Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo movie 1

The Japanese anime-watching public seems to love mystery stories. Meitantei Conan (Detective Conan), a show about a teenage detective with the physical appearance of a primary school student, has run for more than 850 episodes, 15 OVAs, and 15 feature-length movies - longer than Naruto or One Piece. Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo (The Young Kindaichi's Case Files) hasn't been quite as successful, but it ran for 148 episodes in its first TV apperance in 1996, with two movies and two OVAs. It was subsequently revived for another 47 episodes recently.

Kindaichi retells the crime-solving adventures of Kindaichi Hajime, a high school student who is the grandson of a famous (fictional) detective, Kindaichi Kousuke. The plots often involve supernatural elements or locked room mysteries. In some ways, the show seems like a deliberate throwback to the "Golden Age" mysteries of the 1920s and 1930s, when the murder or murders were committed in an isolated location (a country house, a snowbound train, an ocean liner) among a small, self-contained group of suspects, and the amateur detective solved the crime by pure deductive logic.

In particular, the first Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo movie reminds me of the pre-World War II stories of John Dickson Carr, who wrote locked room murder mysteries almost exclusively. It has all the virtues and defects of Carr's stories: ingenious (or overly ingenious) plotting, a complex, seemingly insolvable puzzle, and too many interchangeable straw characters. Carr is generally credited with the "best" locked room mystery ever written, The Three Coffins (in the UK, The Hollow Man). The trick in the Kindaichi movie kind of reminds me of Carr's book. More I dare not say, but you might want to peruse chapter 17, "The Locked Room Lecture," after you've watched the show.

In this movie, Kindaichi and his not-quite-girlfriend Miyuki return to an isolated island hotel/theater, where the Illusion Theater Company is going to present a non-musical production of The Phantom of the Opera. ("Return" because the TV show has a Phantom of the Opera arc that supposedly happened first, even though the TV show aired after the movie was released.) The actors are at each others' throats, and pretty soon there's a murder in a locked room, apparently committed by the Phantom himself. Things spiral out of control from there, and it ultimately takes twenty minutes of pure exposition for Kindaichi to explain what happened. Not one word of it is believable, but Golden Age mysteries were rarely meant to be realistic. The puzzle was everything. Still, the movie plays fair, as the "rules" of the Golden Age mystery required. All the clues are in plain sight, and the solution follows logically from the clues... sort of.

For this movie only, Kindaichi was played by Yamaguchi Kappei, who jumped ship to the rival Detective Conan/Case Closed franchise. His prolific career includes leading roles in properties as diverse as Gravitation, Kiki's Delivery Service, Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha, and the currently running Kyoukai no Rinne. Nakagawa Akiko (Miyuki) stayed with the franchise, and it remains her best known role. The director, Nishio Daisuke, helmed both the original TV series and the more recent reincarnations. He has a good feeling for building suspense through camera angles and cutting; in one sequence, he even riffs on (or rips off) the famous shower sequence in Psycho.

The movie is a laserdisc encode, one of many that various team members purchased in Japan. Iri translated, M74 timed, I edited and typeset, and bananadoyouwanna, M74, Nemesis, and VigorousJammer did QC. Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded. The movie is widescreen, a format laserdisc doesn't support. Therefore, the release was letterboxed. Erik chose to leave the horizontal bars in. This keeps the subtitles out of the limited viewing area, but some viewers may find it distracting. You can always encode your own version.😋 Erik also kept the production company logos at the start, providing fine example of "state of the art" CGI circa 1996.

While this release is not the first English version of the first Kindaichi movie, it's the first with accurate subtitles and a laserdisc (rather than VHS) raw. You can get it from the usual torrent sources or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net. The second movie is in a second batch of laserdiscs and will get done Sometime Real Soon™.


  1. Erik of Piyo-Piyo Productions here.

    So before I dedicated myself to raws, I was doing a little subtitling, and I did a movie, Who's Left Behind, and chopped out the letterboxing. In hindsight, I think that was a mistake.

    BTW, Who's Left Behind is FINALLY being reissued on R2 DVD in Japan in a few days. If nobody else buys it and resubs it from DVD, I might.

    1. Oh, also: Yeah, I prefer to keep in all production logos, the "do not copy under penalty of no more tendies" messages, all that jazz. It may seem silly, but: 1) In my pre-digital subbing days, we sometimes threw additional notes up on the screen during those logos, like warnings about weird translation quirks, and 2) They're part of the historical record.

    2. Unfortunately, the DVD is for the sequel "Tomorrow Will Be Better." Your LD version stands, for now.

  2. Can't wait for the second movie..though it doesn't have English translation