of course, he has an airtight alibi: at the time of the murder, he says, he was at a bar and his location can be verified by many reliable witnesses.

With the victim’s stalker’s alibi verified, they begin to close in on the victim’s brother, who receives a mighty fine life insurance payout that is, conveniently, the perfect amount needed to pay off all of his outstanding debts. But Saji isn’t convinced of his subordinate’s deductions: because, after all, if the stalkerish ex-husband was truly innocent, how did he know the precise moment Dr. Hamazawa died in order to insist upon his own alibi, when none of the police ever told him the cause of death..?

To save a man soon to be falsely accused of murder, Saji is yet again on the case to find out how a man can commit murder when he appeared to be at another place at the time the crime took place!

This episode deservedly takes its place on my list of my 30 favorite mystery stories ever written. It might be easy to walk away from this review and, retrospectively, think that the set-up to this is the most unappealingly generic of the bunch, but Alibi Cracking, At Your Service contrives an almost certainly entirely unique piece of alibi trickery to this premise. It’s a method that feels so natural I am frankly stunned that I can’t think of another mystery of any sub-genre that uses this kind of mechanism in its solution. It’s a type of ingenuity that feels less like the story is pushing the genre into new territory, and more like the story is retroactively covering ground that the genre has no excuse to have left untouched — writers will be kicking themselves as much as readers at the conclusion of this very clever episode.

There’s also a very sweet motive at the heart of this story which, while not as unique as the alibi trick, is really touching, and serves as a natural and solid explanation for why this plan was contrived. All around, “The Alibi of the Stalker” is a fantastic episode, and with its cleverly unique alibi trick, heartwarming motive, and neat clues, it’s easy to recommend. If you only watch a single episode of this show, let it be this one!

Episode 3 – “The Alibi of the Beautiful Sister” is a departure for Tokino’s career as a watchmaker detective: rather than destroying an alibi, Tokino must create an alibi for a young woman who claims to have murdered her sister. She tells Commissioner Saji that she is stricken with the habit of sleepwalking, and after a bizarre 12-hour-long night of sleep she woke up in her bed, covered in her sister’s blood, evidently from having killed her in her sleep… Saji refuses to believe that such a kind and gentle woman would commit a murder, in her sleep or otherwise, and so brings the case to Tokino to have her use her talents, not to crack a guilty person’s alibi, but to create an innocent person’s…

I don’t really care for this one, sadly. After the very imaginative and unique first two episodes, this one was a massive disappointment with its obvious, silly, and hoary resolution, which anyone should be able to see coming rather quickly.

It’s equally disappointing that the episode doesn’t particularly pay off on the premise of “creating an alibi”, which has the potential to be a brilliant inversion of the alibi plot, instead falling back on being a fairly typical whodunit with a killer who just so happens to use an alibi trick which, conveniently, creates a gap in the alibi of the innocent sister. It’s even sillier because in retrospect, the killer’s plan would’ve had a greater chance of succeeding if he hadn’t bothered framing the sister for murder… Ironically, I think “The Alibi of the Dead” serves as a better “create an alibi” plot than this dedicated episode, which says a lot…

Easily the worst episode of the show, and it’s sad to have this immediately after the superb “The Alibi of the Stalker”. However, it’s notable for being the moment Saji begins regularly and willingly bringing his cases to Tokino for assistance.

In Episode 4 – “The Alibi of the Mountain Cottage”, Saji attends a vacation at a remote mountain villa where he befriends a young man who deeply admires policework and hopes to one day become a police officer just like Saji. So, of course Saji is deeply troubled when a murder is committed and the only person in the whole villa who could have committed it is this upstanding young man!

Two sets of footprints lead to the clocktower off of the property villa, and only one comes back, so of course when this is investigated a dead body is found inside of the clocktower! At the time the murder was committed, every person staying at the villa was together in the bar, drinking and talking together… Every person, that is, except the young man and the murder victim! Saji yet again asks Tokino Mitani to help prove the young aspiring police officer innocent by finding the real killer.

Similarly to “The Alibi of the Beautiful Sister”, this episode doesn’t do a lot by setting up that there’s an innocent person who needs to be defended, and the story is otherwise a pretty typical alibi plot in the “every suspect was together in one room when the murder was committed” mold. The fact someone has been wrongly framed is incidental to the plot.

There’s an interesting idea at the heart of this to use footprints as a mechanism to confuse the timeline of the crime, combined with a very smart visual clue, but it’s such a simple application of the default, assumed footprint trick that it’s trivial to see through even by bypassing the intended logic. For a show as frequently creative with the alibi plot as Alibi Cracking, At Your Service it’s sad these occasionally very uninspired episodes. Marginally better than “The Alibi of the Beautiful Sister”, but still the second worst episode of the season.

Episode 5 – The Alibi of the Download sees a young man in university for game development be accused of a murder committed months earlier, but to his great fortune he actually has an alibi! For the entire day of the crime, November 20th, he and his best friend were hanging out in his apartment playing a video game that he actually created himself. When pressed that his friend might have been incorrect about the day or time, the young man remembers that on November 20th he actually downloaded a promotional song from his favorite artist! The song was only available on that day, and he showed the song to his friend once he downloaded it, so if his friends corroborates this story then, naturally, he has an alibi for the whole day of November 20th!

The friend is interviewed and naturally corroborates his friend’s story. Saji and Tokino quickly consider and then reject the possibility of him lying, but as long as this friend truthfully remembers the killer downloading that song, only available on the day of November 20th, his alibi is in tact…

If you take away everything surrounding it, the trick at the heart of “The Alibi of the Download” is one many detective fiction readers will know well as one of the most recognizable, age-old, and eyeroll-inducing methods of time manipulation in the genre, but Ōyama Seīchiro really does great work twisting this trick into a form where it seems inconceivable that it could even work. The trick is applied in such an astonishingly creative way that, if I were to spoil what the solution to this mystery is in the barest terms possible, you’d likely be at a total loss as to how it could even apply to this particular problem as I’ve described it. That’s worth a bit of awe in and of itself, I say!

For its stunning ability to turn seconds into days, “The Alibi of the Download” is an impressive and worthwhile piece of work from Alibi Cracking, At Your Service.

Episode 6 – “The Alibi of the Murder Weapon” sees a gun discovered inside of a mailbox by the deliveryman! The gun shows evidence of having been fired recently, a worrying fact especially with the ongoing gang war in the area! The bad omen of the gun is soon validated when a pharmaceutical representative is found shot to death in the basement of his home by bullets matching those in the gun..!

The victim had no connection to organized crime, but suspicion soon falls onto his boss at his company when it’s learned that he does! But, there’s one issue… the boss was having a dinner at the time the murder was committed and the time the gun was thrown into the mail box. With this double-barreled alibi, the boss is seemingly cleared of the crime, but his connections to the gangs keep Tokino and Saji investigating his potential guilt…

This clever set-up lends itself to an equally clever and very tricky resolution that somewhat reminds me of the exceptional alibi trick in “Whose Body?”, collected in Tetsuya Ayukawa’s The Red Locked-Room. The solution here is one of the more complex and unique of the series, but I do think it’s easy to roughly figure out what must have happened if you stop and think reasonably about the set-up.

The plot here is, conceptually, wonderful, but a common issue with alibi-centric mysteries is when they don’t really need to be alibi plots at all… Oftentimes, by highlighting the existence of an alibi-related trick (by either placing all of your suspects together in one room, or having a known killer) you tend to underscore the weaknesses in the killer’s plan and make the tricks less solid as a consequence. This is one of those stories where I think being forewarned of the presence of an alibi trick somewhat dents the foundation of the killer’s scheme. “Alibi of the Murder Weapon” is still a brilliant idea, mind you, just one that for my money would have benefited from being put into a normal whodunit without naming the culprit. I still wholeheartedly recommend it as a stand-out episode from the show!

Episode 7 – “The Alibi of Too Many Witnesses” sees the body count already at two, following the discovery of a corpse on the riverside, a man soon revealed to be the secretary to a member of the House of Representatives. He disappeared from the Representative’s fundraiser the night before, and when it’s discovered that the victim was blackmailing his boss the politician is quickly labeled the prime suspect. But of course, as we’ve come to expect, this politician has a perfect alibi, and one that’s more than a little difficult to contest: he was at the fundraiser, speaking to well over 300 people at the time the murder was committed!

While Saji is trying to deal with how he could commit the murder with nobody seeing him, he learns that this isn’t quite true… it seems as if one person noticed how the politician could commit murder, because another victim, also an attendee of the fundraiser, is found murdered in his apartment! It seems as if the killer is willing to murder witnesses, and with this revelation Saji is uncomfortable involving the extremely insistent and nosy Tokino in the case, for fear he might be responsible for a young girl being murdered…

This season finale, in a lot of ways, reminds me of the finale to season 1 of Furuhata Ninzaburō, involving a dramatic confrontation with a high-ranking member of the government known to our protagonists, but I think Alibi Cracking, At Your Service‘s finale handles it better. Where Furuhata Ninzaburō doesn’t meaningfully lean into the inherent drama of the killer being a legendary detective, “The Alibi of Too Many Witnesses” charmingly plays it up by making it clear Tokino’s life may very well be in danger, showing meaningful character development for our secondary protagonists (like Junior confronting the killer, his own father, to protect Tokino), hinting at the possibility of Tokino and Saji’s secret being discovered, and even introducing a friend of Tokino’s grandpa to help in the last minute. It’s a solid bit of drama befitting the finale of the first season of this show.

That being said, this is certainly the most conflicted I’ve felt about an episode of Alibi Cracking, At Your Service. The double-murder involves an interweaved alibi plot that kind of recalls the double-faceted locked-room murders of John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man; or, The Three Coffins in a pretty clever way. Not only that, but there is a fantastic piece of misdirection surrounding motive at the heart of this as well, but a lot of the mechanics of this plot feel like it’s revisiting concepts the show has already used before…

The actual mechanism used to establish the alibi is not incredibly dissimilar to “The Alibi of the Stalker”‘s trick, and there’s an “inversion” of what it means to destroy a suspect’s alibi in a similar fashion to “The Alibi of the Dead”. While neither are just redressings of old concepts, the fact the plot majorly recalls earlier episodes of the show does dampen the impact of what’s otherwise a pretty smart and tightly-plotted alibi story…

And that was Alibi Cracking, At Your Service! It can be said it’s a frequently unfunny show, despite its best efforts, but if the jokes are duds it doesn’t take away from the charm of the hammy melodramatic over-acting. Better yet, it’s a mystery show with what are on average pretty good mystery plots, oriented around a theme often neglected in the television sphere! For all of its occasional faults, I can still wholeheartedly recommend Alibi Cracking, At Your Service to anyone looking for a show imaginative with respect to how to create and destroy alibis!

As we wind down this review to make way for the episode rankings, happy reading and happy sleuthing!

  1. “The Alibi of the Stalker” (Episode 2)
  2. “The Alibi of the Download” (Episode 5)
  3. “The Alibi of the Murder Weapon” (Episode 6)
  4. “The Alibi of the Dead” (Episode 1)
  5. “The Alibi of Too Many Witnesses” (Episode 7)
  6. “The Alibi of the Mountain Cottage” (Episode 4)
  7. “The Alibi of the Beautiful Sister” (Episode 3)

On the Increasingly Essential Frontier of Hybrid Mysteries — Fantasy, Science-Fiction, and Murder (Part 1/2 – Whydunit?)

The “hybrid mystery” is my greatest fascination within the classically-styled “puzzle plot” mystery story. I like to call it detective fiction’s next frontier, for, if you were to ask me, I’d say that it is essential that at least some of the living writers of “neo-classical” mysteries embrace this style of plotting. Instead of restricting itself to the here and now (or the yesterday, in the cases of most mystery novels) of our real world, the “hybrid mystery” embraces greater levels of fantasy to enhance and inform new kinds of murder plots. By calling upon or setting themselves within such things as fantasy, science-fiction, or horror, the “hybrid mystery” is capable of utilizing these genres’ unique plots, settings, and tropes to construct mystery stories that couldn’t exist within more purely realistic mystery writing.

In the English-speaking world, examples of “hybrid mysteries” are few. On one side of the SFF spectrum, you have Randall Garrett, who wrote the Tolkein-esque fantasy locked-room mystery Too Many Magicians. On the other side, you have respected science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, among whose hybrids of sci-fi and mystery The Caves of Steel is the highest esteemed. Besides these two, however, English and American authors rare embraced the fantasy-infused puzzle mystery novel.

However, all the way on the other side of the world, the “hybrid mystery” has enjoyed ample popularity in Japan’s shin-honkaku movement, their version of the “neo-classical” Golden Age-inspired mystery. Of these, there are only two immediately available in English: Masahiro Imamura’s Death Among the Dead; and, Yamaguchi Masaya’s Death of the Living Dead, both of which involve locked-room murders committed amidst a zombie apocalypse, and were exceptionally well-received by English readers of classical mysteries. And furthermore, while Garrett’s locked-room mysteries were criticized for having rather traditional mysteries not well-informed by their fantasy premises, these two zombie-infected murder mysteries really bite into their settings, presenting new kinds of impossible crimes and solutions that could never exist outside of the contexts of these stories. And, as it happens, these two are only the tip of a surprisingly deep iceberg of similarly plotted supernatural mysteries to come from the great mystery-writing minds of the east.

Konno Tenryū perhaps makes a good representative of the Japanese fatnasy-“hybrid mystery”, writing such novels as Renkinjutsushi no Misshitsu (The Locked-Room of the Alchemist), the first in a series of impossible crime stories set in a fantasy world in which magic follows precise laws of give-and-take, turning “magic” into a science. Tenryū also wrote Cinderella-jō no Satsujin (The Cinderella Castle Murder), a legal drama in which the Cinderella fairytale is twisted into a murder mystery and Cinderella, accused of murdering the prince at his ball, has to defend herself in a fantasy courtroom with her sharp wit and fast-talking nature, à la Perry Mason. In both novels, fantasy magic exists and factor into the murders. However, despite the inclusion of magic, these mysteries are entirely fairplay, providing the audience with all of the clues needed to solve the mystery. This is accomplished by offering precise and exact understanding of the ways in which magic can and cannot be operated in the novels’ settings. By doing this, this knowledge became clues towards the solution the same way obtuse scientific knowledge world in the novels of R. Austin Freeman or John Rhode, and, by extension, the novel continues to be a classical, fairly-clued puzzle plot the sort many readers of this blog. Magic exists as like science.

On the other end of the spectrum of speculative fiction, science-fiction has not been neglected by Japan’s mystery writers. Hōjō Kie is well-known for her series of intricate puzzle plots involving themes like time travel in Jikuu Ryokousha no Sunadokei (The Hourglass of the Time-Traveler) and virtual reality in Meitantei ni Kanbi naru Shi wo (Sweet Deaths for the Great Detectives). Just like their fantastical counterparts, Hōjō Kie’s future-faring plots utilize elements nonexistent in the familiar world, and just like those magical murders of Konno Tenryū, Kie makes them function by providing the reader with specific and actionable knowledge about how the science-fiction in her worlds operate. They are still fairplay murder mysteries.

These are merely two examples from an increasingly popular school of anti-realistic puzzle-heavy mystery authors in the Japanese speaking world. As my personal journey in studying the Japanese language continues, and I slowly become more acquainted with these baroque, twisty, and fantastical tales of murder and detection, I’ve also become more enamored with this style of mystery plotting and, subsequently, disappointed that among modern authors of English-language Golden Age-inspired mystery stories it has remained largely neglected — only at a stretch does Jim Noy’s recent The Red Death Murders come close to qualifying.

