Saturday, January 1, 2022

Tantei Gakuen Q / Detective School Q Volume 10 (F73-80) Review

So with the dawn of 2022 I decided to try to be a bit more productive this year. I've had quite a break from this series and decided to post this ASAP before the first day of the year changes to the next. It's crazy how the last blog post I'd posted of Tantei Gakuen Q was in February of 2021... Where in the world did the time fly?

Above is a track from the anime of Tantei Gakuen Q, reproduced by a fan of the series. I thought about promoting his work since he does an excellent job with recreating many of the OSTs from the series.

Murder Case in the Illusionary Music Hall

The previous volume of authors Amagi Seimaru's and Satou Fumiya's Tantei Gakuen Q detective manga series focused purely from beginning to end on a single case: the first eight chapters out of twelve of the Murder Case in the Illusionary House story. Personally I'm not a big fan of long stories thast are over a volume in length as there's bound to be unnecessary stretching here and there. Surprisingly enough I didn't feel like this case has had too many empty scenes.

This murder case in the imaginary music hall case tells us a story about three murders: one victim found stabbed in a locked room (though with an open window), one poisoning murder, and one supposed suicide with a syringe. The case that connects them together happened some months prior in which a female violinist who was supposed to inherit the greatest violin in Japan (hell, more like the World) had assumedly killed herself and thrown herself into a river as she lost the ability to play instruments professionally due to losing her fingers from cold.

The first murder where the victim was stabbed is the key problem to solve here and the case basically takes us on a loop as to what could have happened in which order as there are vase pieces all over the room so the culprit must've scattered those vases around. The problem I have with this murder is that it has this supposedly fake answer to it and the real answer is presented as this grand thing, but I feel like it's irrelevant. Kyuu claims that this real trick is ingenious or something in comparison to what the original one was, when they're fundamentally the same thing regardless and I honestly feel like this case was stretched for no reason now. It's kind of average alibi trick. The perp is obvious from the start (though not with logic but with guessing as the authors waste way too much time focusing on certain things), but I almost got caught by the authors' misdirection near the end which caused me to hesitate a bit until I thought it through.

Anyway, the key elements at play here are the use of  psychological tricks. The killer manipulates others to do certain actions in certain ways. Now, there's no way this would ever work the way it did in this case, but I felt that it was handled properly. There is a heavy emphasis on certain songs here that are constantly brought up over and over again that I was kind of getting annoyed by it, but in the end they manage to do something more with that plotline. Had the subject been more interesting than violins and classical music, I'd probably get behind this type of psychological trickstery. The poisoning trick was just guesswork and probably the most basic one you can imagine for that type of mystery where you have to be able to poison someone, literally, however it also had that psychological aspect to it as to why the victim got poisoned. The 3rd murder I feel like has no real mystery, it's just a murder.

I was reading this case at the same time as I watched the anime episodes that adapt it, and I'm not sure which I prefer. The anime leaves out couple of scenes I'd rather have in it, but the pacing and couple parts are much better handled in the anime than the manga. Everything about this case just reeks of disappointment in a sense. As I said in Volume 9's review, the case was very on-and-off for me, and the major reason what that culprit... I had to take a deep breath just to keep reading this story every time they focused on a certain character as it's not that special kind of alibi trick anymore as the culprit's actions just scream "look, I have alibi!" to me.
The backstory and the culprit's realization leading up to the murder was also kind of whatever, it's pretty much the usual. I first thought that this case was about the same as the Murder Collector case in volume 7, but as the psychological tricks here can be thoughts of as kind of haphazard if you try to think of it too hard, it just doesn't hold up here as well - I think the fact how the characters made it seem as if this was some genius plan was what hurts the case the most. The "real answer" to the first murder was just as lackluster as I imagined it to be... and I'm not sure if the set-up of the stereos making noises makes logical sense, as it was never explained how they were turned on (since the culprit or hell, anyone except the victim couldn't have done it). Seems like a little plot hole right there, guess the perp used an unknown mechanism or somehow set it up to play at the right time and let's leave it at that.

Anyway, after the case is over, teacher Hongou manages to catch Miss Kaori, a Pluto member who was hiding in the shadows. Though Kaori gets caught by a powerful hypnotism by a more dangerous but unknown Pluto member, as a punishment for letting Ryuu get hurt.
Oh, and  Ryuu gets stabbed accidentally by the revealed perp who was controlled through hypnotism by the Kaori. As Ryuu has surprising connections to Pluto, this also means that him getting stabbed also causes ripples in the villain organization. I must note that there are also mentions about the mysterious Pluto member named Sir Anubis (or is it Sakaron or Sir Caron?). So basically we know so far that there was Kaori, then this Sir Caron dude, and then there are higher ups, and relations to Ryuu in Pluto.

The Envoy From Darkness

 The next story continues on from where the last one left off as most of the stories in DDS tend to do. Ryuu is now hospitalized though with no grave injuries to organs. The senior violinist Yuge - who only has few more years left to live - is now moving on with his life with a new heir to the legendary violin, Testa di Drago. We also get hints that apparently Dan Morihiko also might not have long to live either, though it's not confirmed.

This story introduces us to new members of the main criminal organization: Cerberus and King Hades. Cerberus was personally trained by Hades and has the ability to inflict extremely strong hypnotism. We get a sudden surprise visit from Cerberus in this story as he goes to where Ryuu is. There's a surprising amount of information regarding Ryuu's position towards the organization in here and it becomes quite clear that there are higher powers trying to manipulate him and his so-called fate. I'm not sure about what to think of Cerberus yet as he's clearly a key villain with a bit of charisma but it's not that noticeable... but talking about that, Kyuu for some reason does recognize Cerberus one way or the other.

As Ryuu's family problems run very deep, he surprisingly enough asks to sleep at Kyuu's place for the time being...

Night Of The Boys

This is a pretty cool chapter. We learn more of Ryuu here, about how his parents had died when he was very young, and he'd been calling Miss Yurie - his carekeeper - his mother because his grandfather had ordered him . This time around however Ryuu isn't returning back to Yurie, but instead decides to move in with Kyuu.

At the same time Pluto has sniffed out Ryuu's motivations, and they also bring about this one interesting mystery that I'd been thinking of: why would Ryuu be ever sent to DDS, the school of Dan Morihiko who is the archnemesis of Pluto? I hope the real answer to that question won't disappoint. I guess it has to do with that Kuzuryuu guy as well...

And talkinga about Kuzuryuu Takumi, for the meanwhile as Ryuu lives with Kyuu and his mother, the two junior detectives decide to investigate this mysterious person who is hailed to be a creative artist on the level of Da Vinci. He was also a trick art creator and an engineer known to never create more than nine of a single object or thing, which also means that his creations aren't mass produced and thus cost millions.

The Mystery Of Kuzuryuu Takumi

So the investigation towards the backgrounds of this legendary artist has begun. While in a previous case Kazuma had mentioned how there was no mention of the artist on the net, the library is a different thing. However there's something off about this artist as there are only four books in Japanese about him, while there are dozens in foreign languages. One of the four books - the 50-year-old one translated into Japanese by Kyuu's mother - however is missing. It doesn't take long for Kyu and Ryu to hunt a copy of the missing book however, and that also causes them to realize interesting new things about this mysterious artist.

Ryu and Kyu then decide to visit one of the houses where Kuzuryuu decided to live for about half a year. It was around 55 years ago, when Kuzuryuu was apparently already well over 40. We actually get to see a photo of this man hidden in the house along with one of the nine ceramics he had created.

The 10th volume ends with the first chapter of the Mystery of the Shi' Un-Ryu case that continues from The Mystery of Kuzuryuu Takumi story.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Death on the Nile (1937)

Death on the Nile (1937) is almost surely the most well known murder mystery-detective story with a ship setting in it, and it, like naturally many other Poirot stories, has inspired other authors of mystery stories to create brain crackers which follow in its footsteps. Stories such as the Twenty Year Old Murderous Intent (1999) in one of the most famous so-called new orthodox detective fiction series from Japan, Detective Conan by Gosho Aoyama, and the mystery parody novel Murder in Pastiche (1954) by Marion Mainwaring take after this classic Poirot story. It would be an understatement to say that back in the day Agatha Christie took the world by a storm - by her own words she says that no woman has ever made as much money from literature as her, in fact she is the number one most sold author of fiction in our history going head-to-head with William Shakespeare in the moolah wars. The prideful Hercule Poirot is certainly the personification of Agatha to a T down to the final novel, Curtain (1975) which was published after her death by her own planning, a fact which sends chills down my spine for couple of reasons...

Anyway, Death on the Nile, much like Murder on Orient Express, were heavy hitters in the series so much so that there have been multiple adaptations of them but personally out of all the adaptations of this series I do very much prefer the super long-running TV series, which ended in 2013 after running for ~24 years, starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. I think the guy is damn fantastic and the series is one of the best shows, and adaptations (with ups and downs here and there as in any other series), period. To me the difference with him as an actor compared to someone like Peter Ustinov from the 1978 DotN film adaptation is massive. Still, the original novels are as good as it gets even if some of the adaptated episodes do live up to them surprisingly well.

And as we are on the subject of adaptations, Death on the Nile is getting a new movie adaptation in 2022, possibly due to the success of 2017's adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. I was certainly disappointed in the 2017 movies but there's always potential for these type of movies to hit the jackpot, I think. The extremely high quality cinematography in today's movies especially can give us an unforgettable experience, so I'm still interested in seeing the movie adaptation of Death on the Nile in 2022.


