#521: Spoiler Warning 10 – Tantei Gakuen Q/Detective School Q: ‘The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case’ (2003)


Apologies, we’re a bit late — there were some hold-ups on my end of things — but here at last are the thoughts of the blogosphere’s resident impossible crime expert TomCat and myself on ‘The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case’, part of the Tantei Gakuen Q (Detective Academy Q) anime based on the manga of the same name.

Hopefully you know the drill by now, but just in case: full spoilers ahead, with killers named, details of the plot laid bare, and everything on the table — so don’t sally into this under the impression that we’re not going into much detail; this series is called Spoiler Warning for a reason.

Also worth mentioning is that conversation does, very briefly, turn to Wilders Walk Away (1948) by Herbert Brean, Death on the Nile (1937) by Agatha Christie, and The Phantom Passage (2005) by Paul Halter — I’ve tried to edit the precise details down so nothing is given away, and I’ll flag anything risky with the following…


…but I wanted to mention it just in case.

Okay, with further ado, here goes:


JJ: I don’t have much experience of anime — indeed, my only experience of non-novel/short story Japanese detection is the Detective Conan manga and The Perfect Insider TV show, both of which I think you put me onto.  For anyone in the same position, is there anything about Detective School Q that you want to mention before we get started?

TC: Well, for the uninitiated, Tantei Gakuen Q (Detective School Q) originally began as a manga (comic) series, written and illustrated by Amagi Seimaru and Satō Fumiya — who are perhaps better known as the creators of The Kindaichi Case Files. A detective-series most of you probably only know through the sporadic reviews on my and Ho-Ling Wong’s blogs.

Detective School Q focuses on a specially selected group of youngsters, Class Q, who were hand-picked by a legendary, now wheelchair bound detective, Dan Morihiko. The founder of the equally legendary Dan Detective School (DDS).

All of the Class Q members have a special ability. Kyu and Ryu are the all-round talents of the class with great deductive abilities, but, personality-wise, they’re the polar opposites of each other. Megumi has an amazing photographic memory, allowing her never to forget anything she sees, but this can come with some baggage. Such as when she’s being confronted with a dead body. The youngest member of the group, Kazume, is a computer genius, while the oldest one, Kintaro, is the athletic, more hardboiled, type with 20/20 sight – which makes him perfect for tailing people. So this should give most people some idea of what the series is about.

JJ: I find it interesting to compare Class Q with Class A, as at the start of this story.  Where Class A seems more up-together and emotionally restrained in the classic detective mould, each perhaps an island on their own and possessing the various facets a detective would need, the focus with Q seems to be more on collaboration, of each person bringing their skill to solving the puzzle.  In a way this is very much the rejection of the classic detective of yore — who was much more like your Class A student on their inexorable path to the truth with little concern for personality — and seems to be a way to update what is but now a fairly old routine.  It makes it feel fresh even while we also want it to feel reminiscent of something far older.

TC: Well, there were some detective-teams during the Golden Age (see Craig Rice), but nothing that can be compared to Class Q. You might appreciate to learn that there’s an early (school trip) story-arc, entitled ‘The Cut-Throat Who Crossed Through Time’, in which they begin to understand how to pool their different talents and skills. Something they’ll put to the test in this episode.

But before we go to town on this multi-episode story, I wanted to briefly explain why I picked this series. And in particular ‘The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case’.

JJ: By all means…

TC: Firstly, I think these episodes perfectly demonstrates the difference between the status of the detective story in the East and West. You have to keep in my mind that Detective School Q, originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine, is targeted at high school and college students.

Now just think back what kind of impression mystery writers, like John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle, left on us when we discovered them around that age. When you’re born in Japan, you’re likely introduced to the genre through Detective Conan, Kindaichi or Detective School Q. Just imagine ‘The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case’ is one of your first memories of the detective story. A story about two lonely, isolated villages, dominated by a plague-cult, where people vanish under miraculous circumstances and that scene when they arrive in Kamikakushi Village — after going through the tunnel Hyoutan Village. And they walk out in a gloomy, mist-enshrouded village with that soft, haunting music playing the background and everyone wearing those grotesque masks. That’s the kind of stuff fans are made of!

Secondly, I wanted to see if you recognized what I recognized in the plot.

JJ: We get two impossible crimes here — the vanishing of the student with the footprints stopping in the middle of the field that occurs before Class Q arrive at the village, and the impossible flying into the air of the TV journalist which is captured on his video camera.  While the first might be argued as fairly clued, the second most certainly isn’t.  Equally, the revelation that the two villages are simply one divided down the middle is never really prepared for beyond that whole “the sun is to the right of me” thing (we have no idea where the crucial dam is in relation to anything else, for one thing…).  I’m a fan of fair play and feel that the visual medium afford more chances to show this sort of clewing, but I’m curious how you feel about it.