I believe there are a few reasons why western writers should embrace this style of plotting, even if just for a few novels or stories at a time. Naturally, while I simply want to read more of these “hybrid mysteries”, my reasons for encouraging authors to write magical murders and science-fiction felons go much deeper than that. I believe there are real benefits to writers and readers for western authors of fairly-clued mystery stories offered by this niche sub-sub-sub-genre, which we will explore through Japanese detective fiction.

Firstly, they offer wider creative freedom and variety that allow writers to explore this genre in new ways.

As I’ve been saying from the beginning, the freedom offered by “hybrid mysteries” is vast. The Golden Age mystery novel originally went into hibernation because the genre was seen as stagnant in style and plot. Insanity is to continue to try to do the same thing and expecting different results; merely trying to recreate the Golden Age mystery, the same as it left off, will lead the genre to the same fate it already suffered. Creating a brand new world in which you set your mysteries is the easiest way to shake things up and avoid repetition. It allows you to experiment with form, scenarios, characters, and tricks that nobody’s ever seen before for them being “impossible” to produce in traditional mysteries.

Consider, if you will, the works of Aoyagi Aito, which include the Mukashi Mukashi Aru Tokoro ni, Shita ga Arimashita (Once Upon a Time, There Was a Corpse) series. This series of his is famous for transforming classical Japanese folktales into (fairplay) mystery stories. The very first story in the first collection of the series is “Issunboushi no Fuzaishoumei” (“The Alibi of Issunboushi”), which is inspired by the legend of Issunboushi, a one-inch-tall soldier who has the bravery of a hundred normal-sized men and serves as a soldier to protect the princess. In the line of duty, Issunboushi is eaten by an Ogre and, defying death, kills the Ogre from inside of its stomach with his small sword. His reward for defeating the Ogre is a magical hammer that turns him into a 1.80 meter tall man.

While the story ended there in the original legend, in “Issunboushi no Fuzaishoumei” a character suspects Issunboushi of committing a murder. But this “detective” is shocked to find out that Issunboushi has an airtight, albeit unusual, alibi: at the time of the murder, Issunboushi was seen being eaten by the Ogre, an event witnessed by the princess herself and nine other members of her personal group of royal retainers! How could Issunboushi commit this murder when ten of the most trustworthy people in the entire country testify that he was inside of the stomach of a monster at the same time he must’ve been committing the murder? Thus, the original fable of Issunboushi is transformed into an alibi problem!

In the very same collection is “Misshitsu Ryuuguujou” (“The Dragon’s Locked Palace”), a twisting of the legend of Urashima Tarou, a fisherman who is brought to the underwater Dragon Palace after saving a helpless turtle. There, he becomes an honored guest of Otohime, a princess of a magical race of fish people who can take on human form at will to dance and frolic! Naturally, of course, as this is a detective story, the fable deviates here as a murder is committed within a locked room inside of the palace, further complicated by the coral covering the windows. The fish people believe that with his vast human intelligence, Urashima Tarou can solve the mystery, and thus is recruited to solve this murder on their behalf, creating a locked-room murder within the original legend!

Take note of a few elements of these stories that stand out to you, and I’m sure you can produce no similar mystery story with the same elements! The existence of a one-inch-tall man, for instance, or a magical hammer capable of making people and objects larger, or fantasy creatures like Ogres! Or fish that can talk and think like humans and even take on humanoid forms, or locked-rooms sealed by coral, or the fact the entire story takes place exclusively underwater… These plot points, among others, are part of what define these stories, and consequently inform their murder plots. These stories feature not only scenarios, but also tricks, clues, and misdirection which can only exist within these stories; the form has changed, but the heart of the detective story is here with renewed life. No less proper detective stories, the freedom offered allowed Aoyogi Aito to create stories which will forever stand out not only in the minds of those who read them, but also in the history of the genre among the millions of stories which take place in old country mansions…

Secondly, it makes mystery stories more accessible to fans of other genres and stories.

Those used to the modern form mystery fiction has taken in the English-speaking world might not understand what really makes classical detection and puzzle mysteries so enjoyable. It’s very possible — nay, inevitable — that a prospective fan of the genre of Golden Age mysteries has been turned away by psychological thrillers and repetitive cop dramas. While some may worry that the “hybrid mystery” is inaccessible to traditional detective story fans, the opposite is true for convertees and other newcomers to the genre. They may very well be more likely to pick up a novel with familiar elements, and from enjoying that “hybrid mystery” a new fan of more traditional Golden Age detection is born!

Nothing is more emblematic of this, in my opinion, than Arisu Goroshi (The Murder of Alice). In this novel, the first of the Märchen Girls series by Kobayashi Yasumi, a young girl named Ari dreams of a world called “Wonderland” in which she is known as “Alice”. In this Wonderland dreamscape she meets such fantastical creatures as the dim-witted Bill the Lizard and a vicious Queen of Hearts… However, the dreams suddenly turn into nightmares when, one night, Humpty Dumpty falls off of a wall and cracks right open! And Alice is accused of this heinous crime!

In real life, Ari is shocked when a very similar death occurs at her school. A classmate is killed by falling off of the top of a school building… and just like in her dream, she becomes the prime suspect! It’s at this moment she learns that Wonderland isn’t only a dream, and it’s not something only she sees. In fact, all of her classmates go to Wonderland every night when they go to sleep, and more bizarrely they’ve all met each other during this shared dream! All of the “fantasy creatures” Ari has met when she was Alice have, in reality, been the Wonderland counterparts of her classmates! The dim-witted Bill the Lizard, for instance, was the form taken on her very smart classmate Inori. Armed with this knowledge that the real world and “Wonderland” interact with one another, Ari and Alice teams up with Inori and Bill the Lizard to clear her name in both realities!

The novel, clearly, takes heavy inspiration from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The Disney animated adaptation is one of the most famous pieces of media in Japan, ever! There are entire restaurants dedicated to the film, and it is consistently referenced in their pop culture in every form. Action movies, horror stories, romance and “adult” comic books, and even video games often carry some kind of reference to Alice in Wonderland, from things as small as character names and locations to elements as grand the entire premise of the story being clear homage! A murder mystery take on Alice in Wonderland was only inevitable, especially given that Alice being falsely accused of murder is the very premise of the original story itself, and it’s not unthinkable that this sort of story will carry the same appeal as those other homages.

Take this alongside the earlier-mentioned Cinderella Castle Murder. Not only are both stories dense and traditional mystery novels, but both are also littered with references, names, and iconography of famous classic stories in other genres. Everyone knows Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, and as I said the latter is extremely popular in Japan. A young woman who desires to read everything Alice in Wonderland may very well pick this novel up. Elements familiar to fans of the original are present, including surreal fantasy creatures, word-play, playing-card symbolism, and gibberish — and, for mystery lovers, these elements continue to tie around into unique murder plots at that! This not only makes The Murder of Alice a mystery novel for mystery fans, boasting an entirely unique impossible crime plot exclusive to itself, but also a mystery novel for Alice in Wonderland fans! And with all crossover efforts like this, the possibility always exists that one becomes the other. By writing The Murder of Alice, Kobayashi Yasumi has created the possibility for an Alice in Wonderland fan to become the next big mystery fan.

This also isn’t exclusive to “hybrid mysteries” acting as pastiches to other established works. More broadly, an established fan of medieval fantasy may find Konno Tenryū’s fantasy murder mysteries appealing for their fantasy stylings, or a fan of high-faring science-fiction may read Hōjō Kie’s mysteries for their mysteries involving time-travel, virtual reality, and metaphysics. In these cases, although the authors aren’t calling upon known stories, it is still the case that a fantasy fan or a science-fiction will find something to enjoy in these novels without the context of knowing they’re mystery novels first and foremost — and from there, the transition to a fan of mysteries is a possibility.

And, finally, they allow detective stories to stay the same.

What? I hear you asking. Allow them to stay the same? Isn’t that the opposite of my very first point in defense of “hybrid mysteries”, to allow detective fiction to mutate?

The first argument is that it allows the detective fiction genre to evolve in unique ways, so “staying the same” might seem antithetical to that. But I think it becomes clear when we ask the question of “why does detective fiction not evolve?”. Why do all detective novels of the “puzzle plot” variety want to set themselves in the years of 1900 to 1940?

The answer isn’t purely that writers and readers of mystery novels are outrageously nostalgic, or that they want to maintain a genre status quo. It’s more fair to say that the modern day is often seen by fans of classical detection as not conducive to mysterious murders. Forensics and surveillance have evolved to such a point that, nowadays, many people believe it’s impossible to have truly interesting and baffling murders that aren’t solved through purely forensic and procedural means. Even many mysteries that are set in the modern day deal with the problem by either setting the story in a location entirely separated from society so that the story could, for all we know, take place during any year, or by conveniently ignoring any science or technology that would be inconvenient to their narrative, neither of which being ideal. Some stories reject this notion, with the Detective Conan mystery manga series being famous for making use of elements of the modern world like video games, cell phones, and the internet for its mystery puzzles, and Dale C. Andrews’s Ellery Queen pastiche “The Book Case” exemplifying the fallibility of even modern forensics through its final twist involving the ambiguity of blood analysis, demonstrating the place for Great Detectives even in the contemporary world. Despite all this, however, there’s an argument to be made that the modern world is still restrictive so that many types of tricks and plots are simply so unviable that working around them ends up becoming counterintuitive to the point of setting the story in the modern world to begin with — what does it matter your story takes place in 2022 if it’s set in a faraway village with no modern technology? How is that different than the story merely taking place in 1922?

The “hybrid mystery” is a paradox in that it allows mysteries to evolve while also allowing them to stay the same. The author can be allowed to experiment with new settings and characters, while continuing to indulge in tricks and plot points that may be unviable in a mystery set in the modern world. In this way, it permits the detective story to change and to resist change in equal measure, in a way impossible if the genre merely evolved to utilize the world of today. By allowing the author to draw from any world they want, it allows the writer to ignore changes that would be forced upon them by creating a mystery plot within 2022, and to enact any change they want. In other words, the evolution (and opposition to evolution) of the genre is entirely within the writer’s own hands.

…and, really, the “hybrid mystery” genre is just very interesting! It being a favorite of mine, I can only hope that I’ve provided three cogent reasons for mystery lovers to write in the genre. I regret that all of my examples are purely Japanese, but that is the issue with a genre that has primarily evolved in another culture, and I can only hope further that my synopses allowed them to be understandable demonstrations of the virtues of the “hybrid mystery”.

If even one of you has read this and developed a newfound interest in writing “hybrid mysteries”, you might be thinking “that’s all well and good and all, but how exactly do I write a fair mystery in a fantasy story?”. You know whydunit, but now howdunit? Now that I’ve done the convincing, I’ll next be doing the instructing, with a post dedicated to everything that you need to keep in mind when writing your first breakout hybrid mystery novel.

Until then, happy sleuthing!

The Comprehensive Guide to Ace Attorney for Video Game-Averse Mystery-Reading Persons (+ other mystery games to try!)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is my personal favorite mystery franchise of all time. Due to its immense inspiration from the plotting style of Golden Age mysteries and, more specifically, Japanese shin-honkaku mysteries, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney‘s twisty tricks, devious deeds, clever clues, and mysterious murders were my first introduction to the world of so-called “puzzle plot” mystery fiction. I’ve covered this series multiple times on my blog, including this lukewarm review of the first game, being the inspiration for an entry on my list of the 15 types of impossible crimes, having a case represented on my 15 favorite impossible crimes list, and, more recently and noticeably, its frequent inclusion on my list of my 30 favorite mystery stories ever. And while it might be easy to write off my fondness for the series as mere nostalgia or bias, every time I revisit the series with more and more knowledge of the history of Golden Age mysteries, instead of liking it less, I learn more ways to love the franchise and its inspirations!

Really, for being my favorite mystery series of all time, I don’t cover it enough! It’s primarily because I mostly thought any references I made to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney would be as good as me shouting passionately about my enthusiasm for this franchise to a wall, but Nicholas Fuller, fellow mystery-blogger of The Grandest Game in the World fame, commented on my 30 favorite mystery stories list to let me know that he was convinced by my passion for the franchise to try out the first game.

At first, I was enthused… but then I was worried. I was happy that my words hadn’t fallen on deaf ears, but I was well aware that for many people in the Golden Age mystery community, non-literature mysteries would always be something that existed on a sort of “probationary” basis. This is especially true for things like manga and likely doubly so for video game mysteries. Trying to convince a lot of people that graphic novels and animation and video games have showcased some of the grandest games in the grandest game in the world is difficult, and many people very rarely give the mediums more than one “good old college try” before either writing it off or pursuing it hesitantly further.

Well, that shouldn’t be a problem! I hear you saying. If I’m confident in my love for Ace Attorney, then naturally I should be confident that the people who try the series will enjoy it enough to not entirely write it and every other mystery video game off. Well, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is my favorite mystery series, that’s true, but it isn’t by any means a perfect mystery series. It has some of what I consider the best mysteries ever written, don’t get me wrong, but it also has some of what I and others consider among the worst mysteries ever written too, and I worried that if someone stumbled upon those mysteries, any chance Ace Attorney had of getting a new fan would be long gone.

Hence… The Comprehensive Guide to Ace Attorney for Video Game-Averse Mystery-Reading Persons.

In this comprehensive guide, I will not only provide an overview of the series, I will also explain how a prospective player of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney can begin to play the series, as well as offer many different options for people to skip cases based on their attitudes towards video games and/or the series. In modern releases of the series, a player has the ability to select any cases they want to play, allowing for cases to be skipped freely in all of the games in the series except for three. This reading list will highlight which cases are “skippable” without divorcing the player of important context they need to understand the overarching narrative of the Ace Attorney series so that people who are more reluctant to play literally every single case in the series can see the highlights without missing out on anything important.

HOWEVER, IMPORTANT NOTICE: I want to stress that I personally recommend NOT skipping ANY cases at all (with one exception), even “bad” or “skippable” ones. While some cases offer less essential set-up than others, there are extremely few cases in the series that totally exist in a void and offer nothing to the interwoven narrative. Small moments of character development and foreshadowing will be missing, and the impact of some cases, especially finale cases, will be dulled as a consequence. If you’re serious about experiencing Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney as intended, I highly recommend not skipping any cases at all. This reading list is merely offered here as an alternative, for people who are hesitant about committing to the full 240+ hour experience of this series, and are not the recommended or ideal ways to play the games.

That all being said, one more note before jumping fully into this guide, at the very end, I will offer an overview of other mystery game series that fans of Golden Age detection might be interested in checking out as well! Let this be the first ever portal for mystery-lovers to take their steps into the world of digital detection.


Use Ctrl+F or “find in page” to skip to sections below by copy-pasting the section titles below!

—– 1.) So, what even is a “Phoenix Wright” and an “Ace Attorney”?!
—– 2.) 11 Games!? Can you break those down for me!?
—– 3.) But, WHY should I, as a fan of Golden Age mysteries, play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney!?
—– 4.) But, then, how do I even play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney!?
—– 5.) Great! Let’s get started! Can we get into the reading list!?
—– 6.) Now that I’ve played Ace Attorney, what if I want 5 more mystery video games for I, the Golden Age mystery fan!?
—– 7.) And… finally, we’ve come to the end.

So, what even is a “Phoenix Wright” and an “Ace Attorney”?

A typical question as it’s presented to the player in Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a video game series developed by Japanese company Capcom and published originally in Japan exclusively for the GameBoy Advance. The series wasn’t available in English until 2001 when the original trilogy was remade for the Nintendo DS handheld and then subsequently localized into America and European countries. The original lead writer and creator of the series is Takumi Shū, who was inspired by his love of puzzling mystery stories to adapt the experience into a proper mystery video game.

In the Ace Attorney series you take control of a lawyer, typically Phoenix Wright, who defends clients falsely accused of murder! Every case of Ace Attorney is organized like a Perry Mason novel, with each case being separated into days and the first half of each day being dedicated to conducting investigations and collecting evidence, and the second half being dedicated to trial segments.

