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!

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)*

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)

The Kindaichi Case Files Quadruple Mini-Review – Series 1 “File”, Cases 4, 6, 7 and 8 “Smoke and Mirrors”, “The Legend of Lake Hiren”, “The Santa Slayings” and “No Noose is Good Noose” by Yōzaburō Kanari

(Note: Although this is the third of this review series, I only encourage you to read the first post in the series in order to understand the premise of the series and the intent of the review series)

While on my hiatus, I’ve been catching up on my back-log of manga series I’ve started to neglect such as The Kindaichi Case Files and Detective Conan. Embarrassingly, my reviews for each are significantly behind my reading. I’m as late as book twenty-five of Detective Conan, and I’m six cases past where I last reviewed The Kindaichi Case Files. Initially, I had actually wrote four separate reviews for these four separate stories we’re reviewing today, but I realized at the end I have very similar opinions of these four stories. I knew that four back-to-back reviews saying essentially the same things would make for awful reading, and spreading it out would mean taking longer before I get to review genuinely good cases in this franchise — which is less fun for you and me. Therefore, I decided to blitz through my thoughts on these stories in a mini-review lightning round!

“Smoke and Mirrors”

Kindaichi is conscripted by the Fudou High School occult club to investigate the “Seven Mysteries of the School”. Practically every school in Japan has their own “seven mysteries” — seven different types of supernatural phenomena that many students claim to have witnessed with their own eyes — so Kindaichi is naturally skeptical of tales of fountain water turning into blood or twelve-step staircases suddenly manifesting an evil thirteenth step. However, he nonetheless agrees to investigate for an important reason: at Fudou High School, only six of the mysteries are known, and a letter has recently been discovered claiming that whoever discovers the seventh will be killed!

Naturally, once Kindaichi receives a phone call from the president of the occult club inviting him to an abandoned school-building so she may reveal the secret of the seventh mystery, a murder is committed with her as the victim! Through the window, he sees the club president hanging in a parallel room in an attached school building — a supposedly sealed school building — but by the time he gets to her, the room has been locked from the inside and her body vanished from within!

This story’s impossible crime isn’t even remotely difficult to figure out, and for that I blame the atrocious English title for this case, as well as the uninspired central trick. What makes this case work decently well is the identity of the killer, which is fairly surprising as it’s one of the few instances in which Kindaichi divests itself of the typical “avenger from the past” motif that it relies on so heavily. The killer’s motive in this case actually ties into the architectural history of the school buildings and the fact it used to be a hospital, and while I think this element of the plot is a bit of an extreme departure from the “supernatural school mysteries” premise that we opened with, in such a way that I actually feel like it’s a waste of the premise, it’s nonetheless one of the better stories we’ve seen so far for having it.

“The Legend of Lake Hiren”

Years ago, a movie-obsessed social recluse, bullied into hiding, kept undergoing plastic surgery to make his face look like whatever his favorite movie character is at the time. However, after so many surgeries, his face was eventually disfigured and disgusting, forcing him to adopt the identity of the only fictional character he could resemble: Jason Voorhees, from Friday the 13th. Haunted by his disgusting appearance and manifesting the personality of the man he resembled, “Jason” proceeded to murder thirteen people with an axe, chopping the faces off of each and every one! He was soon caught and sentenced to prison for this gruesome murder…

Years later, Kindaichi and Miyuki are roped into taking Miyuki’s cousin’s tickets to the screen testing of a soon-to-open resort, which itself is also a competition to determine who will receive the resort’s immense membership free of five-million yen! And it is at this resort that bodies start to show up, each killed with an axe before having their faces cut off, supposedly killed by a recently-escaped “Jason”…

This story epitomizes my central issue with this manga: despite the stories being four times as long as Detective Conan cases on average, you’re really getting half the mystery plot and a quarter of the cluing. This is especially exasperated by the fact that every case is a serial killing (typically involving three victims) and in each of the stories only one of the murders really contributes to the mystery plot. The other two are either committed to supplement the trick of the first murder, or for ultimately no reason and are usually forgotten aside from providing a motive. As a consequence, you get clues that only exist in respect to the one murder, and the other two tend to be long time-fillers that have to happen before Kindaichi can figure out the mystery (for some reason?). The result is that the stories often feel thinly plotted and sparsely-clued, not adequately taking advantage of the standardized length of the plots, and this story is the worst example of that! Especially since you’d need to have your own face cut off not to figure the mystery out…

One thing I did like, the movie motif does come back, as the motive relates to a traumatic event in the characters’ pasts involving an “unsinkable ship” which does, in fact, sink. This is of course a reference to the film Titanic. It’s an underplayed part of the story, but I appreciate this touch of thematic cohesion… It’s still quite a bad story though.

“The Santa Slayings”

At the Hotel Europa, a troupe of actors are preparing to put on a mystery drama, in spite of recent death threats against the unlikable and grouchy head actress. It only stands to reason that, despite the heavy police presence, the lead actress manages to get herself murdered by potassium cyanide in the wine she drank as part of the production…

This one is a pretty standard theatrical mystery, but to its benefit it is one of the tighter mysteries in the series. The tricks involving the central murder of poison are ludicrously cheap and obvious, sadly, and the locked-room murder that gets committed later is pretty obvious, pulling from a well of standard mystery tricks that anyone who has read a mystery story before will likely immediately identify as the solution. There is a double-edged bend to the theatrical murder that I enjoy, especially with how it’s weaponized against the killer, but it’s all standard, average fare.

What kills “The Santa Slayings”, however, is its attempt to give the killer a tragic backstory. The backstory is unearned, essentially un-clued except by one of the most ridiculous visual clues in the medium, and entirely ludicrous. It’s such a huge damper on the story, and the killer explaining it takes up a third of the story!

Oh yeah, and there’s something involving a drug-dealing Santa, which thematically has nothing to do with the story around it and sticks out like a bizarre red thumb. Not very good.

“No Noose is Good Noose”

The students and faculty at a preparatory school have ceased to be surprised when someone commits suicide on the premises. In two years alone, more than two dozen students have hung themselves somewhere in the school. It has since been merely written off as a curse of the school and treated as an expected part of everyday life. However, when chickens start being cut up and hung around school, with threatening messages being left around, the school’s mathematics teacher Yoko Asano is the prime suspect thanks to a series of rumors. She’s only finally arrested when she’s found inside of a locked-and-sealed room with the hanging body of a student…

In a better series, this story wouldn’t stand-out at all, but it’s easily the best Kindaichi case we’ve seen so far! What this story essentially turns on is an Agatha Christie-styled gambit with the addition of a locked-room mystery with its own false solution, and a somewhat obvious alibi trick. While individually these two tricks aren’t even close to being impressive, still essentially being two very old dodges everyone should recognize immediately, it was surprising to see them combined in an actually incredibly smart way to create a surprisingly tight murder plot. The clues also make brilliant use of the school setting, with its alibi plot using a class schedule in place of a Croftsian time table, and things like test sheets becoming actual clues in the mystery — Kindaichi even lays a trap for the killer using a school exam!

In a void this isn’t a great story, as it’s still quite obvious and not totally inspired, but it has some fun with the school setting to generate some creative clues, and the combination of two age-old dodges into a surprisingly dense plot make “No Noose is Good Noose” the most decent Kindaichi case thus far… Gives me hope for what’s to come!

Two quite bad stories and two pretty… decent ones fill out this portion of The Kindaichi Case Files, which actually drops us off near the middle point of the original File series. It really is hard to find so many different ways to say “this story reuses old concepts with little originality, and is therefore quite obvious”. Early Kindaichi is kind of hard to review, because it really is a lot of stories that are underwhelming in similar ways. I know the series improves though, and I definitely look forward to it…!