The Story

The millionaire heir Linnet Ridgeway, a beautiful young 20-year-old woman from the massive Wode Hall residence, is about to get married to Charles Windlesham who also comes from a rich family; match made in heaven. Everything about these two was seemingly perfect to the bywatcher which caused them to be the hot topic for every newspaper agency around, but as fate would have it, things were not going to progress so smoothly for the young pair. From a normal person's perspective Linnet is on another tier, so to speak. She inherited her father's business wits, and she has money to buy anyone as well as the looks to charm anyone, and the world knows this; what Linnet wants, she gets- and all she has to do is ask to get it. Before her marriage to Charles, she gets a visit from one of her oldest friends, the poor girl Jacqueline de Bellefort who has never asked anything from Linnet, but now she has a request to make: "As you will remodel Wode Hall to become even bigger, please hire my future husband to work for your estate, if Simon is not doing his job well enough you can fire him but give him a chance, please do it for me!"

Months pass and the steam ship S.S. Karnak is about to sail around Egypt once more, traveling through the Nile river. The old, retired and great Hercule Poirot is getting ready for his vacation, but people want to hear him talk about the greatest murder cases which he has solved - too bad for them though as that would be considered as work, so they're not getting answers while he's on this vacation! And as he's waiting, Poirot runs across a woman with hate in her eyes as she looks at two people living the happy life, the newlywed Simon Doyle and Linnet Doyle have just gotten married and are on their honeymoon! So, as things would have it, the beautiful Linnet never married Charles, but instead her friend's future husband Simon!

The story then kicks off into high gear as Jacqueline de Bellefort claims that she would do anything to get back at Simon as he belongs to her and openly admits two things: (1.) She has a gun with her and is willing to pull the trigger, but does not know on who exactly, so that's why she still has not done so, and (2.) her mission is to make Simon and Linnet feel pressured by her constant following. The mystery part here is quite simple: how exactly does a poor girl like her have the money to follow the wealthy pair around the world?

Death on the Nile, TV, 2004

Linnet and Simon decide to sneak onto S. S. Karnak without telling the presses (that keep publishing news on anything Linnet does) where they are headed, yet Jacqueline somehow follows them there as well. On the first stop of Karnak around Egypt, Linnet gets almost crushed by a massive boulder while Jacqueline was still inside the ship. Was it an accident? Poirot ponders as evil thoughts crawl to the back of his head. That night things would take turn for the worse as Jacqueline de Bellefort and her ex-boyfriend-and-now-her-friend's-husband Simon Doyle get into an argument in front of people in the bar area of the ship. Things get so crazy that Jacqueline ends up shooting Simon so that the bone in his leg happens to break from the bullet. Due to the shock, Jacqueline throws the gun to the floor and kicks it away from where the eye can see while having suicidal thoughts and Simon tells everyone else to not tell anything about what just happened to his new wife as that would bring about a scandal. 

 Next up things quickly take a surprising turn for the worse. It's as if the devil itself had heard Poirot's thoughts as our main character wakes up the next morning to his old friend Colonel Race tell him the hard facts that Poirot was almost expecting: Linnet Doyle has been murdered the previous night. While she was sleeping, someone entered the room and popped a bullet from a silent small caliber gun, which happens to be Jacqueline's gun that had been thrown kicked away after yesterday's incident, through her brain. Other mysteries also take place in this well paced story that still does not feel overwhelmingly information heavy as Race explains that there's actually a ruthless killer on the ship that the law enforcement calls "X," and Linnet's costy neck pearls have also gone missing. Could her suspicious latin maid have stolen them? The maid whom Poirot and Race are to find murdered below her own bed on S. S. Karnak when she also goes missing.

Now, I decided to reread and review Death on the Nile because for a couple of reasons; never got a chance to write about it and I wanted to see how it in particular compares to Ellery Queen's hailed fair-play stories that I've been getting into. Can I see what made the series so much more popular in comparison to every other series? and I think I managed to get a glimpse towards that direction. You see, Queen's works are very information-heavy, the cast of characters leave much to be desired but they're never what I'd say is "bad" per say. The stories are just very mechanical, and the cases are heavily planned and that's pretty much the purpose of the entire series - it's impressive to say the least, however... Agatha Christie's writing style for the Hercule Poirot series is also fair-play, but the dialogue and text is not overwherlming to the reader. It's much more, hmm, novice-friendly type of a series and I really enjoy the storytelling in Christie's works - there's a slight sense of adventure.

Due to the short chapters with neatly laid-out dialogue that focuses on making the case-cast along with Poirot himself more interestingly and creatively integrated into the actual story surrounding the cases, it's very easy to read to the next check-point without a break to mull over things. The pacing of this particular novel was pretty superb and it has aged like fine wine - it's about 250 pages and without any overflow of information, but still managed to be sneakily filled with events that makes the ending contain three different possible solutions as to who the possible culprit could be (note: in comparison Greek Coffin Mystery by Queen is a heavy-information novel with over 400 pages - it's certainly for slightly more veteran readers, I believe Christie's novels are more digestible to anyone who wants to get into detective fiction, which would explain popularity Christie managed to accumulate with these books). 

The cast of characters is pretty decent as well, varying from a mother-son duo on vacation to an alcoholist and a latin housemaid, however due to the averagely short length of the novel - which does make it very easy to digest as well - none of the characters were fully realized, I feel, but in the end the story still managed to be neatly weaved together with only couple of obvious twists to it. I was certainly disappointed in the identity of Killer X and how that part of the story was handled from the hints to the reveal, considering how it was set up as a legitimate plotline. But it's not that big of a deal. Neat story with a nice ship setting, neat characters as always and a quick nice ending to the story it wanted to tell.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Kindaichi Case Files #4-6 - The Legend of Lake Hiren Murder Case

The first case of Kindaichi Case Files (1997) consisted of the first three episodes in this 148 episode long show. This post will be about the second case in the anime series, The Legend of Lake Hiren Murder Case adapted from the sixth case in the manga, but I wanted to say that so far the anime did a pretty great job at condensing volume length of chapters into about three episodes, and it seems like that trend will continue; the pacing has potential to be well handled in this adaptation, but not without its risks. There were some parts that maybe shouldn't have been cut off, like half of the Seven Mysteries of Fudoh High that the adaptation could have shown us, but I don't feel like the first story was missing anything actually important. The first case was intriguing enough in a school setting which I think is one of the best way to garner more audience, considering that time has proven that school setting always works in any media. Be it a Japanese game, manga or anime series, school setting is key. Or even Hollywood adaptations of anime franchises.

Let's see now... I guess the series could flesh out its overarching characters - there are three of them; Kenmochi, Hajime and Miyuki at the moment - more from now on, give them backstories and stuff. But at least we did get a lot of good character moments to enhance the atmosphere of the previous case. I'd say the series works pretty much like the ideal detective series at the moment as the way the stories seem to be built are surprisingly similar to even Western golden age detective fiction stories, be they from Christie or Queen. Though let's see if this can match some of the better ideas those series have as I haven't seen or read all of the original Kindaichi Case Files cases before and whatever I do know of the series for sure mainly just includes Takato.

But, it's time to go over the second case of the animated series, The Legend of Lake Hiren Murder Case, that is slightly inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a serial killer named "Jason" going after everyone in the middle of nowhere, and see how it holds up compared to the first case. This time I'm going to just write about every little thing here I guess.

File 1

The holidays are starting for Fudoh High's students. As Hajime Kindaichi, our main character, is walking about after school, his acquaintance inspector Kenmochi Isamu arrives while in the backseat of a car and starts to tease Kindaichi about how the adults have to work while Kindaichi can't even spend his golden week vacation with a date. Kindaichi quickly turns Kenmochi down and starts looking for his childhood friend Miyuki Nanase whom he soon notices at a Hamburger joint, however another male student, the former class president Touno, is spending time with her. As passerby's walk past a crouching and spying Kindaichi, he overhears them say that Touno and Miyuki used to date back in the middle school days, which gets Hajime suspicious. Obviously this seems to just mostly be a comedic element that slightly sets up a romantic angle to this story. Kenmochi then teases Hajime again and tells him that unless he makes Miyuki his girl, someone's gonna take her instead.

As night falls Miyuki gets a surprise visitor her household as her cousin Shigeru Kitsukawa, an university student, visits her and gives her free tickets to a four-night trip at a lake resort. The reason why Shigeru gives her the tickets is because he'd been invited as a tester at the Hiren Lake Resort which will open next year, but because of university exams, Shigeru is instead going to let his cousin Miyuki go to the resort in his place and he also pleads her to comically offer "some guy" to go there as well with her. This surprises Miyuki but Shigeru explains that she needs a guy to go there pretending to be him. Shigeru is sure that Miyuki has a boyfriend that'd be willing to go with he, but as she's about to answer with a "no" Kindaichi all of a sudden jumps out of Miyuki's closet while wearing a rag over his head. Miyuki tries to ask Hajime what in the world he's doing but Hajime just quickly takes the envelope with the tickets from Miyuki, shakes Shigeru's hand and tells Shigeru that he's agreeing to go as a stand-in in Shigeru's place, pretending to be Shigeru, and head to the resort.

The very next day Hajime and Miyuki travel on a train towards Nagano Prefecture's Hiren Lake Resort, a place that is about the same size as Yokohama city. Their job is to be there on a "monitor tour" which means that Hajime and Miyuki are going to have to give feedback on how enjoyable and safe the Lake Resort tour is before it can be opened for the public.

After getting out of the train at the Nagakari station, Hajime tells a suspicious Miyuki (who doesn't believe it's going to be as entertaining of a trip as her cousin Shigeru claimed) that they should just enjoy themselves and he also says out loud that "it's going to be his chance" (to try and make Miyuki her girlfriend), but as Miyuki asks what Hajime means by a "chance," he runs away towards the nearby bus which will take our duo and the other chosen participants to the resort. In the bus a great coincidence takes place as Touno Eiji, the 3rd year student Nanase was sitting at a hamburger joint with earlier, makes his appearance, claiming to be part of the tour group as well. As Touno goes to sit with Miyuki, Kindaichi, who is angry because he thought he'd get to date Miyuki, notices other people in the bus as well. The first one to make an appearance is Kawanishi Sayuri, a 2nd year student who was scared that all the participants would be just old men. Then Kurata Souichi, a 20-year-old university student, makes his introduction. Sayuri pushes Souichi away, calling him a sumo-wrestler-lookalike, and then introduces herself to Hajime who almost says that his name is Kindaichi before remembering that he was going to the resort as "Kitsukawa Shigeru, a college student" (despite Kindaichi looking and being younger than a college student, he'll have to bear up in that role for now). Sayuri seems interested in Hajime and goes to sit with him.