Investigations use a simple point-and-click interface, similar to old PC puzzle games, but during trials, witnesses who have either been tricked by the killer or are maliciously hell-bent on seeing your client be sent to prison will offer testimony littered with lies, mistakes, and misunderstandings! Through simple button-prompts, the game invites players to present evidence contradicting these lies, and then through Ellery Queen-esque series of deductions you explain why the lie was toldwhat the contradiction really means, and what the truth of the situation really is! By repeating this process multiple times and slowly destroying the case presented by the prosecutor, you eventually get your client acquitted, solving the mystery and finding the real culprit in the process!

The Ace Attorney series has 11 games in it, comprising six mainline entries, two spin-off duologies, and a standalone spin-off game. While there are minor variations in the gameplay and formula depending on the specific game being played, with the spin-offs all having their own unique mechanics to offer and most mainline games offering new gimmicks, the core gameplay remains majorly the same.

11 Games!? Can you break those down for me…

As I mentioned above, Ace Attorney has 11 entries in its series, six mainline games and five spin-offs across three spin-off series. I’ve provided a short list of only titles below. More details on each entry will be provided later in the guide, but if you ever get confused about where in the series we are, feel free to refer to this simpler-to-follow list.

Mainline Games:
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & Tribulations
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations
Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 – Prosecutor’s Path
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
-The Great Ace Attorney – The Adventure of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō
The Great Ace Attorney 2 – The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō

But, WHY should I, as a fan of Golden Age mysteries, play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney?

As I’ve said multiple times, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is my personal favorite mystery franchise of all time, warts and all. I wouldn’t go through the trouble of writing all of this if I didn’t really care about this series. Even today, I consider Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney to contain some of the best mysteries I’ve ever read, and it really set the standards high for my future reading in Golden Age and honkaku mysteries.

Testimony brought forth by a witness who claims to have seen your client commit the murder. This testimony contains a lie that the player must locate…

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is explicitly inspired by honkaku mystery fiction and their western Golden Age counterparts on a more-than-superficial level. While many modern mystery authors cite Agatha Christie as their sole inspiration, Takumi Shū has gone on record to state how he is explicitly inspired by a wealth of mystery media, including the writing of G. K. Chesterton, Erle Stanley Gardner, Father Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, Anthony Berkeley, Jacques Futrelle, as well as Japanese authors like Arisugawa Arisu, Shimada Sōji, Ayatsuji Yukito, Maya Yutaka, Abiko Takemaru, and Awasaka Tsumao, as well as television shows like Columbo and Furuhata Ninzaburō. Takumi Shū is equipped with an immense wealth of mystery fiction knowledge, especially those of the “fairplay” “puzzle plot” variety, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, as a consequence, shows the same style and standard of plotting and cluing as those mystery novels and stories which Takumi grew up reading.

In other words, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is as much an authentic puzzle plot mystery story as anything written by Agatha Christie or Ellery Queen themselves. It’s a truly genuine mystery in the tradition of the kinds we’re all here for — no concessions are made on account of the series being a video game!

Best yet, despite being “a video game”, Ace Attorney‘s gameplay is simple enough to be easily accessible by people who aren’t comfortable playing video games. The game primarily consists of reading text and simple button prompts without the necessity of learning convoluted gimmicks or requiring tight reflexes. Anyone can sit down and play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney without having much trouble, making the choice of medium an enhancement instead of a barrier of entry!

But what being a video does offer is a unique experience of a puzzle mystery, written in the style of the Golden Age, that uniquely invites the player to solve the mystery in a way a novel never could and few other mystery games succeeded in doing before Ace Attorney..! Instead of waiting for the end of the story to see if you’re right, the player is invited to perform every step of the reasoning that leads to the revelation of the real killer, condensing the experience of mystery-reading into corporal form.

All-told, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a great mystery, influenced by a deep knowledge of the history of the genre, and easily playable by anyone! There’s no reason not to try the series out if you’re already interested!

But, then, how do I even play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney!?

The good news is that as long as you own a Windows PC or a Nintendo Switch, you can play the original trilogy of Ace Attorney games and one of the crossover duologies! Through Valve’s “Steam”, a digital video game storefront for computers, you can buy Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trilogy and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. The Steam pages for each of those games can be found here and here, and the Nintendo Switch pages here and here.

Furthermore, mobile phones have been a stomping ground for Ace Attorney releases. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trilogy is available on Android and iPhone, and if you’re planning on skipping cases, this is the ideal way to play the original three games, as this is the only version of the Trilogy to have the option to select what cases you want to play. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, originally released on the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS, is also available on Android and iPhone, but does not contain any chapter select options forcing you to play the entire game in order. The two Nintendo 3DS titles, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies (Android, iPhone) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice (Android, iPhone), also are available on mobile devices, and do contain chapter selection options. The first spin-off game, Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations is available on Android and iPhone, but does not have chapter select.

A GIF of the player finding a simple contradiction in testimony in The Great Ace Attorney – The Adventure of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō (how could the defendant have bloody hands like the witness claims if the defendant were wearing gloves at the time of the murder? Such seemingly small inconsistencies always mean a great deal in Ace Attorney)

However, this leaves out two games in the series, Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 – Prosecutor’s Path and Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. As I personally consider these two of the best games in the series, this might be somewhat troubling for some. If not on your computer or your phone, where can you play these games?

Well, legally, nowhere anymore.

No official English translation of Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 – Prosecutor’s Path exists, and the game is only available for its specialized Nintendo DS hardware. A fan-made translation exists, forcing players to use patched cartridges, which is outside of the scope of this tutorial. Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is no longer legally available in America due to the shutdown of the Nintendo 3DS digital storefront, however it is available in Europe and Australia in physical form for the console through second-hand purchases.

While emulators (software that allows you to run a digital version of another device inside of your computer, like Desmume for the Nintendo DS or Citra for the Nintendo 3DS) exist, and illegitimate English copies of these games are easily available for download off the internet, I cannot use this blog to publicly recommend playing the games through means such as piracy. That being said, when the creators no longer have any means to profit from the games and their sales, and it’s impossible to play them legitimately, I believe we can only blame Capcom if curious individuals happen to download and play these games through these means, and we can only hope they do so safely and carefully.

To summarize where these games are available:

Mainline Games:
Phoenix Wright: Ace AttorneySteam (PC), Nintendo Switch, Android, and iPhone (via Trilogy release), Nintendo DS (Android and iPhone recommended if skipping cases)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for AllSteam (PC), Nintendo Switch, Android, and iPhone (via Trilogy release), Nintendo DS (Android and iPhone recommended if skipping cases)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & TribulationsSteam (PC), Nintendo Switch, Android, and iPhone (via Trilogy release), Nintendo DS (Android and iPhone recommended if skipping cases)
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney – Nintendo DS, Android, and iPhone
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – Nintendo 3DS, Android, and iPhone
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice – Nintendo 3DS, Android, and iPhone

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations – Nintendo DS, Android and iPhone
Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 – Prosecutor’s PathNOT LEGALLY AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH, Nintendo DS in Japan
Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace AttorneyNOT LEGALLY AVAILABLE IN AMERCA, Nintendo 3DS in Europe, Japan
-The Great Ace Attorney – The Adventure of Ryūnosuke NaruhodōSteam (PC), Nintendo Switch (via Chronicles release)
The Great Ace Attorney 2 – The Resolve of Ryūnosuke NaruhodōSteam (PC), Nintendo Switch (via Chronicles release)

Great! Let’s get started! Can we get into the reading list!?

Sure! This section is going to be kind of long. I’ll be describing the basic premises of each game and essential new additions and gameplay mechanics, contextualizing the games within the rest of the series, and explaining my personal opinions as well as general perspectives on the games by the series’ fans. I will also delve shortly into each of the cases in each game, explaining what cases are essential, recommended, and skippable.

FIRST GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

The first game in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is the obvious first step for newcomers to the series. This game is essential, introducing you to the central cast of bluffing rookie defense attorney Phoenix Wright and his mentor Mia Fey, the cruel-hearted prosecutor obsessed with seeing anyone who might be guilty sent to prison Miles Edgeworth, and energetic spirit medium and de facto legal assistant to Phoenix, Maya Fey, as well as setting up plot threads that will run through the game’s two sequels!

In this game, you’re introduced to Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense attorney who attempts to fill in the shoes of his recently-murdered mentor Mia Fey. After saving her younger sister Maya, who is accused of the murder, Phoenix with Maya as an assistant gets to work battling false murder chargers against his childhood friend and suddenly cruel-spirited prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth, who seeks to see all defendants found guilty of murder after a traumatic incident in his past.

Being the first game in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney hasn’t quite nailed the formula nor the stylings that the rest of the franchise will go on to perfect. This is the only game in the series in which cases regularly go on for three days, for example, which retrospectively gives the mysteries a very bizarre sense of pacing. In every other game nearly every case lasts for two slightly longer days.

The comedic tone of Ace Attorney, which is very silly and enjoys indulging in comical flourishes like quirky witnesses and fun pun names, is less refined in this game too, with more obtrusive gimmicks like a character who only talks in “l33t speak” (internet messaging board slang) and the only explicit reference to sex appeal in the entire franchise. The pun names are generally way worse too, with characters named “April May” and “Redd White” (of Blue Corp.) in the very same case… Going back to play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney again after playing every sequel and spin-off was surreal — at times it almost felt like an entirely different story!

But, of course, the game is still quite good. It wouldn’t have spawned a wildly beloved 11-game franchise if the first game were bad. There are no outright bad cases here, with some of the most consistent quality Ace Attorney has to offer, and the finale (case 4) and epilogue case (case 5) are two of the fan favorite mysteries of the entire Ace Attorney run. I agree, they’re both extremely good, but not my personal picks for “all-time greats”, with the franchise’s peak coming later. That being said, this first excursion for Phoenix Wright is very successful and does its job perfectly as an introduction to the franchise…


CASE 1 – “The First Turnabout” (ESSENTIAL) – In this first case, an inverted mystery, you defend your best friend Larry Butz, accused of murdering his girlfriend Cindy Stone! This is a simple case, but genuinely smart clues and clever reasoning make this a very good introduction to everything that Ace Attorney is about, setting the benchmark for quality for every other case in the series. Plus, this is a tutorial case, making it essential to newcomers to play to understand how the series works.

CASE 2 – “Turnabout Sisters” (ESSENTIAL) – The second case of the series was originally planned to be the first (“The First Turnabout” was retroactively created as a simple tutorial case), so it sets up plot threads and character arcs that will continue to run throughout the rest of the original trilogy. Maya Fey, a young spirit medium, is accused of murdering her sister and Phoenix’s mentor Mia Fey… Another “howcatchem”/inverted mystery, this case also features some very fun clues. The best part of the case is how it calls upon context and clues from “The First Turnabout”, something that rarely happens in the series. Very good, important case.

CASE 3 – “Turnabout Samurai” (RECOMMENDED) – Famous movie star Will Powers, who represents the samurai-superhero “The Steel Samurai”, is accused of murdering his co-star on set. Worse yet, he’s the only one who can commit the crime, because at the time the murder occurred a statue fell across the road, separating the crime scene from the rest of the studio… This isn’t an all-time great case, but there’s a good mystery plot beneath this one if you have tolerance for the awkward stylings of the case. However, it’s totally skippable, as the only connection to the overarching narrative is character development for the antagonist that pays off in the next case.

CASE 4 – “Turnabout Goodbyes” (ESSENTIAL) – I don’t want to delve into the premise of this case at all, because to do so would be immense spoilers. Let it be said that this case, the finale to the game’s plot, is both incredibly good and essential to understanding the overarching narrative. This is one of the few instances in which Ace Attorney delves into “ages-old case resolved during a seemingly unrelated trial”, featuring multiple related impossible crimes.

CASE 5 – “Rise from the Ashes” (RECOMMENDED) – This epilogue case was created specifically for Nintendo DS remakes of the game in order to set the stage for the first post-trilogy game, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. In this game, Phoenix Wright is accompanied by Ema Skye (a young scientist with explicit similarities to Maya Fey) to defend her older sister, a prosecutor named Lana Skye (with explicit similarities to defense attorney Mia Fey). However, despite Ema’s insistence that Lana is innocent, Lana repeatedly confesses to the crime and insists that Phoenix not defend her in court. But because Phoenix decides to defend her anyway, he’s forced to reckon with the question of “why would an innocent woman confess to the murder?” This case includes an impossible doppelganger of the murder victim and a robbery in another building…

This case is one of the longest cases in the series. It is longer than every single case before it combined, more than doubling the length of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney! However, that length is well-used, as this is a wildly complex, twisty, and tricky case, with one of the tightest and densest plots in the series. It’s not one of my all-time favorites, but it’s hard to deny that this fan favorite case is truly fantastic, and easily recommended. However, I recommend playing this case AFTER playing Trials & Tribulations, the third game, because this was the final case written for the trilogy and therefore is based on the style of plotting that the series uses later, making it a little jarring for first-time players. Still, fantastic case, well-worth playing for anyone!

SECOND GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All, the second game in the Ace Attorney franchise, delves further into the Fey clan, a matriarchical society of spirit mediums, women capable of summoning ghosts into their body, who live in the mountainous village of Kurain. When a murder occurs in the village committed inside of a locked, windowless, and guarded channeling chamber, and Maya is the only one apparently capable of committing the murder, Phoenix is forced to defend her of the crime yet again!

The second game in the series is widely and almost unanimously considered either the worst or the second worst game in the series. It is only one of two games in the series as of the English release to have four cases, as opposed to five, with two of those four being considered not only among the worst, but in fact the absolute worst the series has to offer. This is coupled with the game’s prosecutor (who you’ll learn at this point changes every game) being very “love her or hate her”, and the game contributing the least to the overarching plot of the trilogy. This game’s weaknesses are what inspired me to give people the option to skip around the series.

However, even all of the detractors who consider this the worst game in the series will rush to defend this game for its final case, which many people consider one of the best cases in all of Ace Attorney and the saving grace of this awkward entry.

Furthermore, many essential additions are made to the series, including the ability to present Characters instead of just Evidence. However, much more foundation-shaking is “The Magatama”, a magic lie-detecting device. When someone is telling a lie during investigations, the Magatama will cause one to five “Psyche-Locks” to appear around them based on how badly they want to keep the lie a secret. For every Psyche-Lock, the player has to make arguments or present evidence to destroy them and expose the lies! This mechanic adds an extra layer of engagement to Investigations, which were definitely the slowest and most tedious part of the first game, and is a very welcome addition.

Plus, the introduction of the Fey clan and Pearl Fey’s relationship with Maya is an important plot thread in the trilogy that pays off brilliantly in Trials and Tribulations. So, as bad as it is, there are still some kernels of gold in this awkward middle entry…


CASE 1 – “The Forgotten Turnabout” (SKIPPABLE) – A second tutorial case, where Phoenix has to relearn how to be a lawyer because the killer struck him in the head and gave him temporary amnesia… This is probably the only case I can affirmatively say offers NOTHING to the series that, if missed, makes the plots worse. It is entirely self-contained, with the only returning element being the defendant Maggey Byrde. However, her involvement in this case is not necessary to understand her involvement in that later case. This case is, all-told, pretty bad, very silly and pushing the limits of how ridiculous the arguments made by the prosecutor can be. If you’re going to skip cases, I recommend this be the first one.

CASE 2 – “Reunion and Turnabout” (ESSENTIAL) – Maya Fey is helping to channel a spirit for a doctor in a locked, guarded, and windowless channeling chamber. However, when the spirit seems to take over her body and commit a murder using her as a vessel, Maya is unfortunately still legally charged with the murder… Despite the locked-room, Phoenix promises to prove her innocent (again)! This case is good, not great, but offers a lot of essential set-up for the rest of the series, explaining the Magatama mechanic and setting up the Fey clan and their relationship, which is important. Definitely a must-play if you want the full impact of a few later cases.