This review has a lot less production value than my typical Detective Conan reviews, and there’s a reason for that — Conan volumes are written with three stories in mind, so the format lends itself to one post dedicated to three or so stories. But since I’m compressing four reviews into one post, it’s a bit harder to do… I was considering turning this into a running format for these reviews, but I decided against it, and will return to reviewing each story as if it were a novel with the next story, “The Headless Samurai”.

And, as always, rounding everything out with new rankings…

  1. No Noose is Good Noose (Series 1: File, Case 8)
  2. Smoke and Mirrors (Series 1: File, Case 4)
  3. The Opera House Murder Case (Series 1: File, Case 1)
  4. The Santa Slayings (Series 1: File, Case 7)
  5. Death TV (Series 1: File, Case 3)
  6. The Legend of Lake Hiren (Series 1: File, Case 6)

Detective Conan Volume 15 (1996-1997) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the fifteenth 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)

When I initially set out to review and rank every single mystery in the vast multimedia Detective Conan franchise (of which there are nearly, or more than, 1000), I declared it’d only take me a few months. That was eight months ago. I repeat, there are around 1000 individual mystery stories in the Detective Conan franchise, and in eight months I’ve only managed to cover, starting with this post, a little over 40 of them. Initially, the project was blowing by at a breakneck pace, and I released ten of these posts in a single night, but somehow (I couldn’t imagine how) I’ve already started to burn-out on the series a little.

If I were only reading the stories, I could probably have completed the whole franchise by now. But I have to read the stories, manage my spreadsheet, do two write-ups on each series, compare my feelings on the stories to every other story in the franchise (an increasingly impossible task as I have to keep my opinions on 40, 50, 60, 100, 200, 500, 1000 different, individual stories sorted at all times), and then write these reviews! Somehow I thought that ranking 1000 stories would be an easy and relatively quick task…

But then I also have the curse of having my reactions to stories laid out before me, neatly enumerated and color-coded, and it makes me worry… For those of you who aren’t familiar with the rest of the review series, I rank every Detective Conan story (with the intent of giving new-comers a guided to-read list for the good mysteries) and sort them into categories “Great”, “Good”, “Average”, “Mediocre”, and “Bad”. I’ve noticed that a lot of stories have gone into Average and Good lately, but a lot less are going into Great than previously. Were my early reviews biased by the surrounding stories not being very good? Or are my new reviews biased by me tiring on the franchise? Is the series getting worse or is my ability to enjoy the stories whittling away? At some point, in a project like this, it’s hard to separate where my issues begin and the series’ issues end.

…I’m not sure what my point in all this is, but that all being said, I do want to clarify that I do enjoy the series and I want for people to be able to start reading it in the western mystery community. This project to create the World’s First and Most Comprehensive Detective Conan Reading Guide for Lovers of Mysteries will persist, as I do enjoy having it as a recurring feature of my blog. I hope that the few of you who keep up with my adventures in Detective Conan enjoy this as well, and I hope I can help some people get into this franchise and other Japanese mystery series as well.

Onto the volume!

Casebook 40 – TWO-MIX Kidnapping Case (Chapters 4-6) sees the Junior Detective League at a concert for the famous musical duo TWO-MIX. Though honored to meet half of the duo they love so much, the team being kidnapped ruins the festivities. The kidnappers hold TWO-MIX for a very bizarre ransom: if they don’t get a cassette tape, they will murder the musicians!

Though the question of “why would kidnappers bother holding a musical duo to ransom a cassette tape” is really interesting, at a certain point in the story the implications of the cassette tape and a song’s lyrics become fairly obvious. In a lot of ways, this resembles a typical Junior Detective League code-cracker, but it’s pretty simple and not too obtuse while still being fairly clever. Also the best of the kidnapping stories we’ve gotten so far, not at all a bad story to open with.

In Casebook 41 – The Loan Shark Murder Case (Chapters 7-9), Richard invites a loan shark for a game of mahjong, but when he doesn’t arrive for thirty minutes the group gets concerned! They soon walk to his office building to bring him over to the game, but upon investigating his offices, the group finds the loan shark poisoned to death! Worse yet, he’s inside of his personal office room, with his doors and windows locked from the inside and no clear way for the poison to get into the room! Once they find that the victim momentarily left the locked-room, they investigate the rest of the building but could still find no possible way for the poison to have gotten on his hands, making this an entirely impossible crime…

TomCat over at Beneath the Stains of Time called this one of his favorite Detective Conan impossible crimes. For me, it certainly had that potential, but the story does one little thing that ruins the impact of the solution and renders it only about half of what I think it could’ve been. Immediately expanding the scope of the impossible crime to “the victim touched something in the WHOLE OFFICE BUILDING to get poisoned, but how?” ends up reducing the solution to nothing more than “what predictable trait can the killer exploit to transfer poison to the victim’s hand” in a way that closely resembles an earlier impossible poisoning with a similar set-up and solution. In my opinion, the fact that the killer left the central locked-room is something that should’ve been saved for the denouement — it’s too clever an inversion of the problem of a locked-room murder to be squandered on being the set-up, instead of the trick. The mechanics of this one are good enough, but to call it an out-and-out locked-room mystery classic? I’m not so sure…

The volume rounds out with the feature-length story, Casebook 42 – Bonds of Fire Murder Case (Volumes 15-16, Chapters 10-3), in which Dosan Nagato, head of a financial consulting company, invites the Moore and Hartwell detective families to his home under the pretenses of requesting that they search for and discover his elementary school sweetheart. Among the family is Hideomi, the bandaged son of Dosan who is engaged to a young woman named Miyuki — Miyuki reveals that Hideomi was burned long ago, and the two of them are connected by “a destiny made of fire…”, as Hideomi saved her from the very same fire!

A celebration is held! Afterwards, as the gang is getting ready to retire for the night, Dosan’s other son Mitsuaki calls his father’s room, screaming that Hideomi is going to stab him and that he’s now walking towards the balcony! The party all run to the balcony to see the bandaged Hideomi covered in blood and holding a knife in his mouth.

This shocking sight spurs the family — except for Miyuiki, staying behind to protect her sleeping father — into action! By the time they were able to burst into the locked room, however, Hideomi had already climbed down from the balcony by a hook-rope… and Mitsuaki was pushed from the balcony, impaled on the spike-topped fence below.

More evidence lines up clearly implicating Hideomi in the murder. However, not entirely convinced, Harley and Conan start to investigate together. Finally, Harley reveals to Conan that the real reason Harley was summoned to the house that night was to investigate the sounds of running footsteps and thuds that Dosan had been hearing every night for quite some time. This leads the two to realize that this murder was premeditated, as the killer was clearly rehearsing his crime!

During further investigation, Miyuki gets into a fight with Nobuko, the eldest child and daughter of the Nagato fight. Nobuko slaps Miyuki, causing her to drop her pen into the fountain, which leads to the discover of the corpse of Hideomi, with rocks in his pockets along with a suicide note…

While initially the suspects reject the possibility of Hideomi committing suicide, his time of death is discovered to have been shortly after the murder of Mitsuaki… when every single character’s location was perfectly accounted for… Furthermore, the suicide note in Hideomi’s pocket was clearly written by his own hand, and there was no time to force him to write a fake! The only reasonable assumption with all of this evidence is that, after committing the murder of Mitsuaki, Hideomi took to the fountain whereupon he drowned himself…

This is a great story! While certain parts of the scheme are a tad obvious, the eventual resolution still makes this one of the best-hidden killers of Detective Conan so far! This story is loaded with lots of neat misdirection, and very smart clues. An aspect of Detective Conan — and, broadly, Japanese detective fiction — that is unique to itself is the killer rehearsing their own murder plot, thereby turning the rehearsal itself into a meaningful clues within the story. Not only does it make the unlikeliness of the killer’s plan working out easier to digest, it also creates new, novel types of clues that are unique to a story where the killer had to practice their crime.