The tour guide and conductor hired by Mizuki Travel Agency is a man named Kujyou Shyoutarou. As the group finally reaches the resort, Kujyou explains that there will be no automobiles on the at use on the island as the tour also aims to preserve the nature. Thus, the group will be adventuring on foot throughout a large forest area.

The next part is very odd as the group is supposed to go over a very worn-down and unsafe looking wooden bridge with ropes as walls. Kujyou claims that when the resort opens, there will be other methods to get to the place, however right now the bridge - that conveniently looks like it's easy to burn down so that the place will be cut-off from outside world so that murders will happen and no one, not even the culprit, can escape - is the only way to the Hiren Lake Resort, aside from a boat or something. And the worry is proven correct as the wooden boards below Kindaichi all of a sudden break and he almost falls to the rocky river, but luckily he got pulled to safety by Kujyou, who notices the name "Kindaichi Hajime" on Hajime's bag. The name tag plus the fact that Miyuki calls him Hajime-chan were enough to expose Hajime already at this point in the story.

To Hajime's luck however, an older man named Kouda Seisaku, a doctor, tells the group to just take Hajime with them anyway as they are far from civilization and they can't go back to the bus either. As rest of the introduced participants also agree to take Hajime with them, the dust all settles neatly. Then a man named Kayama Saburou, an Estate Agency President and his wife Kayama Seiko, both also other tour participants, make their appearance and say that Hajime is not "qualified" and Kitsukawa has thus lost his "rights" due to being a stand-up. Apparently the qualifications towards some kind of reward are things Miyuki and Hajime were unaware of as Miyuki's cousin, Shigeru, never told her anything about it.

Kayama's explain that among the participants of the Hiren Lake Resort tour, there's a raffle. There will be two winners who will get membership cards to the Hirenko Lake Resort. However Kindaichi plan was to rather spend some romantic time with Miyuki than think about a raffle, so he doesn't care about Miyuki's cousin getting kicked out of the competition.

Time passes and Hajime and the others walk right by the lake surrounding the resort. Touno tells them that the lake has a legend to it and stops to look at his watch. As the bright red color of the falling sun starts to reflect light over the lake, something happens that surprises Hajime and the rest - the lake turns crimson. 

Touno explains the legend: There were once a man and a woman who weren't allowed to be together, but they still fell in love with each other. After a while the man and woman decided to exhange vows with each other and do a double suicide by drowning themselves in the Hiren Lake. Since then, the lake has always turned bright red around the same time the two threw themselves into the lake.
Note: Hiren-ko apparently means Tragic Love Lake or Broken Heart Lake.

Miyuki leaves off with the "cool" Touno after Hajime told her that Touno is just a show-offing with his knowledge. The evening ends as Sayuri gazes towards the "blood-colored" lake.

It's nighttime. Inside the Hiren Lake Resort area's tourist buildings, the adults are drinking beer and celebrating the tour. At the dinner table Touno has a talk with Miyuki and claims that she resembles a person he knows. As Seiko Kayama notices them talk, she teases that a new couple has already born from Miyuki and Touno. They both get flustered but Seiko's husband, the company president Saburou, tells them that he met her wife while camping as well. This situation makes Hajime ponder why he even came along but Sayuri tells him to forget about Miyuki and spend time with her instead. These school girls are kind of active these days, huh. Makes you kind of wonder why Sayuri, supposedly a 2nd year high schooler, is alone on the trip. 

In the dining area, a new person, freelance writer Itsuki Yousuke, makes his appearance because he notices a man who he's interested in. The man Yousuke recognizes is painter Kobayashi Seiji who is still in the middle of creating a painting.

Then an emergency news announcement is spread over the radio as everyone listens. According to the announcer a death-row prisoner has escaped the Nagano Prefecture's jail cells. The prisoner's identity is Tomaru Taketo, 35 years old, who murdered thirteen people in Nagano ten years prior. After the radio gets shut, the group starts to get worried that the murderer might be nearby and some start to claim that it would be better if they were to get back home the next day. However some of the participants are planning on staying and making others leave to raise their chances on getting Hiren Lake Resort membership cards from the raffle as the ones who leave won't be able to participate anymore.

Outside, Kurata Souichi, a 20-year-old university student and one of the participants is taking a leak before heading towards his cottage to sleep. As he's thinking of raising his chances to win the raffle, an ominous figure; a man with a mask, can be seen behind him as the scene cuts to the very next morning without showing what happened to the participant.

The lake resort tourists sit at an outdoor table to enjoy meals in the morning however they notice that Souichi Kurata is missing and that there are 9 participants and the tour guide at the morning feast, so ten people out of eleven are present.

The Hiren Lake resort tour group list

Hajime Kindaichi, high school student
Miyuki Nanase, high school student
Sayuri Kawanishi, high school student
Touno Eiji, high school student
Souichi Kurata, university student [Missing]
Seiji Kobayashi, painter
Yousuke Itsuki, freelance-writer
Saburou Kayama, Estate Agency President
Seiko Kayama, Saburou's wife
Kouda Seisaku, doctor
Kujyou Shyoutarou, the tour guide

Conflict at hand:
Takero Tomaru, a 35-year-old death-row prisoner has escaped in the Nagano area and could still be around. People start to go missing and wind up dead.

Before the group gets to eat anything, the huge amount of crows that have been sitting on the trees start to poop on the group's dinner - hilariously there just doesn't seem to be anything good about this resort that would warrant it getting opened for public in less than a year's time. Outo of annoyment Kindaichi tries to kick the tree that crows are habiting, but the tree won't budge. Then Yousuke Itsuki kicks the tree with force and as the crows fly away, an unidentified corpse also drops from the tree immediately with shredded clothes and torn face - the instant Yousuke sees this, he claims that "It's Jason... Jason killed him!" This sudden outburst gets Hajime to wonder what he means. 

We get an explanation from Yousuke, the freelance writer, that he's seen pictures of terrible crimes done by Jason 10 years ago and those murders also had the victims get their faces torn off by axes. The painter Seiji Kobayashi then for the first time starts to talk and says that it's easy to notice that this victim has also been done in by an axe. Hajime is suspicious at him claiming to be a mere painter.

The rest of the group run in the cottage to call for help but there is no reception in the Hiren Lake Resort so they can't call for help and the next bus comes in four days. The group still decides to cross the wooden rope bridge they came from as there could be a chance of a ride that could take them away. Seiko Kayama doesn't care a bit about the corpse and is worried of the raffle not happening as she came to the resort for it, and then the group notices a smoke cloud that originates from the direction of the dangerous rope bridge that the group crossed on foot to reach this so-called tourist resort. The bridge is, unsurprisingly, completely set on fire. Thus, the bridge that was their only way to get to and from the island is now gone and fallen to the depths of the river dozens of meters below a straight rocky wall, and Hajime notes that Jason has to be with them on the island as there is no way out.

The group has decided to head back to the tourist hut and everyone is either panicking or acting suspiciously calm and interested in the situation. The one who seems to be scared the most is the Estate Agency President Saburou Kayama who doesn't understand the reactions of the other participants, such as the painter's who seems unusually calm. As Saburou throws the painting that Seiji was working on to the floor, everyone notices that he's been drawing a corpse. The freelance writer Yousuke says that Seiji used to be a great artist who was talked about a lot, but "since that incident ten years ago, Seiji has been unable to draw anything else but corpses" and Yousuke also claims that people think Seiji has murdered someone because of the drawings having too much realistic aspects to them. Saburou tells his wife to pack so that they both would leave but she declines and claims that Saburou had tricked him to marry her for money and then left all the money to his children and nothing to her, so she's not leaving and will stay for the resort raffle despite the gross murder happening. Saburou doesn't care of her and decides to head out alone. The problem however is that it's nigh-impossible to travel the forest area alone and it would be almost suicide, not even counting the fact that if people were to try and travel through the forest they might run into the murderer (who obviously is part of the group though...)

In the evening Hajime looks down the burned bridge and wonders why the culprit would have done something like that such as burning the bridge. Sayuri tells him that they must have tried to trap the group in the forest, however the culprit is also stuck on the island, so Hajime has to wonder - what is "Jason" planning on doing after killing them all? Is something like that even Jason's plan? Then as the Hiren Lake turns crimson once more as it always does during evenings, Sayuri grabs Hajime from the back at the same time as Miyuki arrives to call Hajime for dinner. This makes Miyuki think that they are making out or something like that. As Hajime tries to run after Miyuki to explain the situation, Sayuri stops him as she doesn't want to be left alone.

The next night Saburou Kayama, the Estate Agency President, is seen running away as he travels the forest, thinking he would get away. But as he hears voices, he turns behind to see a person with a white mask and an axe. "He must be Jason..!"
Time passes quickly once again and the next morning the group notices that the tour lodge has been wrecked overnight. While the living room has been destroyed, Hajime goes to the kitchen of the lodge to notice that it looks fine except for something peeping from a shelf. Hajime opens the cabinet and the corpse of Saburou Kayama with a destroyed face falls down from there - someone has murdered him and carried the old man from the forest to the closet. 