CASE 3 – “Turnabout Big Top” (SKIPPABLE) – Max Galacta, a famous magician, is accused of murdering his circus ringmaster! Worse yet, a witness saw him fly away, leaving no footprints in the snow behind him… This case is undeniably the fanbase’s least favorite in the series, and I easily agree that it’s bad. There’s uncomfortable pedophilic relationships, very unpleasant characters, shaky logic and arguments, ridiculous, physically impossible, and arbitrary subplots, and an impossible crime with an agonizingly stupid explanation. While there’s some decent ideas surrounding the genuinely surprising and touching killer and their motive, a Detective Conan-esque “misunderstanding into attempted murder”, it doesn’t come close to saving this frustratingly bad mystery story. There is some foreshadowing regarding a revelation made in the final case that is lost. If you choose to skip the case, use ROT13 to read the spoilers here, only when you reach this case: Cubravk gnyxf nobhg Zvyrf Rqtrjbegu fhccbfrqyl “pubbfvat qrngu”. Vg’f vzcyvrq ur pbzzvggrq fhvpvqr…

CASE 4 – “Farewell, My Turnabout” (RECOMMENDED) – In this finale case, Will Powers returns to accompany Phoenix and the gang to a television awards show, where fellow movie star Matt Engarde is falsely accused of murder. Going any further into this case’s premise would invite spoilers, but this is a fan-favorite case for a lot of reasons. Subverting the Ace Attorney formula in a shocking way, this case becomes an extremely unique take on the “howcatchem” mystery plot, playing on a moral dilemma that, while outrageously silly for real lawyers, works fantastically in the framework of “lawyers as heroes who seek truth” established by this franchise. The very cleverly-handled “howcatchem” in this case is a bit odd because it’s the only finale in the series that doesn’t explicitly tie into an overarching narrative, but it does tie into the themes and character arcs explored in the trilogy. I highly recommend this case, a high-light of this awkward middle entry in the series that smartly turns Ace Attorney tropes on its head.

THIRD GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & Tribulations

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials & Tribulations, the third and (obviously) final game in the original trilogy, represents the culmination of every plot thread in the series. A mysterious masked prosecutor going by the enigmatic sobriquet “Godot” appears, blaming Phoenix Wright for the death of Mia Fey. He promises to defeat Phoenix in court, proving just how insufficient he is to take over the mantle of that vastly superior defense attorney, and rubbing in his face how he was helpless to prevent her murder!

Through this mysterious drama, the family conflicts of the Fey clan, the growth of Phoenix Wright as a lawyer, and the redemption of Miles Edgeworth all come to a head, contextualized through the career and death of the late Mia Fey and a truly death-defying serial killer she chased to the ends of the Earth…

This is my absolute favorite game in the series. Don’t despair, though, this isn’t by any means the only game in the series at this standard of quality, and in terms of mystery writing this is only the second best game in the series. We haven’t totally peaked yet!

More impressive than the consistently great mystery plotting in this game is the fact that this is the first game in the series to flirt with stricter and tighter serialization, since more cases exist that are more intimately connected to the interwoven narrative on a more central level. While this style of plotting would go on to become the standard for Ace Attorney, used in most future games in the series, Trials and Tribulations strikes the absolute best balance between the two, telling one of the most compelling and interconnected plots without sacrificing the quality of some of the best mysteries Ace Attorney has to offer.

I adore this game, and I think if any Ace Attorney wins over new fans it will be this one. Interestingly, this is the only game in the entire series to not introduce a single new mechanic.


CASE 1 – “Turnabout Memories” (ESSENTIAL) – I won’t delve into this one, for fear of inviting spoilers, but this is one of the best tutorial cases in the series. The way the tutorial is justified is brilliant, and the case itself is still incredibly good for how short and simple it is. This case is essential for the overarching narrative, but is still really good besides.

CASE 2 – “The Stolen Turnabout” (ESSENTIAL) – This is my personal favorite case in the series, appearing on the Top 30 Favorite Mysteries list. In this twisty and baroque alibi plot reminiscent of Christopher Bush, you defend the Great Thief Mask☆DeMasque falsely accused of committing a crime of which he is entirely innocent! But when the crime spirals out of control, the series’ most devious culprit is revealed, using one crime as the alibi for another… This one is tricky, tight, twisty, and great! I actually wish it was a little longer, but the core of this case is simply fantastic… Of course, this one is also essential to the plot, as it establishes this game’s prosecutor Godot and his rapport with Phoenix, setting up the core conflict of the drama between the two which will go on to be important for the central narrative.

CASE 3 – “A Recipe for Turnabout” (SKIPPABLE) – This is another one massively disliked by fans. I actually think it’s fine and not too bad, but it’s incredibly silly and there are a lot of incredibly awkward flaws that make this one a hard sell for reluctant players. There’s not too much to this case that’s important outside of some light foreshadowing for an element of the final case and continuing to develop Phoenix and Godot’s relationship, so while I think it isn’t as bad as other fans do, I do think it’s fair to skip if you’re not super interested in this soup-poisoning.

CASE 4 – “Turnabout Beginnings” (ESSENTIAL) – Another case I won’t delve into for spoilers, but this one is also a very good, short, simple case that is intimately tied to the overarching plot. A great case with a shocking and heart-wrenching ending.

CASE 5 – “Bridge to the Turnabout” (ESSENTIAL) – Another case from my Top 30 Favorite Mysteries list, so I’ll reiterate what I said there… This case is essentially the culmination of everything that is, was, and was meant to be Ace Attorney. The plot ties back into characters, stories, and relationships established as early as the second case of the first game, and which have only been built on with time. This mystery is the dramatic culmination of every dangling plot thread in the franchise, going back 13 cases, three games, and four years — and many of these plot threads are hidden in shocking, well-hidden ways! What this all amounts to is one of the franchise’s most labyrinthine, emotionally-charged, dramatic, and complex mysteries — perhaps of the genre’s entire history! — involving complex plots, counter-plots, and counter-counter-plots, killers and attempted-killers of killers, death-defying stunts, the genre’s most audacious and Machiavellian serial killer, and the genre’s most inventive and bizarre clue! Add to that that nearly every returning character in the series has their character arcs concluded, as well as a generous sprinkling characters new to this game! It’s only fitting that so much will be packed into this one case, as this is the original finale to the franchise…

As this is the ultimate payoff to everything we’ve seen up until now, you absolutely must play this case. Thematically and narratively, this is the payoff of the entirety of the original Ace Attorney saga. This is the most impressive marriage of dozens of disparate plot threads in the entire history of the series. Fantastically dense and baroque, this is Ace Attorney at its most. Must-read for every mystery fan.

FOURTH GAME: Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations is the first spin-off in the series, featuring prosecutor and antagonist of the first game Miles Edgeworth as he teams up with Kay Faraday to investigate murders while hunting for the truth behind a legendary thief known as the Yatagarasu…

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations is the first game in the series written by Takeshi Yamazaki, who would eventually go on to become the lead director of the franchise. This is also the first of Ace Attorney‘s five spin-off games, which might prompt the question “why are we going here next, as opposed to the next mainline game?”

Starting with the fourth game in the series, there’s a major leap forward in time which totally shifts the status quo and changes the central cast of characters. Not only is the Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations duology chronologically set between the original trilogy and the next set of games, but it’s also the next set of games to still maintain some connection to the original trilogy on some level.

What makes the Investigations duology unique in Ace Attorney is that it totally divests itself of trials. Instead of defending a client falsely accused of murder, the mysteries are presented in a more traditional form, with the player (and by extension Edgeworth) being simply provided a puzzling situation and having to resolve it. The “cross-examinations” from normal Ace Attorney games are replaced with “Arguments” that happen at random moments during the investigation. It’s a little more “game-y” than normal Ace Attorney entries, but not by much, so it shouldn’t be too inaccessible for people.

I actually adore this duology, because the more traditional formatting of the mysteries with the style and gameplay of Ace Attorney is an extremely refreshing departure for the series. Although I think Miles Edgeworth Investigations (the first game of the two) is generally the most forgettable and middle-of-the-lane game in the series, the format-shaking shift is a ton of fun and a great way to show off Yamazaki’s sensibilities as a mystery writer compared to Takumi that will improves in its sequel…

This first game’s quality is extremely consistent, with all of the cases being merely “decent” and “good”, and little variance one way or the other.

THIS GAME DOES NOT HAVE THE OPTION TO SKIP CASES IN ANY RELEASE. Therefore, I will not be describing the “skippability” of cases. I will still offer an overview of my and the fanbase’s thoughts on the cases.


CASE 1 – “Turnabout Visitor” – This case, involving an anonymous corpse found in Miles Edgeworth’s office in very Christie Body in the Library-esque fashion, is just decent, but it serves as an essential tutorial to the new gameplay format. This is easily one of the most forgettable tutorial cases in the series, but it’s extremely short and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

CASE 2 – “Turnabout Airlines” – Another decent case, involving Miles Edgeworth proving his innocence of a murder on an airplane, this case is mostly memorable for establishing the most hard-boiled sensibilities of this spin-off series with its smuggling sub-plot. A little obvious, though, but still a fundamentally good and fun Ace Attorney case.

CASE 3 – “The Kidnapped Turnabout” – This kidnapping at an amusement park hits all of the same cliches you’d expect from a kidnapping mystery, but this is probably my favorite filler case from this particular game. While most people consider this the worst case in the game and I absolutely understand why, this crime (kidnapping) is something other Ace Attorney games can’t do. This also has the benefit of having Miles Edgeworth on the scene, which means tricks are played on him (the player) directly, instead of happening vicariously through exclusively through cross-examination. This shows off the way the format of Investigations lets the series touch on new territory, so even if it’s a bit obvious for a mystery reader, in the context of Ace Attorney “The Kidnapped Turnabout” is extremely refreshing.

CASE 4 – “Turnabout Reminiscence” – This flashback case is pretty decent, but also curiously the first actual hint of the overarching plot in this game. Offers some context to Edgeworth’s childhood and has a decent plot, but there’s not a ton to say about it. The worst name pun in the entire series is in this case (Deid Mann, the dead man).

CASE 5 – “Turnabout Ablaze” – This finale case, involving an impossible alibi of a murder committed in a shared embassy of two rival countries, has the interesting touch of it being ambiguous which embassy the victim died in (and it being essential to whether the culprit even committed a crime or not). This case is mostly really good, but the ending is disliked by fans for its tedious back-and-forth of the “the killer is getting away” fake-outs. Still, it’s an Ace Attorney finale, and with very few exceptions that means it’ll be a great case, but this is probably the weakest finale so far.

FIFTH GAME: Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 – Prosecutor’s Path

Ace Attorney: Miles Edgeworth Investigations 2 – Prosecutor’s Path continues to follow Miles Edgeworth as he investigates murders outside of a judicial setting. After solving the mystery of the failed assassination of the president of Zheng-Fa, Miles Edgeworth finds himself ensnared in a complex criminal scheme the exact nature of which he cannot yet even conceive…

This game, in a lot of ways, is easily the best game in the series. The mystery plotting in this game is unmatched in the series, being pure honkaku kicked up to 11. Even the worst case in this entry is great at the absolute worst. Every case in the game is intricate, inspired, complex, and deeply clever with a wealth of incredibly smart clues. It’s actually a shame, if you ask me, that it isn’t possible to just play this game in a void, because I think for a mystery-lover this is potentially the most perfect entry in all of Ace Attorney.

This is also one of the most tightly-wound interconnected plots in the franchise’s history, but it’s hard to get into the specific details of how everything is interconnected without spoiling the final case. But, suffice it to say, the pay-off is simply superb!

This is the shortest write-up so far, but don’t take that as a negative; this is easily one of the most perfect mystery video games of all time. It’s another fan-favorite game and while I just barely narrowly prefer Trials & Tribulations, the sheer strength of Investigations 2 cannot be overstated. There is just one glaring issue: this game’s unique mechanic, Logic Chess, is incredibly poorly designed and it definitely is the worst part of every case it’s in.

It’s a sorry shame that there’s no legal way to play this game for most people, but if you can find ways to play it, this game is worth it.

THIS GAME DOES NOT HAVE THE OPTION TO SKIP CASES IN ANY RELEASE. Therefore, I will not be describing the “skippability” of cases. I will still offer an overview of my and the fanbase’s thoughts on the cases.


CASE 1 – “Turnabout Target” – “Turnabout Target” follows Miles Edgeworth as he investigates the failed assassination attempt on the president of Zheng-Fa during a speech to commemorate the prosecutor’s office for his help in squashing a smuggling ring, and the failed assassination spirals into a very real murder of one of the president’s security guards. This tutorial case is stunning as probably the only tutorial case in the entire series that doesn’t feel like it makes concessions on account of being a tutorial. Most tutorial cases are abridged cases, usually being a quarter as long for the sake of being an accessible tutorial. However, instead of feeling like an abridged case, “Turnabout Target” not only feels almost exactly like every other case in the game, it feels huge, like a final case — the intention, which they succeeded superbly. This is a fantastic introduction to the game, and even as the worst case in Investigations 2 it stands heads and shoulders over so many other cases in Ace Attorney.

CASE 2 – “The Imprisoned Turnabout” – When the culprit of the previous case is mauled to death in his prison cell by a dog and his corpse misplaced, Miles Edgeworth comes into conflict with two members of the Prosecutorial Investigation Committee, failed “prodigy” Sebastian DeBeste and judge Justine Courtney, who are evaluating him and his work as a potential candidate for firing… This case is another great one that sets up our two main antagonists, fan favorite characters in the series. The mystery at the heart of this one is great, making fantastic use of its bizarre prison setting, and this has one of the smartest misdirections regarding culprit in the series. Another fantastic case.

CASE 3 – “The Inherited Turnabout” – Another case from my Top 30 Favorite Mysteries List! One of the longest cases in this series, “The Inherited Turnabout” follows Miles Edgeworth in the present investigating a murder on a weird baking show that seems to connect to ANOTHER murder at the same baking show investigated by his father years ago… This is a superb mystery, complex and intricate and deeply clever, with tons of good reasoning and clues to boot! With two generations-spanning murders tying into each other to top it all off, this is one of the classics of the series.

CASE 4 – “The Forgotten Turnabout” – When an amnesiac Kay Faraday is accused of murder after being kidnapped, Edgeworth is forced to confront possible corruption in the judicial system… You know the drill with this game, this case is fantastic and smart.

CASE 5 – “The Grand Turnabout” – Yet another from my top 30 list! This case involves the return of the president of Zheg-Fa, this time murdered for real after his failed assassination attempt! This case is to Investigations 2 what “Bridge to the Turnabout” is to Trials & Tribulations, being the culmination of every plot thread in the game in one case. While I think “Bridge to the Turnabout” is the most impressive attempt the series has made to tie up long-standing plot threads in a dense, seemingly isolated mystery plot, this is still an all-time great finale of the series and a fantastic mystery in its own right.

SIXTH GAME: Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

12 years after the events of Trials & Tribulations, the legendary lawyer Phoenix Wright has been disbarred following a case of evidence tampering… Now to take over his mantle at the Wright & Co. Law Agency, Apollo Justice is being mentored by Phoenix Wright and his stage magician daughter Trucy as he continues to defend innocent people falsely accused of murder…

Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is the start of the more controversial era of Ace Attorney. The first mainline game written after the original trilogy, this game is also a failed reboot of the franchise, as it features a total shift of characters with practically none of the original returning cast appearing in this game. This fact has been the source of a lot of mixed responses in the fanbase, with extreme takes varying from joy at not overusing Phoenix as a protagonist past when his story arc was concluded, to discomfort at totally removing all of the beloved characters from the franchise entirely, to some fans disliking that Phoenix even appears in this game at all and wishing he was axed permanently.

