Hajime Kindaichi, as the grandson of famous detective Kosuke Kindaichi, picked up the tricks of his trade from Grandpa and, after proving himself to the skeptical police in his first case, finds himself tangled up in the murder mystery from hell on a regular basis.Though fairly obscure in the west, Kindaichi was Japan's most popular manga for much of its original run (1994-2001) and remains quite popular today. The series relies on a strong formula that mixes the horror and detective genres: the atmosphere is similar to a well-made Slasher Movie, with the killer usually taking the persona of a legendary monster. He then murders his victims in gruesome ways relating to the legend, thus providing a more violent version of a Scooby-Doo Hoax. He still leaves clues, though, which Kindaichi is inevitably the only person to notice. There's always some secret tragedy from the past (often surprisingly moving) motivating the killer as well. All of which leads up to the climax of each story where Kindachi unmasks the perpetrator in a dramatic summation gathering. Each story is also a rather challenging fair play whodunnit so clever readers may be able to beat Kindaichi to the solution.As of 2004, the series has restarted in Japan. The first series was distributed in the US by Tokyopop, but is now out of print. In 2014, out of nowhere, an anime adaption of the newer cases began airing.
This work provides examples of:
Accidental Pervert: Both played straight and subverted; Kindaichi himself tries to pass himself off as this on multiple occasions, but he's also walked in on people he didn't mean to. (This even provides the solution to one of his mysteries.)
The Ace: Detective Akechi. He is a former straight-A student, Todai graduate, amateur chess player (who ranks somewhere among the world's best amateur players), trained violinist (who can play for a professional quartet), capable fencer (who once beat the national champion) and can pilot planes too. Most of these exploits can be found in his seperate series, Akechi Files series, as pretext for the murder cases happening prior to his apperance in the main series.
There's often at least one pure-hearted innocent among the piles of dead assholes, though. In the Undying Butterflies case, all but one of the victims are innocent.
Rarest exception is when the victim was thought to be an asshole turns out to be sympathetic in the end.
Make that second-rarest. Rarest is when the victim(s) is (are) asshole(s) to a degree, but they turn out to be completely unrelated to the tragedy that serves as the culprit's motive like the Legend of Lake Hiren episode.
Ax-Crazy: Subverted. At first it always seems as if the killer follows this trope to the letter and is killing people at random. But in reality, their victims are always carefully chosen, and the murders themselves are part of a larger, complex plan.
Best Served Cold: In many a case this is how the killers plot their revenges, but the most memorable one is the House of Wax case, where the killer waited a good 20 years to claim retribution when the victims are at the heights of their careers.
Book Dumb - Kindaichi pretends to be this so that he can slack off in class (as he is too lazy to study for tests), but as a detective he demonstrates a wide range of knowledge.
Brilliant, but Lazy: As noted above. School bores Kindaichi, so he just coasts by with a bare minimum of effort, frequently napping in class. Give him a mystery to solve, though, and he shows his true genius.
The death of a man's sibling lover kicks off a Roaring Rampage of Revenge in one mystery, though the fact that they are siblings don't come to light until after the case has ended.
The same case alludes to another tale of brother/sister incest which made the location of the mystery (the lake where the pair ultimately drowned themselves) particularly bizarre.
In a mystery, the way this trope is deliberately invoked leads to the death of one of Kindaichi's friend, prompting her boyfriend - actually not her brother at all - to murder the two jealous girls who spread that rumor.
Most of the time, Kindaichi is called out to the locations due to his reputation as a detective, but he's run into his share of murders while on vacation.
Kenmochi got this in his first appearance in the series, having stayed at the Opera House hotel for a vacation.
Can Not Spit It Out : Kindaichi is coy about his feelings for Miyuki, and the one time he does manage to spit it out, his confession is muffled by the marching band.
Catch Phrase: "In the name of my grandfather..." and "This mystery is solved!".
Chekhov's Gun: Any incidental object (or sometimes person) in a scene could provide the solution to the mystery.
Chivalrous Pervert: Kindaichi is something of a skirt chaser, but he is still more or less a gentleman.
Clear Their Name: Ocasionally an innocent is blamed for the murders and Kindaichi must prove their innocence. Examples are Hikage Miyama in The Undying Butterflies case, Reika in the Alchemist Mansion case and Kindaichi himself in Kindaichi the Killer. Akechi had to clear Kindaichi name in another case.