Yousuke Itsuki, the freelance-writer, then questions Seiko Kayama about how she feels after seeing her husband, who ran away alone, brutally murdered. To this Seiko seemingly just cries. Yousuke goes to the case bag left behind by Saburou and notices that it's filled with yen bills and a card. As Yousuke claims that at least she has something to enjoy with the money the man left behind, Touno gets angry from seeing that non-sympathetic act from the freelance writer.

Kindaichi and the others then notice that there is no sign of food being taken which is odd as Jason escaped from Nagano prison a few days ago and must've walked two days through a path with no food, but yet he hasn't eaten anything in the hut. Hajime wonders if it really was Jason that's behind these brutal murders. Later, at the dinner table, the freelance writer Yousuke and Kindaichi get into an argument; Hajime claims that if Yousuke won't change his attitude, he'll be left alone. To that the writer claims to have high confidence in surviving even against a man who apparently carried a body from the forest to the inn. Miyuki then tells that this might be a chance for Hajime to get "lucky" with Sayuri but Hajime doesn't like that type of talk in this sort of situation and runs away. Miyuki quickly starts to regret what she said and heads out as well to run after Hajime, however he's out of sight, and then Touno, the other high-school student, appears. Miyuki once again brings up the fact that Touno said before that she "really looks like her," to which Touno answers "yes, frighteningly." We as watchers don't know who they are talking about, but the situation is that there is someone Touno knows or knew of who looked almost exactly like Miyuki.

The episode ends as Miyuki runs away from Touno to find Hajime in the forest and then suddenly her leg hits a booby trap rope that shoots an arrow through her leg. Touno and Hajime both hear Miyuki scream and go to find her. Then both Touno and Hajime think that what Miyuki got caught up in was a trap laid out by Jason the escaped serial killer and Kindaichi makes a "surprising" claim that he will catch Jason in the name of his grandfather!

Thoughts and theories on the first episode

My thoughts on the first episode of Hiren-ko Legend Murder Case is... it's fine. I noticed that the Touno-Miyuki and Hajime-Sayuri "romance" aspects are handled poorly as they are clearly meant to be comedic and to make the reader wonder whether or not they are actually talking about romance, but it's clear there is no real romantic conflict. The setting of the case is kinda generic and the character dialogue this time around leaves a lot to be desired. In the previous case you could kind of see what kind of dialogue and moments Miyuki and Hajime would be having throughout the series and that Miyuki would constantly have to be saved but in the previous case the presentation was on-point to sell the series to new watchers. This time around I'd say the drama and tension with Miyuki and Hajime feels kind of abrupt and the pace is off. Soundtrack for this series is definitely not its strongest suit right now either. 

The case itself is still seemingly decent as it does all the necessary things right for the bare minimum or what one would expect: there's the set-up to the pasts and the quirks of each character and you can somewhat pinpoint how they relate to the events 10 years ago. I have quite a few theories on who could the suspect be; the journalist seems strong enough to carry the victim, but that type of thing is usually misleading in these stories as the authors for some reason don't often think about how to move things around (example: Tantei Gakuen Q vol. 6's Q vs. A Overtime case). 
The corpse faces being wrecked means that there will most likely be a body swap - for example the university student who went missing and is likely dead could easily be the killer or victim, hell, he could have killed Jason when Jason tried to attack him and then made Jason's corpse take his place. Miyuki looking like someone Touno knew (most likely one of the victim from 10 years ago or the one based on the legend of Hirenko) is of course also quite suspicious. And of course you can make some theories about the tour guide as the resort seems like a joke and almost like a fraud to me; nothing works in this awful resort. Crows poop on foods, a shaky wooden bridge that breaks when you walk over it, a deadly forest, a deep fall to a river, you name it. There's no way anyone would actually want to spend time in a place like that, so it's funny to see all these people - such as the wife of the now-deceased company president - wants to get the raffle prize so much. It's almost as if they want to get a piece of the past; want to spend time at a crappy resort to find something from 10 years ago. The Hiren Lake would be a pretty nice setting for a case in concept but I feel like the place isn't presented in a beautiful manner at all. The aesthetics and atmosphere kind of just give me the feel of a place that just makes you sweat uncomfortably and a place that's constantly clouded and filled with flies and rocky rivers.

File 2

We have reached episode 5 of the Kindaichi Case Files series with the second part of Hirenko Legend Murder Case moving at full gear as a death row prisoner nicknamed Jason continues his violent acts at the rather crappily constructed Hiren Lake Resort

The Hiren Lake Resort tour group contains:
Hajime Kindaichi, a high school student who went to Hiren Lake Resort in place of Miyuki's cousin.
Miyuki Nanase, a high school student who went to Hiren Lake Resort in place of her cousin.
Sayuri Kawanishi, a high school student who seems to have a crush on our main character.
Touno Eiji, a high school student who claims to know someone that looked exactly like Miyuki.
Souichi Kurata, a university student [Missing, possibly deceased].
Seiji Kobayashi, a painter who fell from grace and started to draw realistic looking dead people.
Yousuke Itsuki, a freelance-writer with a bad attitude towards everyone.
Saburou Kayama, an Estate Agency President [Deceased].
Seiko Kayama, Saburou's wife who was left no money by her husband and who wants to win the raffle.
Kouda Seisaku, a doctor.
Kujyou Shyoutarou, the tour guide.

Conflicts at hand
- Takero "Jason" Tomaru, a 35-year-old death-row prisoner has escaped from prison in the Nagano area where the Hiren Lake Resort tour testing trip is being held. Did Jason burn the only bridge leading to and from the resort area and why would he have done that as now he's trapped as well?
- A corpse with a messed up face fell from a tree to the outdoor dining table.
- The corpse of Saburou Kayama was found in a closet, even though he ran away to the woods. Did someone strong carry the man back? Is "Jason" that strong?
- Miyuki, who was a victim in the previous case "The Seven Mysteries of Fudoh High" as well, accidentally gets her leg pierced after she activated a booby trap that Hajime assumes was laid out by "Jason."
- Why are some people hellbent on winning the tour raffle even under these circumstances?
[- Sayuri with that accent gives me some nice vibes of a certain other female character.]

It's still morning as Hajime and Touno have carried Miyuki, whose foot was shot through by a boobytrap, to doctor Kouda Seisaku. It's good to have a doctor at the Hiren Lake Resort as the group can't leave the area because of the burnt-down bridge and the fact that traveling through forest takes too long and is deadly, and the bus would arrive to take them away only after just two more days anyway.

Kindaichi gets angry at the high school student Touno Eiji who didn't manage to watch Miyuki more when Miyuki ran after Kindaichi to the forest before getting her leg pierced, but Miyuki then wakes up to calm Hajime down and then tells him that she's not feeling well; it's better to leave her alone.

The rest of the group now have to ponder about what to do. There's no way to run through the forest if it's filled with traps. In the living room Touno and Kindaichi look at the creepy-faced Kobayashi the painter, and get shocked to see Kobayashi draw Miyuki who was hit by the trap - the rest get angry as they believe Kobayashi thinks Miyuki is dead or hopes that she is. However the facts of the matter are that Miyuki still has to wait two more days for help to come. Kindaichi then grabs all of Touno's papers and throws them away, shouting at the painter that he has to stop being such a maniac. That scene is pretty cool from Kindaichi, honestly. It's always entertaining to see the main character interact with the case cast, and the freelance writer Yousuke whistling at Kindaichi's actions was perfectly inserted. Hajime's actions reveal something new: Kobayashi has drawn a picture of a boat that's at the lake on one of his papers that Hajime threw to the ground. Hajime asks the tour guide Kujyou whether they have a boat like that, and he hesitantly answers that they do. As the group runs towards the lake to see the boat, Hajime ponders why in the world either of them didn't say a word about there being a boat if they knew about it. The group finds the boat and Kujyou explains that if they go to the other side of the lake to a hotel that's being constructed, they should be able to find a working phone there.

As the group ponder who's going to be the one to go seek help, nearly everyone declines as it seems suspicious. Then, Touno Eiji agrees to be the one to go and introduces himself as the son of the Mizuki Tour Agency's creator. Touno explains that his purpose was to research the reactions of the tour participants. Touno was scared of getting the blame for the terrifying events so he didn't say a word about his original intentions until now. However as Touno heads towards the boat, Kindaichi stops him and tells that he's going as well - the danger is too serious for a solo mission. Touno declines and leaves alone. As Touno heads out to ask for help on the boat, he looks back to say last words: I'll leave the rest to you, Kindaichi-kun. 

Back in the cottage of the Hiren Lake "Resort," Miyuki and Hajime finally talk it out about the rumours that were being spread about Touno and Miyuki having been going out during middle school. Miyuki explains that Touno had picked up something she'd lost which was why they met at the hamburger shop, and what's more, Touno's rumored girlfriend was not Miyuki but a person who looks exactly like Miyuki, which was what they were talking about previously as Miyuki wondered "do I really look exactly like her?" and Touno answered "eerily so." Miyuki also tells Hajime that he and Sayuri were looking like they were having fun together so she was acting unnaturally as well. Both Miyuki and Hajime tease each other about being worried about the other.

Hajime again wonders if Jason was really the one who killed Kurara and Kayama. The burned-down bridge makes the escape from the island nearly impossible so Jason somehow knows a lot about the area despite never supposedly being there before, and the body of Kayama Saburou that was carried to the closet of the cottage brings another weird question to us - it's odd that Jason, who would have had to run for multiple days throughout a path with no shops or places to get food from, would not take any food from the cottage. Thus, the culprit must be "among us!" Then, the doctor Kouda Seisaku makes his appearance and claims that the motive of the culprit might be the raffle, that Hajime and Miyuki dropped out off, instead. As there can only be two winners of the Tour raffle that will get the unimaginably valuable Membership Cards to the resort. The doctor explains that when the lake resort will open next year they will somehow have a ski resort, golf course, tennis course and a large pool as well as a possibility of the resort having a direct way to the highway. All of this will raise the Membership Card's value to 50 - 100 million yen each. The probability of winning rises if they drop the amount of participants by murdering them.
If that is true then the culprit would rather murder than to try and steal a card.