From this point on, quality in the series is a lot less consistent and a little more divisive, with many games being more complicated to qualify.

This game is impressive in more subtle ways, with some of the best atmosphere Ace Attorney has to offer and genuinely great moments of character writing (even compared to the rest of this series already well-known for its great character writing), plus subtle but salient theming. That being said, on a purely plot level, this is one of the more awkward games in the series, with some middle of the lane mystery plotting and the first underwhelming finale in an Ace Attorney game. I still think it’s a ton of fun to play through for its strengths, but its definitely representative of the start shifting period in the life of this franchise.

Important additions: This game adds the underwhelming “Perceive” mechanic, where you have to spot “tells” of lying witnesses (like sweaty armpits). It doesn’t add much, but it’s fine.

THIS GAME DOES NOT HAVE THE OPTION TO SKIP CASES IN ANY RELEASE. Therefore, I will not be describing the “skippability” of cases. I will still offer an overview of my and the fanbase’s thoughts on the cases.


CASE 1 – “Turnabout Trump” – In this case, you defend former legacy attorney Phoenix Wright of a murder committed in the basement of a bar where he likes to play poker. Witnesses claim that the victim was found in the middle of a windowless room where Phoenix was alone with the victim… For all of the faults of this entry in the series, “Turnabout Trump” is famously the fan-favorite first case of any game in all of Ace Attorney and it is well deserved. While the solution to the locked-room plays on a very boring mechanism, Ace Attorney is always as much about the process of solving as it is the end-point, and this features some brilliant clues, contradictions, and reasoning that represent the best of the franchise. It ends on a shocking killer that sets the tone perfectly for the unique atmosphere of Apollo Justice.

CASE 2 – “Turnabout Corner” – In this case, while investigating three seemingly unrelated petty crimes, Apollo Justice discovers that there’s a murder at the heart of the case! He ends up defending the boy accused of the crime, a delinquent as well as the son of an infamous crime boss. This one is a ton of fun, and it’s not common that cases have this much build-up intimately involving the characters investigating something before the murder occurs. It isn’t an absolute favorite of mine, but it’s well-worth playing!

CASE 3 – “Turnabout Serenade” – A blind Borginian pianist is accused of committing a murder at a rock concert, and it appears the murder was committed to the lyrics of the song… Another one broadly considered one of the worst cases offered by the series, this one hurts the most because the premise genuinely seems amazing in the first half. But, unfortunately, the case spirals into nonsense and messy plotting and awkward inflation of stakes with the inclusion of international intrigue like smuggling and Interpol that’s very out of place in this entry. A very poor case, sadly.

CASE 4 – “Turnabout Succession” – A bizarre case cut in half using the new “MASON system”, with half the case involving the trial in which Phoenix Wright is accused of falsifying evidence while dealing with the murder of the head of a magic troupe and the other half involving the murder of an artist by poison in his house. This is one of the most underwhelming finales in the series, feeling much too short for its ambitious time-crossing plot, and the attempts to tie the case into the game’s overarching plot falling flat for feeling crammed randomly into the end of a totally unrelated case. The murder of a magician is a pretty good case, and the better part of “Turnabout Succession”, but it doesn’t elevate this case to feeling like a worthy finale. The conclusion to this game’s central themes is incredibly limp. Not a terrible case, but made infinitely worse by being the finale of the game it’s in.

SEVENTH GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies

It is the Dark Age of the Law, and corruption in the judicial system is rampant. Death row inmates are prosecutors, and students of law are being taught predatory methods to get defendants acquitted and indicted. The newest addition to the Wright & Co. Law Offices, Athena Cykes, has to navigate the Dark Age of the Law while struggling with trauma from the murder of her mother, with the help of a newly-reinstated Phoenix Wright.

The first mainline game in the series directed by Takeshi Yamazaki, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is the other game in the series almost universally considered by fans to be either the worst or second worst in the series. The entry’s comically poor attempts to instill Ace Attorney with a deeper, darker edge made the overarching plotline of Dual Destinies come off as, paradoxically, very silly. Yamazaki also hadn’t quite learned how to structure trials the way Takumi did in his games, leading to what many people consider the worst set of cases in any game of the series. The unnecessary addition of a third playable attorney the very game after Apollo Justice was also criticized, along with the way the game actually undoes a lot of plot developments from the previous game, either lazily writing around them or outright de-canonizing them.

That being said, the game does many defenders, usually citing central characters Athena Cykes and prosecutor Simon Blackquill as charming highlights of the game, and many people enjoy the unique stylings brought to the series in many of the post-trilogy cases. Nonetheless, the opinion this game is at least the second worse in all of Ace Attorney is easily the most popular view held by fans.

In my opinion, Yamazaki is a better mystery writer in a void than Takumi, but Yamazaki has no idea how to work within the Ace Attorney framework, leading to often good ideas being lost in weird construction and illogical arguments. Post-trilogy Ace Attorney also obsessed with one-upping itself in stakes, leading to the overarching narratives going from intimate dramas to world-spanning political intrigues… This is my least favorite game in the series, and objectively speaking it’s quite bad, but I still personally enjoy the moment-to-moment gameplay of Ace Attorney mystery-solving, even in its worst of incarnations…

Important additions: This game adds the “Mood Matrix”, a mechanic where the player has to find inconsistencies in the emotions of testimony. For instance, a witness who finds his friend’s dead body being happy at the discovery. This mechanic is incredibly fun and definitely my favorite part of the game, though most fans think it’s “just another cross-examination”. It’s not, but… ce la vie.


CASE 1 – “Turnabout Countdown” (ESSENTIAL) – Phoenix Wright and Athena Cykes defend Athena’s childhood friend Juniper, who is accused of setting a bomb to blow up the courtroom! This case is actually incredibly depressing, because it basically regresses back into what Case 1 of Game 2 was: an overly simple inverted mystery with one witness who is the known killer. With Trials & Tribulations, Investigations 2, and Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the series really started to break out of the mold by creating genuinely fantastic first cases that don’t feel the need to over-simplify their plots for the sake of a tutorial, so to see “Turnabout Countdown” take four steps back in that regard is just insanely deflating. This case is still, sadly, necessary for understanding the overarching plot and Athena Cykes’s role in the game, so you must play it for a complete picture of the game and its plot.

CASE 2 – “The Monstrous Turnabout” (ESSENTIAL) – In a superstitious village, Jinxie Tenma is accused of murdering her father, the Alderman, as she is the only one in the room with him when he died! This locked-room mystery is… fine. It’s messy and awkward, but the stylings of a nine-tailed fox and masked wrestlers and weird urbanized folklore is insanely fun and there’s some decent moments in this case. Still has too many “Yamazaki-isms” to be considered truly good, though. Introduces you to the main antagonist, Simon Blackquill, so like almost all second cases in the series this one is essential to play to understand the plot.

CASE 3 – “Turnabout Academy” (SKIPPABLE) – A murder is committed at a lawyer academy. This case has some decent ideas under its hood for the mystery plot, and some decent clues and reasoning at key moments, but the teen-y drama that overtakes this case is annoying and eats up quite a bit of the mystery plot. Doesn’t contribute much outside of theming towards “The Dark Age of the Law”.

CASE 4 – “The Cosmic Turnabout” (ESSENTIAL) – When Apollo Justice’s best friend, an astronaut, is murdered following the explosion of his spaceship, Apollo defends the accused man in order to locate the real killer and avenge his friend. It’s kind of weird that Apollo’s “best friend” is being introduced literally this case, having never been mentioned in the seven other cases featuring Apollo Justice, but this case is probably the most decent case from the core game of Dual Destinies. Not great, but decent, and ties directly into the finale.

CASE 5 – “Turnabout for Tomorrow” (ESSENTIAL) – This case is atrocious, but I won’t be describing the set-up, because to know the defendant and why they’re being tried is definitely a spoiler. Worst finale in the series by a massive margin, this also wraps-up the single most outrageous overarching plot in all of Ace Attorney with its worst-written villain. There’s a decent plot here involving an ages-old murder case, but on the whole this case is just… bad. That being said, you have to play it, for the obvious reason it wraps up the game’s story… There’s some fun dramatics involving where the trial takes place that I really love, but it’s an idea that’s better than the case around it.

Case DLC – “Turnabout Reclaimed” (RECOMMENDED) – (Psst, DLC stands for “downloadable content”. It refers to extra side content that you can buy additionally for the game) Phoenix Wright’s first case since being reinstated as a lawyer, and he defends his most outrageous defendant yet… an orca!? The premise is so outlandishly goofy that it’s a breath of fresh air from this childishly dark edge-fest, and the mystery plot beneath this one is actually shockingly good. This is vintage Ace Attorney that feels like it could’ve come right out of the original trilogy. If you force yourself to play every game in the series, pick up this DLC case too — highly recommended!

EIGHTH GAME: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice

Phoenix Wright travels to the nation of spirit-channelers, Khura’in, where he discovers a corrupt legal system of lawyer-haters. With the outrageous law that all defense attorneys are found guilty of the same crime as their clients, this nation has had no lawyers for years, leading to anyone accused of a crime being found guilty by default… Outraged by this miscarriage of justice, Phoenix Wright begins to create a political upset by defending a young boy falsely accused of murder!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is easily the Ace Attorney with the greatest variety of opinions from fans, creating division never before seen among enjoyers of this franchise. Its obviously incredibly ludicrous plot-line and setting is the most frequently-cited detractions against the game, as well as the game continuing to create a more convoluted backstory for Apollo Justice because the franchise clearly can’t decide what it wants to do with him… This game also involves the aforementioned tendency of the franchise to continuously one-up itself with stakes. Detractors might consider this one of the three worst games in all of Ace Attorney.

However, many defenders praise the general mystery plotting in this game, and find Yamazaki’s fingerprints still pronounced, but generally more tolerable, considering the generally improved mystery-writing from Dual Destinies to make up for its shortcomings. The game’s new mechanic “Seance”, in which you cross-examine the memories of the victim, is also a popular addition to the Ace Attorney formula which many defenders consider to fully justify the outrageous setting.

As for me, I quite like this game. The setting of a lawyer-hating country and the plot of a “lawyer revolution” is insanely outrageous and impossible to take seriously, but the nuggets of mystery-plotting informed by this bizarre premise are generally really great. The trial structure is still awkward, but in this game it isn’t quite bad enough to smother the better parts of the writing. I really do enjoy Spirit of Justice a lot where I can.

Important additions: The entire country of Khura’in, in which “Seances” are used to view the memories of the victims. In these “Seance” segments, you see fully-animated memories of the moment the victim died, and these universally incriminate your client! You need to find contradictions in what the victim sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels in order to prove how the victim’s memories were manipulated! It’s a very weird departure for the series, but in the three cases in which it appears, it’s extremely fun!


CASE 1 – “The Foreign Turnabout” (ESSENTIAL) – Setting up the “Seances”, the setting of Khura’in, the main conflict, and Phoenix’s involvement, this pretty solid tutorial case in which Phoenix defends his own tour-guide is a pretty solid opening case with a fun killer.

CASE 2 – “The Magical Turnabout” (RECOMMENDED) – Another Top 30 Favorite Mysteries case, this one involves Trucy Wright accused of murder after her magical show-cum-fantasy play ends in her stabbing a man on stage! This case is extremely fun and has one of my favorite moments in all of Ace Attorney, in which you cross-examine a magic trick, and the magician trappings are extremely fun. It does introduce the prosecutor, and offer some foreshadowing to his relationship to the overarching narrative, so I do highly recommend playing this case, but it isn’t quite totally essential to understanding the plot.

CASE 3 – “The Rite of the Turnabout” (ESSENTIAL) – Maya Fey, now an accomplished spirit medium in Khura’in, is accused of murdering someone during a Rite of Passage, as she is the only person who would have an opportunity to commit the crime unseen… There’s a solid murder plot with great ideas under the hood of this one, but it’s drowned out by the weakness of this case, which highlights all of the absurdities and self-contradictions in the game’s core plot. Still, if you’re looking to understand the overarching plot, which you’ll need to in order to play the finale, play this case.

CASE 4 – “Turnabout Storyteller” (SKIPPABLE) – This case is weird and fun, I guess, but not extremely good, and probably skippable. One of the few dying messages cases in Ace Attorney with an actual dying message riddle that isn’t immediately proven to be fake.

CASE 5 – “Turnabout Revolution” (ESSENTIAL) – Phoenix and Apollo team up with old and new allies to overthrow the Khur’ain government in the wake of a locked-room murder!? Man, remember when this series was about the interpersonal dramas of people trying to grow into their best selves while struggling with grief and other internalized conflicts? We really did not need this kind of plot in Ace Attorney. The first part of this case, involving a civil case over the rightful owner of an artifact, is somewhat messy, but at the heart of the subsequent insanity is some great mystery plotting with an insanely smart locked-room and alibi trick and some surprisingly neat reasoning tying together the otherwise messy overarching plot. For all of the warts that the game’s central story has, it still contributed to a surprisingly strong mystery plot in the end.

CASE DLC – “Turnabout Time Traveler” (SKIPPABLE) – This ridiculous impossible crime in which a man believes he’s in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop is resolved rather early and with the most obvious explanation. What remains after that is solved is a pretty boring, silly, underwhelming case. Not worth picking up.

NINTH Game: Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a spectacular crossover between Ace Attorney and fellow mystery-solving detective series Professor Layton, a game franchise that focuses more on brain-teasers and logic problems than murder mysteries! In this bizarre mash-up, the protagonists of both games and their sidekicks are transported to Labyrinthia, a fantastical medieval kingdom inside of a storybook where witches run amok among the people! Here, all trials of law are Witch Trials, and instead of defending innocent people accused of murders you defend women falsely accused of casting spells and being witches! By using the witches’ magic tome, which contains all of the rules by which magic must abide, as well as logic and physical evidence, you point out lies in the testimony of witnesses who are hell-bent on seeing your client burnt for their witchcraft!

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a crossover between Professor Layton and Ace Attorney. Professor Layton is another detective series, but where Ace Attorney focuses on the player solving authentic puzzle mysteries, Professor Layton is more Sherlockian, focusing on the player solving random brain-teasers, math problems, and riddles! In this crossover, the riddle-solving gameplay of Professor Layton and the mystery-solving of Ace Attorney share equal screentime.

I’m going to be a bit of a hypocrite, because while the outrageous setting and plot of Spirit of Justice are a negative, the even more incredibly outrageous premise of Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is what endears me to it. It works, from my perspective, because this game is entirely non-canon. Spirit of Justice‘s silliness has wide-reaching implications for the world and ongoing plot of Ace Attorney, but this non-canonical spin-off game gets to exist in a comfortable void where insanity and fantasy can exist without having to reflect back on anything else.

As it happens, this is another one of my favorite games in all of Ace Attorney! The overarching plot is exactly the kind of dubious science-fantasy nonsense you expect if you have even a passing familiarity with Professor Layton‘s storytelling trends, but the magical murder mysteries are fantastic interpretations of Ace Attorney‘s trial-based gameplay. I also consider this one of the best crossovers of all time, as game perfectly blends elements of both series, so that every plot, character, and locale would be right at home in either Professor Layton or Phoenix Wright, with the ways it informs plot and character being simply fantastic.

Another game that it’s truly a shame isn’t legally available, because I adore this superb, surreal crossover.

Important additions: Introduced “Mass Testimony”, a new form of cross-examination that involves multiple people providing testimony at the same time. This mechanic is carried over into The Great Ace Attorney – The Adventure of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō.

It’s a bit awkward to rank the cases, because there are different chapters, with some focusing on Professor Layton gameplay, so I’ll just focus on the ones explicitly dealing with Ace Attorney trials.