Clock Discrepancy: In the very first mystery, Kindaichi manipulates a suspect's watch to get said suspect to reveal themselves. Many other mysteries are also solved when Kindaichi realizes that some sort of clock-based manipulation is in play.
Clueless Mystery: Averted and then some thanks to Tokyopop's attempts at Cultural Translation. Though Death TV ends up being one due to the very obscure and specialized knowledge that's required to solve the mystery.
The way Kindaichi finds himself in the same kind of situation in every story, purely by random chance, never seems to strike anybody as too weird.
The solution in Smoke and Mirrors hinges on Ryuta Saki, a student at the same high school as Kindaichi and Nanase, having a habit of filming everything around him. Kindaichi is able to catch the killer because, conveniently enough, Ryuta and his ever-present camera are around exactly when the plot requires them to.
Crime After Crime: Even if the murderer wasn't trying to kill several victims, he would be forced to kill some inconvenient witnesses.
Fair Play Whodunnit: The translators have gone to great pains to make this true even in the English version. Though one story arguably breaks the "no identical twins" rule.
In the comic's heyday, figuring out the solutions to Kindaichi mysteries became something of a national craze for the Japanese. The storylines typically ran for two or three months, leaving plenty of time for fans to speculate. Later storylines have much tougher solutions as the authors strived to keep things challenging for fans who often collaborated on figuring out the answers.
The animated adaption dealt with this by adapting the comic stories but often changing the solutions, with a different character turning out to be the killer than in the manga.
Faking the Dead: Masterfully done in a case. There were three bullies who drove a guy to suicide. Two of them are murdered and when the supposed killer (the guy's sister) was caught, the third one was murdered too. It turns the real killer was the second victim who had faked his death. He had planned killing himself after, though.
Floating Timeline: Cases take place in the year it was published. So it's really odd to see Hajime using a pager in one case then suddenly has a smartphone in his possession and barely aged a year.
Genre Savvy: As mentioned above, the killers usually try to make it look like they're following the Ax-Crazy trope in order to throw Kindaichi (and the reader) off of their true plans.
Off with His Head! - An uncommon method of murder, but nontheless this manga is not shy from showing this in several cases.
Old School Building - A murderer trying to hide a Dark Secret in an old school building commits several murders to keep the truth from coming to light.
Our Ghosts Are Different - Yes, ghosts do exist in Kindachi's universe. One of the suspects in House of Wax is even implied to be the ghost of Elizabeth Báthory.
Pet the Dog - The cold-blooded criminal chessmasterTakato once spared the killer of his friend because he sympathized with her motive (both of them have a deceased loved one whose creative work was stolen and plagiarized by an antagonists, and wish to reclaim the lost work).
Poor Communication Kills: In several cases this leads to tragedy. One example is The Burial Franc case where the murderer thought her boss/mother substitute was about to betray her. She then discovers the boss was trying to protect her. Fortunatly the boss survived and they made amends.
Rape as Backstory: Reika's manager's wife in the Hayami Reika's Kidnapping case. It turns her husband paid those guys to rape her so he could have his way with her when she lost her job as an idol and was about to kill herself. She didn't take it well when she discovered it.
Revealing Cover Up - The killer of volumes 10 and 11 accidentally does this when he realizes that the real hidden code he was after laid in the names of the message givers he had been silencing. Names which would be printed in order of death in the next newspaper thus providing the necessary clues to everyone.
The Rival: Kindaichi occasionally faces off against arrogant pretty boy detective Akechi, and gets a Moriarity-esque recurring character who uses every opportunity to taunt Kindaichi on his uselessness.
Serial Killings, Specific Target - Subverted. Supposedly, a serial killer has gotten loose and is killing everyone trapped in the Closed Circle, but Kindaichi figures out that they're all connected. While the murderer is looking for one specific person, he doesn't care that he's killing innocents in the process.
Shared Unusual Trait - Two heretofore otherwise apparently unrelated characters will be hinted at having a connection (that Kindaichi will expound on during The Reveal) by shared physical traits and/or personal habits.
Shout-Out: In The Mummy's Curse case, the trick Mr. Kazamatsuri used to create the seven mummies to save his lover's and the mother of that case's murderer is taken straight from prolific Japanese mystery writer Shoji Shimada's classic debut novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.