The killer’s motive and the backstory of the case is also one of the better-foreshadowed in the franchise, being touching and melodramatic. The ending references one of the most well-regarded classic cases of Detective Conan as a source of trauma for Conan, who considers himself worse than a murderer for using his deductions to bully a culprit into committing suicide, making this a moving as well as neat piece of continuity and character development…

If this story is just a little less brilliant or inspired than some other stories, it makes up for it with a genuinely surprising and well-handled killer and a beautiful ending…

I gave some thought to my earlier dilemma I laid out at the beginning of the post. Where do my issues end and Detective Conan‘s begin? I wondered if maybe there weren’t any issues at all… I only paid attention to how infrequently stories ended up being “great” compared to a little earlier in the franchise, but something I neglected to pay attention to was how infrequently stories also ended up in “bad” compared to earlier in the franchise as well. As the stories go on, it’s more common for the cases to end up in “mediocre”, “average”, or “good”. It isn’t that the series has unilaterally gotten worse, it’s just that I’m seeing a statistical inevitability — the average story will be closer to average quality, and it is by necessity that there will be less extremes in quality going both ways.

Another great volume on the heels of a few less-than-great-ones made me realize that to expect across-the-board consistently good stories, even in a series I like, when there’s simply so much content, is unreasonable — there will be fluctuations, but also there will always be a home for Detective Conan in my heart as we return to these positive experiences. The inconsistency is the very point of this series — there will be occasional dips, rises, plateaus, stutters, nosedives, and up-shoots in quality. I’m putting up with the nightmare of the unpredictability of hundreds of stories so you don’t have to. I’m happy to say I’ve found my spark to keep working on the project again after a minor dilemma forced a hiatus.

Enough of the melodrama, though, onwards and upwards, and on to the updated ranking!

  1. ————THE GREAT————
    Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Tengu Murder (CB#30 V11 C8-10)
  3. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  4. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  5. TV Station (CB$28 V11 C2-4)
  6. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  7. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  8. Wealthy Daughter (CB#24 V9-10 C7-1)
  9. Bonds of Fire (CB#42 V15-16, C10-3)
  10. ————THE GOOD————
    Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  11. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  12. Elementary School Teacher (CB#39 V14-15 C9-3)
  13. Gomera (CB#36 V13 C8-10)
  14. TWO-MIX (CV#40 V15 C4-6)
  15. Library Employee Murder Case (CB#26 V10 C6-8)
  16. ————THE DECENT————
  17. Kogoro Richard’s Reunion (CB#23 V9 C4-6)
  18. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  19. Loan Shark (CB#41 V15 C7-9)
  20. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  21. Diplomat Murder Case (CB#25 V10 C 2-6)
  22. Holmes Enthusiast (CB#33 V12-13 C 7-1)
  23. Suspicious Uncle (CB#38 V14 C4-8)
  24. Illustrator’s Assistant (CB#35 V13 C 5-7)
  25. Mantendo Bombing (CB#32 V7 C4-6)
  26. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  27. ————THE MEDIOCRE————
    Triplets (CB#34 V13 C2-4)
  28. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  29. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  30. Medical Professor (CB#27 V10-11 C9-1)
  31. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  32. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  33. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  34. ————THE BAD————
    Magician’s Suicide (CB#37 V14 C1-3)
  35. Moon, Star, Sun (CB#31 V12 C1-3)
  36. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  37. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  38. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  39. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  40. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  41. Coffee Shop (CB#29 V11 C5-7)
  42. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)
  43. Ayumi Kidnapping (CB#22 V9 C-13)

The Kindaichi Case Files (File Series) File 3 – The Snow Yashka Murder Case (1993) by Yōzaburō Kanari

(Note: Although this is the second of this review series, I only encourage you to read the first post in the series in order to understand the premise of the series and the intent of the review series)

The Kindaichi Case Files is to this day one of the leading names in Japanese detection, and for the longest time has been one of the only ways many people experienced anything shin-honkaku — and many of those people didn’t even know the meaning of the term! Despite this, I actually never really read much of The Kindaichi Case Files. No, it wasn’t because of some anti-manga prejudice; it was actually because I’d read two stories… and didn’t really care so much for them! The first of the stories I read was The Opera House Murder Case, and my feelings didn’t change much from my first exposure and my second exposure (as I reviewed above…). The second of these stories was The Snow Yashka Murder Case, which I read skipping Western Village Murder Case on recommendation from a friend who warned me it spoiled a famous detective novel that I hadn’t read at the time…

The Snow Yashka Murder Case was where I ended my first attempts to read the Kindaichi Case Files franchise, simply because I wasn’t impressed with the resolution of the story’s chief impossible crime. As I had twice been disappointed with the impossibilities of this locked-room mystery series, I ended up refusing to return to the series for quite some time… It wasn’t until my Detective Conan review series that people in the Golden Age Detection group started asking me for my opinions on The Kindaichi Case Files fairly regularly… It’s only fair, then, that I put any preconceived biases aside and delve headfirst into this gallery of impossible crimes and locked-rooms… Seeing as my opinions on The Opera House Murder Case hadn’t changed a bit, how has my negative impressions of The Snow Yaksha Murder Case mutated with time..?

Kindaichi, a young teen detective, has been brought along with police inspector Isami Kenmochi to do the leg-work and be an extra in the latest installment of Shock! TV, a prank show that seeks to scare celebrities with fake deaths and gruesome tricks… The episode is being filmed in the mountain villa of reclusive artist Issei Himuro, who was generous enough to offer his home for the shooting. The main target of Shock! TV is Rie Kano, a woman well-known for being snotty and difficult to work with.

After Kindaichi fakes being poisoned and dying, he and the rest of the Shock! TV crew retreat to the annex house which, although facing the main house, is a 20 minute drive around a massive ravine to reach. There, the crew begins to use a remote control to scare Rie with exploding vases and terrifying sounds! However, when their pranks appear to reach a zenith, a person wearing clothes and the mask of a legendary snow demon appears in the shot, and, to the shock of everyone present, murders Rie with an axe before walking away into the snowy night!

But, everyone realizes… this murder is an open-and-shut case! Everyone except for a few people had been together in the annex house! The only people missing were Marina Ayatsuji, who had taken the only car to go to the main house but hadn’t been gone long enough to reach the main house, and the cameraman Michio Akashi, who had been missing for a significantly long period of time. Therefore, the only person who could commit the murder is Michio Akashi!

The murder is investigated by Kengo Akechi, a crime-solving prodigy who spent much time in America. When Kindaichi tries to get involved, Akechi initially admonishes him as just an amateur who got lucky twice. But when the body of Michio Akashi appears, and it becomes obvious he’s been murdered for well over 12 hours, the murder becomes an impossible crime in which every suspect has an alibi! Kenmochi vouches for Kindaichi’s talents, so Akechi allows Kindaichi to investigate on the condition that Kenmochi and Akechi both put their careers on the line… loser must retire from the police, forever.