THIS GAME DOES NOT HAVE THE OPTION TO SKIP CASES IN ANY RELEASE. Therefore, I will not be describing the “skippability” of cases. I will still offer an overview of my and the fanbase’s thoughts on the cases.


CASE 1 – “The English Turnabout” – Being an attempted murder inverted mystery in which you defend Espella Cantabella, this case is actually one of the more boring tutorial cases, but the cameos from Professor Layton detectives and the British arrangements of classic Ace Attorney songs is a super fun part of this case.

CASE 2 – “The Fire Witch” – In this case, the first in which you actually defend someone in Labyrinthia, you again defend Espella Cantabella, accused of killing a duo of muggers with fire magic! This is a pretty good case that serves as a second tutorial to the unique trials of Labyrinthia, but it’s a lot of fun! I adore fantasy-hybrid mysteries like this, so this is a great introduction to a refreshing change of pace for the series.

CASE 3 – “The Gold Court” – The last case to appear on my 30 favorite mysteries list, “The Gold Court” is a pivotal moment in Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. When Maya Fey is accused of murdering Professor Layton by turning him into gold with magic, the critical witness in the case against Maya is Layton’s own assistant Luke! I wrote about this case extensively on the 30 favorite mysteries list, so I’ll keep this short: this case uses the crossover brilliantly to inform fresh characterization for the principle characters of each series. Combine that with a fantastically surprising culprit and a chilling ending, and you have yourself a classic Ace Attorney trial.

CASE 4 – “The Final Witch Trial” – In this finale case you defend… Espella Cantabella… again. The context of this case is definitely a spoiler, but this is a great finale that uses the Ace Attorney gameplay style to resolve a Professor Layton-styled plot. It isn’t quite as great as a pure magical murder mystery, but it’s still a good finale that is exactly what you’d hope from a crossover like this. The explanation for the magic will drive people mad if they’re not familiar with Professor Layton, though!

TENTH GAME: The Great Ace Attorney – The Adventure of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō

After being forced to defend himself in a court of law to protect the reputation of his friend, young Japanese university student and ancestor of Phoenix Wright, Ryūnosuke Naruhodō, travels to England to take up the mantle of lawyer. While there, Ryūnosuke comes into frequent contact with the seemingly dim-witted “Great” Detective Herlock Sholmes who often provides half-correct hints to cases that Ryūnosuke is forced to set straight…

The Great Ace Attorney duology make for easily the two most popular existent entries in Ace Attorney history, and for good reason. Tonally different from everything else in the series, this darker and more mature Victorian murder mystery is the Ace Attorney game most approaching adult, with its themes of nationalism, racism, and “what it means to be a lawyer” being the best-handled in the series. This densely-packed and thematically-layered duology makes for the most refined overarching storytelling in the series.

However… I, personally, simply do not really love these two games, and I dislike each for different reasons. The Great Ace Attorney – The Adventure of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō has, in my opinion, generally incredibly weak mystery plots, often relying on intentional thematic anti-climaxes. The themes being explored by the game, while welcome departures for Ace Attorney, have the adverse effect of also coming at the necessary expense of the mystery plotting. With one exception, every case in this game is resolved as “an avoidable death that helplessly spun-off from a much more mundane offense”. Narratively it becomes rather repetitive, so while those less concerned with the mechanics of mystery-plotting than with literary themes and character writing will find a favorite entry in The Great Ace Attorney – The Adventure of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō, those looking for clever murders may want to look elsewhere…

However, Sherlockians will find here the single best caricature/homage to Sherlock Holmes in all of fiction. The two games are dense with obvious fanboy-ing written by a man who evidently adored the writing of Arthur Conan Doyle. Although Herlock Holmes is an undeniably comical take on the Holmes mythos, it is comedy informed by a real and knowing perspective on the original Sherlock Holmes. The parody isn’t mean-spirited, but rather lovingly forged from extreme interpretations of the real Sherlock Holmes. In spite of the failing mystery plots, Sherlockians may find joy in this superior interpretation of the Holmes canon.

Also, this game is written by Takumi Shū, the original director of Ace Attorney, as opposed to Yamazaki.

Import introductions: The Jury system now exists, where you’re forced to pit jurors against each other in order to overturn a recently passed guilty verdict. Also, the “Dance of Deduction”, in which you argue with Sherlock Holmes’s half-correct reasoning.


CASE 1 – “The Adventure of the Great Departure” (ESSENTIAL) – Ryūnosuke Naruhodō is accused of murdering Dr. John H. Wilson!? Although his friend Kazuma Asōgi swears to defend him, if Kazuma fails he’ll be prevented from going to England… In order to spare his friend that risk, Ryūnosuke opts to defend himself instead! …The Doyle estate forcing Capcom to change character names ruins half of the impact of this case, which in Japanese surreally opens up with the murder of Dr. John H. Watson. The murder of Watson is a fantastic and shocking introduction to this Sherlock Holmes crossover, and this case is long, dense, and incredibly fun as a mystery, if only a little bloated. A great tutorial case, and a great case in general… and, sadly, the best case in the game.

CASE 2 – “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” (ESSENTIAL) – This case involving a murder in a locked-room on a steam-ship of a shocking victim is more than just a rehashing of the famous Sherlock Holmes tale of the same title. Rather, it is a deconstruction of that story to use Doyle’s original scientifically-inaccurate solution as a jumping board to demonstrate this universe’s Herlock Sholmes’s half-competency, with a brand new solution to the same problem, involving a pretty smart and unique, but obvious-once-the-pieces-are-there locked-room trick. This story is important, directly related to the central narrative, introducing us to Herlock Sholmes, and establishing the essential gameplay mechanics. Interestingly, the only non-Investigations case in all of Ace Attorney with no Trial segment.

CASE 3 – “The Adventure of the Runaway Room” (ESSENTIAL) – One of those “thematic anti-climaxes” I brought up before, and it revisits a theme addressed in an earlier case. While I think the theme is explored more maturely and soberly in this case, as a mystery plot this reliance on “thematic anti-climax” wasn’t my cup of tea. A good and smart case for the overarching narrative, but somewhat weak as a mystery (on purpose, mind you). Also introduces you to the central prosecutor, the racist Barok von Zieks.

CASE 4 – “The Adventure of the Clouded Kokoro” (oh, so very SKIPPABLE) – My least favorite case in the entire series, this ridiculous attempted murder case isn’t necessary to read at all except that it offers characters and setting for a case in the immediate sequel to this game. The murder plot shamelessly plagiarizes Margery Allingham’s (ROT13 cipher) “Gur Obeqre-Yvar Pnfr”, using the same characters, character relations, motivations, and the solution to the impossible crime, whereas the solution to the stabbing is just the same as John Dickson Carr’s (ROT13) “Gur Fvyire Phegnva”, but then corrupted to be outrageously stupid and unbelievable, relying on no less than 12 counts of immediate luck, contrivance, and coincidence, all of which occur within the span of just 15 seconds. This case is so bad it genuinely infuriates me, but most people like it more than I do. But for my reading list, it’s neither important nor good, and can be skipped.

CASE 5 – “The Adventure of the Unspeakable Story” (ESSENTIAL) – This case, containing some fun references to “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League”, is a locked-room mystery in a brokers, with the defendant, a recurring character who will remain unnamed, being locked inside of the room with the victim. This one is another incredibly anti-climactic one, with a very underwhelming locked-room solution and an avoidable death, and some pretty awkward logic and gameplay in places. However, this case is elevated by some extremely fun side characters, great cross-examinations, and one of the most brilliant clues in the entire genre. There’s some good ideas at the heart of this one, but the plot is just a little limp for the finale of the game… Not great, but fun. Resolves this game’s plot-threads while setting up mysteries for the immediately sequel.

THE FINAL GAME: The Great Ace Attorney 2 – The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō

Continuing from the previous game, lawyer Ryūnosuke Naruhodō continues to defend people falsely-accused of murder in England. Eventually, a bizarre series of serial killings committed by “The Professor” enter into the fray, and all of the mysteries faced by Ryūnosuke Naruhodō seem to be within his grasp…

Continuing the plot of this game’s immediate predecessor, the overarching narrative is still dense and highly within-focus. However, for one reason or another, the sober tone of the first game is replaced with vintage Ace Attorney goofiness, the more serious characters are replaced with quirky witnesses, and the anti-climactic mysteries are replaced with complex schemes and machinations.

Well, that sounds perfect, you might be saying. That’s exactly what I thought was missing from the first game. But then, why did I say I don’t particularly care for this one?

Four of the five cases in this game shamelessly plagiarize famous English mystery stories. Takumi Shū has always borrowed ideas from other stories, and if you were aware of the stories, it wasn’t difficult to pin-point the origins of some of these borrowed concepts. But even as he did this, he tended to borrow both from obscure stories, while also putting his own unique spins on the concepts, or contextualizing them within his plots in unique ways. He incredibly rarely ever wholesale copied plots from top-to-bottom, and to see it happen multiple times within this game, and with extremely famous stories too, was disheartening. This game still made for a fun way to revisit these plots, of course, but there’s a lot of impact to be lost with identifying the origins of these stories…

That being said, like I said, even in the worst of Ace Attorney games are a ton of fun, and I enjoyed this game a lot more than its immediate predecessor. Even recognizing most of the stories from other sources, the gameplay loop of Ace Attorney still at least offers a refreshing new way to experience these classic tales. It isn’t the worst game by any means, just a somewhat disappointing one…


CASE 1 – “The Adventure of the Blossoming Attorney” (SKIPPABLE?) – (ROT13) “Gur Benpyr bs gur Qbt” by G.K. Chesterton. This tutorial case offers a neutered and abridged retelling of a classic Chesterton tale, keeping the locked-room but removing the part of the story that actually made it such a classic. There’s some foreshadowing/references to the overarching plot, so it might be worth playing this case for those, but it isn’t totally essential. It’s incredibly short, though, so I’d say to play it either way.

CASE 2 – “The Memoirs of Clouded Kokoro” (SKIPPABLE) – No, see, the other one was “Adventure”… Also (ROT13) “Gur Zlfgrel bs gur Fpneyrg Guernq” by Jacques Futrelle. This case, chronologically, is a bit odd. It takes place during the events of the previous game, and is an immediate sequel to that game’s fourth case, but was postponed to be played in this game… Unlike the first case, this one is at least a creative interpretation of the original Futrelle story with some little additions added here and there, and is a ton of fun to play through, but it’s still… that story. There’s still some minor foreshadowing at the end of this one, involving the collar to the Hound of Baskervilles, but it also isn’t very major nor essential. While I’d still suggest playing this for the maximum effect of the overarching story, it isn’t essential.

CASE 3 – “The Return of the Great Departed Soul” (ESSENTIAL) – From my top 15 favorite impossible crimes list, this case has you defending a scientist accused of committing a murder and then teleporting the corpse away! However, this teleportation is decidedly impossible, so you need to somehow prove that this feat of teleportation (causing the victim to appear hundreds of feet in the middle of the air) was faked in order to save your client’s life… This impossible crime is somewhat easy to figure out, but this is a brilliantly realized case, dense and twisty with a shocking ending, and the way it ties this seemingly unrelated murder case into the overarching story is brilliant and audacious. Not only the first truly essential case, but also a fantastic one at that.

CASE 4 – “Twisted Karma and his Last Bow” (ESSENTIAL) – I won’t be delving into the premises of these last two cases, for spoilers, but this case and Case 5 are essentially one extended case cut into two. The plot of this one is concerned with the murder of another beloved Sherlock Holmes character in a locked-room, but it isn’t resolved in this case. Instead it delves into a super fun caper story involving a kidnapping, and the first actual appearance of the Red-Headed League. A super fun case that melts together two Sherlock Holmes stories into one, but the unresolved locked-room mystery, elucidated in the next case, is the example of plagiarism to which I referred…

CASE 5 – “The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō (ESSENTIAL) – The locked-room murder is explained in a crude, immature fashion not befitting the series, recalling the novel from which it borrows, but that’s the worst part of the case. It’s quickly resolved and instead the overarching plot is delved into and untangled… The ending portion of this case is very fun and has good moments, but doesn’t feel like it treats its many weighty plot points with enough importance. It also isn’t as elegant about its mixing of the current murder case with an ages-old case as many other finales in Ace Attorney are. And, worse yet, it ends on a deus ex machina which takes the glory of victory away from the player. But, at its heart, the serial killing plot at the core of this is still some good and smart plotting with shocking reveals and interesting implications.

Now that I’ve played Ace Attorney, what if I want 5 more mystery video games for I, the Golden Age mystery fan!?

Then you’re certainly in luck! Below, I’ll give short overviews of five more mystery video games that may be of interest to the Golden Age detective lover after he’s finished with Ace Attorney

The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story

Ever since the Shijima family began trying to unlock the secrets to eternal life 100 years ago by fostering “Fruits of Youth”, mysterious deaths and murders have plagued the family home. Disinherited heir Eiji Shijima asks mystery writer Haruka Kagami to help investigate the whereabouts of the last remaining Fruit of Youth by infiltrating the Shijima home under the guise of writing a feature story about the family’s centennial cherry blossom ceremony that occurs when the family’s guardian tree is in bloom every 100 years. However, she gets roped into a murder investigation that begins with the discovery of unidentifiable skeletal remains beneath a cherry tree in the Shijima estate that appear to have been murdered 100 years ago, the last time the cherry tree was in bloom…

Now fully invested in the mysteries of the Shijima family, Haruka Kagami has taken it on herself to solve every one of the unresolved murder cases that have been haunting the home for the last 100 years, starting with a murder in 1922 and working her way up to 2022, with the hopes that this will enlighten her about the Fruit of Youth…

This video game is more like watching a season of a detective drama, as most of the gameplay takes the form of literally watching a television show… However, there is an innovative deduction system at the heart of this game that, while somewhat hard to master, gives a fantastic glimpse into the intimate mechanics of clueing in a mystery story…

This game has many properly Golden Age-styled mysteries at its heart, with tricks and misdirection and alibis and all of those delicious elements we all live, and while the earliest cases are just alright, some of the later cases and the way they tie into the overarching narrative feature some beautiful story-telling… It also serves as interesting glimpses into different periods of Japanese history, so all-around a fantastically fun game for mystery-lovers!

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

At Hopes Peak Academy, “Ultimate” gifted students who are the best at what they do are assembled to attend a school that, as far as they believe, will leave them set for life. However, instead, the fourteen students are trapped inside of the school and instructed that in order to escape they must murder a classmate and avoid deduction in the ensuing Class Trial… If the killer, or “Blackened”, is discovered they will be executed, but if the wrong person is accused, everyone else is killed instead and the “Blackened” is permitted to go free.

Inspired by Ace Attorney this series is somewhat harder to sell, due to its more “involved” (messy, convoluted) gameplay and “unique” (childish, crude) stylings. However, the series still boasts some occasionally great mystery plotting in the tradition of shin-honkaku Japanese puzzle plotters…

Danganronpa V3 is the third game in the series, and by a gigantic margin also the best. The first game, Danganronpa, has very little to offer in the way of non-amateurish murder plots, and the second game Danganronpa 2 eventually has two fantastic mysteries at the end of the game but takes too long to get there… If you don’t care about Danganronpa‘s ludicrous overarching narrative, I recommend checking out Danganronpa V3, as the writers commissioned famous award-winning mystery novelist Takekuni Kitayama to plot each of the six individual cases. This led to a dramatic increase in the overall quality of the mystery stories, featuring consistently very good and extremely clever mechanical murders! While my opinions on this series are complicated and messy, my fondness for specifically Danganronpa V3 is not, so do check it out!

