Anime Meta-Review


Casebook of young Kindaichi, The


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Title Info

  • alias: Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo
  • type: movie
  • grade: flawed
  • source: asian
  • form: sub
  • made: 1996
  • Review created: Thu Jan 31 19:05:34 EST 2002
  • mod: none

Clearly this anime springs from an established source. Equally clearly I've got no idea what it is, and the web information is pretty poor. It looks as if there was some live action material that proceeded this, which means I've got no strong urge to seek it out.


The lead character, Kindaichi, is a high school detective who has helped the police solve some tricky cases. However in this series he's simply following a female school-friend to the opera. Although he seems to be focused more on the chance to eat some good food in a fancy resort hotel than any great interest in the opera, which is a production of "The phantom of the Opera". Along the way he meets a policeman `uncle' who is also going along, so that the three of them can watch the rehearsals.

However it doesn't exactly take Kindaichi like skill to detect that something suspicious is going on. Not only is the opera to be situated at a tiny hotel on a desolate island, as a storm closes in, but the opera company numbers only about 10 people. And they are a twisted mass of ego, obsession, smoldering hatred and vengeful desires from a previous tragedy. Initially happy to torment one another it's not long at all before things turn deadly. Will Kindaichi be able to put the clues together, determine the motive and unmask the killer before there is another murder?


The first disadvantage is that I haven't seen the original material, which this movie seems to assume you have. The characters are not really introduced, and there are references to previous cases. Although it all feels fairly familiar and you can pick it up pretty quickly. A more serious problem is that this is one of those delightful Asian region DVD's with their average to bad translations. It's becoming obvious that the English translator doesn't get to see the actual video. Clearly shown by a clearly male character suddenly becoming `she' and `her'. A lot of the subtlety, which I assume is there, simply vanishes.

Although even with this restriction I dare say this is some pretty average stuff. It might sound like I'm being clever, and giving unnecessary spoilers, in the synopsis but it really is such an obvious set up. An island with only 10 people on it, a single boat connecting it to the mainland, a single phoneline and a storm brewing. How convenient. Meanwhile every single character is not only given motive, and a suspicious appearance, but a delight in accusing each other for everything that occurs. They're obviously meant to be `suspects' rather than characters, and it comes across as being quite corny and artificial.

And then there's the detective work. To my mind a good detective series has a traumatic event to begin with. After this comes the process of determining clues, testing theories and slowly narrowing down the suspects. The joy being getting to follow along as clues are revealed and the truth of the event becomes clear to the viewer. This doesn't quite manage to pull it off. The `events' go on for quite a long time before the detective work starts. Meanwhile a lot of the clues, when finally revealed, are either obscure or require sizable leaps of logic to link into the story. Not that it really matters, because Kindaichi just looks thoughtful for most of the movie then blurts out the entire solution at the end, while the audience wonders how he knew. It also requires the culprit to admit it so that the shaky evidence doesn't collapse.

However the most serious thing is the lack of tension and attitude. When a gruesome murder is committed nobody seems even the slightest bit surprised. Indeed they seem to consider it just another fun thing to accuse each other of having done. And while they know there's a murderer amongst them no one seems that concerned, everyone deciding to go to their own rooms and have a good nights sleep. Meanwhile Kindaichi's occasional goofy look, especially when eating, seems more than a little out of place in what should be such a somber setting.

The animation itself is a mixed bag. At times it has very clean and crisp animation and at other times it looks seriously cheap. Partly this is because the character artwork is pretty bad while some of the scenery and effects are quite good. It gives it an odd look, and some of the character motion, especially when Kindaichi goes `goofy', looks awful and out of place. There's very little action to speak of, with the only exciting event being a dream sequence, and lots of talking to be had. So those wanting action and effect are likely to be severely under-impressed. The voices didn't strike me as especially notable, but were hampered by the weak characters, and the music was likewise forgettable.

Other Reviews

I'm not exactly sure what English title this release will have, should it get one. However it doesn't look like any of my regular sources have had the chance to review it as yet.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:16 WST 2009