And so, the hunt is on for this mysterious murderer who appears by snowstorm…

As a Kindaichi Case Files story, The Snow Yashka Murder Case is nothing special — to my understanding, even the best of the stories in this series are “nothing special” in terms of set-up and presentation. The well-documented tropes of the series are there, with isolated locales, impossible serial killings, and masked villains.

What immediately struck me about this story though, is that I believe it’s the first to really justify its use of masked killers beyond just being a fun little visual gimmick or a flimsy means of trying to convince us the killer isn’t part of the closed cast — it’s also a practical tool for misdirection and cluing, as it allows the killer to operate in full-view of the other characters, and as a consequence the killer’s behaviors are there for us to analyze as a clue!

When the murder is committed on the Shock! TV monitor, the masked killer appears, murders Rie with an axe, turns around, walks for a few seconds, turns back around, and then destroys the hidden camera left behind by the film crew. What this creates is actually an incredibly smart clue that, come the denouement, is part of an impressive Ellery Queen-esque deduction chain that not only tears down a false solution provided by Akechi, but also points irreparably in the direction of the killer by establishing knowledge which they must’ve had, as proven by them overplaying their hand and misinterpreting misinterpretations.

Don’t get me wrong, the killer’s identity is obvious from the moment the murder is committed, but the actual in-universe clues that lead Kindaichi to the conclusion are smart and well-realized.

This part of the story, while impressive in its cluing, represents a part of the killer’s plan that when I first read it was utterly unbelievable, and I thought it essentially suffered from all of the same issues as a “dying message” story. It is part of an elongated form of misdirection that almost entirely relies on the assumption that the detective will clue into small nuances and starts to make it unrealistic how well the killer is able to predict what other characters will think.

However, on a second reading, I actually think that this trap is much more believable than I had given it credit for, especially since it seems as if an immediately-proven-false confession from a certain character was manufactured specifically to spell this clue out in the contingency that the detective doesn’t follow the reasoning the killer expected him to. The intended conclusion is also much less esoteric than many “dying message” riddles, as it’s hidden under a simple, single layer of logic.

But, for the impossibility itself, the solution is shocking, original, daring, deceptively simply… and entirely not good. Now, I understand that’s something of a paradox for locked-room mysteries, as shocking and simple solutions are often seen as the standard to strive for, but the solution to the impossibility is original in the way that it was very obviously not created for a mystery story. Instead, it’s original in the sense that the author obviously had this esoteric real-world knowledge in the back of his head, and wanted to apply it in a murder mystery, but struggled to find a clever way to utilize it. Instead it’s just a dry, straight regurgitation of this esoteric information that’s only “well-hidden” because it relies on a fact that the audience absolutely could not be expected to know. There are a few clues that make a vague attempt at suggesting the solution, but they do very poorly, and this is ultimately not a clever or smart trick, and more just a cheap flouting of obscure knowledge.

Throughout the story, Akechi frequently provides false solutions which Kindaichi easily shoot down. However, in these, only once do we, the audience, have the information needed to disprove the theory as the theory is presented to us. Once, the information is outright hidden from us, and another time the clue is hidden until just a little before Kindaichi disproves his theory. While I understand that these false solutions need to seem intelligent and convincing, I do believe that disproving them should be part of the “puzzle”. We shouldn’t just be able to write them off because “the real solution wouldn’t be presented this early into the story” — I do believe that we should, more often than not, have the information needed to contradict faulty theories brought up in opposition to our detective, especially when the information in question is so easy to slip into a panel at any point before the theories are presented…

However, inversely, Akechi’s theories are themselves also produced from information which we the audience don’t have! This is very frustrating, because it doesn’t matter which side the reasoning is coming from in these debates between Akechi and Kindaichi… the audience will always feel left out. Only one of these three false solutions is actually intended by the killer and advances the plot, the other two, beyond being misunderstandings, don’t actually contribute any information that meaningfully helps us understand the crime. In other words, it’s a lot of frustratingly poorly-handled time-fillers.

Ultimately, my opinion of The Snow Yashka Murder Case did not improve by strides. I did end up lightening up on one small portion of the case, but ultimately The Snow Yashka Murder Case is a deeply flawed impossible crime, with a cheap solution that only really functions because it draws on a boring application of esoteric real-world knowledge, an obvious killer, and a very badly executed “conflict of the detectives”. While there is a very smart clue and an impressive Queenian logic chain that launches off of one of the series’ main tropes, it’s a very minor boon in an otherwise not-very-good story.

  1. The Opera House Murder Case (File Series/S.1, Case 1)
  2. The Snow Yashka Murder Case (File Series/S.1, Case 3)

Minor note: Ho-Ling corrected me in the comments of The Opera House Murder Case. He explained that the first two series being written by Kanari and the later series being written by Seimaru Amagi is a misunderstanding, as Amagi had always been present and responsible for the tricks in the Kindaichi franchise. I wrote the correction here, instead of editing the previous blog post, as I felt like more people would see it as they continued reading the series.

The Kindaichi Case Files (File Series) File 1 – The Opera House Murders (1993) by Yōzaburō Kanari

The Golden Age mystery in Japan has never discriminated by age. In the English-speaking world, there’s a very clear distinction drawn between the sophisticated and authentic Golden Age mysteries that adults read, and those pretenders that borrow the stylings and trappings of detective fiction despite being intended for children — your Nancy Drews, your Hardy Boys — and the understanding has always been that the former had a higher standard of plotting over the latter. However, in Japan, not only does no such stereotyping really exist, with “children’s” mysteries being regarded on the same level of plotting and expertise as any “adult” mystery, it’d actually also be fair to say that a huge portion of Japanese detective fiction has been guided, and even seen its best works come from the so-called “children” mystery series.

One of Japan’s greatest regarded printed exports of honkaku mystery is Detective Conan, a comic-book series about a teenager who is transformed into a young child and forced to solve crimes in order to find the antidote. Despite being marketed for “young boys”, Detective Conan is today one of the longest-running media franchises in the world, maintaining the popularity of classically-plotted detective stories.

However, video games predominantly seen in the west as “for children or teens” have themselves also had immense influence on Japanese detective fiction. Ace Attorney, a video game series featuring a fledgling lawyer defending people falsely accused of murder, is one of the most famous honkaku mystery franchises in Japan and, in my opinion, it has no less than five of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. A video game series inspired by Ace Attorney is Danganronpa, in which 15 students are locked inside of a prestigious high school, and forced to murder each other and get away with it without discovery in a “Class Trial” in order to escape!

Incidentally, despite both series being categorized as “kids’ games” by many people in the west, they’ve both had palpable influence on mystery-writing in Japan. A Great Detective Never Lies (名探偵は嘘をつかない) by Atsukawa Tatsumi is inspired by one of the cases of Ace Attorney. In this book, many famous detective novels are mentioned by name in the chapter titles, and among references to such prestigious authors as Anthony Berkeley and John Dickson Carr, Ace Attorney is listed as an equal. Daganronpa is itself the subject of great fascination by one of Japan’s most famous locked-room mystery novelists, Takekuni Kitayama, a winner of the prestigious 24th Mephisto Prize for his debut novel, The “Clock Castle” Murders. So enamored with the video game was Kitayama that he begged the creators to allow him to write novels set in the Danganronpa universe. What followed was a 6-book long prequel series which were so successful and well-regarded that this Japanese novelist was commissioned as the head writer of the mystery plots in the third Danganronpa game.