AI – The Somnium Files

Date investigates a series of brutal serial killings while using futuristic technology to enter people’s minds… Inside of their dream worlds, called “Somniums”, Date is able to extract valuable but encryped information…

An undeniably flawed but undeniably interesting science-fiction mystery, this game is more techno-neo-noir than Golden Age puzzler. However, the plot at the heart of this is nonetheless compelling for it, complex if not entirely “fair-play”.

The only fault I can bring up against this game is that its crude sexual humor can sometimes be a bit distracting, and is never even remotely funny… But that doesn’t unduly hurt what still amounts to a very interesting, novel sci-fi mystery plot that might be a refreshing change of pace for those looking for a departure from the 1920s and old mansions.

Return of the Obra Dinn

When an old ship returns to reveal that the entire crew has been murdered, you, an insurance investigator, are sent aboard to figure out what exactly happened to the crew of the illustrious Obra Dinn

Not quite Golden Age, but hitting all of the same buttons, Return of the Obra Dinn features a meticulously-crafted logic problem involving the mass disappearance of a ship of people, with a focus on rigid deduction, reasoning, and reconstruction… This game may not narratively or stylistically or even structurally be a “Golden Age mystery”, but in intention and sensation it is the perfect offering for those who read their mysteries for the puzzle and riddle!

The Professor Layton series

Professor Layton and Luke Triton investigate all sorts of bizarre phenomenon around a surreal, bizarro version of the United Kingdoms, including a box that kills anyone who opens it and supposed time travel… Always Professor Layton is capable of explaining away the farfetched mysteries with equally farfetched science-fiction while along the way solving 150 brain-teasers, riddles, logic problems, math puzzles, and other various puzzlers…

The Professor Layton series is more of a point-and-click adventure game with a focus on brain-teasers than a mystery series! You aren’t solving mysterious murders, but instead solving seemingly random logic problems that the world throws at you to test your case-solving bonafides. Although not quite a “mystery-solving” game, the series is beloved for its characteristically ludicrous mystery plots involving comically outrageous Sherlockian detection applied to comically outrageous scenarios to supply comically outrageous science-fiction explanations!

No, it isn’t the epitome of fairplay mystery plotting, but it is a ripping good time every time you play it, and the series understands it isn’t to be taken seriously. The riddles are always so fun to solve, so this detective game can be the next subsitute for your Sunday crosswords…

And… finally, we’ve come to the end.

Yep, we’re finally officially through Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. While I don’t expect people to, in one pass, read everything in this post, I hope over time it serves as a helpful resource for people looking to get into this fantastic mystery series. While I still recommend not skipping any cases at all, I hope at least giving you the option helps make this daunting series a little more accessible for those of you out there hesitant to fully committing to its immense runtime. This series means a lot to me, so I hope that with some help you can come to find something to appreciate in it too. With that all being said, we’re at the end of our Ace Attorney discussion, so please do keep me updating on your playing progress. I look forward to having many more discussions with many more fans soon! I can only hope this post can served as the ultimate portal to digital detection and mystery video games I intended it to be.

The Red Locked Room (2020) by Tetsuya Ayukawa, trans. Ho-Ling Wong

Tetsuya Ayukawa is a forefront author of Japan’s Golden Age, often called “the honkaku mystery”. Not unlike the British Freeman Wills Crofts, Ayukawa is purveyor of alibis, time tables, and train-bound mysteries. However, Ayukawa stands out from his English progenitor with a unique twist: Ayukawa was fond of crossing the boundaries between the alibi problem and the locked-room mystery. By using alibi tricks to create impossible crimes and, inversely, using tricks from impossible crimes to construct alibis, Ayukawa was skilled at breathing new life into his tricks by placing them into novel situations!

He is an author of many short stories and novels, but out of his massive oeuvre only seven short stories have been translated, all by Ho-Ling Won and collected in The Red Locked Room in 2020. These seven stories are nearly cut down the middle, with four focusing on Ryūzō Hoshikage’s investigations into impossible crimes (“The White Locked Room”, “The Blue Locked Room”, “The Clown in the Tunnel”, and “The Red Locked Room”) and three focusing on Chief Inspector Onitsura as he investigates cases of iron-clad alibis (“Whose Body?”, “Death in Early Spring”, “The Five Clocks”). While the Hoshikage stories to be more straightforwardly classical Golden Age-styled puzzlers, the Onitsuras were more like those modern blendings of puzzle plot and police procedural enjoyed by Roger Ormerod and Douglas Clark, with the collection intermittently jumping between series!

It can be said that very few authors can beat John Dickson Carr at his game, and equally true for Freeman Wills Crofts at his. Ayukawa was quite ambitious in aiming for both, but can you confident claim he comes out the victor..?

“The White Locked Room” is the first story in the collection, in which Professor Zama is found stabbed to death in his snow-bound house, even though the only footprints around the house are those of his friend, who discovered the body, and his student Kimoko Satō, who is also on the scene! Worse yet, the absence of the fatal knife precludes suicide, so how could the poor man have been stabbed? The conventional police are woefully incapable of figuring out this seemingly impossible murder and are forced to defer to the expertise of skillful amateur Ryūzō Hoshikage.

I’m going to show my biases here, but I don’t like “no footprint” impossible crimes very much. They seem to have less variations on less concepts than any other established sub-genre of impossible crimes, and this story doesn’t prove me wrong. The solution ultimately turns on a minor redressing of a very old hat with few interesting touches. There’s a nice cultural clue that I’m proud to have picked up on, but besides from that I was merely whelmed with this first story.

The next story in the collection, “Whose Body?”, concerns itself with a series of mysterious packages that have found their way to a seemingly random group of people: to one man, an empty bottle of corrosive acid; to another man, a cut length of rope; and, to a woman, a recently fired gun! The supposed sender, a local painter, denies sending anyone any packages. The three boxes are understandably suspicious in their own right, but the three recipients are shocked with the news that a man was found in the basement of a nearby building with his head cut-off. The man was tied up with a length of rope, had his fingers burnt off with acid, and was shot through the chest with a gun… Those three packages each contained the tools used in a recent murder! Naturally, Inspector Onitsura is on the case.

The lion share of this story masquerades as a dull and slow police procedural, but the heart of “Whose Body?” is pure Golden Age! If you force yourself to break the solution apart into separate pieces, you could argue this is just a Lego-tower of old ideas, but then that wouldn’t be doing it justice. The killer’s plan in this story is brilliantly devious, performing an impressive feat of time manipulation with an equally impressively simple maneuver. It didn’t quite make my 30 favorite mystery stories list, but I know if I made a list dedicated to short stories then “Whose Body?” is an absolute shoo-in! Truly great stuff, this!

In “The Blue Locked Room”, a police officer is forced to intervene when a member of an acting troupe attacks his womanizing boss because the actor’s fiance slept with the manager! However, although the police officer walked the man to his room and instructed him to keep the door closed, the man somehow winds up murdered in his locked and sealed bedroom! How this impossible crime could’ve come to be, is a question left for the pretentious super-amateur-sleuth Ryūzō Hoshikage.

The culprit is the most surprising of any story in the collection, but I’ll admit it’s a surprise that feels somewhat unearned by the story surrounding it. The locked-room trick itself is a decent patchwork of old ideas with some clever twists, but all-told it’s not a very inspired story. Definitely an unfortunate follow-up to the superb “Whose Body?”.

The titular “blue” of the locked room is in reference to the fact the room has blue lighting, and it doesn’t matter as concerns the mystery, sadly.

We return to Inspector Onitsura in “Death in Early Spring”! A young man named Kazuomi Kokuryō has been fatally strangled at a construction site near Gofukubashi 3-Chōme! The only possible suspect is Fukujirō Fuda, who was competing with Kazuomi for the affections of a girl who, in reality, was interested in neither man… Unfortunately for Inspector Onitsura, Fuda has a perfect alibi, and so the Inspector goes about recreating the two men’s afternoons in order to bring guilt home to the obvious perpetrator!

An example of the impossible alibi problem, a type of impossible crime in which we’re aware of the culprit’s guilt, but not the method by which they manage to commit the crime with an unassailable alibi, “Death in Early Spring” is also Ayukawa’s jab at the old-fashioned Croftsian time-table alibi plot! And it is fantastic; a better example of the “time-tabler” condensed into hardly 20 pages, I’ve never seen! The basic crux of the alibi plot is reliant upon a concept so time-worn that any seasoned mystery fan would think of it during the course of the story and pray to God it isn’t the solution, and yet with his final twist on the knot Ayukawa manages to push it entirely out of the realms of possibility, and then pull it back out of his hat in a way that miraculously elevates it to sheer greatness that elates the reader despite his initial protests. The fact that Ayukawa can take this frustratingly tired and played-out gimmick and put a genuinely lovely spin on it with the story’s central locked-room-esque gambit is, frankly, impressive, and it’s a gambit I’ve seen done once or twice in other alibi plots but still genuinely love.

This was the story that made me come to terms with the fact that I was probably to going to walk away thinking more highly of the Onitsura stories on average than the Hoshikage stories, and this story wound up on my 30 favorite mystery stories list! Well-deserved, at that!

“Clown in the Tunnel” is the third of the four Hoshikage stories. Ryūzō Hoshikage investigates a bizarre crime: a clown, after committing a murder at a jazz band’s lodgings and tying up a maid in the kitchen, appears to waltz through a tunnel and disappear… The problem? On the other side of the tunnel is a roadblock put up after a traffic incident! It’d be impossible for the clown to cross through the tunnel without being seen by police, and yet he perfectly does! How did this clown perform this impossible vanishing act?

This story is frustrating to me. Not because it’s bad, no, not by any means is it bad. It’s the best story in the collection. But it’s frustrating to me that I basically wrote this story three years ago. I have an unpublished manuscript sitting on my Google Docs right now for a novel involving two impossible crimes, one of which relies on nearly the same principle as the one Ayukawa invented in this story. It’s worse because I sent the idea around to friends, very knowledgeable friends and brutally honest at that, and they all gave me their unambiguous approval that the story was original and clever, but I didn’t trust them! I was embarrassed of the silliness of the concept and let the novel rot in the cloud, never to again see the light of day!

And then I read “Clown in the Tunnel”.

If nothing else, “Clown in the Tunnel” is cathartic for me because now I know that, sitting on the other side, the idea I thought of really is good! A unique element to “Clown in the Tunnel” is the fact that it truly is the epitomizing story of the author’s ability to cross wires between impossible crimes and alibi plots. Despite the Carrian or Paul Halterian impossible crime premise of a clown who can walk through walls, the story, not unlike “Death in Early Spring”, involves a time table! And the time table is central to figuring out the trick for the clown’s disappearance… In the end, an alibi trick is utilized to construct an impossible crime and I loved seeing it from the reader’s seat, even if I didn’t trust the idea when I wrote it myself. This story ended up on my 15 favorite impossible crimes list.

“The Five Clocks” sees Onitsura return as he investigates the murder of an accountant who was apparently about to give evidence of his involvement in embezzlement, but is soon murdered in his apartment. The police have an obvious suspect in mind, but Inspector Onitsura has other ideas. However, in order clear the innocent man’s name, Onitsura has to battle with the fact that the true killer has a scarily airtight alibi: the killer, the the assistant division chief in the victim’s company, has an alibi proven by five different clocks (the clock of a restaurant he ordered from, the clock from a radio station, a witness’s wristwatch, a clock on the wall in his study, and a clock at his tailor). How could the killer have committed this crime with an alibi affirmed so neatly?

Another impossible alibi problem. The premise sounds like it’d be ripe for impressive time manipulation, but the eventual solution is wildly inelegant and not very interesting. The story essentially ends up five (at a stretch) different alibi plots melted down and stuffed together into a twenty page story, and the answer to each “clock” (alibi) is the exact first solution the relatively astute mystery reader will probably think of for each one. There’s more to “The Five Clocks” than the other stories, but more uninspired plotting is, frankly, worse. Easily my least favorite story in the collection.

And, finally, the finale Hoshikage story and the last story in The Red Locked Room is the title story, “The Red Locked Room”. A young female medical student is murdered and found dismembered in the little red brick dissecting room at the edge of her university’s campus, sole door to which was secured from the outside by a combination lock the combination to which only one (innocent) person knows. How could this violent and egregious crime have come to be? Ryūzō Hoshikage brings the crime home to the rightful culprit…

Apparently, “The Red Locked Room” is supposed to be one of the quintessential Japanese locked room mystery stories, but the quality of the story doesn’t quite live up to its apparent historical significance. While it’s not quite easy to spot the culprit, the locked-room’s trick should immediately occur to most readers with even a passing awareness of impossible crimes. It isn’t that the solution is particularly cliched or over-used, because it isn’t, but it’s definitely the easy answer to the provided set-up. There’s an attempt to misdirect away from this solution, but the misdirection is so underplayed that, ironically, the reader will probably forget about it and end up skipping to the correct solution anyway. Unfortunately, while the idea isn’t particularly unoriginal, it’s still a trick lacking in inspiration or cleverness and ends up just being limp and obvious as a result.

The Red Locked Room is something of an interesting collection because there was almost no middle ground in quality. Either the story was painfully lacking, uninspired, and uninteresting, or it was the opposite extreme of wildly brilliant and imaginative. While the quality of this collection is fairly uneven, the stories skewing good were immensely good and, for my money, more than compensate for their worse counterparts (which were mediocre, rather than outright bad). The better three stories (“Clown in the Tunnel”, “Death in Early Spring”, and “Whose Body?”) inspire me in my Japanese language studies to read more of this author, while the worse four I’m content writing off as unfortunate flubs.

While I’m not entirely confident I can say that Ayukawa bests either John Dickson Carr or Freeman Will Crofts in the overall quality of the work displayed here, I am happy to say that where Ayukawa does his best work he at least matches them momentarily. Ayukawa’s propensity for crossing-wirings between alibi plots and locked-room mysteries is shown off best in “Clown in the Tunnel”, which itself feels like a marriage between the works of those two great authors he is compared to, but “Death in Early Spring” equally display his excellence in this field.

Even if I only truly enjoyed three of the seven tales in this collection, I believe they’re more than worth the price of entry for The Red Locked Room! Do check it out if you have the time!

  1. “Clown in the Tunnel” – 9.25/10
  2. “Death in Early Spring” – 8.75/10
  3. “Whose Body?” – 8.25/10
  4. “The Blue Locked Room” – 6.75/10
  5. “The Red Locked Room” – 6.25 / 10
  6. “The White Locked Room” – 6/10
  7. “The Five Clocks” – 5/10

Detective School Q – Case 3 “Class Begins at Detective School” and Case 4 “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” – Amagi Seimaru

Having solved the mysterious murders of The Kirisaki Island Tragedy in the previous volume, and officially passing the Dan Detective School Entrance Exam, the examinees return to mainland Japan. Here, Japan’s most famous living sleuth Dan Morihiko announces the formation of the “Qualifying Class”, or “Q Class”, a specially-designed curriculum for only the most prospective students from which Dan plans to pick his most suitable successor!

The very first assignment for the Q Class involves a recent disappearance from the Kamikakushi village. Based on his footprints, university student on a school research trip seemed to mysterious step out of his window of the inn at which he stayed, walk 30 meters into the center of a muddy, unplanted rice field, and then vanish into mid-air! Proving their case-cracking bonafides by easily solving this impossible crime, Q Class soon learns that this is only the latest in a long series of similar vanishings in the village and its neighboring village of Hyoutan and Kamikakushi, two lonely villages nestled in a mountain range, and they’re expected to get to the bottom of the case!

Hyoutan Village and Kamikakushi Village are in fact quite isolated civilizations, as to get to Hyoutan requires a 30 minute walk through a tunnel from a bus-stop, and the only way into Kamikakushi is another 30 minute walk through another, spiraled tunnel that only attaches to Hyoutan. Worse yet, the village of Kamikakushi is ruled by a cult who worships a God of Disease, represented by masks representing smallpox, so when a crew of reporters hunting for a treasure fabled to exist in one of the two villages has one of their members murdered and buried in a graveyard, it’s immediately assumed to be the work of the very same God of Disease.

