Time for more impression on manga volumes I’ve recently picked up! Here, I got myself reacquainted with Mitsuru Adachi’s baseballing bros, a disgruntled calligrapher in his island sojourn, and an old crime-solving friend.
KINDAICHI 20TH ANNIVERSARY SERIES (Seimaru Amagi & Fumiya Sato, Vol. 1-5 [Finished])
Yep, it had been twenty years since Kindaichi solved the opera house murder back in the first volumes of Kindaichi Shounen/File Series. I could spend an entire one (or nineteen) post talking about my love for the original File Series, but what we have here now is one of the more recent incarnations of the franchise, following the trail of numerous continuations, spin-offs, live adaptations, etc. Well… I had some biases against the newer Kindaichi series, which I felt had gotten a bit stale over the years with Kindaichi developing symptoms of acute long-running shounen disease (non-aging, pseudo-romantic non-relationship with a childhood friend who doesn’t get to do anything interesting in the story, some feeble attempt at developing an overarching plot as an excuse to keep the series going…), but disregarding all that, I considered this particular series/collection as a decent enough murder mystery comfort food with your usual Kindaichi-esque seasonings.
Taking place between Kindaichi Special Cases and Kindaichi Case File R, respectively the third and fifth in the mainline series in chronological sense, the Anniversary Series comprised of three full cases (Cannibal Laboratory, Kowloon Treasure, and Rosicrusian Mansion) and one short case (Dark Castle). These cases have pretty intriguing setting and set-up, while following the typical Kindaichi formula: multiple victims (bar the short one), elaborate tricks, and a sob story from the murderer when they’re eventually unmasked. I enjoyed all of them, although not nearly to the same extent as the older cases—to be fair, I don’t really expect them to. The execution and atmosphere just felt weaker relatively speaking, and I couldn’t really care about the occasional emphasis on Kindaichi and Miyuki’s relationship either.
Will probably write a full review on this in the coming months!
MIX (Mitsuru Adachi, Vol. 1-3)
Speaking of stale formula…
There were times when I read Mix that made me wonder if the law of diminishing return was in full effect here. I’ve read Cross Game, Touch, and H2, and so far Mix felt like an, ahem, mixture of those three that felt weaker in terms of its humor, set-up, and recycled character design. The title itself refers to a mixed family formed through second marriage between a widow and widower, with the central characters being the three siblings from that union; the first brother (from the Mother) is a catcher and a bit of a Casanova, the second brother (from the Father) is yet another true main character/future ace/expy in the mould of Tatsuya Uesugi/Hiro Kunimi/Kou Kitamura, and their younger sister (from the Mother) is a much idolized girl with a serious case of brother complex. There’s a strong hint of budding romance between the latter two, which is… yeah. Blood relations or not, I don’t dig that kind of relationship.
The baseball part is a bit more intriguing. The brothers are part of a middling middle-school team (the early volumes are somewhat of a prologue before the real deal of high-school baseballin’, I presumed) and had their development stagnated due to a mediocre senior locking up the ace pitcher role, apparently for being the son of the team benefactor. There’s actually a nice twist regarding that in volume 3, which is also the best moment of the series so far. Of course, the main selling point of Mix is how it actually takes place 26 years after the events in Touch, but connections have been minimal apart from a few coy teasings here and there (the most prominent being the frequent mentions of Meisei, where Touch protagonists studied and also seems to be the eventual destination of the Mix brothers). Gonna take a while before we get to see grown-up Tatsuya and Minami—if we even get to that point, that is.
In any case, I’m just lukewarm on this series, so hopefully there’s some serious shake-up to the formula coming.
BARAKAMON (Satsuki Yoshino, Vol. 1)
And this is easily the best of the current bunch.
I’ve seen the anime before getting this, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite leave a powerful lasting impact. Based on what I’ve heard from a manga reader it was a truncated and less nuanced version of the original story, which may sound exactly like what everyone would say about an adaptation of their beloved manga , but I can now confirm that it’s indeed the case and that it’s pretty significant here. There’s a deceptively big gap between ‘ good’ and ‘genuinely special’, and the manga simply had what the adaptation lacked to cross that gap. The transition between the comedic and reflective moments feels more natural, there are some great characterization that the anime had skipped altogether, and the sequence of events made more sense here. The only thing I’m missing is the delightful voice acting (particularly Naru’s), but all things considered, this is clearly a superior material and a definite keeper for me all the way until the end.
I’ve also picked up…
MONTAGE (Jun Watanabe, Vol. 4-5). Impression on the first three volumes here. The game of cats and mice continued, with yet another batch of new characters, an unsurprising betrayal, gruesome murders (although none of the major player is killed off yet), and a near rape situation after the female lead committed a dumb mistake. Not a fan of that last bit, needless to say, but at least Volume 5 had our runaway teens teamed up with my favorite character thus far—a policeman who tend to be clumsy and over-eager, but also has good instinct and heart.