“Kid” mysteries and “adult” mysteries do not have the same division in Japan as they do in the west. “Kid” mysteries are respected, not out of nostalgia, but for the genuine quality and inventiveness they bring the genre. Kids and adults alike flock to these franchises, and even famous mystery novelists find enjoyment in these video game and comic book detective plots. They represent some of the best and most highly-regarded mysteries ever conceived, with the only fundamental difference really being complexity of dialogue and the ages of the protagonists.

This generally high standard of quality that supposed “kid” stories have set in the world of Japanese detection is something I’ve already discussed at length in my post On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’ve Never Read Them when building up to my Detective Conan reviews but it felt equally worth reinforcing that idea now. Detective Conan and Ace Attorney were not flukes, they are the standard. And they were far from the only “young adult” mysteries that are long-running, award-winning, and influential…

The Kindaichi Case Files, originally written by Yōzaburō Kanari before being taken by Seimaru Amagi, features Hajime Kindaichi. Hajime is your average problem student, failing all of his classes and often getting up to mischief. Everyone thinks he’s the world’s biggest loser, and there’s not a single person in the world who likes him except for his childhood friend Miyuki Nanase. However, he harbors a great secret that only one teacher manages to see through: with a 180 IQ, and a masterful eye for details, Hajime is in reality the grandson of famous supersleuth Kōsuke Kindaichi… Although he never intended to, Hajime gets roped into many different mystery cases, most of which are impossible crime/serial killings by masked murderers, and begins to develop a reputation for himself as a genius crimesolver, just like his grandfather!

The Kindaichi Case Files stands with Detective Conan as one of the greats in Japanese comic-book form detection in the style of honkaku mysteries. It’s interesting, therefore, to note that the two series are in almost every other way stark opposites of each other.

Detective Conan is a much more versatile series, with short story-length cases compiled on average three-to-a-book, and it doesn’t particularly hold any fidelity to form or style. Detective Conan has everything from alibi problems to serial killings to code-cracking riddles to locked-room mysteries to inverted mysteries to traditional whodunits to race-against-the-clock action-thrillers to psychological thrillers to heist stories and inverted heist stories, and even a couple horror tales!

Contrarily, The Kindaichi Case Files are all novel-length cases with most stories being roughly the length of an entire volume, give or take only a few chapters. The individual cases of Kindaichi Case Files are much more uniform, with the tropes of the franchise being well-documented. Almost every case is a serial killing that contains at least one impossible crime or locked-room mystery, and owing to inspiration from the Kōsuke Kindaichi series, often takes place in isolated locations with classical closed-circle casts. Almost always, the killer, in Scooby-Doo fashion, has a masked alias that they used to avoid detection, such as dressing up as a mountain demon or a mummy. And, a mutation from Kōsuke Kindaichi, the motives tend to be born from twisted and misguided emotions.

While more formulaic, The Kindaichi Case Files is comforting in that you always know what you’re going to get: Carrian impossible crimes. It also has the benefit of spending more time with each individual plotline, giving it more time to develop — though, this is of course a double-edged sword, as it also means inferior stories are also longer. It’s hard to pick one and say it’s demonstrably better, but what’s true for both series is that they are major parts of the mystery-plotting landscape in Japan, and if I’m going to be discussing the bite-size short-stories of Detective Conan, then I also need to review the full-length macabre impossible tales of Kindaichi Case Files.

As with Detective Conan, I’ll be reading, reviewing, and subsequently ranking each individual story in the Kindaichi Case Files franchise. Just like before, the intention of this series is to give people a comprehensive “reading list” for this massive franchise so that the more hesitant of manga-readers among us can pick a select few stories that appeal to them, and read them, instead of pushing through all of these stories in a medium they’re uncomfortable with and just… hope they strike gold. This is part of my extended mission to proselytize on the merits of the so-called “kid” detection of Japan and introduce our western friends to these franchises with so much to offer!

The Opera House Murders opens with Hajime Kindaichi being invited by his best friend Miyuki on a Drama Club trip to an island-bound hotel called the Opera House Mansion. The hotel was chosen for its privacy as well as its unused theater, allowing the kids to freely rehearse for their upcoming production of The Phantom of the Opera!

The rehearsal goes well, until diva Ryoko Saotome gets into a fight with her co-star Orie, insisting that her inferior acting will make her look bad in front of the talent coach that’s coming to their debut night! Amidst the flaring tensions, old wounds surrounding the death of the club’s greatest star Fuyuko Tsukishima begin to reopen, revealing to Kindaichi that Fuyuko had committed suicide just a month ago after having her face burnt to hideous remains by acid. Only moments before jumping to her death from the roof of the hospital, Fuyuko, quoting The Phantom of the Opera, had soliloquized…

“I am the Phantom of the Opera! I am the ugliest creature on Earth! And even while the fires of Hell burn this ugly creature… I’ll still dream of a place in Heaven!”

Although at lunch it seemed as if tensions had subsided, the clubmates realized that Orie hadn’t come to the table! Before they can even think about looking for her, the sounds of her scream summon them to the theater to find her crushed by a stage-light! When Kindaichi realizes that everyone had been together in the dining room at the time the murder was committed, making the crime impossible, the proprietor of the hotel informed them all that a bandaged man known only as “Kagetsu” had checked into the hotel the night before…

Although they tried to escape, they found the boat that took them to the island adrift at sea, freed from its place at the dock! From this moment, the masked Kagetsu is haunting the grounds of the hotel while committing increasingly mysterious crimes, such as hanging clubmate Harumi Kiryu in a tree without leaving his footprints in the mud in the grounds…

When Kindaichi realizes that the murders are paralleling the deaths that occurred in The Phantom of the Opera, he’s forced to reconsider that Kagetsu might actually be a fabrication… a member of their club, out for bloody vengeance..! And it’s onto him to solve these baffling impossibilities!

I always thought it was interesting how The Kindaichi Case Files, despite being a series about locked-room murders and impossible crimes, opened with a story that didn’t really have a locked-room mystery. The initial murder of Orie is an impossible alibi problem, as every suspect is together in the same room when the murder occurs, and the hanging of Harumi is a footprints-in-the-mud problem. There are a handful of other deaths, but none of them “locked-room mysteries”.

The Opera House Murders is a fairly inauspicious beginning to a series as esteemed as The Kindaichi Case Files. The story does contain all of the quintessential elements of a Kindaichi case, but despite the inspired trappings of the Phantom of the Opera-themed murders, the case is in every way a fairly standard, average mystery of this sort.

The Phantom of the Opera motif for the murders, while initially intriguing, is arbitrary. It’s window dressing, nothing more and nothing less. The murders themselves aren’t extremely convoluted, nor extremely simple, and they aren’t extremely silly or extremely clever.

The alibi problem suffers from the same kind of problem all impossible alibi problems like this do, where the type of solution that must’ve been used is fairly obvious from the set-up alone. And while there are some decent clues pointing towards the exact application of this trick, they’re reserved until the latter half of the story and resolved immediately, when they would’ve been more potent as more… omnipresent aspects of the setting and case.

The footprints-in-the-mud problem is pretty much exactly the kind of solution you know it’d have to be, and there’s almost nothing particularly impressive about the solution worth noting. It’s notable that Kindaichi reasons from essentially nothing in this murder, and just easily deduces what kind of solution must have been at play based on the situation itself and zero external clues.

