Manga Reviews

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 3 Review

Each case in this manga is a stand alone mystery, and we are still very early in the series. So while reading in order will be better to understand the recurring characters, it’s not necessary to enjoy the individual stories.

Hajime Kindaichi travels to a remote villa during winter break as an intern for a reality tv show, Shock TV. When a supposed prank turns into an actual murder he must team with an old acquaintance from the police force to not only stop the killer, but to do it faster than a new superintendent with something to prove.




Like the previous volumes we get set up and meet key characters upfront and then descend into a tense race against time after the first body hits. One of the things I like most about this series is how it finds unique ways to put little twists on established mystery elements while still retaining a classic feel. Leaving Miyuki home for this one and having a cop on Kindaichi’s side for a change shakes up the dynamic a little and makes things interesting. There are also some nice turns the mystery takes during the volume including a wonderfully clever double twist. The characters were strong here and seeing Akechi try to solve the mystery in parallel was interesting.

These stories do require some level of suspension of disbelief, and a key element to this one strains it quite a bit for some readers. Personally I didn’t find it much more implausible than some of the things in the first two, but be aware that while things are kept in the realm of reality and proceed logically drama does take precedence when needed. As usual there are clues throughout and while some story details will be beyond deduction the core of the mystery is solvable.

A fair amount of this story hinges on the visuals and the art does a great job conveying atmosphere, tension and all the relevant information.

I really enjoyed Death TV and Kindaichi’s adventures are clearly just getting started.

Comics Reviews

Spirit’s Bloom Review

“The mysterious origins of how webcomic dahlia-darling Erma’s parents came together.

After innumerable requests from fans, asking how an apparently average human man could meet (let alone fall in love with!) a mysterious dark spirit, Brandon Santiago presents the much-anticipated backstory. Learn how they met! How they came to care for each other! And the beginning of Erma herself!”




I adore the Erma webcomic and with the intriguing family reunion story currently unfolding decided to pull the trigger on getting this print only prequel showing how Erma’s parents met.

I’m a huge fan of “slice-of-life” style stories and tend to be perfectly fine with deliberately placed stories that know when to get out of their own way an let the narrative unfold naturally. But honestly this is almost too minimalist, feeling like something was a bit lacking. It’s always a tough thing to balance as the author knows all the details, so the line of providing too much information versus too little can be tricky to navigate. I personally felt Santiago was too sparing and secretive with information in this case.

There were more questions than answers regarding Emiko’s family situation, as well as huge new cliffhangers and ominous foreshadowing. For something that was seemed poised to fill in some context for long running questions it falls short, instead raising many more dangling mysteries than it addresses. Because of this it paradoxically feels both inessential and essential at the same time, containing a major plot point I don’t recall seeing yet in the main comic amid a story that otherwise seems to want to save important reveals for the regular comic.

All that said, there are still decent story threads here that span from cute and heartwarming to dark and ominous. It’s an enjoyable read with a handful of fantastic moments and a nice addition to Erma’s mythos overall. But at the same time I personally hoped for more from it and can’t help but wonder the heights it could’ve achieved with a tweaked approach.

Reviews Video Games

“The room gives you a feeling of deja vu… or has that not happened yet?”

The Sexy Brutale mansion and it’s extensive casino is home to a bizarre string of murders of the masked guests, a day of tragedy Lafcadio Boone will experience in a horrifying loop forever unless he can figure out how to prevent them and uncover the Brutale’s darkest secrets.




As comes up often in this blog, I’m a sucker for a good mystery. I also have a soft spot for well done time travel elements. So when I stumbled upon The Sexy Brutale, a time travel mystery where the player explores the titular casino/mansion trying to prevent a series of gruesome murders, my curiosity was certainly piqued. I had no idea however of the full depth of wonders to be uncovered.

