Before Conan usurped the position, The Kindaichi Case Files was the name representing the Japanese mystery Manga genre.
It popped up ever so quietly on my Disney+ recommendations the other day.
A new Japanese investigative, procedural drama. It stars Naniwa Danshi star Shunsuke Michieda (of My Love Mix-Up! fame) and veteran actor Ikki Sawamura.
I took a look at the title and … huh?!? It’s a new Kindaichi live-action series?!? What’s more, with the pilot episode retelling one of the most famous Kindaichi cases ever?
I got giddy for quite a few seconds, and then I was gleefully watching the pilot while munching chips. A huge fan of the series since the late 90s, “Kindaichi” is the name I still associated with the Japanese tantei i.e. detective Manga genre. Nope, not Conan, but Hajime Kindaichi.
In fact, I only just rewatched several episodes of the 90s Anime adaptation. (Okay … it wasn’t just a while ago. I did this during the semi-lockdown in 2020)
Anyway, if you’re wondering whether you should check out this new Disney+ series, the short answer is, you should! You must! And if you’re new to the source material and wish to know what to expect before watching, here are 20 facts about The Kindaichi Case Files, the Manga the newTV series is adapted from.
Just to highlight, you don’t actually need to know any of the following to understand everything; the new live-action series does a darn good job at introducing stuff and people. But naturally, knowing what to expect will greatly improve your viewing experience.
1. The Manga was first serialised in Weekly Shōnen Magazine in 1992
The Kindaichi Case Files, or Kindaichi Shōnen no Jikenbo (金田一少年の事件簿), began its run in Kodansha’s Weekly Shōnen Magazine in October 1992. One of the earliest works in the mystery Manga genre, and hugely successful, the serialization continued till October 2017.
From November 2013 onwards, the series was also rebranded as The Kindaichi Case Files R. Jump forth to today, a new “sequel” is currently entertaining long-time fans. Titled 37 Year Old Kindaichi Case Files, this ongoing series features a middle-aged Hajime Kindaichi struggling as a salaryman. To his dismay, he is still regularly surrounded by murders.
2. Hajime Kindaichi is the “grandson” of Kosuke Kindaichi
There is no Kosuke Kindaichi in real-life. Instead, the character is a fictional detective popularized by writer Seishi Yokomizo. One of the most famous names in classic Japanese tantei fiction too.
What the creators of The Kindaichi Case Files intended by describing their lead as the grandson of such a “legend” is obvious. Notably, there are several Japanese movies based on Kosuke Kindaichi stories too. The Yokomizo Seishi writing prize is also one of the most coveted creative writing awards in Japan.
3. There are different series in The Kindaichi Case Files
Within the Manga, the cases are divided into six series. These are:
- File Series
- Short File Series
- Case Series
- New Series
- 20th Anniversary Series
- Return “R” Series
As for the creative minds behind the series, Yōzaburō Kanari penned the File and Case Series, while Seimaru Amagi wrote the others. All were, in turn, illustrated by Fumiya Satō. Incidentally, Amagi and Satō are also the artists behind Detective School Q.
4. Kindaichi’s goofy demeanor hides an incredibly observant and analytical mind
Hajime Kindaichi is consistently portrayed as a goofy slacker in all media. He could often be quite lecherous too, much to Miyuki Nanase’s exasperation.
This unbecoming exterior, however, hides an astonishing 180 IQ and an incredibly analytical mind, one that’s steely in the face of horror too. Kindaichi rarely panics in the face of adversity, a trait that then allows him to methodically dissect any deception or trick thrown at him.
He is furthermore, completely loyal and reliable. As Miyuki Nanase puts it, she can always rely on her beloved Hajime-chan to save her. Never once had Hajime Kindaichi let her down.
5. Practically all Kindaichi Case Files are Whodunits with a Locked Room or Complete Alibi Premise
Near all Kindaichi cases follow a strict whodunit formula.
A group of people, Hajime Kindaichi and friends included, assemble somewhere. Some crisis, typically weather-related, results in the group being cut off from the outer world.
Someone is then killed, in classic locked-room mystery fashion or with everyone having perfect alibis.
The slayings then continue till Kindaichi figures out everything. Usually, there’d be two to three deaths.
As repetitive and predictable as this formula might sound, no Kindaichi investigation is ever dreary. For a start, there’s usually some sort of ghostly, supernatural element involved. The actual killings themselves also tend to be “creative,” to put it in a very polite way.
6. Kindaichi seldom takes on a case voluntarily
While Kindaichi is sometimes invited to join police investigations, most of the time, he gets involved involuntarily. The usual scenario is that of him ending up trapped somewhere during an excursion or visit. That he can even walk into brutal murders while camping or attending a fashion show has long been made fun of in other Japanese works.
