Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 16: The Magical Express

Written by Yozaburo Kanari
Art by Fumiya Sato
304 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

A lot of long-running series, over time, grow stale. They start going through the motions of what is expected of them rather than what is new and interesting, and it turns into something approaching monotony. I think that’s one of the many reasons why Yozaburo Kanari and Fumiya Sato’s series The Kindaichi Case Files sticks out so much in my mind. We’re sixteen volumes into the series now, and with each new mystery adventure I find myself absolutely dying to purchase it and find out what happens next.

Hajime Kindaichi may just be a high school student, but he’s one of the greatest mystery solvers in Japan. When the police ask him to look into a threatening package that arrives, it leads him and his best friend Miyuki Nanase onto a train heading into Hokkaido with an entire magical act troupe on board—and a killer who has planted a bomb in one of the cars. But even if they can survive the trip to Hokkaido, can Kindaichi make it through one final magical performance?

There are always a couple of hallmarks in Kanari’s writing within the series. Kindaichi is always a bit of a horndog, and Miyuki helps act as the moral compass of the series. There’s often a “locked room” aspect to a murder, an impossible entrance or exit into a room. But beyond that, almost everything is different from one volume to the next. Kanari keeps coming up with interesting and original ideas, and it always feels fresh as Kindaichi tries to puzzle the latest case through. That’s certainly true here in The Magical Express; there’s often some slight of hand going on in a Kindaichi Case Files mystery, but here Kanari cleverly pits Kindaichi up against an entire group of people with just that skill set. It’s also nice that like many of the other stories in the series, there are enough pieces of the puzzle available to the reader that you can puzzle things through and try and figure it out on your own. The story moves at a brisk pace, and while I could do without the series’s hallmark of a masked version of the killer chortling in the shadows, I never felt like I was being talked down to by Kanari.

Sato’s art is solid if not terribly groundbreaking. Sato shines best when drawing the cast being terrified; he’s got a perfect handle on drawing a startled, scared expression. It’s one of the two visual “poses” that I think he always nails, with the other being Kindaichi’s look of triumph when he announces that he’s solved the case. There’s just the right combination of cockiness and self-assuredness on his face that it just works for me. Otherwise, though, Sato’s art is distinctly average. There is a lot of missing backgrounds in the book, and while everyone looks good there’s nothing that particularly jumps out. He does a good job of keeping the book moving along with Kanari’s pace, though, and it works for the book.

I fell in love with this series four and a half years ago, and I’m still just as excited to read new volumes. New volumes are clever without feeling stale, and that’s something that is normally the exception rather than the rule. Check out The Kindaichi Case Files and you’ll be pleased with the end result. Smart, fun, intriguing, and clever—that’s The Kindaichi Case Files. Go on, you won’t regret it.

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