TC: You’re so wrong here, I hardly know where to begin! Firstly, there’s a third impossible crime, which is set up in episode 19, when the mysterious founder, “Eki Shin,” prophetizes another death in Hyoutan Village and challenged Ryu — telling him to stay at “the lodge located at the entrance of the tunnel.” This is the only connection between the two villages. So, when the murder is committed, the founder has a rock-solid alibi backed by Ryu and Megumi. This alibi-trick, tied to the village-puzzle, counts as an impossible crime (see my comment on this blog-post).

JJ: Hmmm, but that’s only an impossibility after the fact though, right?  When you go “But Mio was the killer!” and everyone is amazed because she was thought to be elsewhere on the phone the whole time.  There’s nothing about it as presented that makes it impossible — especially as a point is made of them being able to hear the clock chiming in the background when she phones them, but they’re not able to hear the victim’s loud snoring.  Nah, as it’s presented what happens is that someone walks into the room and stabs a dude…could’ve been anyone at that stage.

TC: Yes, it was an impossibility after the fact, but so’s Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile (1937) and you don’t hear anybody complain about that, now do you? It’s an impossible crime. And didn’t she cover the victim’s mouth and nose with his blanket? [Turns out no, she didn’t]

JJ: Wait…what?  Death on the Nile?  I’m always tempted to bow to your greater experience, but…Death on the Nile is an impossible crime?!

TC: Technically, Death on the Nile qualifies as an impossible crime, because [there followed here a discussion on the mechanics of the first murder in Death on the Nile; I’ve removed it to preserve it for anyone who doesn’t know] However, the real discussion is whether, or not, Rex Stout’s The Doorbell Rang (1965) has any claim to the status of a locked room mystery, but that’s a discussion for another time.

The solution to that village-puzzle was not only fairly clued, it was clued in a brazenly and audacious way. In episode 17, the first clue is a drawing of the infinity symbol, which was left by one of the people who disappeared, followed by map of the two villages. Only difference between the two is the two circles (villages) on the map are separated by a tunnel and spiral staircase. If you put this together, not only don’t you need the very late sun-clue, but realize what it means the moment Kyu figures it out. So how, in Poe’s name, did you miss that visual clue?

JJ: Hang on, the infinity symbol is the two villages? Huh.  Yeah, I missed that.  I had assumed it was something about being spun around by the staircase and not being fully aware of which way you were facing when you exit the tunnel.

Detective School Q infinity

TC: No. It meant that the two villages were connected and not divided by long tunnel with a spiral staircase. You’re mostly right about the impossible disappearance-into-the-sky. There were the sounds in the video, but this is hardly sufficient to put together the trick. A nifty trick, but hardly fair.

JJ: Which is a shame, because that and the use of the flooded field and the raft in the impossible footprints riddle that opens this case are actually pretty neat.  I guess unless you have someone talking ab out their tractor going missing, or something about how Mio knows how to operate all the machinery in the village or something it’s difficult to prepare for without lampshading it to a ridiculous extent.  I liked it in principle, but just feel this aspect of the clewing unfortunately when awry.

It also struck me as weird that much is made about having to wear masks in the second village and yet both Class Q and the reporters wander around without their masks on without any serious repercussions (the violent deaths aside).  This is one of those bizarrely framings that the shin honkaku stories we’ve seen coming out of Locked Room International’s stable excel at — think the weird architecture of The 8 Mansion Murders (1989, tr. 2018) and Death in the House of Rain (2006, tr. 2017), or the way the Moai statues play into the ‘evolving puzzle’ of The Moai Island Puzzle (1989, tr. 2016).  Typically these stories introduce this bizarre elements and really embrace them, but here – in a visual medium, no less, where it would be even more effective — it just felt a little tangential and easily discarded.

TC: I was afraid you’re were going to bring up the masks. You missed a prominently displayed visual clue, but you noticed the masks were, more or less, ditched shortly upon their arrival. Unfortunately, you’re right. I think this would not have been problem had one of the previous episodes not made a big deal about it. Class Q even drew lots to see who got the last two “guest masks” (get it?) to travel through the tunnel to the other village.  So, yes, this visual aspect of the story should have been fully embraced and the previously mentioned scene, when they arrived in the mist-enshrouded village, showed how effectively they can be used — especially to set the mood.

JJ: I also find it pretty unbelievable that a 17 year-old girl could murder a full grown woman, cart her body away, and bury it in a nearby grave.  We have no idea how many of the recent disappearances she’s responsible for, but it feels a little unfair to me to set up such physical expectations and then ignore them when it comes to your culprit.