7. Most cases are built around a supernatural or urban myth, or a curse
There is frequently some sort of supernatural element in Kindaichi’s cases. Practically all are built around an ancient legend, an urban myth, or some sort of curse.
This isn’t just for the sake of ambience. Murderers invariably exploit these legends to cover up their tracks. For example, dressing up a murder scene so that it seemed as if the victim was killed by a vengeful spirit. Or had died from a curse.
Seeing through a “trick” is subsequently always the teenage sleuth’s first task when cracking a mystery.
8. The Murders are often macabre, if not downright terrifying
Some write-ups have described the new Michieda live-action series as a horror-procedural hybrid. This is entirely accurate for The Kindaichi Case Files is often unnerving, if not downright a terrifying horror anime.
Victims are dispatched in ways either macabre or gruesome. With the emphasis on supernatural involvement, moments between murders are intense too.
The short of it, you might not want to watch the Anime and live-action series, or read the Manga, when alone in your bedroom at night.
9. Kindaichi’s trick is to first see through the trick
In the Japanese tantei genre, “trick” refers to scams or deceptions used to cover up crimes. In The Kindaichi Case Files, this meaning is retained and refers to the deceptive circumstances surrounding murders. Most commonly, the staging of locked-room scenarios.
It usually takes Kindaichi a while to figure out the deception. But after he succeeds, it’s never long before he deduces the identity of the mastermind.
10. Kindaichi’s famous catchphrases are:
Every case features the same three catchphrases by the teenage sleuth, and these always denote “milestones” in his investigations.
- … jicchan no na ni kakete! (… 爺ちゃんの名にかけて!): “In the name of grandpa!” Hajime-chan will make this vow when he is all fired up and determined to capture the murderer(s).
- Nazo wa subete toketa! (謎はすべて解けた!): All mysteries are solved/cracked! Declared when Hajime-chan has completely figured out how the murderers accomplished everything. (In most cases, how the perp managed a locked-room scenario)
- Hannin wa kono naka ni iru! (犯人はこの中にいる!): The murderer is among us! This, and its variants, will be declared by Hajime-chan after he assembles everyone to share his conclusions. Naturally, it will always be followed by much disbelief and protest.
Needless to say, these proclamations have earned permanent shrines in Japanese pop culture. Keep a lookout and you’d see them spoofed everywhere. For example, in episode 23 of Tokyo Revengers season 1.
11. Most Kindaichi villains are sympathetic figures
Near-all Kindaichi criminals i.e. murderers did not commit the foulest crime out of greed or spite. Instead, they tend to be deeply scarred individuals determined to enact vengeance at any cost.
If not, they are forced into murder to protect someone or something.
Correspondingly, most victims aren’t innocent. This, of course, doesn’t mean they are deserving of death but in most cases, victims are at least complicit in the tragedies leading to the killings.
The full revelation of the underlying tragedies is furthermore always a crucial part of the big reveal.
12. Nanase Miyuki and Saki accompanied Kindaichi on most of his cases
Kindaichi rarely goes into a case alone. His constant companion is Miyuki Nanase. Often, Miyuki and he are accompanied by schoolmate junior Saki too.
The childhood sweetheart of Kindaichi, kind Miyuki is the sleuth’s neighbour, schoolmate, best friend, and the only one able to see through his pranks right away. Though far from dim or cowardly, Miyuki frequently plays a damsel-in-distress role in the stories, a trope that is common in 80s/90s Manga.
In several cases, injury or direct threat to Miyuki instantly resulted in Kindaichi going into vengeful overdrive too.
Bespectacled Saki is alike the version played by Taisho Iwasaki in the latest live-action adaptation. Idiosyncratic and generally reticent, he films everything as he follows his senpai around. (His equipment was updated from camcorders to cellphones to reflect technological changes). Of note, in the Manga, there were actually two Sakis. Why this is so and what happened to one of them is best left unmentioned on this list …
13. Kindaichi is often also assisted by Police Inspector Isamu Kenmochi and Police Superintendent Kengo Akechi
A high school student, however brilliant, can only get that far with any murder investigation. Thus, Kindaichi frequently relies on help from the Japanese police.
Isamu Kenmochi, or Ossan (old man/uncle) as Kindaichi calls him, is a Tokyo homicide police inspector. The two met during the teenage sleuth’s first-ever case, with the inspector subsequently so impressed, he unquestioningly assists the teen in all future cases. Frequently, Kenmochi also relies on Kindaichi to help with his work. And while it’s never explicitly addressed, the two clearly enjoy a close relationship that goes beyond crime-solving.