Later, the boat that Touno used finally came back. Hajime, Sayuri and the rest go to the boat but as they go to look at the returning man. However, Touno is in the water-filled boat flace planted straight downwards, apparently drowned. Somehow "Jason" got Touno despite him going alone on a boat to get help. [Suspicious thing here is that they did not investigate the body of Touno more than just looking at his back.]

Hajime and doctor Kouda go to Miyuki once more where Miyuki tries to comfort Hajime about how Touno's fate wasn't his fault. The doctor gives a brief explanation of his past as he wants to repent his sins which was why he joined the tour, in order to open a clinic at a place where there are no doctors, he needs the Membership Cards for their massive value. The doctor then says that he knows of Hajime's grandfather and pleads Hajime to solve the case.

Miyuki gives Hajime a picture drawn by the painter Seiji Kobayashi who likes drawing corpses. In the picture there's Touno on the boat with his face towards the water. Miyuki tells Hajime to look at the wrist of Touno's left hand where Hajime notices that Touno is missing his watch - why would the culprit remove the watch?

The doctor runs right back to Kindaichi who was outside and tells him to get ice as Miyuki was hit by fever. As Hajime runs back with a bag of ice, he notices the painter Kobayashi listening to the news after fixing the radio. Kobayashi claims that he's realized something about Jason but won't tell Hajime what it is yet, instead, he will talk about it in front of everyone tomorrow.

The scene shows a suspicious person with an axe walking towards the hut where Kobayashi was drawing. Kobayashi is drawing more corpses and talking to himself - "Kill more, Jason!" and right after he gets hit by "Jason" with an axe from behind and shouts "impossible! why are you...!?" hinting at certain things.

After the group finds the newest victim, Kobayashi, Hajime claims that "Jason" is not the killer because Kobayashi was attempting to leave a dying message behind - there's no way he'd do that if Jason, the obvious killer, would be the culprit. Now, as the estimated time of death was from 2:30 to 2:45 p.m., all they would have to do was to check everyone's alibi, right? [going to bet that's not going to lead anywhere with this group of people] However as the doctor is worried about Miyuki so they would need to gather in her room to do the alibi check,

Alibi Check for the murder of Kobayashi between 2:30 to 2:45
The first one being  interrogated is Hajime Kindaichi. After Hajime returned to Miyuki's hut at 2:15 p.m., he stayed there along with doctor Kouda Seisaku. Kujyou Shyoutarou, the tour guide, was on the inter-phone with the doctor while he was at the storage as the doctor asked him to check for medicine. 
Yousuke Itsuki, the freelance-writer, was with Sayuri Kawanishi, a high school student, in her room suspiciously enough.  
Seiko Kayama was alone in her room without eyewitnesses. However, Miyuki claims that from Seiko's cottage she'd have to cross a log bridge that is visible from Miyuki's window. No one ever crossed the bridge, so it's hard for her to make it through without swimming. However, Seiko claims to be hydrophobic who can't even wash her face in a sink. 

Despite the group suspecting Seiko, Hajime explains that the culprit would have only swam through the river if they knew Miyuki was held in the cottage and would see them cross that log bridge area. It's thus unrealistic to assume Seiko would be the culprit. In this moment it's interesting to note that in the past, apparently Yousuke had been thrown to the waters and had to survive while swimming on a suitcase.

Hajime explains that he doesn't know the identity of the culprit but he feels that the Membership Cards are not the real motive of the culprit - as when the police arrive, they'd immediately suspect that. The motive has to be something else entirely. Hajime tells everyone to come to him in another room one by one to explain the circumstances that pushed them to join the trip - if they held any information back that might connect all the members with each other, there'd be a possibility of the culprit having a personal grudge against all the victims. Hajime claims to be able to find "Jason's" true motive before anyone else becomes a victim.

Kujyou Shyoutarou, the tour guide, is the first one interrogated by Hajime about his circumstances. According to Kujyou, he believes that in the past the tour people got picked by a raffle instead of being chosen. Hajime also asks him another question, why didn't he talk about the boat despite knowing about it, to which Kujyou answers with a ___ as the scene skips to Seiko before the watcher gets to know what he was talking about, maybe meaning that it's not all that important to solving the case.

Seiko claims that in the past she was claimed to have sunk a ship, most likely the reason why Yousuke had to swim on a suitcase. Seiko claims that her hydrophobia is from the ship-sinking accident, and the scene skips to Yousuke.

Yousuke claims that three years prior he was on a ship that sank, the Ship Oriental Sinking Accident in which the ship had a collision with an oil tanker after setting off. The ship was filled with about 500 people out of which many lost their lives. That was the incident where he experienced the moment of survival by hanging onto a suitcase. After the incident Yousuke has gotten a slight fear of boats.

Sayuri Kawanishi also shares the experience of the Oriental ship accident but she is quickly brushed over.

The doctor Kouda Seisaku is also surprised at Kindaichi knowing about him being on the sinking ship and surviving. This all brings us a clear image of what the culprit possibly could be after, or at least where the culprit's motive comes from.

Kindaichi wonders about the people being picked from the sinking ship incident and the culprit breaking the stereo that Kobayashi had fixed before his death. It's odd that the culprit knew of the stereo being fixed - the curtains were down, so was the culprit listening to them? Kindaichi goes to a painting and finds something behind it, and then the doctor Kouda Seisaku makes his appearance and hysterically tells Hajime to come to where Miyuki is because her condition has gotten worse again.

As Miyuki's condition betters, Kindaichi cleans her head with a towel that has the name Kimura on it - Kimura Shinsuke being the real name of Yousuke Itsuki, which is a pen name of the journalist. As Kindaichi hears the real name of Yousuke, he realizes that one more dot connects the case characters and then the episode ends as Kindaichi announces that he will unmask the serial killer Jason's true identity. Comically enough no one knows Jason carries a mask. 

The pacing of the case is too fast for sure. They run in and out of Miyuki's cottage about every 20 seconds which is ridiculous. The case also feels a bit off with the revelations, not showing things like the corpses, and the case just seems to be awkwardly paced in general. In the previous case they managed to cut off unnecessary parts of the manga pretty well to condense the case but this time it feels like they are just jumping from panel to panel at lightning speed. 

Anyway, considering the case itself, it's obvious that the culprit is "one of the dead" as they had their faces destroyed. Now that we had the revelation of the sinking ship we can safely assume that's where the personal grudge comes from. In this episode we focused on Touno's death after he claimed that his father was the owner of the Hiren Resort Tour, and then Touno heads on the boat on his way to get help - and his corpse comes back, seemingly "Jason" killed him when he did that. Remember, when he came back, he was missing a watch, right? What if I said that the corpse is not Touno. The one to go on the boat was him, so it must be a chance that the rest didn't go there, right? What if I said that everyone else is afraid of water or boats because of the incident that they are being killed for. Thus, yes, it's pretty obvious at this point in time that the culprit is Touno, who, due to his supposed father's status, had the possibility of picking his victims on the trip, and who most likely faked his death with someone else's body which was why the watch is missing; it's completely unrealistic to even assume the "culprit" would be waiting for a guy somewhere when he traveled away on a freaking boat, the culprit just can't be anyone else than Touno himself. However: Touno is a high school student so it'd be odd to have him carry an overweight man from the forest to the cottage's closet, however - Yousuke and Kindaichi even make a point of how much strength carrying the body must have required. We don't know 'yet' whether or not Touno picked his victims based on their name's initials or something as their names do share some similarities according to Kindaichi. Touno must have gotten an access to a database about the survivors that had something to do with the sinking ship, but maybe he only assumes that everyone who were included in the incident have a natural fear of boats and water. It might also be a reason why the Tour Guide, Kujyou, never mentioned the boat, because he was afraid of it, but this is all just my guesswork as there's nothing concrete to go by, yet.

File 3

The case takes place at the Hiren Lake that is surrounded by a sad legend of two people that weren't meant to be together having thrown each other in the lake. At the Hiren Lake Resort tour a serial murder case has taken place. Hajime Kindaichi is now resolved to expose the true identity of the murderer that everyone thought to be Jason, a person who escaped from prison around the same time the group arrived to the Resort. As the culprit seemed to have burnt down the rope bridge which was the only way to safely get to the Resort, the tour group is unable to escape, especially with the injured Miyuki, who stepped into one of "Jason's" traps and damaged her legs, with them. For a while everyone assumed that the motive for the murders was the insanely valuable Resort Membership, of which there are two that two of the members of the group will win via a raffle, each membership card assumedly being worth 50 to 100 million yen, however  Kindaichi finally learned a piece of information that gave out the hints towards the true motive behind these gruesome murders where people's faces were cut to pieces - three years prior happened the Ship Oriental's Sinking Accident where 500 people were left to death after the cruiser ship they were on collided with an oil tanker. Nigh everyone aside from Hajime and Miyuki have told that they were a part of the accident. So the culprit has to know of this and be able to invite everyone to do this. Though I have to wonder, was Miyuki's cousin also a part of the sinking ship or was he and anyone he'd take with him to the trip the only ones chosen by random? What is the connection that everyone of the case's character's names have with each other? Since the trick will obviously be a body swap, will Hajime trick the killer to appear while the culprit tries to murder someone? Let's see what happens.