Although the whole mystery plot is itself fairly average, The Opera House Murders excels in its art! Although black-and-white, the artist does a fantastic job at using grey-tones to create a salient, tense atmosphere. Kindaichi expertly puts to paper what a John Dickson Carr novel always looks like inside of my head, and it can’t be overstated enough how good the art in Kindaichi Case Files is at capturing atmosphere and mood. The panels with Kagetsu peering into Miyuki’s window always get me, as seeing a face looking into my window is an irrational fear of mine… It’s a shame, then, that from my limited experience the series seems to utilize visual clues much less often than Detective Conan and doesn’t put the art to as good use…

So, all-told, a lukewarm introduction to the franchise. It’s a perfectly average, standard locked-room mystery with not much going on to set it apart from the competition. I don’t particularly hate it, but I can’t imagine I’ll remember it months in the future… At the very least, it gives us room to go up with this esteemed series!

A few things to note are that TomCat over at Beneath the Stains of Time has very strong opinions about Kindaichi Case Files. It’s his belief that the first two runs of the series (called the File Series, and the Case Series, spanning about 26 stories) are on average worse than the many other runs of the franchise. This is because File and Case are primarily written by Yōzaburō Kanari, to whom TomCat refers as “a hack”. Every other story in the series is written by Seimaru Amagi, whom TomCat praises as “the Sōji Shimada of manga”. Part of this animosity, I believe, stems from Kindaichi Case Files‘s second ever story, The Western Village Murder Case, being a direct 1:1 plagiarism of Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Sōji Shimada, with this copying being the subject of a lawsuit in which Kindaichi Case Files had to print spoiler warnings for Shimada’s book in this story… It’s my understanding that TomCat was spoiled by Western Village Murder Case, and that this might contribute to his strong feelings towards the Kanari stories!

Nonetheless, when it comes to mysteries, TomCat’s word is as good as gold! And this word has me a little worried about a long and tedious review series, so in order to keep myself sane and you all convinced this series can be good, I’ve gotten special recommendations from friends for the best stories from the original two runs. If I ever feel like there are too many negative reviews for Kindaichi Case Files back-to-back, I’ll end up skipping ahead to these particularly good stories as a sort of… respite! If you ever see a much later story appear out-of-order, then it’s because I felt like a positive review was in order. This is so I can avoid the issue I had with Detective Conan where I had to write six negative reviews back-to-back before I finally got to the point the series started to get really good.

Also, as discussed above, Western Village Murder Case flagrantly plagiarized a famous novel, and will therefore not be covered in this blog review series as I do not wish to encourage people to read it.

Without further ado, the ranking…!

  1. The Opera House Murders (File Series/S.1, Case 1)

Yes, The Opera House Murders is certainly the best Kindaichi we’ve covered so far! Exciting!

Detective Conan Volume 14 (1996-1997) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the fourteenth 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)

Volume 13 of Detective Conan was far and removed from being a classic of the series, but a long shot from being anywhere near bad either! It had a fantastically fun impossible disappearance of a giant monster in a movie studio, and a good inverted mystery only spoiled by a hokey howdunit angle. It’s hard to believe, but as of this volume we’ve only covered 39 of the 700+ Detective Conan stories! We’ll reach the 100 story landmark in Volume 34! There are 103 volumes of Detective Conan as of me writing this. I’m suddenly feeling a little queasy…

Screenshot from anime provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

Volume 14 opens up with Casebook 37 – The Magician’s Suicide Case (Chapters 1-3). Conan is dealing with lovers’ spats from both his own parents as well as Richard and his recently-resurfaced ex-wife. Richard’s wife, in an attempt to make goodwill, has actually sent him an unsolicited client: the wife of a famous magician, who has appeared to commit suicide by swallowing a capsule of aconite, a powerful nerve agent. She just doesn’t believe he committed suicide, as he was a man of strong character, and was so excited for a gift he was getting someone… What’s more is that at the crime scene there was a particularly strange detail that might suggest murder: the clue of two cards stuck together, forming an odd shape.

Understanding the woman’s worries, the Moores and Conan go to the house of the late magician, where Conan is forced to solve the crime and find the killer among his three live-in disciples, all the while Rachel breathes down his neck, looking for proof to confirm her suspicions that he might really be Jimmy Kudo, high school detective!

Sadly not a very interesting case. Clues are brought up and then immediately explained away, questions are brought up and then immediately answered, and frankly quite a few of these questions didn’t need to be answered right away, and would’ve made the mystery a bit more compelling if they hadn’t been. For example, this is technically kind of a semi-impossible “psychological impossibility”, similar to Father Ronald Knox’s “Solved by Inspection”, in which the victim apparently had every opportunity to escape the room and/or call for help after being poisoned, and yet he didn’t. It’s suggested that he might’ve been tied up, but they say that it would’ve left marks on his body. Conan immediately shows how the strings attached to puppeteer rings on his fingers would allow him to be bound without leaving marks on his body aside from the marks of the rings — and thus, the entire question of whether it’s murder or suicide dissolves, even though it would’ve made the story much more interesting if the reader had to soak in the question of how to prove that murder occurred, and been a fun clue to explain at the end of the story.

The rest of the story is just an underwhelming code cracking story with a dying message left in a phone receiver, and it’s another extremely tenuous dying message — probably the most tenuous so far, though. This one had some good ideas, but wasted them with its weirdly poor construction.

In Casebook 38 – The Suspicious Uncle Murder Case (Chapters 4-8), Jimmy’s mother Vivian saves him from a suspicious Rachel by claiming that he’s the child of a distant relative. Soon after, she sweeps Jimmy up and takes him to meet the family of an old friend of hers, Hiromi Yabuuchi, whose father Yoshichika has recently passed away. Conan was brought along, unbeknownst to the Yabuuchis, to resolve a particularly troubling matter… the identity of their so-called “Uncle”, Yoshifusa.

Screenshot from anime provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

Recently, every member of the Yabuuchi has noticed some strange behavior from uncle Yoshifusa ever since he returned from his overseas trip to Brazil with a friend named Carlos. They believe that this man isn’t actually Yoshifusa at all, but in fact an impostor who killed the real Yoshifusa in Brazil and has come to steal his slice of the inheritance! Being the only other person who saw the uncle regularly, albeit long ago when they were children, Hiromi summoned Vivian Kudo to help elucidate the matter.

Upon learning that Yoshifusa got a scar on his leg playing softball, Conan immediately concocts a plan to reveal whether or not this is the true Yoshifusa, by having someone deliver him tea and “accidentally” spill it on his legs, checking for the scar when they go to wipe it up. Lo and behold, they do uncover the scar, proving that this is Yoshifusa! The angered uncle calls his relatives vultures, revealing that the real reason he came back from Brazil was not because he was an impostor, but because he’d gotten a threatening letter telling him that he would die if he came back! Not to be deterred, he did come back… but with Carlos, not as a friend, but a bodyguard!

Screenshot from anime provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

The deceased Yoshichika’s second wife Machiko leaves for the night to attend a friend’s wedding rehearsal, sparking some discourse about her predecessor, the now-dead first Mrs. Yabuuchi. Apparently she fell down a well, dying immediately, and was found clutching a camellia to her chest. A man at her funeral accused the entire Yabuuchi family of lying, and having murdered her! The family naturally insists that her death was merely an unfortunate accident……

But when Machiko’s body later turns up, tossed into a well, clutching a camellia in her hands and stabbed in the chest, the family suddenly realizes that the man who accused them of killing the Mrs. Yabuuchi must be there to kill them all! After all, Machiko called the family from the rehearsal an hour before her body was discovered. Seeing as it would take nearly an hour for her to drive home, anyway, it’s determined that during the time she must’ve been murdered everyone was together in the living room… proving that, indeed, they’re being haunted by an outsider.