TC: I believe it was mentioned she was only responsible for the most recent disappearances/murders, but this is one of those detective stories that would have actually benefited from an accomplice to help bury the bodies.

JJ: However, I loved the motive for the murders: the idea that there’s this world-ending plague in Hyoutan village that could be released if the truth ever gets out.  That’s amazing, and such a punch to the gut when you realise the magnitude of what’s being protected.  It might actually be my favourite motive for anything I’ve yet encountered in the genre.

TC: The motive is an absolute gem! A classic tragedy of doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons. Remember that the original villages, who came up with the plan, had seen the potential, world-ending destruction of the atomic bomb. So they likely took the weapons of modern science deadly serious. And than you’re given that final blow when they reveal that the hidden, walled up village had been a paradise where people had survived. And lived on for many decades behind a sealed wall.

JJ: It was a very clever way to get around the horror of what had come before — that this village had been subject to such awfulness turned into a bower of sanctuary from the outside world.  It’s still moderately horrible if you choose to pick it apart too much, but as payoffs go it was devastation smartly replaced with a delightfully non-cloying emotional punch.

TC: However, it was hilarious how easy the wall, dividing the two villages, was broken by two blows with a pickaxe. It looked like it was hit by a bombshell!

JJ: Well, I guess it was…!  It’s a great reveal, and sets up so much about the motive, that I suppose that representation of the ‘bombshell’ plays into the slightly OTT nature of the animation.

TC: I wanted to know if you recognized the similarities between ‘The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case’ and Herbert Brean’s Wilders Walks Away (1948) and Paul Halter’s The Phantom Passage (2005)?


Begin Beware-age

Personally, I suspect Amagi Seimaru used the bare-bone premise of Brean’s Wilders Walks Away to write ‘The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case’. The similar premise of villages where people have been disappearing under seemingly impossible circumstances could have been a coincidence, but in both stories the bodies were buried in the local cemetery. The solution to the village-puzzle anticipates the trick of the vanishing street in Halter’s The Phantom Passage. One of my reasons for picking this specific story-arc. 

JJ: Huh, how about that.  I wouldn’t have put it together myself, but you’re right on both counts.  I suppose a cemetery is a good place to hide a dead body — very Chestertonian — and the village trick here is similar enough to The Phantom Passage that you could place them in the same category, certainly.  I don’t know if I’d say this strikes me as being similar enough to Wilders Walk Away to have been definitively lifted from it — the motive is a damn sight more interesting, for one, and I have a feeling it was reto-fitted from there — but I love how what are essentially the same core ideas can be reused again and again in the service of so many different tricks and still come off as unique.  It was core to the Golden Age, and continues to this day.


Beware No More

TC: So what did you think of our little excursion into the world of the anime detective? I know you have read some Detective Conan, but I believe this was the first time you saw a traditional, shin honkaku-style detective story come to live as an animation. So did you like it? Do you want to sample more? And how far will you go down this rabbit hole?

JJ: I wholeheartedly agree with Ho-Ling’s comment at the announcement of this particular undertaking that it would have been better to have in some way supported the creators by using a site or a medium that they’d get paid for the use of, and I’d love to check out the manga in order to do just that but I believe it hasn’t been translated from what I can see.  I’ll watch more of this, certainly, possibly from the beginning – though that will take a while, since I’m bad at watching TV stuff – and I understand there’s also a live action version.  Do you know if they’re different?  Does the manga just get adapted directly to the mange which in turn gets adapted for live action?  Or are there different plots each time?

Either way, I hope to invest a bit more time into this and others, and I’m grateful for this having been brought to my attention.  Thank-you for suggesting something a little different!

TC: I have only seen one or two episodes of the live-action adaptation, years ago, but barely remember anything about them. They didn’t leave an impression.  I remember one of the actors from the DSQ live-action series played a young Furuhata (Japanese Columbo) in a fun 2008 TV-special, though!

I hope that us talking about this series will help generate some attention among mystery readers for these splendid anime and manga detective series. Detective Conan is published in the West as Case Closed and the translations, as of this writing, are up to volume 70, but is mostly bought by anime/manga fans. My impression is that there’s very little overlap, over here, between mystery readers and fans of series such as Detective Conan, The Kindaichi Case Files and DSQ, but if more mystery readers would take the jump and start exploring Case Closed, it might act as an incentive to translate more of these series — something you want to happen if you love the shin honkaku-style mystery. Now that I think about it, perhaps we should have reviewed something from the Case Closed series.

I’m glad you enjoyed it — let’s do this again sometime!