The Hiren Lake Resort tour group contains:
Hajime Kindaichi, a high school student who went to Hiren Lake Resort in place of Miyuki's cousin
Miyuki Nanase, a high school student who went to Hiren Lake Resort in place of her cousin [Injured]
Sayuri Kawanishi, a high school student who seems to have a crush on our main character
Touno Eiji, a high school student who claims to know someone that looked exactly like Miyuki
Souichi Kurata, a university student [Deceased, although it was never focused on if he was the victim]
Seiji Kobayashi, a painter who fell from grace and started to draw dead people [Deceased]
Yousuke Itsuki, real name Kimura Shinsuke, a freelance-writer with a bad attitude towards everyone
Saburou Kayama, an Estate Agency President [Deceased]
Seiko Kayama, Saburou's wife who was left no money by her husband and who wants to win the raffle
Kouda Seisaku, a doctor
Kujyou Shyoutarou, the tour guide

The Hiren Lake is looking more beautiful in the evening. Yousuke Itsuki goes to ask Hajime if he's figured out the truth behind the case, however Hajime is thinking of how the case is getting only harder the more he learns about it. Hajime proposes that every single person should sleep in the lodge together during the night, but the group of course fights back as "Jason" could be one among them - it'd be hard to fight back if they were killed by a person who's supposed to look out for the culprit. However Kindaichi still gets everyone to stay in the lodge after claiming that they can look after each other through the night, it'd be hard for Jason to act. All he now has to do is to get the injured Miyuki there also.

The next night, a person is shown standing outside with earpods on him. They're listening to what's going on inside the lodge - it's a person with Jason's mask who's listening as one of the people in the lodge, Yousuke, decide to head to his lodge to sleep. Jason carries an axe and a key with him and heads to the cottage where Yousuke went, and goes to the bed and hits it with an axe. However as there is no resistance or sound, Jason notices that the bed is actually just filled with bunch of feathers (from a pillow most likely) and then Kindaichi and the rest grab Jason and throw him to the ground - it's time to unmask the serial killer!

What happened is that the method "Jason" used to murder, Kindaichi used against him. Jason wasn't expecting everyone to be in Yousuke's cottage after all. As when the painter Kobayashi was murdered and the radio was destroyed once again, Kindaichi knew that because the culprit knew of Kobayashi fixing the radio, they must have some information on what happened when Kobayashi talked with Kindaichi. However, because the curtains were in front of the windows, the culprit couldn't have "seen" Kobayashi fix the radio, but he could have heard it. Kindaichi then found a mic from the lodge behind a painting that he then used against "Jason" by making it look like everyone was in the lodge when they were really in Yousuke's cottage, and the one who walked out of the lodge was actually Hajime himself while everyone else was in the cottage waiting for him.

The first night when the group arrived, the culprit killed Kurata, who then fell from the tree, and the perp messed up the body to make it seem like it was the serial killer 'Jason' who escaped from prison that was doing the killings. The culprit also knew that Itsuki Yousuke, who wrote an article on Jason, would be part of the trip. Then, the culprit burned the rope bridge and later murdered Kayama who was running throughout the forest and carried his body to the lodge and then destroyed the room to make it seem like Jason did it - but Jason never touched the food even though he wouldn't have eaten for two days after escaping from prison. Later, Jason destroyed the stereo radio for some reason, and the only reason to do that and kill Kobayashi for fixing the radio at that point in time, was because the recording on the radio was pre-recorded beforehand to be used as a trick. This means that the culprit set up many things before they met these people the first time in their lives three to four days ago. Now, as Jason didn't have any time to destroy the lodge and only destroyed the radio once again and left everything else the way it was, the culprit trying to trick everyone that Jason did the murders was instead turned into proof of the news being a fake and that Kindaichi realized that there was a listening device in the room.

The motive for the murders is not the membership cards either. The true motive is a certain connection that each of the tour participants share - aside from Hajime and Miyuki, everyone else spent time on the sunken Ship Oriental three years prior. The motive was kind of obvious when it was revealed. There were about 500 passengers on the ship and no one knows each other, so it's weird that they were being targeted - however, there is one similarity, as Kindaichi points out, and that similarity is their name. Yousuke's real name Kimura Shinsuke is on the towel that Hajime used to heal Miyuki. Other participants include: Kayama Saburou, Kayama Seiko, Kawanishi Sayuri, Kurata Souichi, Kobayashi Seiji, Kouda Seisaku, Kujyou Shyoutarou. The common point of each and every name is the initials; S.K., being present in every one of them. The one who asked Hajime to take his place, Miyuki's cousin, was also an S.K.: Kitsukawa Shigeru who was also apparently a part of Ship Oriental tour. This common point is present with each and every one of the participants, except one..! Now, it's time to unmask the killer!

Jason, the person who did the serial murders, was the one and only Touno Eiji! [is that a surprise to anyone?] Hajime brings up a shocking revelation: the corpse that was supposedly Touno's on the boat was actually the corpse of Kitsukawa Shigeru, Miyuki's cousin. When the group arrived on the lodge the first day and Touno found out that Kitsukawa did not come, Touno called him and met with him after going to Kitsukawa on the boat. Touno also somehow calculated that every S.K. on the tour was also hydrophobic to a certain degree because of the trauma from Ship Oriental's sinking, which was how he managed to be the one to travel on the boat alone just by asking. Kindaichi assumes that Touno couldn't put his watch on Kitsukawa's wrist because it didn't fit, but Touno explains that that's wrong - even if the murders were for revenge, he could never part with the wristwatch which was a memento from his precious Keiko.

The doctor, Kouda Seisaku, immediately recognizes the name Goizumi Keiko as the "girl whom I killed" which obviously goes back to the part where Kouda once mentioned about wanting to win the Resort Membership Cards from the tour raffle in order to build a clinic at a certain place with no doctors to repent for his "sins."

"The Plank of Carneades" mentioned by the doctor tells a Greek story about a man who drifts after falling from a sinking ship. The man had grabbed onto a piece of plank but there was another person who also needed help. At first the man thought that the plank might sink if he and the other person were to hold onto it, so the man pushed the one in need of help away, and the other person later drowned. The man who was saved by the plank was put to a trial but was never found guilty. The reason why the man was never prosecuted was because of the Law of Emergency; "Doing things to save oneself, even at the expense of others' lives, cannot be punished."
This meant that the case from three years ago would go without any prosecution and Touno would have to take the law to his own hands to get justice.

Doctor Kouda Seisaku explains that his situation can be likened to the story about the plank as three years prior there was a girl who appeared when the doctor was pulled up to a boat. However as the doctor tried to pull the girl up, the boat almost sunk. The girl was grabbing onto the suitcase of the doctor but the doctor pushed her hands away, however in her final moments the girl managed to rip a piece of the suitcase, most likely the initial S.K. were present on the piece; in other words the person Touno was after for killing her girlfriend Goizumi Keiko was the doctor.

Touno explains that Keiko and he grew up in the same orphanage. Ten years ago Touno was adopted to the high-class Touno household while Keiko was put into an overall worse family. The two were never allowed to meet each other, just like in the legend of Hiren Lake, and so, the two of them met in secret from time to time like Romeo and Juliet. However Touno's parents learned of the trip Keiko and Touno planned on Ship Oriental three years ago, so Touno could never go on that fateful adventure. As the corpses were picked up and laid down, Touno heard a rumor of Keiko being pushed away from a life boat, which pushed Touno to try to get justice from police, who said to him that they couldn't do anything as it was not a crime according to law, as expected. Touno decided to sell his soul to the devil as he kissed Keiko for the first time when she was but a corpse, and Touno took two things from Keiko as he decided to become the one to get justice if the police were not willing to do it. The things he took was the name plate containing of the initials S.K. that Keiko ripped from the doctor's suitcase, and the another thing he took was the leather wristwatch that Keiko was wearing.

As Touno didn't know who the holder of the S.K. initials was, he thought it'd be okay to just kill everyone that was on the ship that day. It's kind of weird that he even assumed that an S.K. killed her though.
Yousuke gets angry at Touno's actions against innocent S.K.'s but Touno just brushes it off and says that Keiko Goizumi's life was more important to him than 100 innocent people. Then Touno pushes everyone away and turns back towards them, saying that what he holds in his hands, is a detonator that makes bombs explode and that he used that to burn the bridge as well. Touno throws the axe to the ground and tells Kindaichi to kill doctor Kouda with it. If Hajime does that, he'll spare everyone's lives.  Touno wants to make the situation into a "Plank of Carneades."

Hajime tells Touno that there's no way Kouda wouldn't have suffered after pushing Keiko away that day - even if the doctor was never prosecuted, he's been living with the regret of killing someone three whole years and will never be able to live normally again. Each and every day would be suffering to anyone with any form of sympathy and emotion. This is what Touno doesn't understand. But then Kouda takes the axe and claims to be willing to kill himself to make his sins disappears, and then Miyuki appears and tells everyone to stop. Touno all of a sudden gets a flashback to Keiko and starts hating himself as Miyuki looks at him with the same eyes Keiko had; this gets Touno so angry that he runs through the window, runs to the boat and drives away - only to make it explode and fill the lake with crimson color as the Hiren Lake serial murder case with its five victims ends at last.

Back in the city days after the incident, Kindaichi Hajime and Nanase Miyuki are meeting with the journalist Yousuke who had spent time researching something about the case. Yousuke gives the two a photograph with Touno and Keiko Goizumi who looks exactly like Miyuki. To Touno, Miyuki was practically an almost-Keiko. Hajime turns the photograph backwards to see something shocking written on it: "1994.4.5. at Kamakura with younger sister." Yousuke explains that Keiko was actually Touno Eiji's real blood-related sister. The reason why the two were never meant to be together was much more cruel than what anyone expected.

The case ends with Hajime thinking about the Plank of Carneades - if Miyuki and Hajime were left in that Titanic-type of situation where there is no choice but to let the other person drown - what would he do? Well, of course he would do the only thing he's good at doing: Think. Think of a way to save both of them.

Brainstorming about the case 

So that's the entirety of my adventure with the Hirenko Legend Murder Case (or Broken Heart Lake Legend Murder Case) which is also known as the second case of the Kindaichi Case Files animated series or the sixth case in the manga series with the length of 10 whopping chapters,  so this case was also condensed a bit in the three episode length adaptation. 