Screenshot from anime provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

Nonetheless, the family insists on continuing with the reading of the will, but as its underway a crossbow attached to a timer fires, but misses hitting, uncle Yoshifusa. Suddenly, Conan has all the information he needs to explain all of these deaths!

A pretty decent feature-length Conan with a lot of good but also a lot of not-so-good elements going on. Overall, it’s a pretty well-constructed mystery story, with all of the natural suspense, build-up, questions, answers. It would just help more if the plot here wasn’t so bogstandard.

The murder of Machiko Yabuuchi is fairly obvious, as it turns on a pretty basic alibi trick that nearly every alibi established by a phone call relies on. While there is a fairly clever piece of misdirection with how the story inverts the alibi trick in a neat way, the crude and obvious clues should immediately give it away. The body’s connection to the previous Mrs. Yabuuchi, and that entire subplot, is a lame red herring that doesn’t amount to anything.

The attempted murder of Yoshifusa is a simple matter that’s resolved immediately, but there is a neat, literally “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” verbal clue. Although I do think this is pretty unbelievable for this type of clue, as I think there’s a few ways to infer or intuit the information that, according to Conan, only the killer could have known.

The most interesting element of the story is the identity of the uncle and his bodyguard Carlos, which does end up tying back into everything in a neat and satisfying way when the will is finally read. This is only debatably fairplay but still turns on a very clever visual clue.

A technically well-constructed story let down by crude cluing and a fairly uninspired plot, with only a few minorly clever bits scattered throughout. Not at all bad, but definitely one of the most unremarkable feature-length Conan stories we’ve gotten in a while.

Following this up is, I believe a first for this series, the second feature-length story in a row with Casebook 39 – The Elementary School Teacher Murder Case (Volumes 14-15, Chapters 9-3). When Rachel, Conan, and Serena go skiing, they’re accosted by a group of handsome men claiming to be skiing instructors. Serena, boy-crazy as she is, is immediately taken with them, but when the three’s old elementary school teacher Ms. Yonehara shows up, she reveals that these two “skiing instructors” are, in fact, her co-workers at the elementary school.

Screenshot from anime provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

Excited to see some of her old students, Ms. Yonehara invites the kids to hang out for a meal and talk. But when the group of teachers realize that the man whom they presume arranged the trip, Mr. Sugiyama, hasn’t shown up yet and that a blizzard is coming, they decide to go ahead to their rented cabin to help him. Only, instead, they end up getting caught in the blizzard, and Mr. Sugiyama is nowhere to be found… Amidst the worry, a reporter claiming to know secrets about a death from three years ago, and also that murders will occur this night, appears at their doorstep and forces his way into their hovel.

While the group is trying to forget the ominous omen and prepare a warm cabin for themselves to sleep in, Ms. Yonehara is strangled in her bedroom! Fortunately, she survives, as Serena interrupted the would-be killer… who proceeded to attempt to strangle her, and again fail upon being interrupted by the rest of the group. An open window and footprints indicate that the assailant ran from the room, back to the front door of the cabin, and inside… establishing that they are among the group of people.

Equally surprising, however, is the character “Mi” written on Yonehara’s hand in lipstick… and “Na” on Serena’s…

Screenshot from anime provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

While the group is together, warming up in front of the fire, the doorbell rings. Although wary, the door is opened, revealing Mr. Sugiyama… long-dead, having fallen against the doorbell, with snow against his back! Clearly, he was arranged there by somebody, and yet when this occurred everyone was together! On his hand, the character “ko” is written. It occurs to everyone that the three characters spell out “Minako”, the name of a seven year old girl who killed herself in her elementary school homeroom three years ago… This alarms teacher Mr. Shimoda, who starts screaming “I had nothing to do with it!” before locking himself in his room.

…Only, of course, in no time the body of Mr. Shimoda is discovered, murdered by rope-strangulation in the upstairs of the cabin, with the rope impossibly disappearing from the guarded floor, even after a thorough search of every room and every person’s belongings. Now, Conan is on the hunt for a particularly clever killer who can vanish rope into thin-air and remotely move corpses..!

Screenshot from anime provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

A very good return to form for feature-length Conan stories. The trick for the body-moving is, to my knowledge, fairly unique, and takes advantage of the setting in a very clever way! The impossible disappearance of the rope also has a very neat solution. Both tricks rely on physical artifice to accomplish, and there isn’t a lot of misdirection at play in either, which does make them a little less fun, but nonetheless clever.

However, the cluing and misdirection in this one were all a little crude. After the two impossible problems are established, Conan pretty neatly and quickly resolves them each with a single, simple, straight-forward clue. The clues aren’t esoteric at all, and it’s unlikely the reader will struggle to put two-and-two together at least roughly, either. I also think the misdirection surrounding the failed attacks on Serena and Ms. Yonehera is a pretty obvious old dodge that ends up both signaling the killer’s identity and also incidentally lampshading the trick for disappearing the rope.

All told, this is still a pretty darn good story for the set-up and solutions alone, both of which are pretty clever and neat, but it’d be a much better story if the reasoning, clues, and misdirection were all a little stronger. One of the better feature-length stories we’ve gotten in a minute, though, and the killer’s motive is touching, and the story behind the suicide genuinely haunting.

Another uneven volume, though it does, like the previous one, round itself out on a high-note with a pretty competently-constructed and clever impossible crime story! Not a bad one, but another one I wouldn’t recommend for anyone who isn’t a signed-on Detective Conan fan. There’s not too much here in the realm of plot-relevancy, though you’ve probably noticed I keep forgetting to note what stories are and are not relevant to the overarching story of Conan. I mainly do this because I know my readers aren’t really going to want to follow the Conan lore from beginning to end one way or the other, and the story-relevant cases tend to not be very good mystery stories anyway, at least from what I’ve seen. In general, I read Detective Conan as an episodic series that occasionally gets interrupted by lore.

The ranking of stories has changed! I realized that having three tiers for “good”, “decent”, and “bad” was a pretty insufficient ranking system, as it definitely under-sold some stories that were better than decent, but not quite on the same level as masterpieces of the series, or it oversold some series by putting them in the same rank as stories much better than them. So instead, I’ve updated the ranking to have five tiers. Great, Good, Decent, Mediocre, Bad. I think this is much more accurate and better reflects my feelings on some stories. I’d say everything from “decent” upwards is generally worth reading for signed-up fans. A “good” story is a very solid entry that I think people should try to read if they can. A “great” entry is a story I believe mystery fans should go out of their way to read.

  1. ————THE GREAT————
    Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Tengu Murder (CB#30 V11 C8-10)
  3. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  4. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  5. TV Station (CB$28 V11 C2-4)
  6. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  7. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  8. Wealthy Daughter (CB#24 V9-10 C7-1)
  9. ————THE GOOD————
    Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  10. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  11. Elementary School Teacher (CB#39 V14-15 C9-3)
  12. Gomera (CB#36 V13 C8-10)
  13. Library Employee Murder Case (CB#26 V10 C6-8)
  14. ————THE DECENT————
  15. Kogoro Richard’s Reunion (CB#23 V9 C4-6)
  16. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  17. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  18. Diplomat Murder Case (CB#25 V10 C 2-6)
  19. Holmes Enthusiast (CB#33 V12-13 C 7-1)
  20. Suspicious Uncle (CB#38 V14 C4-8)
  21. Illustrator’s Assistant (CB#35 V13 C 5-7)
  22. Mantendo Bombing (CB#32 V7 C4-6)
  23. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  24. ————THE MEDIOCRE————
    Triplets (CB#34 V13 C2-4)
  25. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  26. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  27. Medical Professor (CB#27 V10-11 C9-1)
  28. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  29. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  30. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  31. ————THE BAD————
    Magician’s Suicide (CB#37 V14 C1-3)
  32. Moon, Star, Sun (CB#31 V12 C1-3)
  33. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  34. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  35. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  36. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  37. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  38. Coffee Shop (CB#29 V11 C5-7)
  39. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)
  40. Ayumi Kidnapping (CB#22 V9 C-13)

Detective Conan Volume 13 (1996) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the thirteenth 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)

Detective Conan is a wildly imaginative series at it’s heights, but it’s also a huge franchise. Like I mentioned way back in On Some of the Best Mysteries Ever Written and the Puzzle of Why You’re Not Reading Them, this massive multimedia monster has over 700 distinct mysteries in just it’s manga and anime series alone (this not counting novels, video games, movies, and more). Statistically, many of them have to be good, many of them have to be bad, and many will be… so-so! And you will be getting a lot of so-so back-to-back with a series this massive, it’s just the way of things.