And so over to you, folks — what did you make of Tantei Gakuen Q?  Was I a fool for missing the infinity clue?  Is Death on the Nile an impossible crime?  Weigh in, we’d love to hear your thoughts…

38 thoughts on “#521: Spoiler Warning 10 – Tantei Gakuen Q/Detective School Q: ‘The Kamikakushi Village Murder Case’ (2003)

  1. Thanks for the dialogue, which I support simply on the basis that it draws attention to my favourite media of Japanese manga and anime. 😀 I read the entire ‘Detective Academy Q’ manga series more than five years ago, and recently acquired my own set – and I’ve arrived at the point just before this case in my re-read. I cannot recall many of the cases, but I do recall the solutions to this case, as well as to the major case just before this one, concerning the formation of class Q. I could recall the solution to this case precisely because of the bold visual clue of the infinity symbol. But I can’t remember much else – even whether or not I liked it. 😅

    Perhaps JJ and TomCat could do a joint-review of one of the Kindaichi cases? 🤩 While I very much liked ‘Detective Academy Q’, Kindaichi was a childhood favourite, and therefore retains a soft spot in my heart. Perhaps the ‘Third Opera House Murders’ might be available on a legal platform such as Crunchyroll? It’d be nice to see what JJ makes of the impossibilities in ‘Prison Prep School Murders’ or the locked-room puzzle in ‘Headless Samurai Murders’, but I believe TomCat had already watched the former and read the latter.

    Or maybe if JJ is happy to break his piggy bank and purchase an exorbitant copy of the English translation of ‘Headless Samurai’, I could do a joint review with him. 😜

    Incidentally, Kindaichi is a visual amalgamation of Kyu and Kinta – imagine Kyu’s face grated onto a scrawny Kinta.


    • I don’t believe the TV special of the Third Opera House Murders is available on Crunchyroll. It and the adaptation of the Legendary Vampire Murders were TV specials on their own and not part of the R series (which is what Crunchyroll has). They’d have to been licensed separately, but I don’t believe they have even been released on home video in Japan. The 2013 adaptation of the Black Magic Murder Case is also a seperate license, as it was an OVA coupled with the 20th Anniversary series.


      • A pity, as “Third Opera House Murders” is a personal favourite of mine among all the Kindaichi stories I’ve read. I didn’t care too much for “Vampire Legend Murders” – though TomCat’s fondness for the impossible crime in it makes me think I should re-read it soon. I recall Nor being overly-enamoured by “Black Magic Murders too” – though I recall an interesting time-alibi conundrum in it.


    • Thanks for the dialogue, which I support simply on the basis that it draws attention to my favourite media of Japanese manga and anime.

      It would be great if this helped (if only a little) in getting more of these anime/manga detective-series translated, but it would also be great to start seeing review of Detective Conan or Kindaichi from mystery bloggers like Curt and John. I would like to know what they’d make of DAQ and Kindaichi. I’m sure Brad would love the Detective Conan anime special, The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly.

      I could recall the solution to this case precisely because of the bold visual clue of the infinity symbol.

      And JJ missed it! 😀

      Perhaps JJ and TomCat could do a joint-review of one of the Kindaichi cases?

      I already offered JJ to do this again, because he had quite a few IRL distractions and most of the work was done only last week. So, if he has more time on his hands, I’ll be willing to do this again and have no problem with rewatching The Prison Prep School Murder Case (legally on Crunchyroll). However, I think JJ would probably like The Rosenkrauz Mansion Murders better.

      Or we could go the fun-route and make JJ read The Mummy’s Curse! 🙂


      • I’m absolutely up for looking at something like this again in the future — it’s a great way to be able to digest the detective story, and lovely to see such creativity brought to what should feel like a tired or cliched format. Let me get my head around it all first, but we should do another one in the next year or so, certainly.


    • From what I see of the Kindaichi Case Files, they’re now prohibitively expensive and so my exposure to them will have to wait. But this experience, coupled with my reading of Case Closed/Detective Conan, has been great for opening up the possibilities for manga and anime in clue-heavy crime solving and I’m keen to explore more of what I can (afford 😂).

      Thankfully I still have a lot of Case Closed to go — I’m up to about volume 17, and I know there are close to 30 not even translated yet — so who knows what will happen in the meantime? Fingers crossed…


  2. This is definitely one of the highlights early in the series. I think the impossibility of the villages might feel somewhat weak on its own, if not for the fact the story states the body of the student who had only just disappeared from Kamikakushi Village was also found in Hyoutan Village. Given the entrance to the village is guarded, this means the body managed to teleport. That coupled with the infinity sign, as well as the neatly hidden clue of the compass make this a memorable construction I think, with clues nicely spread across the story (the sun clue in fact is only to help _the viewer_ a bit further, as Kyu already figured things out).