Kengo Akechi, Kenmochi’s young superior, doesn’t appear in most cases. When he does, he is shown as snobbish, cold, abrasive, and with an open disdain towards Hajime Kindaichi. In truth, though, the Los Angeles-trained Akechi deeply respects the teenager’s abilities and will assist, one way or another, when his intervention is truly needed. The series’ creators probably named the superintendent after Kogoro Akechi, Japanese mystery writer Edogawa Rampo’s most famous creation.
14. Like all great detectives, Hajime Kindaichi has a nemesis
The Moriarty of Kindaichi’s world, Yoichi Takato, or the “Hell’s Puppeteer,” is a charismatic magician who delights in creating criminal masterpieces. Rather than directly involving himself, Takato crafts elaborate murder plans for others to execute. Should his “puppets” then not meet his expectation, i.e., they were caught, the Hell’s Puppeteer will mercilessly kill them.
An accomplished illusionist, Takato is also the only criminal who managed to repeatedly evade Kindaichi and Akechi. Of note, Kindaichi ever assisted Takato in one case, and in this story, the two were perfect partners. Such a resonance was never achieved by the high-school detective in all of his collaborations with Kenmochi or Akechi.
15. There were two Anime series, with a combined total of near 200 episodes
The Anime adaptation began in April 1997 and lasted over three years, ending in September 2000. A total of 148 episodes were released, with an individual case typically lasting four episodes.
In April 2014, a revival series was launched. Renamed simply as Kindaichi Case Files R, this lasted two seasons with 47 episodes. The final episode was released on March 26, 2016.
16. There were, of course, feature films, TV specials, OVA episodes, and spinoffs too
Outside of the main Anime series, there were several feature films, original video animations (OVA), etc, too. Video game adaptations were also made for various older consoles.
17. Since the 90s, there have been five Kindaichi live-action series. Each always stars a Japanese boy band idol
Notably, The Kindaichi Case Files has been regularly adapted for live-action television series since the mid-90s. What’s more, each series always featured a boy band idol in the lead role.
In 1995, Tsuyoshi Dōmoto of Kinki Kids fame became the first-ever idol to play a live-action Hajime Kindaichi. Known as “Gen 1” to fans, Dōmoto starred in 17 episodes, two specials, and one feature film.
Gen 2 was played by Jun Matsumoto of Arashi. Nine episodes and one special were produced and broadcast in 2001.
Gen 3 was the shortest and consisted of only 1 special played by Kazuya Kamenashi of KAT-TUN.
Gen 4 starred Ryosuke Yamada from Hey! Say! JUMP in the lead role, with nine episodes and two specials.
Last but not least, 2022’s Gen 5 features Naniwa Danshi star Shunsuke Michieda as the spunky teenage investigator. Other than introducing Hajime Kindaichi to a new generation of Japanese viewers, Gen 5 is also the first to be immediately available on an international streaming service, i.e., Disney+. One can safely say Kindaichi’s place in pop culture will soon hit new heights.
A Johnny and Associates Tradition
Dōmoto, Matsumoto, Kamenashi, Yamada, and Michieda all hail from boy bands managed by the influential talent agency. Johnny and Associates. Playing a live-action Kindaichi is thus considered an agency tradition of sorts.
18. The Kindaichi Case Files has inspired non-Japanese pop media too
As mentioned above, The Kindaichi Case Files is considered a pioneer in the mystery Manga genre. No surprise, therefore, that Hajime-chan’s antics and catchphrases have been spoofed/parodied/paid homage to in other Anime and pop culture works.
His fame has even worked its way into other East Asian Media. TVB’s Our Unwinding Ethos series from 2019 was clearly inspired by The Kindaichi Case Files. Apart from a reversal of gender roles, the Hong Kong series was a mirror of Kindaichi’s adventures with its focus on urban myths, catchphrases, and investigative deductions.
19. The cases are best enjoyed for their ambience, seldom for their logic
I have had one consistent complaint about the Case Files since day one.
As creepy and macabrely fascinating as all cases are, most contain implausible explanations.
Implausible as in, the “tricks” always border on the absurd. Not that they are entirely impossible to succeed, but successful execution requires amazing timing and coordination, and huge doses of luck .
Moreover, Kindaichi’s deductions are rarely backed by extensive, concrete evidence. The criminals readily confess when verbally confronted. You don’t need me to explain why this is unlikely in real-life.
Long story short, it’s best not to mind the logical loopholes too much when watching or reading the case files. Wait, I should say, you need to blind yourself and purely focus on the atmosphere.
20. Kindaichi was once a criminal himself!
Lastly, here’s one tasty titbit Hajime Kindaichi will go to great lengths to hide from you. He was once a diabolical criminal himself!
One who almost executed the perfect crime, till one-shot by Miyuki.
Details of this astonishing incident can be found in Episode 17 of the 2014 Anime series! Beware a woman’s intuition!