Volume 12 was fine, with two… pretty decent stories and one bad one, and it’s easy to get disheartened when volumes 6 to 11 had so many back-to-back masterstrokes of mystery plotting just for Detective Conan to seemingly take a turn back towards the mediocrity we criticized the early entries for. I’m staying optimistic though! We’re only 10% of the way through the series, there’s no way we’ve seen all of the good Detective Conan has to offer.

In Casebook 34 – The Triplets Murder Case (Chapters 2-4), Rachel and Conan are spending the day at Serena’s sister Ayako’s home to meet Ayako’s soon-to-be father-in-law. But after a night of a sports game, petty squabbling, and drama, the Moores and the girls get ready to turn in and sleep when they look out of the window and spot Ayako’s fiance Yuzo Tomizawa, wearing a beanie to cover his hair, murdering his father with a rock! They immediately go to the police, but while they’re trying to report what they witnessed… two young men who look exactly like Yuzo appear, revealing that what the group really saw was one of identical triplets committing the murder..!

It’s a three-suspect-alibi-check, and it’s hard to do these poorly. The clues and reasoning pointing to the killer are always at least fine, and there are some decent hints here and there in this story. I appreciate that modern technology is being utilized in these plots, though the trick in this story is the most boring, cheap, and straight-forward way to do it. The framing of the three suspects as triplets doesn’t really contribute much of anything. Not exceptionally bad, not exceptionally good. Just… generally not at all exceptional.

Kenjin Hanaoka is a respected painter who has, in fact, been passing off the works of his apprentice Izumi Chono as his own. Blackmailing him with this information, Izumi has pressured Kenjin into a romantic relationship with her and to support her unconditionally. One day, though, Kenjin finally ends up bludgeoning his young apprentice to death… But now he needs an alibi!

Kenjin quickly runs over to his own office, where Richard Moore and Conan are waiting. He proceeds to “receive a call” from Chono, whereupon he urges her not to jump and to calm down! And at the end of this conversation, the entire group sees Chono falling from her balcony, many blocks away from the office, having apparently committed suicide..!

The police are quick to rule this a suicide, as there was nobody else in the apartment or on the balcony when she fell and there’s no evidence of any kind of trick at place, but Conan quickly spots an odd detail on the corpse that immediately tells him that this was a murder! He suspects, Kenjin, but needs to figure out how he orchestrated her fall from miles away..! How can Conan bring guilt home to the killer in Casebook 35 – The Artist’s Apprentice Murder Case (Chapters 5-7)?

This is the third proper inverted mystery Detective Conan has dealt with, after two fantastic outings in The Tenkaichi Fire Festival Murder Case (Volume 6-7, Chapters 9-1) and The TV Studio Murder Case (Volume 11, Chapters 2-4), and unfortunately this is the first slip-up for this particular series of Conan cases.

As an inverted mystery, it’s perfectly good and functional. All of the clues that lead to the killer’s ultimate demise and the trap inadvertently set-up from the very beginning of the story are good and clever. The actual inverted mystery element of the story works very well!

Where this story sadly trips up is that, like the previous two inverted mysteries in the franchise, it’s also a howdunit, because we don’t how the killer performed the trick to give themselves an airtight alibi, making their guilt appear impossible… The alibi trick in this one is particularly bad, just turning on a mechanism simultaneously convoluted and uninspired. It’s such a sour note that it genuinely does spoil the rest of what was otherwise another pretty good inverted mystery outing for Detective Conan. By all means, read this for the inverted mystery if you can put up with the frankly awful howdunit element.

Casebook 36 – The Gomera Murder Case (8-10) has the Junior Detective League attending a tour at a filming studio for the Gomera franchise of kaiju (giant monster) movies. Conan is frustrated with his young friends’ inability to distinguish reality from fiction as they continue to assume that Gomera is a real monster who stars in all of these movies. So, naturally, the kids are horrified when it seems like their hero and idol, the real-life Gomera, appears to commit a murder right in front of them, stabbing a producer in the chest! Gomera proceeds to kick over a paint can, lumbering off down the hallway and leaving a trail of footprints behind him as he goes. As the kids chase Gomera, they follow his footprints to the roof of the studio… where he appears to have impossibly vanished! Looking over the side of the roof, they see the Gomera costume lit on fire, but the culprit was obviously nowhere nearby, even though it’d be impossible for him to have vanished without being seen!

I really like this one. No, the impossible crime isn’t really all that ingenious, and it’s fairly easy to solve, but this story is just super fun. I love the setting, and the way the murder is framed in such a way it looks like a scene from a kaiju film like Godzilla! The Junior Detective League is actually pretty charming in this setting, too, since their naivete contributes to the story in an extremely natural way. The impossible crime isn’t too terribly bad, either, even if a little obvious. Just a good, fun story with a lot of charm and personality. A guilty pleasure of mine.

An uneven volume on all accounts, but it really did round out with an incredibly pleasant impossible crime at a movie studio. This volume is on average still better than early Conan — ten volumes ago, a story like Gomera would’ve been seen as a masterpiece! No, this isn’t a volume I’d recommend you go out and read unless you’re a signed-on Detective Conan fan and want to read all of the gimmick stories (impossible crimes, inverted mysteries, etc…), but it isn’t bad at all and ends on a positive note that bodes well for the remainder of the franchise’s run.

  1. ————THE GOOD————
    Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Tengu Murder (CB#30 V11 C8-10)
  3. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  4. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  5. TV Station (CB$28 V11 C2-4)
  6. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  7. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  8. Wealthy Daughter (CB#24 V9-10 C7-1)
  9. Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  10. Gomera (CB#36 V13 C8-10)
  11. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  12. Library Employee Murder Case (CB#26 V10 C6-8)
  13. ————THE DECENT————
    Kogoro Richard’s Reunion (CB#23 V9 C4-6)
  14. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  15. Diplomat Murder Case (CB#25 V10 C 2-6)
  16. Holmes Enthusiast (CB#33 V12-13 C 7-1)
  17. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  18. Illustrator’s Assistant (CB#35 V13 C 5-7)
  19. Mantendo Bombing (CB#32 V7 C4-6)
  20. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  21. Triplets (CB#34 V13 C2-4)
  22. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  23. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  24. Medical Professor (CB#27 V10-11 C9-1)
  25. ————THE BAD————
  26. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  27. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  28. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  29. Moon, Star, Sun (CB#31 V12 C1-3)
  30. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  31. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  32. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  33. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  34. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  35. Coffee Shop (CB#29 V11 C5-7)
  36. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)
  37. Ayumi Kidnapping (CB#22 V9 C-13)