    I also like Mio’s slip of the tongue about where that one guy lived. It’s so natural to misspeak like that, but Japanese can be also be very finicky about the perspective of the speaker/listener (for example: unless we’re talking about certain dialects, you won’t say the equivalent of “I’ll be coming to your party”, because “come” is always back to the speaker’s point of origin, and therefore they have to say “I’ll be going to your party” (“go”, because from the speakers point to another place). Mio’s slip of the tongue is pretty easy to miss because the story is told from Kyu’s POV, but the utterance is of course from Mio’s POV.

    About the live-action series, it’s pretty decent (don’t watch the one-shot pilot special about the entrance exams though…). It’s an original adaptation of the manga (rewrites some of the background/characters) and has nothing to do with the anime adaptation. The anime adaptation eventually had to come up with its original ending to the series because the original comic was still in serialization. The second half of the live-action series on the other hand features several stories from the latter half of the manga (which never made it into the anime). The live-action series also focuses more on the criminal organization Pluto and their agents. Kerberos for example is *the* major nemesis of Q Class in the manga, but doesn’t exist in the anime (while having a *fantastic* role in the live-action series). The live-action series finale is an adaptation of the series finale of the manga (which too is missing from the anime). So even if you have seen the anime series already, I’d say the live-action series has something nice to offer. The actor of Ryu also played Hajime Kindaichi in the (mostly) good 2015 (2016?) live-action adaptation of the Kindaichi Case Files (and the previous two specials from 20..12? and 2014?).


    • I confess I’ve lost track as to who has acted or is acting as Kindaichi Hajime, past Jun Arashi (?). The actor who was cast for the role when I was young was Dohmoto Tsuyoshi – who, incidentally, is 37 this year. So if ever there is a televisation of the Kindaichi sequel, he ought to be the top pick for the 37 year old Kindaichi. 🤩


    • So, is the manga now finished? And how does one determine the end of a manga? Is it like a TV series where it keeps getting renewed for as long as people are buying it, or are these things frequently designed to run for, say, 15 cases before folding at the intended place no matter how well they do? My only experience of any of this is Case Closed, and that seems to be going and going and going…


      • The original manga finished in 2005, a year after the anime series ended. A one volume follow-up (set a few years after the finale) was released in 2007, which ended with a proper sequel hook, but that sequel never came 😛

        Most manga are 1) serialized in magazines/online outlets and 2) owned and created by the author and not the publisher (occasionally the publisher is co-owner) so often, a manga will continue as long as both parties (creator and publisher) think that’s the way to go. So obviously sales figures of the standalone volumes and reader approval is very important from the publisher’s POV, but the author needs to be willing to work on the series too. So some series are short by design, others are cut short by the publisher because of lacklustre reception (the dreaded “you’ll have to wrap your series up in the upcoming two chapters/weeks”).

        For example with Conan, the author has a grand story planned out, and the series is still popular enough it has a friggin’ cross-promotion campaign with Avengers: Edngame in Japan, so why stop? Wasn’t always the case. At first, Aoyama assumed it’d be a mere moderate success for the publisher, with 4-10 volumes at most. And near the tenth volume, he himself thought it was perhaps best to stop. It was only the offer of a theatrical adaptation that convinced him to keep on going with the series, and now we’re more than two decades further.

        The Ace Attorney manga by Kuroda and Maekawa on the other hand is only five volumes long, but it was designed to be relatively short, as it was just a limited series to coincide with the release of the fourth Ace Attorney game (though this manga has its own completely original stories, and is a good mystery manga on its own).


        • This is great, thank-you! My understanding of manga is nascent at best, so I hugely appreciate any oversight that people in the know can provide.


      • Just to clarify – “Detective Academy Q” manga series has concluded, as Ho Ling described. Kindaichi the teenager has only recently finished, with the sequel featuring him as a 37 year old bachelor.

        Ho Ling will know more – from what I gather, they wanted to breathe fresh air into the Kindaichi series, and shake it up slightly. Hence the aging of the protagonist, which also moves the series from Shounen (youth) to Seinen (adult).


        • So…the older protagonist is enough to change the classification of the manga? Or did the focus of the puzzles change, too? Because, like, Case Closed gets dark at times, but that’s still shounen, right? So either Kindaichi went some DARK places or this form of categorisation is something else I have to wrap my head around 😵


          • Hajime’s own age has nothing to do with it. Classifications like seinen and sho(u)nen (in this context) refer to target audiences, similar to labels like ‘children’s literature’ and ‘YA’. Shonen is basically for young kids (boys) till into their teens. Conan runs in the magazine Shonen Sunday for example (though in fact, more than a significant share of the readership of magazines like Shonen Sunday and Shonen Jump is actually female).