The village of Kamikakushi requires everyone wear masks to walk around the village, so with only two masks to spare the students of Q Class are forced to split up. The aloof prodigy Ryuu teams up with Megumi, the girl with identic memory, to bring the investigation to Kamikakushi, while hyper-active protagonist Kyuu, athlete Kinta, and computer wizz-cum-game developer Kazuma stay in Hyoutan, with the two groups only able to communicate through the phones in the inns in each village. As more mysterious murders pile up, like the impossible flying of a reporter before being dropped to his death, Class Q is on a race against the clock with the constant threat of their own potential murders hanging over them in Case 3 – Class Begins Detective School” (Chapters 14-16) and Case 4 – “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” (Chapters 17-29) of Detective School Q.

This is the case of Detective School Q. Fans of the series point to this one as being quintessentially emblematic of the franchise in every way, as well as being the creme de la creme of all of its many cases. Sure, there are many great cases in this manga, but “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” is the Great Case of all of Detective School Q if you ask many of its enjoyers. Is this necessarily true, though…?

The transitionary case between “The Tragedy of Kirisaki Island” and “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case”, “Class Begins at Detective School” is a simple three-chapter case dealing simultaneously with the aftermath of the former while setting up the latter. This sort of “mini-case” between two large cases is quite common in Detective School Q, as it is a series with a consistent inter-connected narrative rather than every murder occurring within a continuity bubble, so of course there needs to be seamless transitions between the cases. That being said, as “Class Begins at Detective School” concerns itself with the serial killing of “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case”, the two can be considered as one story.

The impossible disappearance of a student from the middle of a field at the end of a track of footprints is a decently creative but ultimately minor technical trick which I’ve seen performed in a more audacious form in another manga series. Like the more Ellery Queenian crime in “The Detective School Entrance Exam“, it’s still impressive that such a crime could be fit into such a small page count, but it isn’t particularly noteworthy otherwise. It instead merely serves as a stepping stone into the principle murders of the case proper.

As for the actual “Kamikakushu Village Murder Case”, it seems as if its immense reputation is one not unlike Shimada Soji’s landmark The Tokyo Zodiac Murders: a technically weakly-constructed story, elevated by the cussed audacity of its central trick. The story has a somewhat similar issue to the one I complained about in my review of “The Legend of Lake Hiren from The Kindaichi Case Files, another impossible crime manga Amagi Seimaru worked on. That is to say, the story ultimately feels very loose, due to over-loading the puzzle and cluing into one of the murders while the multiple other murders merely exist in respect to that one. This often leads to a somewhat awkward feeling mystery tale in which one particular crime is dense, but long stretches of time are spent with trivial crimes with few to none important clues.

Within “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case”, there are three murders. The first isn’t even passingly mentioned in the denouement, with its only contribution to the narrative being to provide a clue. The second murder is an impossible murder with the very interesting impression of a victim flying into the air based on his video recording, but the trick is explained nearly immediately and isn’t incredibly impressive, being a variation on the exact kind of trick you’d expect for this kind of impossible crime. This naturally means the third crime, in which a man accused of the murder challenges the detectives to explain how he could commit a murder soon-to-occur while provided with an impossible alibi, is clearly designated as the “important crime”, and naturally almost all of the clues pertaining to the killer’s identity and the grand central trick of the story are primarily explored through the investigation into this murder.

Until this murder is committed, there is very little in the way of cluing to speak of. The story is especially light on visual clues, disappointingly underutilizing Megumi and her identic memory which often contributes to smart visual clues in the rest of the series. At most, there is a code that gives a little (very important) history on the true nature of the two villages. It’s a trend that often leads to the mysteries feeling “thinner” than their length, and “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” would certainly benefit from trimming out the second impossible murder and cutting four or so chapters off of its runtime.

But don’t get the wrong idea! “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” swings for the fences in a very major way, and like The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, is a worthy classic because of how well it works when it does work. Although Megumi is poorly utilized, this story still does a great job depicting the many ways the varied skill sets of the Q Class work towards establishing the solution. Kinta’s raw intuitive perception, Kazuma’s access to the immense well of information the internet provides, Kyuu’s pure creativity, and Ryuu’s simple brilliance all contribute their own unique pieces to the puzzle.

Better yet is the central mystery. There is a very important clue involving a piece of paper with the infinity symbol written on it (or maybe it’s a side-ways letter 8? Or a gourd?). This audacious visual clue goes a long way in revealing the central mystery behind the murders in the Kamikakushi villages. A central mystery which is utterly brilliant, by the way, revealing one of the ambitious alibi tricks of the entire genre. It’s an alibi trick so large in scale that it’s baffling, fitting the many comparisons drawn to Shimada Soji’s work. It’s a trick that not only provides the killer with a damnable alibi, but it’s one which offers a compelling, unique, and mystifying motive for the mysteries and offering a compelling conclusion to the cult of the God of Disease. The weight of the denouement is immense, highlighting all of the strengths of the case, while compensating for many of its structural weaknesses.

In the end “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” ended up a very similar beast to The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. Boasting flawed and awkward construction, the story nonetheless elevates itself with nothing less than the raw ingenuity of its final trick, one which borders on reality manipulation pure and simple. Trimming down the case would’ve done it wonders, but that doesn’t stop “The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case” from rising above the sum of its parts. While I highly doubt that I’ll walk away considering this the best of the best of the best of Detective School Q, I can safely see that it might very well have the best idea for a central trick in the series, and I can’t deny walking away happy with reading the story!

Hey, two-for-two! Detective School Q‘s reputation for consistent is clearly well-earned, as both of its full and proper cases have been at least very good. I do hate being negative about this case like I had been, because really it does justify itself in what it becomes, but with the awkward trend that Amagi had maintained from working on The Kindaichi Case Files it really did end up losing a bit of the greatness it could’ve had. I especially feel bad because I know many people consider this the absolute height of the series, and I don’t like being a party-pooper with stories people really like. The core trick really is something great, so I feel its place in my ranking is justified, but consider it tentative and reluctant and it might be re-evaluated as I read on in the series.

  1. The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case (Chapters 17-29)
  2. The Tragedy of Kirisaki Island (Chapters 4-13)
  3. Class Begins at Detective School (Chapters 14-16)
  4. Detective School Entrance Exam (Chapters 1-3)

Detective School Q – Case 1 “Detective School Entrance Exam” & Case 2 “The Tragedy of Kirisaki Island” – Amagi Seimaru

Kyuu isn’t very good at schoolwork. It isn’t that he’s dumb, or that he struggles to learn in an academic setting. Quite the opposite in fact, he simply doesn’t try! Kyuu is a genius trained by an unnamed famous detective whose chosen career path has nothing to do with the classes at his normal high-school: he wants to become the world’s next Great Detective, following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. To that end, Kyuu decides to forego life as an everyday high-schooler looking to become an everyday salaryman, and instead enroll in the highly exclusive and wildly competitive Dan Detective School, founded by Japan’s most famous living sleuth Morihiko Dan!

When Kyuu arrives at the Entrance Exam, he discovers that the task of the prospective students is to solve an old real-world murder, based on nothing but two photographs — one taken by the victim and the other the police — and six suspects (played by staff from the school). The victim is a master of Judo who was stabbed in his rental cottage in a snowy January, and six suspects were located, all having motives, no alibis, and were staying at a hotel across the lake from the victim. With the help of the identic memory of his new ally Megumi, Kyuu is able to immediately spot who he believes is the culprit and the two, together with other exam-takers, are then tasked with trailing their pick in Case 1 – “Detective School Entrance Exam” (Chapters 1-3), the beginning of shin-honkaku manga series Detective Academy Q by Amagi Seimaru.

Eagle-eyed readers of the blog might recognize Amagi Seimaru’s name by its frequent mention in the comments sections of my blog posts on reviews of the impossible crime manga (comic books) The Kindaichi Case Files. That franchise is itself split into many sub-series, the first of which is predominantly credited to the writing of Yōzaburō Kanari. However, starting with the second series, the writing credit is given exclusively to Amagi Seimaru, who was originally a co-writer and editor under Kanari. Very many The Kindaichi Case Files fans consider Amagi the superior writer between the two, finding the many series written under him to be on average better and more consistent in quality than the original Kanari run, an opinion shared by TomCat of Beneath the Stains of Time and more hesitantly by Ho-Ling of Ho-Ling no Jikenbo. More popular than the opinion that the Amagi-run Kindaichi Case Files series are better than the Kanari-run ones, though, is the opinion that Amagi Seimaru’s original mystery manga series also focusing on impossible crimes and locked-room mysteries, Detective School Q, is even better than those, and more consistent at that! Well, that sounds promising, giving my spurt of underwhelming Kindaichi Case File reads recently…

This is another case where I anticipate I’ll never be able to get the old-guard involved in reading the series (but what do I know? I’ve successfully converted some readers of Detective Conan, after all…). Admittedly, the premise is very kiddish and the tone follows suit. Lots of unfunny prat-falls and lame jokes typical in shounen (young boy) manga, almost cringe-inducing energy and endless melodrama over trivial things, and the incredibly juvenile concept of a detective-creating academy definitely reek of bad kid fiction.

On that note, though, something I’ve proselytized about a lot on this blog is that in Japan “kid fiction” is usually an indictment on the complexity of language and a few storytelling trends, and very little else. So-called “young boy” fiction tend to involve fantastical and melodramatic stories involving inordinately skilled school-age children, but besides that you can’t count on anything being quite how you expect. These “young boy” stories are capable of telling stories as complex or mature as “adult” stories, and frequently do! The demographic is mostly about accessibility, and is rarely used as an excuse to make something sub-par because it’s “for kids”. Hell, even subject matter is rarely policed as much as it is in the English-speaking world (when “kid stories” from Japan get translated into English, it isn’t uncommon for them to get as high as TV-Mature, or 18+, ratings, for instance).

I bring this up because, yeah, the first arc of Detective School Q, “The Detective School Exam“, would have turned me away from the manga immediately if I didn’t both have assurance the series was good or have foreknowledge of the potential of so-called “kid fiction” from Japan.

Of course, in retrospect, “The Detective School Exam” is important as it establishes a few elements that will become the core of this series. Firstly, it introduces us to the central group of detectives, who each specialize in different areas that make up for the weaknesses of their classmates. Kintarō “Kinta” Tōyama has no common sense and isn’t very intelligent, but he has superb 20/10 vision and preternatural intuitive skills. Kyuu has neither discipline nor book smarts, but his deductive reasoning and creativity recalls history’s best detectives, and usually allow for him to be the one to piece everything together in the end. In fact, the specialty of Megumi Minami is central to the way Detective School Q takes advantage of its medium. Her borderline supernaturally acute “photographic” (identic) memory is essentially a giant signpost telegraphing to the audience that visual clues, clues not called attention to by the text but instead planted in the drawings of the comic book, will be part of the series. This is an aspect of Detective Conan or The Kindaichi Case Files that equally well takes advantage of its visual medium, but Megumi’s inclusion also permits for visual clues that don’t need to be addressed immediately, as it’ll be possible for other characters to “revisit” scenes later through her memory. It allows for visual clues that are more subtle and specific, and yet still fairplay while also not as bluntly telegraphed.

Outside of this, however? The core murder mystery is set-up in less than five pages, explored very little past that, quickly resolved, and explained in a few pages in the next chapter. Don’t get me wrong, the Ellery Queenian chain of detective is impressive, being a surprisingly dense and smart piece of ratiocination based on a single clue (or absence-of-clue, another trope of Queen’s) for a murder given less than five full pages of focus, and it perfectly sets up the series’ approach to visual clues. But then it being resolved so quickly and compactly also means you spend quite a bite of time in the “trailing the suspect” portion of the story, a semi-Holmsian tale in which the “suspect” constantly tries to elude the protagonists through a variety of tricks, along with other traps laid by the exam coordinators from Dan Detective School. It isn’t incredibly interesting, and a fairly unflattering introduction to the franchise for people who might be worried there’s a little too much anime in their mystery with its many parallels to “Exam Chapters” in other shounen series.

…Which, of course, is the reason why I decided to review these two arcs in one blog post. The running trend has been that the manga series I review start off incredibly underwhelming and take comically long amounts of time before finally picking up and becoming the great pieces of mystery fiction as which they are now known. To start this series off with an underwhelming review of a three-chapter introductory case would not be doing Detective School Q any justice as, like I’d already mentioned, the average quality and consistency in this series is quite high. So, what of Case 2 – “The Tragedy of Kirisaki Island” (4-13)?

“The Tragedy of Kirisaki Island” shifts gears as Kyuu, Kinta, and Megumi clear the first half of the exam. The final part of the entrance test involves journeying to an infamous island well-known for a gruesome series of impossible killings that occurred there many years in the past, committed by a man claiming to be a second-coming of Jack the Ripper himself. The examinees are instructed to solve these historical crimes, but before the test can even begin a member of their examination group is found murdered, inside of a room locked-and-sealed from within… and, just like the original Jack the Ripper killings, he’d been cut in half. And when more murders begin to crop up, each one involving a corpse cut into pieces, the remaining examinees are on the hunt for a vicious killer before they wind up on the chopping block next!

This is the series’ first proper murder mystery, and unlike both Detective Conan and The Kindaichi Case Files, Detective School Q‘s opener is great. Not only is it great, I’m actually shocked to find that I consider it one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read, and I’m even more shocked to discover that many people don’t even consider this a notable high-point in the series! If “one of the best mysteries I’ve read” is a medium-point in the quality of this franchise, that alone is a testament to Detective School Q‘s later accomplishments…

There’s one particular locked-room trick in this story which is a cussedly original take on an old-hat. As corny as it is, the novelty and elegance of the solution cannot be denied. That being said, the locked-room trick is good and original, but it isn’t an all-timer classic of raw ingenuity, and the impossible crimes are not what make this story such a masterful piece of mystery fiction.

Given the context of the story, there’s an obvious conclusion many readers will draw that is immediately rendered impossible by the fact the murders are dismemberments. This ties into a fantastic “outer-“mystery surrounding the framework of the locked-room murders, boasting one of the cleverest misdirections and best hints of the genre, turning on something that is an inversion of the unique trick of Gur Gbxlb Mbqvnp Zheqref (spoilers, do not click unless you’re sure you’ve read both stories). Utterly fantastic first mystery for Detective School Q, and it sets a wonderful pace for the remainder of the series.

A few extra notes for the curious before I wrap this post up with the ranking of all two cases I’ve read. I recommend not watching the anime adaptation of this one. While I haven’t seen it myself, I know it cuts out a few noteworthy cases (including the just-reviewed “Tragedy of Kirisaki Island”), adds some weak filler cases, and only goes until about halfway into the series. Given that Detective School Q has an overarching plot, that means you’ll miss out by watching the anime, so I suggest keeping trying to find it in you to read the original manga version of this series.

Also, I won’t be mentioning these in the reviews themselves but leaving little notes at the end; these two stories span Volumes 1 and 2! So be sure to pick them up!

I’m pleased as punch to read a detective manga that immediately starts out good and doesn’t have to go through eight books of mediocre mysteries to get to the great stories. This, I suppose, is the benefit of reading a story written by someone who already has experience writing mystery manga. Amagi Seimaru has written many mystery series besides just Detective School Q and The Kindaichi Case Files. Most interesting to me is Sherlock Bones, a series of inverted mysteries featuring a young man who gets the help of a Sherlock Holmes trapped in the body of a dog! I may very well review that series as well!

I don’t believe this ranking is exactly necessary, but it’s a formality I’d hate to break…

  1. The Tragedy of Kirisaki Island (Chapters 4-13)
  2. Detective School Entrance Exam (Chapters 1-3)