This case was honestly a mixed bag of goods. Unlike in the first case, every character played a part in this story's history, which is both good and bad as the case, like most long cases, had many characters. What that means is that connecting every character is bound to feel unrealistic at best. The fact that they were all gathered there, the 'how' was never explained either (although we can assume it was due to the culprit's connections), but it's just all odd to see all these characters there right down to their initials, and some of the victims (especially the big twist relating to Miyuki's cousin) being on the scene just feels random if not impossible even.

The culprit's identity was pretty obvious for multiple reasons ranging from the initials (which I didn't even bother to pay attention to even though I knew there was a hint there) to the boat scene (in which Kindaichi should have been able to tell it's not the corpse of Touno as the victim was an university student while Touno was a high schooler). The culprit's motivation was not that well presented this time. It was all foreshadowed pretty well with the Plank of Carneades and the doctor's sin mentions, but all things considered the culprit was obviously an emotionless psycho yet was never presented as such, even to the end. The painter was crazier than the culprit. At the end we had a powerfully emotional reveal to the motive of the culprit, but without really any logical thinking behind it. Also the way the culprit ended up running away and bombing himself immediately after seeing Miyuki felt really stupid and a cop-out from the supposedly tense bomb-or-life situation we had on our hands where the culprit was trying to force Hajime kill the doctor. The culprit's reaction wasn't even surprising and I got a chuckle out of it. I just have to wonder how Miyuki got the strength to walk to them at the end there when her condition kept worsening and she was bedridden for multiple days and was in need of medical help..... The doctor even said that Miyuki might not survive due to having to be there in the middle of nowhere for multiple days in row. Definitely odd, to say the least.

Honestly this case had a good chunk of mostly unrealistic aspects to it as there is no chance for the culprit to call Miyuki's cousin Kitsukawa Shigeru to realistically meet up with him in middle of nowhere with a boat and time it all perfectly like that, such as taking blame for Miyuki's accident for heading out and getting rid of Kindaichi, and I find it odd that they said that the place has a phone but no reception but it was never even made to seem like the culprit cut it off, so how did the culprit even call Kitsukawa Shigeru? I bet or at least hope that scene is explained better in the manga as usually in these types of stories the culprits cut off any phone connections to the crime scene. And now that I think about it, there would have been no way for the culprit to actually know if all of these people were hydrophobic or not. The more I think about it the more silly this story seems. It does all the basics right but everything around them doesn't really work.

Now then, I mentioned that the culprit's identity was obvious, but while it really was, it's not logically sound - aside from the ridiculous hydrophobia assumption from the culprit, how in the world would a high school student have been able to run after the overweight Saburou Kayama in the huge forest, kill him with an axe and the CARRY HIM all that way back to the cottage through the forest and put the victim to a closet without anyone noticing? That's impossible. The characters themselves would agree that that's impossible. Go watch episode 4, the first episode of this Hirenko Legend Murder Case; the characters themselves note that the culprit "Jason" is extraordinarily strong to be able to carry Saburou from the forest to the closet. Hopefully that part is explained in the manga. Or how was the other body lifted into the tree? The whole thing about making everyone think "Jason" was the culprit is also really badly presented in this case - no one saw the culprit ever and it was just assumed it's Jason, but so what? It literally plays no role in a way that would affect this story if the culprit didn't do that fake news announcement thing at all. The legendary killer/superstition/myth aspect could have been better inserted. 
The build-up and foreshadowing was surprisingly done well in this case but the case itself was paced extremely off. As I said previously, the characters kept running in and out of Miyuki's room like 10 times in quick succession. I was like what in the world is going on? The setting was pretty generic and I can bet there will be many more like this to come in this series. And honestly, I'm not that enthusiastic about going through another one of these.
Couple of the characters - notably Sayuri and Yousuke - were entertaining.
Although what happened to the culprit regarding Miyuki's inclusion was not that well written, the wrap-up to the case was pretty good with the emotional twist to it that has that symbolical meaning it shares with the legend of the lake. I guess I would have wanted to see what happened with Seiko and Sayuri though, and I can't help but wonder what happened with the raffle for the Membership Cards worth of 50 to 100 million yen? None of that was mentioned after the culprit was exposed and it was kind of forgotten. Was the whole thing truly a hoax? Did a high school kid trick everyone this bad... Also it's honestly odd how he got the tour guide also to be part of the people he'd want to kill and it was odd that the culprit never even questioned whether or not they were the ones responsible for the tragedy 3 years prior. He was just planning to kill everyone and then I guess continue his murders somewhere else, somehow or something. The case obviously had the inspiration from Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the axe and the mask so I guess the authors just couldn't make up their mind of writing a tragic story or a psycho story and this one kind of was what they came up with when they thought of a mix of both. 

I'd say that the strongest aspect of this story was just the fact that it did at least try to foreshadow a good chunk of things and make all the characters connected (for better or worse). Because of that I don't even think it's a bad case, even if a bit half-baked. I enjoyed few parts of it. But those pros are also what makes this story a bit uncomfortable to read at times as you have to suspend your disbelief here and there to make sense of it. It's possible that the authors bit more than they could chew for this one. This was definitely a worse case than the first one; Kindaichi's best moment was getting pissed off at the painter, and not only was the culprit's reaction to Miyuki the same what the culprit's reaction to Kindaichi was in the Seven Mysteries of Fudoh High Murder Case, but Miyuki also was injured and bedridden just like in the previous case - she's going to die of blood loss one of these days. 
By the way, I really like this piece of music from the original soundtrack of the anime series:


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981) - To Create The Perfect Human Mannequin

"Following the terminology of alchemy, I shall call her Azoth, which means "from A to Z" - the ultimate creation, the universal life force. She fulfils my dreams completely."

It's been a decade since I finished this weird murder mystery-fantasy visual novel series called Umineko no Naku Koro ni, also known as Umineko When They Cry. That particular story began with a prologue about an elderly man, the head of the the Ushiromiya family Kinzo Ushiromiya, sitting in a dim and grossly sweet liquor-smelling room with his doctor, talking about his family and that massive fortune of his. Kinzo didn't have long to live, but he was still managing, surpisingly enough to his doctor. Although he lived in a mansion on the Rokkenjima island he himself had bought along with other members of the Ushiromiya family, he never really wanted to go out of his large room. He didn't care to see anyone except the family servants who'd served him for decades.
Throughout his life Kinzo had somehow managed to build a kingdom out of nothing, and thus had lived a fulfilling life, accomplishing everything he ever could... except for one thing. You see, Kinzo had a deep regret and sorrow for not being able to meet a certain female character more than he'd wanted. That woman was the Golden Witch Beatrice whom had corrupted this poor old man's mind. Beatrice was known as a fictitious character on the Rokkenjima island, used by some of the adults as a horror story to scare the younger Ushiromiya family members who lived on the island from running to the forest as they could hurt themselves or even disappear to the large ocean waves if they accidentally fall of a cliff. Beatrice was so real to Kinzo that he even had a large painting made of her - a young woman with "a beautiful blonde hair and didn't look Japanese at all."
Beatrice had mesmerized Kinzo so badly that he'd started to believe that she was more important to him than anything else in the world. It quickly became clear that in his later years he'd also gone a bit crazy, as he was ready to give up everything to see Beatrice again just one more time before his death. All of his fortune, and the lives of his children and grandchildren would be given as 'sacrifice' just for him to meet this mysterious woman one more time.

Now, on 21st of April 2021 is when I'd finally finished the legendary Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981) by Soji Shimada. This has to be one of the most popular Japanese detective fiction (also known as Honkaku) novels of all time, and maybe even for a good reason. There's been some talk about this Japanese story in particular being the cause of kicking off this new orthodox (Shin Honkaku) era of golden age-styled detective fiction. And even though I have both positives and negatives to talk about the story, I can definitely see the impact the story has had on modern detective fiction from series like Kindaichi to Umineko and even the new Ron Kamonohashi detective manga series. Even series like Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider and Kubikiri Cycle seem to be inspired by it one way or the other.
It has quite a bit of that classic feel to it that one could expect as well. Once you finish reading this post I believe that you, too, will understand what I'm talking about.