            So the Kindaichi Case Files (and the various variations) used to run in Shonen Magazine, but the new series (I have reviews for the first few volumes) is running in the seinen magazine Evening (male adolescents, older), so it’s aimed at a slightly older audience, thus making it a seinen series. The core in terms of puzzles etc. is still the same, but now we have jokes about Hajime’s mind-numbing work at the office for example, instead of his life at school, and the motives are a bit different (the inverted story in volume 3 for example had three housewives plotting to kill the wealthiest woman in their apartment building because they just couldn’t stand how she bossed them around anymore).


            • I figured it was simply a matter of classification, I guess I was wondering how something that has already contained some fairly “adult” themes would suddenly leap classifications just because the main character was older. But, yeah, that shift in focus to work issues, and the social aspects of the motive you explain…yeah, that would perhaps be lost on a younger mind, I see that now.


  3. I just finished the episodes, and I must say that I really liked it overall!

    The impossible crimes were enjoyable – the first is a treat but the second is a bit more technical and out of nowhere. What really worked for me was the atmosphere of the arch, it was so rich and the genuine sense of creepiness you got whenever you watched it was incredibly palpable. It’s quite doom laden, and you like your always on the verge of learning a horrible truth, with the buildup to the solution becoming more and more enticing as time passes by.

    The smallpox motive is perhaps one of the most unique I’ve ever encountered, and it’s probably my favorite. It’s tailored to fit the era and circumstances perfectly, and it haunts you in a way. The added emotional punch from the realization of life continuing on has a deep impact, and it hit me. The two villages being one trick was also amazing; it satisfies and is very creative, making good use of the clues given to us.

    The culprit seemed to be picked out of a hat, the only thing giving them the title being the fact that their grandfather took the role as cult leader, so therefore almost anyone could have been assigned the spot to make this work. The melodrama involving the vial of smallpox was ridiculous, and it annoyed me if anything else, but I’ve read about how many manga series have “emotional” endings similar to it, where the culprit goes on a tangent and mentally breaks down.

    I feel like these stories focus more on the puzzle and a dramatic/complex solution than giving real sustenance to culprit, character, and sometimes motive. This one excels in the latter, but I feel like it still bears faults in the former. Still, a fun way to pass by a few hours, and it gives a impossible crime fan exactly what he wants from it.


    • I think this is a pretty fair summary, and we’re largely in agreement. Once you see the workings of the crimes, the culprit could be anyone — and from the physical perspective of having to kill the reporter lady, cart her away, and dig up an old grave — the mysterious son of the hostel owner makes far more sense…but then so does the hostel owner himself. I guess this aspect of a mystery as technical as this is always going to be a little iffy, but I have to say that I enjoyed the ride too much to notice it before reading your comment.

      The fog-shrouded moodiness is great, it’s just a shame that so little was done with the masks. With writing that shows this much intelligence of how to mess with who-was-where-when, the idea of a village fill of people wearing masks that makes them impossible to distinguish between…is wasted when nothing’s done with it. But, well, at least it;s something those of us beavering away on our own impossible crime plots can tuck away for future reference 🙂


      • The masks reminded me about an episode from the Detective Conan series; The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly, which is one of the most superb impossible crime mysteries to have ever aired on television, and is a minor classic of the genre. It is a shame that the masks weren’t well utilized – they helped formulate some of the atmosphere but did nothing outside of that. A missed opportunity as you said.

        On the topic of our own impossible crime works; a few days ago I found some old notebooks from a couple of years back. They contained my childish ideas for mystery plots, and it was fun to look through them and watch how the ideas changed as I grew and my reading in the genre expanded. Most of what’s written down is complete hogwash, but some of my ideas have a gleam of intelligence behind them ( surprising, I know!!!). I still keep a small notebook where I might write down the idea for a impossible crime or two down, and it all gives me an idea for a future blog post, hmmmm…


        • Oh, man, I forgot about the Conan animes. Are they adapted from then manga, or are they new stories? At the moment, I’m not sure which I’d prefer 🙂


          • The anime of Conan is based on the manga, but also features original episodes. I’ve been going through some of the best of them this last year actually.

            Then there are the theatrical releases of Detective Conan, which are completely original stories. The tone is different in the sense that there’s lots more action (and explosions!) in these movies, as Aoyama (who doesn’t write the screenplays, but does provide the base ideas for them) likes the movies doing things he can’t do in his own comic (like elaborate action sequences). Especially of late, the focus has shifted more towards character-focused action flicks, but the first few ones work pretty well as normal mystery movies, with some grand action set pieces. The Fourteenth Target (second movie), Captured In Her Eyes (fourth) and Countdown to Heaven (fifth) are great mystery/action movies that are also available on disc in the US.


            • Good grief, it sounds like a lifetime’s work just trying to get on board with all this. Does anyone know how available these movies are in the UK? Is there a streaming service that has them, or are we left to dodgy uploads?