It’s made clear from the outset that the Brutale’s staff are committing the murders, so this isn’t a traditional “whodunnit” but rather a larger scoped mystery with deeper answers to uncover. The priest Lafcadio Boone is “blessed” with the ability to rewind the fateful day to gather information and attempt to prevent the murders and find the masked ball’s conspicuously missing host. The brilliant catch is Boone’s partially relegated to an observer’s role. He generally can’t be in the same rooms as the staff or guests so rather than being able to intervene directly the player has to sneak around the mansion, listen in on conversations for information, and take indirect actions to influence things. The approach is really unique and interesting in an adventure game, and beautifully executed.

The balance of story, with heavy amounts of intrigue and compelling mysteries to unravel, and gameplay, with engrossing puzzles and a real sense of exploration and progress, is perfect. The striking visuals that bring the mansion and its inhabitants to life and the haunting atmosphere they help establish were just some of the other excellent touches that made this a game I found it near impossible to put down. Every step of the way I was dying to tackle the next puzzle, piece together the next riddle, and plunge deeper into the Brutale’s world. I honestly can’t recommend this enough.


Art Japan Reviews

Surrounded by Vibrancy

Tenri Cultural Institute, in addition to its language school, concerts, and various other cultural events, hosts an art gallery that is home to a variety of excellent exhibitions ranging from demonstrations of traditional Japanese techniques to innovative displays of multinational modern art. I’ve spotlighted several past showings, and two of my absolute favorites where the textile based Chika MacDonald’s “Mugen” and Nobuko Tsuruta’s “12 Years.”

Here I’d like to share my impressions of another wonderful textile exhibition, the currently showing “Our Road.”



The immediate visual impact of this exhibit is incredible. Japanese Dyeing Artist Ken Arai and Textile Artist Kiyo Masuyama’s exhibit, featuring collaborative pieces that span the length of their careers, showcases an amazing array of diverse tapestries in a variety of vivid, impactful colors and gorgeous patterns.




The opening reception was a fun, lively affair allowing guests to absorb the grandeur of Arai and Mauyama’s work amid a lovely background atmosphere enhanced by Indonesian Gamelan music provided I.M. Harjito and Anne Stebinger.




Beyond the inherent quality and beauty of the pieces themselves, the exhibit reaches further heights in it’s construction and brilliant use of space. Tenri Gallery, with it’s high ceilinged main area, large support pillars, and side area stretching to the front windows looking out on 13th street, provides great opportunity for exciting presentation and “Our Road” makes the most of its potential. Contrasting yet complimentary pieces placed side by side, impressive pieces stretched from floor to ceiling, gorgeous works draped above viewers heads, and all the other little details in placement and display choices combine to make the whole effect even more striking.






Simply put, “Our Road” is absolutely wonderful. It runs until Tuesday July 3, and is well worth stopping by to experience in person.



Anime Reviews TV

The File of Young Kindaichi Returns First Impressions

Hajime Kindaichi, grandson of a famous detective and no slouch in that area himself, travels with his best friend Miyuki who is recruited to perform in a fashion show in Hong Kong in place of a model who she bears a striking resemblance to that’s gone missing. Unfortunately the missing model is only the first to disappear, and worse things are on the horizon. 




I’m a huge fan of the Kindaichi Case Files manga, so was quite interested in checking out this anime adaptation. A nice bonus for me is that this adapts one of the later Kindaichi series, so the mysteries will be new to me.

So far I’ve watched the first case, told over the course of the first four episodes. That seems exactly the right length to properly let the mysteries unfold. The Hong Kong Kowloon Treasure Murder Case provides a decent introduction to Kindaichi and the formula, approach, and atmosphere of his adventures.  It seems to have the same general classic mystery feel and structure as the manga, and this opening mystery has good hooks and twists (and the coincidences the plot is based on are too amusing to really hold it against the story).

The pacing is decent, although the exposition heavy setup and solution portions are less cumbersome when reading and drag ever so slightly in animated form.  There’s also a little bit of handwaving and stretching of suspension of disbelief with certain developments (which also occurs in the manga at times), but importantly not in the mystery related parts so no real complaints.

Vital context is kept hidden until the end, but the mystery plays fair and key parts are solvable (if requiring some big leaps of logic). This is one of the things I love most about the Kindaichi stories I’ve read, and I’m particularly happy to see this aspect continued here.

