Beginner's Guide: The File of Young Kindaichi Returns

If you're reading this and, by chance, you're new to this strange thing we call anime, this article was made for you. I understand; this is a weird, weird hobby. On the surface. The truth is what's popular isn't what acts as the face for all anime, so those creepy shows you see advertised all the time that focus on breast size, or those obnoxiously dumb action shows about ninjas in orange jumpsuits aren't all that's offered here. Of course, there's a lot of that, but if you know what you're doing, you can avoid stepping into something truly disgusting and find the real gems that reach for a far larger audience.

I'm here to help with that task. As someone who has seen a lot of anime in my years, I've come to understand just how terrifying getting into this medium is. I've seen some truly, truly horrifying things. Many of those things were popular. I'm still following one of those things (never read or watch Bleach, save yourself). Sometimes, it helps to have someone aware of how scary this hobby really is and give a few recommendations that don't lead to a Naruto knock-off or a series mainly about balloons stapled to an underage girl's chest. With this column, I plan to do just that and suggest some interesting series you can easily find and easily enjoy, without having to make the risks most all anime fans risk when they make blind watches.

This time, I'm starting with something somewhat classic, yet mostly unknown in the west. Let me tell you about Kindaichi Case Files, and more importantly, The File of Young Kindaichi Returns. The Japanese are not good at coming up with English titles.
Kindaichi is basically a long running detective manga, but without the pretending that there's a plot, setting him apart from his close sibling of Detective Conan (also known as Case Closed in the states). The series follows the grandson of a famous detective, the terrible student Hajime Kindaichi. The twerp can't be bothered to study and is a bit of a horn dog at times, but he's also a brilliant detective who cuts the crap when things are getting serious and lives are on the line. Really, the series is less about Kindaichi and more the people he meets and the cases he solves. This is good, because Kindaichi isn't very interesting by himself, and his supporting cast is a little bit on the stale side. However, they can all fit into just about any story easily, and that serves the franchise well.

Returns is the newest anime for the series, premiering in the Spring 2014 season and currently still airing. It's the easiest way you can get into the series, as finding any other anime in the franchise is like trying to find gold in a silver mine. Kindaichi never found an audience in the west, so finding his stuff can be a truly difficult task. Returns fixes this issue, and it manages to be so simple that you don't really need any knowledge of the franchise to enjoy it.

The first arc really gets the series on the right foot, and fast. It has Kindaichi and his friend/love interest Miyuki traveling to Hong Kong, due to Miyuki looking surprisingly like a famous model who's gotten cold feet about a new fashion show going down. However, things quickly go wrong as Miyuki gets kidnapped and people start mysteriously dying, all revealed to tie back to an old case that involved the Chinese triad, murder, treasure, and a suitcase nuke. Yeah, a suitcase nuke. Kindaichi Case Files does not mess around, it brings the stakes high and the body count sizable. The series is mostly divided into multi episode cases like these, with some sort of serial killer on the loose, with Kindaichi forced to pin them before anyone else can bite the bullet.

What makes the series refreshing is that it keeps the characters simple and mysteries complex. Every case has some sort of trick to it that makes the crime seem impossible, and Kindaichi has to see through that trick. The series does a good job of giving you all the clues ahead of time as well, rewarding those who rewatch or pay close attention. The trick to the crime is never fully explained until Kindaichi discovers it, but plenty of hints are still given. Outside the Hong Kong case, these tricks are usually very intricate and surprisingly clever. It does exactly what a good mystery series needs to, and does it well.

Since Kindaichi is more the force that moves the plot and less a character, minus cases involving old faces, the multiple episode arc pacing is there to give all the victims and suspects adequate back story and personality. Motive is important for the series, ignoring random crazy killers in favor for crimes of passion or revenge by otherwise good people. The non-guilty parties get a good amount of speaking time to define who they are and how they think, while Kindaichi and friends get to spout off some solid banter while piecing together the clues. Exposition is perfectly paced as well, so the series moves at a brisk pace. It knows how to entertain without wasting your time or insulting your intelligence, a rare quality for a series like this.

Kindaichi Returns gets a lot right, but you should be warned that while the series is easy to understand, there's the rare "huh?" moment mixed in there. For example, the Alchemist arc ends with an old rival criminal of Kindaichi appearing for a last minute twist and gag that will leave anyone unfamiliar with the franchise scratching their heads, as was the case with me. These moments are few and far between, thankfully, but they are there, so don't be taken too aback.

If you're interested in seeing Kindaichi Returns, you can find the series up on Crunchyroll right now. If you become a fan and want to own it, Anime Sols is raising money to release the series in Western markets in hard copy. If you like a good mystery, any Kindaichi is a must.


  1. I'm a big fan of this franchise since past decade. thank god I'm an easterner, otherwise I probably never discover this beautiful series at first place. the reason why Kindaichi never popular in western might because when its prime, westerner market still small and getting stale after westener aware of anime industry. so it maybe acceptable.

    1. My guess it never got a second wind was because of Detective Conan's failure to catch on here. Adult Swim, who once aired it, eventually started apologizing jokingly that they ever aired it due to viewer backlash. It didn't really fit with the block and got shoved in there because it was about murder mysteries, which wasn't an okay for kids entertainment in the states. Kindaichi is really similar to Conan, so it never had a chance.


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