              Thanks again, Ho-Ling, for patinently explaining me through this ignorance. I thought I had a good grasp on this mystery stuff, so this new stream of plots — and, yeah, I you TC and yourself have been extolling their virtues for a while now, but I’ve always half-read them with a faint pang of jealousy believing I’ll never get the chance to experience them myself.


        • I’ve read about how many manga series have “emotional” endings similar to it, where the culprit goes on a tangent and mentally breaks down.

          This is not a cliché. The early volumes from The Kindaichi Case Files, written by Yozaburo Kanari, were especially guilty of this. Always followed by an emo-laden speech by Kindaichi making the murderers see the error of their ways. These scenes either work or are pure cringe.

          Recently, I have read another manga detective (review coming in early July) with one of those emotional packed and tragic endings, which worked and left an impression.

          I feel like these stories focus more on the puzzle and a dramatic/complex solution than giving real sustenance to culprit, character, and sometimes motive.

          The puzzle-aspect is the focus of most anime/manga detectives with characterization usually reserved for the main-or recurring characters in the series. So, if you think in-depth characterization is crusial, you’re probably not going tp get your mystery fix from anime/manga.

          The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly, which is one of the most superb impossible crime mysteries to have ever aired on television, and is a minor classic of the genre.

          I couldn’t agree more! It was my best impossible crime story from 2018!


  4. Just finished last three episodes of this arc before reading the post, and I loved it. I don’t know if it’s the mystery, or the emotional aspect, or both, but it was a really good story. Probably both. I love when a mystery manages to evoke strong emotions, and it is something that this series does very well so far.

    It’s a shame that the production values were rather low (which is common for early-2000s anime). Aside from music and some very famous voice actors (which I assume is where all the budget went), it looks pretty dull. The visuals and the animation are pretty boring, and I am not a fan of character designs. As a result, I feel that they missed an opportunity to do something interesting with the atmosphere and turn it into a full-blown horror story.
    That last scene with Kyu and Mio was great, though, and the cheap graphics couldn’t stop me from being excited with the plot.

    I haven’t read Wilders Walks Away, but the story that this arc reminded me a lot is Higurashi, another Japanese murder mystery which started as a visual novel and then was turned into an anime (you can watch the opening here if you want to take a quick look at it, it gives a pretty good impression of how the series feels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgWkIrFQQE0). The premise of Higurashi is that there is a remote village where people don’t like outsiders and where a series of strange deaths and disappearances occur each year on the same date. The villagers say that these things are happening by the will of the local god Oyashiro, and the fact of disappearing is called Onikakushi (so, like Kamikakushi, but with “oni” — “demon” — instead of a “god”). It’s also, like the Kamikakushi arc, has a famous “Uso da!/That’s a lie!” scene, as well as some other similarities. So, maybe the authors of DAQ were inspired by that when they worked on this arc.

    Thank you for talking about this series. I’ve been watching it from the very beginning because of that, and I can definitely say that the stories are consistently strong and it has some great moments, and overall it’s a very decent mystery show (despite the aforementioned flaws).


    • TomCat’s diversity in approach is what we have to thank here — I was expecting us to go for a boring old words-on-paper novel, but this has turned into a voyage of discovery for a few of us. And now there’s Kindaichi, Conan, and lord knows what else to get stuck into, too…!


      • It’s a shame that the production values were rather low (which is common for early-2000s anime). Aside from music and some very famous voice actors (which I assume is where all the budget went), it looks pretty dull. The visuals and the animation are pretty boring, and I am not a fan of character designs. As a result, I feel that they missed an opportunity to do something interesting with the atmosphere and turn it into a full-blown horror story.

        Stylistically, the quality of the animation lagged behind the plot and story-telling, but still think they did a pretty decent job. Although I wish they had more scenes like the one when they entered Kamikakushi Village for the first time.

        TomCat’s diversity in approach is what we have to thank here

        If only people listened to me more often. I know what’s good for you all. ;D


        • I have very little experience of anime, but the animation didn’t really bother me — it felt more like a stylistic choice akin to a writer using an especially non-lyrical form of prose: functional, able to communicate the essentials, and more of a choice than something actively bad that hindered the delivery of the plot. The whole plot here exists on a slightly altered plane of reality, and the slightly awkward animation simply played into that. Seeing this in live action — or in a more slick animated form that came closer to live action — would, I feel, detract from the machinations of the plot, and certainly the thump of the ending.

          Though, of course, this could simply be that I saw it in this form and enjoyed it, so any other method of delivery would seem unusual. But I’ll bow to the greater experience of those who know that the animation is low quality.