The murderer in the Plot of the Russian Dolls actually does this right back to Kindaichi when he expresses disbelief on how the whole motive was for money. She yells back that he has no understanding on how humiliating and torturous it was growing up without a cent, and being forced into prostitution.
Spanner in the Works - Kindaichi himself is this on occasions when the murderers try to factor in his reputation as a detective in their planning. Specifically, though, in House of Wax, the murderer's otherwise well formulated plan, which required keeping the fireplace lit at all times, hit a snag when the air conditioning broke down.
The reason all of Yoichi Takato's masterpiece murder plans end up being solved by Kindaichi. One time his own common sense betrayed him, other times it's the blunder of his 'puppet', the culprit. Often leads to Takato pulling a (usually fatal) You Have Outlived Your Usefulness move on the culprit and Kindaichi can't do anything but watch.
Spin-Offspring - Hajime is (in this comic) the grandson of Kosuke Kindaichi.
This of course was not official canon so it got the writers in a little legal trouble.
Spoiler Title: Kindaichi the Killer. Guess who is accused of murder in this case.
Start of Darkness - The premature death by murder of his mother is one for Kindaichi's nemesis, Yoichi Takato.
Stockholm Syndrome - Reika Hayami is revealed to have been a kidnap victim as a very young child, and ended up treating her kidnapper as her father. Fortunately for her, the kidnapper developed Lima Syndrome and genuinely loves her as a daughter.
Justified, seeing as Reika either forgot or repressed her memories of the kidnapping, and thus thought the guy really was her father.
Strictly Formula - The mysteries, while for the most part are genuinely well written, can be a little paint by numbers. (Here's a typical mystery: Hajime and Miyuki are invited to/stumble upon a gathering of people hiding a Dark and Troubled Past; as dead bodies start piling up Hajime declares that he'll solve the mystery in the name of his grandfather, but it usually takes a few more deaths and a Eureka Moment before Kindaichi figures things out, sets a trap for the murderer, and then makes a long, long summation of all of the evidence against the murderer; eventually, the murderer breaks down and confesses with a Motive Rant, but Kindaichi says "Shut Up, Hannibal!", and an arrest is made.)
The Summation - All the time. Can sometimes go on for several chapters.
Summation Gathering - Also all the time. If someone is in any way connected to the case, they'll be present when Kindaichi solves it.
Taking the Heat: At least twice a killer has tried to convince Kindaichi that their accomplice was not involved at all.
Tarot Motifs - Unfamiliarity with how a Tarot deck works is used to point out the murderer in one mystery.
Teacher/Student Romance - The discovery of such a relationship kicks off the plot of "The Mummy's Curse"; the Asshole Victims of "No Noose is Good Noose" accidentally killed the student half of a pair of lovers.
Thanatos Gambit - A variant is pulled by Reiko Chikamiya, the mother of Kindaichi's archenemy Yoichi Takato. Reiko's death was caused by the members of her magic troupe who wanted her to divulge the secrets behind her various, hand-created feats of illusion. After her death, they stole her book of magic tricks and used them for their own. As it turns out, Reiko had two of them in case of such a situation. The real one was sent to Yoichi, while the others kept the copy which contained a bonus magic trick. This extra trick was created so that anyone who tried it would wind up killing themselves. The reason Yoichi agrees to go to jail after killing most of the ones responsible for his mother's death is that he KNEW the last surviving member would attempt this trick (and this one is implied to have been the one who specifically caused Reiko's death), so he felt that his mother would be able to get her revenge posthumously.
Another one shows up in Plot of the Russian Dolls. A dying famous mystery author wrote a will bequeathing his fortune to his acquaintainces, who also happened to be people he hated (mostly for very petty reasons), with the condition that they solve a puzzle he left in his mansion. Once he died, the candidates gather in his household to solve the puzzle. Then all of them start dying one by one at the hands of the culprit, a Green-Eyed MonsterBroken Bird girl trying to reclaim her late father's castle and notebook containing his ideas which the author had stolen and wrote famous novels based on them. In the end, Takato reveals to Kindaichi that the author knew the culprit's identity and predicted her reaction to the will all along, he just went ahead with his plan because he wanted her to kill his personal offenders in his stead.