Snowy Death

"Crimes 're committed by people. There ain't nothin' impossible about it! What are ya stupid?"
- Harley Hartwell a.k.a. Heiji Hattori (Gosho Aoyama's Case Closed, vol. 50)
Last Sunday, I posted a review of my third foray into the Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R (The File of Young Kindaichi R) series, The Alchemy Murder Case, which closely followed the formula established in the original incarnation of the series, but the plot had a grand and original locked room illusion – a two-sided trick that also explained the secret behind the vanishing of a gigantic sword. So it was the third (episodic) story in a row that did not end in disappointment.

But than an old friend of this blog, "Origami," turned up in the comment-section and jinxed my epic rediscovery of the series. Oh, yes. This is going to be a good, old-fashioned bashing of Kindaichi.

The Legendary Snow Demon Murders is stretched across four episodes and takes place against the endless, snow-capped mountain tops of the Snow Goblin Ski Resort, which has recently been developed by an investment group and a handful of people have been selected for a trial run – including the protagonists of the series, Hajime Kindaichi and Nanase Miyuki. However, they're present at the resort as part-time workers to help take care of the testers. And, as to be expected, there's a dark, bloody history attached to the place.

On New Years Eve, 50 years ago, the now long-abandoned mountain village was visited by the legendary Snow Demon, who left behind a trail of blood and empty houses, but the remains of his many victims were never recovered. Everyone in the region believed that the missing villagers had all been "eaten by the Snow Demon." Well, so far, so good. But not for very long.

The legend of the Snow Demon and the miraculous vanishing of his victims enters the picture when one of the guests, Kumosawa Natsuki, disappears from her log cabin without leaving a single footprint in the large, unbroken blanket of virgin snow outside – which had began to fall when she had retired and stopped when she was discovered to be missing. She had been spirited away! An unlikable guest and "creepy otaku," Sabaki Kaito, disappears during the second episode, but his body is found and vanishes again, which is the point where the story begins run out of fuel.

A large swath of the second episode and pretty much the entirety of the third is nothing more than filler material. And not very good filler material at that!

There are two basic, and simplistic, problems at the heart of these two episodes: the (non-impossible) disappearance of Sabaki's body from a casket and who flung a bloodstained meat-cleaver through the window of the main cabin when everyone was alibied. The answer to the first problem is a reworking of a cheap, dime-store magic trick, but with a body and casket replacing the coin and small box, while the meat-cleaver trick is embarrassingly childish and bad – even the Ayatsuri Sakon series would have shied away from using it.

So, I was thoroughly unimpressed with the plot, but hoped that the explanation of the impossible disappearance would save the episode. After all, I had my doubts about the previous episodes I watched and they turned around in the end with some splendid solution. Well, that did not happen in this case, I'm afraid.

Sure, the explanation for the impossibility is, in principle, an excellent one that might also be completely original, but I had two problems with it (you can re-reverse, or decode, the spoilers with copy-paste here):

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2) .tolp eht fo xurc eht neeb taht dah gnivigrof erom tol a neeb evah dluow I .yrots neeuQ yrellE suomaf taht morf esuoh eritne na fo ecnaraeppasid eht sa hcuS .nibac gol elohw eht fo gnihsinav eht tuoba neeb ytilibissopmi eht dah detanimile ,evoba denoitnem ,ssenkaew eht dna denehtgnerts neeb ev'dluoc tolp llarevo ehT ?deraeppasid dah stnirptoof emos dna nosrep eno fi sa raeppa ti ekam ylpmis ot kcirt elacs-egral ,etarobale na a hcus esu yhW

The Snow Goblin Ski Resort

As to be expected, the who-and why behind the killings weren't particular ingenious, innovative or very surprising, because the murderer's identity and motive were written around the avenger-motif used in nearly every single story in this series. I suppose the choice of the murderer was the only notable aspect of the plot, since this person was below suspicion, but hardly enough to save this dull, slow-moving episode stuffed with mostly second-and third-rate tricks – which triggered traumatic flashbacks to my first encounter with this series. The original Kindaichi series is like my 'Nam or something.