Overall I enjoyed this quite a bit and will be continuing to watch when I can. I do recommend reading the original manga series first if you can, if only to appreciate the cameos, have a better sense of the main characters, and because the written stories are a little deeper. But as I mentioned before this initial arc does provide a good introduction to Hajime’s world, and should be extremely accessible even with no prior familiarity.

Manga Reviews

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 2 Review

Each case in this manga is a stand alone mystery, and we are still very early in the series. So while reading in order will be better to understand the recurring characters, it’s not necessary to enjoy the individual stories.


The Mummy’s Curse brings our highschool detective and his best friend to a strange isolated village in the country by way of a school scandal. When preparations for their classmate’s arranged wedding are interrupted with murder Hajime must unravel the truth behind the village’s curse.




Like volume 1 (The Opera House Murders), this is a classically built murder mystery. Some key setup and all the players established up front and then the danger and tension hit hard and build rapidly. There are a lot of interlocking layers here to explain and the resolution spans most of the second half of the volume, but it’s all done very well. One of the main secrets is a classic twist that has been seen before. But everything comes together and is used in unique ways and combinations, making this a very interesting read. There are also some great little touches and instances of the author playing with preconceptions. Subtle clues are available and while the reader will never piece out every little detail the core mystery is solvable, which makes these stories particularly intriguing.

The art is extremely good. It’s well detailed, easy to follow and conveys atmosphere and tension wonderfully, acting as a great component to the storytelling.

The Mummy’s Curse is a strong second installment in Kanari and Sato’s mystery series and continues to build momentum for more stories about our young detective.

Manga Reviews

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 1 Review

The Opera House Murders introduces Hajime Kindaichi, deceptively smart grandson of a famous detective and under-achieving best friend of straight-A student Miyuki Nanase. An isolated retreat for a drama club practice already darkened by the recent suicide of the former lead gets even more tragic when guest start dying in a similar manner to the play they’re rehearsing – The Phantom of the Opera.




This is a murder mystery with all the classical trimmings. Our cast and the setting is slowly established to start and then from the first strike on it’s a tense race to figure everything out and stop the killings. The various layers to the story and twists to the mystery are extremely well done and all integrated together flawlessly. And while there are pieces of the motive not revealed until the end there are clues and a good chunk of it all is solvable as you read. Add in a carefully developed dark and dangerous atmosphere and a smart adversary and it all comes together quite impressively. There is a fair bit of exposition towards the end, but it’s presented well and is needed to unravel all the cleverly connected elements of the solution.

The art is detailed, clean, and easy to follow. This is all extremely important for a mystery, where establishing clues, characters and even the geography of their surroundings can all be vital to having the plot unfold properly.

I’ve always loved a good mystery, and Kanari and Sato’s manga about a deceptively bright high school student descended from a famous detective is a wonderful collection of them. The Kindaichi Case Files is a fantastic series and The Opera House Murders gets us off to a great start.

Manga Reviews

After Hours Volume 2 Review

“What do I want to be? What do I want to do?”

Emi’s unexpected relationship with the captivating Kei progresses, drawing her further and further into Kei’s personal circle as the pair tries to sell Kei’s friends on holding an event that will push them all to their limit.  But Emi had a life, unhappy as it was, before meeting Kei, and her failure to disclose the details to Kei hangs heavily over her head …




After Hours continues to be something special in this middle volume of the series. As I remarked in my review of volume 1 the choice of adult protagonists has a hugely positive effect on the story, with complex perspectives and problems, as well a refreshing frankness about their happiness and the realities of adult relationships, underlying Emi and Kei’s tale that keep it all feeling natural and genuine. Also important is that they both make mistakes, and they both have to deal with the consequences of their choices, which gives a nice, resonant layer of depth beneath the core story of two women falling in love.  It’s highly compelling to follow Emi’s point of view as she’s drawn further into Kei’s world, and I’m really looking forward to the 3rd and final volume