The book opens up with a foreword from the 'writer', Kazumi Ishioka (one of the two main characters), claiming that the Tokyo Zodiac Murders of 1936 is one of the most peculiar and elusive mysteries in history of crime. It is a case that evaded sleuths all over the world for over forty years due to the answer to the puzzle being so unimaginable. When I first read the foreword I immediately liked how this first page ended, as the writer invites the reader of this book to solve the crimes with the same clues the writer also had in their hands when they managed to solve it in 1979, in other words we are spoiled on the foreword that our main characters solved this allegedly surprisingly hard-to-solve cold case. The way how Soji Shimada (real life author) had inserted Kazumi Ishioka (the fictitious author and main character of the story) to create this book where Kazumi attempts to solve the case is slightly reminiscent to the Ellery Queen stories. Though I noticed that the book has many references to other detective fiction franchises (especially Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle), they interestingly enough never mentioned Queen.
Year 1936 - The Umezawa Family Massacre
The actual story begins in prologue with a narrated letter named Last Will and Testament from 1936 written by an older introverted man, Heikichi Umezawa, who was an artist that enjoyed spending his days sitting in his room alone while drawing paintings. The text claims that it's not meant to be read by anyone else, but there exists a possibility that someone might get their hands on it. The letter reads a bit different when re-reading the book.
The letter starts a bit uncomfortably with Heikichi mentioning about being possessed by a demon, and about being enamored about the idea of a perfect woman who consists of all body parts empowered by astrological concepts. The letter talks about astrology, alchemy, geograpy, and the Umezawa family, including Heikichi's first wife Tae, his second wife Masako, his brother Yoshio, his daughters Yukiko, Tomoko, Tokiko, Kazue, and nieces Nobyo and Reiko. The Umezawa family lived a comfortable life in a large mansion while Heikichi in his later years had isolated himself into his art studio next to the main mansion.
Heikichi had been thinking about meeting this perfect woman, so much so that he even made up his mind that he could give his own life to do so. There was but one problem, though: no one can actually be perfect because we are born with only one part assigned to us as our astrological identity. A perfect woman would need to be a virgin soul born under and empowered by six different and specific astrological signs.
There are six major body parts in a human body: the legs, the thighs, the hips, the abdomen, the chest and the head. Each part of the body is governed, empowered and protected by their own 'planets' that exist in our solar system. For example those born under Libra (ie. people born on September 23rd through October 22nd) are governed by Venus and find their strength in their hips, those born under Sagittarius are governed by Jupiter and find their strength in their thighs, and so on. 
One day Heikichi realized something. Something crazy... no, actually more like something absolutely deranged. You see, Heikichi realized that he already had the six women needed to create the perfect being. His own daughters and nieces, all six of them governed by all six different types of zodiacial signs. Once Heikichi realized this he wrote: "I chuckled to myself at life's so-called "coincidences", grateful for my knowledge of astrology. My knees grew weak as my fantasies assumed a reality." 
Thus started the planning to create the perfect woman - a woman called Azoth that Heikichi believed to be the magnum opus and a supreme lifeform. He would cut out the corresponding bodyparts from his six daughters and nieces and combine them together. The bodies of the girls would be taken to different places that are used to mine different types of metals, and buried under different depths on different longitudes and latitudes in Japan. 
As a final note Heikichi mentions that once Azoth has been finished, he will place her in the 'centre of 13' which he claims is the true centre of Japan. The hunt for Azoth is on as the gruesome murders begin!

Year 1979 - The Investigation of Kiyoshi Mitarai and Kazumi Ishioka
The story then skips over 40 years to the present time that our investigative story is going to be told in. Freelance journalist and fan of Western detective fiction Kazumi Ishioka had just finished reading Heikichi Umezawa's note about creating the most beautiful Frankenstein's monster to an astrologist and the main brain of the duo Kiyoshi Mitarai (a name which literally translates to Clean Toilet...). Their relationship and backstory isn't that fleshed out, but they're kind of a cute and quirky pair of best friends. Kiyoshi is the all too cocky and all too smart one of the two while Kazumi is the diligent one with a lot of optimism towards the future. Their roles are basically acknowledged as Kiyoshi being the Sherlock while Kazumi is the Watson, even if Kazumi wants to show his friend otherwise. Furthermore, our duo works almost exactly like the main duo of Ron Kamonohashi: Deranged Detective (2020) manga series. It's clear that at the very least Ron Kamonohashi is meant to be the author Akira Amano's version of Kiyoshi Mitarai: they're both almost identical in their personalities, they are bored and slouch around when depressed, or get that glimmer in their eyes when things are starting to fall into place, and they both say random things and want to go to random places to refresh etc.
Enough about references in other series, now let's get back to the actual novel. After the timeskip happens we get to learn a weird collection of events that happened since the letter was written. These events have perplexed the world for over forty years.
It was after a night with a heavy snow when one of the daughters of Heikichi Umezawa had gone to give food to their isolated father in his own shack in the morning. But things had clearly gone off-script for the man as he was inside, dead. The daughter, Tokiko, got rest of the Umezawa family women who lived in the mansion to the art studio. Now here's the setting:

Death of Heikichi Umezawa 
In 1936, Heikichi was found dead, killed with a blunt weapon hit to the back of the head after taking sleeping pills. The windows and door were locked, but outside, on the heavy snow, there were footprints left behind by man's shoes going back and forth outside the studio as if someone had been nervously looking at the crime scene, as well as the shoeprints of an unidentified woman, assumed to be a mystery model that Heikichi was drawing. His painting of the woman was almost finished, but the most identifying feature, the face was undone. The room was locked from inside and most of the major suspects have iron-proof alibis. A true locked room mystery.

Seven Corpses 
After Heikichi's death however, things quickly "go brrr" as the eldest daughter Kazue Umezawa is found dead in her home, beaten to the back of the head with a blunt object while looking at the mirror, and then raped posthumously. Police visit the place and assume that the attack was done by a robber.

But then all of a sudden all six of the younger girls; Heikichi's daughters and nieces, go missing while on a trip... until body pieces start appearing one by one as people use Heikichi's note to attempt to locate the corpses in six different places around Japan. One corpse is without a head, another without an abdomen, another without a waist, one is missing her feet one her thighs. Body pieces have been sawed off brutally like in the most horrifying horror films, and even buried the way how the letter mentioned. But how did this all happen? Why is the culprit going so far as to go through and fulfil some crazy old man's wish? And what's more horrifying is that now, 'Azoth' must've successfully been created and left in the 'centre of 13' in Japan...

The murder of Heikichi Umezawa. The assault and murder of eldest daughter Kazue Umezawa, and the murder of the six other daughters and nieces of Heikichi. These three murder cases - cold cases - together collectively create the "Tokyo Zodiac Murders" that countless people from all over the world have attempted to solve for over forty years, without success. Kiyoshi and Kazumi adventure all over Japan to collect information on the case. But not with enough success of finding clues as they should have, if we're being honest. Quite a few of the places mentioned in the book are familiar from the Detective Conan franchise (ex. Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagano, mentions of Battle of Kawanakajima, and the Kiyomizu Temple, and even that one bridge...).
1st of March, 2016, was when I created my first blog post here at Blogger. It was a review about a Finnish hard-boiled modern crime fiction novel In the Name and Blood by Ilkka Remes. Back then, after finishing the book, I noticed that the author basically lured the reader in with an intriguing first chapter while rest of the story was quite generic and uninspired. Even though I don't really look back fondly on that particular story, I did immediately understand that if the first chapter - the kick off of the story - is strong, the story has much higher chance of standing through the test of time. This story also had one of the really crazy starts that can pull readers in. As an overall piece of fiction I'm not going to be as harsh on The Tokyo Zodiac Murders but I do believe that the beginning set up such intrigue from reading the crazy note, that the author perhaps got a bit lucky with how the story blew up in popularity. The quirky main duo compiled with an intriguing beginning, the tense expectations about getting to learn the whereabouts of Azoth, and a crazy answer to the murder trick are easily the most notable redeeming factors that this story has.
However as you may have already gathered from my post, the story is not without flaws. I will list the four major ones that stood out to me like a sore thumb down below.

1. Narration. There's a common complaint towards fictional series these days that goes like this: "Show, don't tell." This story in particular isn't even meant to 'show' basically anything as all the backstory, clues and hints seem to be given in narration through reading or characters talking about the past. There are three main pieces of  'letters' that reveal, in narration, the beginning, middle and end of this case. I personally didn't find this to be that big of a problem as the story would've been too long had it been 'shown' all the way through, but I know many have a problem with series that are only about telling stuff.
2. Useless exposition and too many red herrings. After finishing the book I was kind of disappointed by these aspects of the story the most. There's so much about geographical places in Japan and history lessons and learning the names, connections and backgrounds of the characters in info-dump narrations, and yet it all ended up being straight-up filler with no point in the story.
I think the fact that in Detective Conan there's never really been a filler chapter (and rarely even filler pages) that I was expecting more from the huge chunks of information we'd been given through numerous info-dumps. I can imagine some readers writing all of this information down on a notebook to try to figure out the Tokyo Zodiac Murder Case, only to realize in the end that they literally would have done a much better job by not wasting so much time and effort thinking about it in the end. Not very rewarding to the reader, is it? 
However, there are also good parts about this aspect of the story as the writer wants to give the reader a life lesson on how we can look at all the superficial details all we want, but we should never forget about the basics, the core of the subject. Everything else can truly be meaningless, and distracting from the truth. Focusing on all the individual leaves on a tree can be a waste of time -- and it was. I think the author definitely should have trimmed some of the information if they weren't willing to use them as real substance to move the story forward.
3. Pointless adventuring.
The story offers us a big multi-part serial murder case that's been unsolved for 40 years. However the story ends up being very limited and I wasn't really feeling the adventure. There are chapters with out main duo just running around couple of cities in Japan trying to meet people, failing, going back to their friend's house to sleep and try to meet the same people again the next day - sometimes with bad success. Other than that they talk about longitudes and latitudes that end up meaning nothing in the end. 

4. Zero fleshing out of the large cast of characters. There are dozens of names introduced in this story, and most likely only couple of them will stay in the future Kiyoshi Mitarai books. Yet, none of the cast is truly fleshed out properly. There's bunch of history lessons on their backgrounds in info-dumps, yes, but after finishing the book it's hard to call any of them truly proper characters. I think if they'd put more effort into the culprit's character it might've come off better, even if more readers would have figured the case out faster that way. I think I personally liked the writing style of the characters more than the characters themselves. I liked how Kazumi introduces himself by his full name in narration to the reader - for some reason that made me feel cozy. 
I wouldn't complain about the cast being non-characters if some of the other aspects of the story I've been criticizing had been handled more to my tastes.

About the truth behind the Azoth murders, the locked room murder was kind of lackluster perhaps, but I didn't really even bother thinking about it, as it was still built-up properly with many theories and red herrings about what happened inside the locked room. As for the rest of the case, I'm not sure about how I did it but my intuition immediately knew who the culprit was without any solid proof and didn't take long for me to just be "ok, it's that person" for 100% certainty out of all the other characters. Naturally I had a good hunch on the main trick - although I must say I overthought it and the true answer is genius in its simplicity, but surrounded by too many unrealistic factors that led up to the case staying unsolved for all those years.

I will move on to either Crooked House next, or read a bit of Seishi Yokomizo.
I wonder if there's anything left unsaid about this one...