Surprisingly, this blog-post turned out to be not half as harsh as even I expected it to be. I'm disappointed, more than anything else, because the premise and main trick of The Legendary Snow Demon Murders had potential, but everything ended up being half thought-out or completely wasted. Such as the horrible filler material and the series formula didn't do the story any favors either. However, this will not deter from continuing with the series and you can probably expect a review of The Rosenkreuz Mansion Murders next. That's a good one, right?

On a final, unrelated note: allow me to draw your attention to my previous review of Stacey Bishop's Death in the Dark (1930), which is a very rare detective novel that has recently been reissued and the plot toys around with no less than three impossible crimes! So you might want to take a peek at that review. By the way, the next review will be of a non-impossible crime novel. Yes, I'm still aware of their existence! :)


  1. I wouldn't say I loved the story, but I did like the overall set-up, as we don't have 'disappearance' stories in the series. For the longest time, there's no evidence of any crime, and that gives it a slightly different alienating feeling compared to the usual 'look, there's another body lying around here!'. It's not a memorable story by any means, but I did like that point.

    About your two points though, I think that 1) is precisely what you'd want to avoid as the murderer, as that'd point exactly in the solution's direction! "Dividing the problem" works much better IMO than keeping the problem as is. As for 2), aren't there only two people there who _could've_ known about that in advance, one of which with a very good reason to keep it out of the other person's eyes (and capable of doing so too)?

    1. I don't know whether you've also seen the anime or only read the manga, but the uncertainty of what happened isn't really well conveyed in the anime adaptation. For one, the murders are shown to the viewer. So you're not left in uncertainty over what happened. You know the victims died, but not what the murderer did with the bodies. And for the longest time here is the second episode, when the second body turns up and disappears again.

      Purely an episode written around several impossible disappearances, until the bodies are found at the end, would have been a nice divergence from the usual recipe, but that's not what happened.

      Yes, there are only two who know and one of them could, sort of, keep it from the other (I guess), but for how long? One of the earlier scenes showed a birds-eye view from a top of the slopes and everyone could have noticed something was wrong. Kindaichi eventually did. And that's why I believe why something else had to be part of the presentation of the impossible disappearance as well. If that had disappeared, impossibly, in its entirety the murderer would also not have to bother with trying to prevent the other person from noticing something was out of place.

      So, no, this story was far from impressive.

    2. I have only read the manga, and flipping it through makes it seem there are some small differences. For one, the first death is never shown on screen, only the victim crying out. The second victim is only seen assaulted as a shadow/silhouette, so we never actually see them dead until they appear (at the end of the same chapter), but even then we don't know *if* they're really dead, as we didn't see him die on screen. So there's less certainty. They might be faking it, for example.

      There wasn't a birds-eye view shot in the manga either, guess they added that for the anime to make it easier. Considering the lay-out of the resort though, there was only one moment anyone could've noticed that though, and that was only if they looked (and remembered) while on the [spoilers], so it was never a certainty. The way the resort was laid in relation to the arrival point (ropeway) made it so they couldn't really get a good look at everything as they skied their way down either. Hajime only notices what happened because of the clue inside the lodge, and then thinks of the other clue as confirmation.

    3. "There wasn't a birds-eye view shot in the manga either, guess they added that for the anime to make it easier."

      Not only was there a birds-eye view shot of the resort in the anime, but, at the beginning of the episode, Kindaichi took a picture with his phone from the summit. This picture showed something that had gone missing by the end of the episode. I guess the trick worked better in the manga than the anime.

      I disagree with you about the effect of the vanishing people. The viewer, or reader, should have been shown those (strongly) suggesting they were murdered. The victims should have just disappeared. That would have desired effect (of uncertainty) and would have made the trick with the bloodstained cleaver more acceptable, because one of the missing characters could have done it.

      Anyhow, I just didn't like this episode.

  2. Haha appreciate the mention. Nice read as always.