          • I completely agree that the plot and narrative come first in this type of show, and the visuals are here to support it, which DAQ does consistently well. I just saw some missed opportunities, where a bit stronger or interesting direction and visual could add a lot to the experience, like in Conan’s The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly episode, which TomCat mentioned above, for example.


    • I don’t find the Tantei Gakuen Q looking too bad actually. It’s, as you say, a product of its time, and early 2000s is just the time when they all had shifted to digital cel animation, but where unless you had a higher budget, they still didn’t quite manage to capture the color nuances of traditional cel animation. Tantei Gakuen Q was just a normal prime-time (19:00 pm) show that ran for a year and wasn’t intended to recoup costs through home-video releases, so it looks kinda normal. The original Kindaichi Case Files anime kinda had the same thing: it shifted to digital cel animation halfway through, but never did it look as atmospheric as in the earlier episodes when they used traditional cel animation. Conan too felt noticably ‘worse’ when it intially made the digital cel animation jump.

      As for the Higurashi ga Naku Koro ni link, this story is actually older: Onikakushi-hen was released at Summer Comiket 2002, while Tantei Gakuen Q’s Kamikukashi Village arc had already started its serialization in October or November of 2001.


      • Yeah, maybe I was too harsh. I agree, that it looks more like normal for its time then bad.
        And yes, I took a look at the dates after I made the comment. So, looks like that’s just a coincidence. I know that Ryukishi was inspired by The Village of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo, so it seems that the creepy remote village is a common setting for the Japanese murder mystery. The idea for Higurashi is slightly older (it was intended to be a little theatrical play called Hinamizawa Teiryujou at first), but I doubt authors of DAQ new about that.
        I love your blog, by the way! Picked up Kyomu he no Kumotsu (I am in the middle of the second volume right now) thanks to one of your posts, as well as three Arisugawa books.


    • John, I excised TomCat’s comments on DotN but still have them in my records; I shall post them on your blog forthwith!

      [Incidentally, TC is wrong about this :D]


  5. Sorry to comment on such an old post, but I’m actually reviewing Kamikakushi on my blog right now. It seems that the anime adaptation removes many of the clues from the manga version, which is sad. It seems that the anime is across the board a pretty significant downgrade from the manga, removing landmark cases, stopping halfway into the overarching story, and writing in some bad filler cases. I’m sad to read so many people are experiencing the series this way with all of the concessions and damages done to the source material!

    In the manga version of the case, there are many hints that there has to be some sort of easier means of transport between the two villages. The lack of a graveyard in Kamikakushi, for instance, is given a lot of focus, as it’s constantly noted it’s unreasonable to expect corpses to be carried 30 minutes through the tunnel to Hyouta every time someone dies. The Infinity clue is one I clued into rather quickly, and is apparently explained much more clearly in the manga (since it seems the anime didn’t explain it sufficiently, likely due to time constraints). You also see an aerial-eye view of the villages (as depicted by a map drawn based on interpretation) which makes it easier to contextualize the relative location of the dam to everything else. And, naturally, if you spot the contradiction in the killer’s testimony, then it also suggests there’s an easier means of transport between the two villages.

    I actually think the village trick is the thing that elevates this story for me. I found the two footprint crimes not incredibly interesting, with the water-and-raft one being a concept I’ve seen before (somehow!) and the tractor one just being boring and the obvious kind of solution you’d expect to see to this kind of problem. Kamikakushi also doesn’t use visual clues as well as other cases in the series. But the greatest sin for me is that Kamikakushi does the Kindaishi Case Files thing of “only one murder really matters, the rest merely exist in respect to that crime”, so it feels like a lot of the puzzle was back-loaded on the third murder, with the rest of the case feeling a little loose.

    But the village trick? The village trick is one of the most audacious alibi tricks I’ve ever seen, and I cannot walk away from the story without acknowledging it as simply ingenious. It is one of those grand-scale misdirections for which Shimada Soji was known. I can’t agree that it isn’t fairplay because I *figured it out*, but even then it was shocking for me to realize that this is a trick that goes back generations and is ingrained into the culture of the village. It’s a story with flawed construction, I don’t disagree, but at least the manga’s version of this case is another case like Tokyo Zodiac where, for me, the cussedness of the central trick elevates it beyond what it would’ve been without it.


    • There’s definitely a simplification here, because — as discussed above — certain clues really aren’t explained, to the point that even attractive viewers like myself can be left a little in the dark as to their significance. There’s always going to be a loss of detail in switching between media, because that’s why we have different media — if different forms had the exact same opportunities and benefits then I can well believe we would have abandoned one of them generations ago.

      One of these days I’ll get round to more manga; I currently only read Case Closed…and that’s far more a series of intriguing ideas than it is anything approaching detection. But, man, there’s really only so many hours in the day, and so, so much stuff to read…


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