story by Yozaburo Kanari; art by Fumiya Sato; adapted by Matt Varosky
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
The Undying Butterflies is the latest volume, the seventeenth, in the recommended Kindaichi Case Files mystery manga series. It opens with a day at the beach for Kindaichi, Miyuki, and Reika, a young singer who’s previously appeared in the volumes Death TV and Playing the Fool. The sleuth finds himself juggling time alone with the two young women in a sequence that could have appeared in an Archie comic, in which the authors do a good job combining tenderness and comedy.
That’s just a prologue for the main story, though. And Reika’s not the only returning character: the mystery starts when a magazine photo reveals someone who resembles the suspect from The Legend of Lake Hiren, previously thought dead. He’s associated with a butterfly collector, a family patriarch who’s rediscovered an extinct, luminescent species. The father has three lovely daughters who resent him for unknown reasons and a wife with striking mismatched eyes.
The story starts slowly, with much emphasis on sketching the characters in quick yet understandable ways. The air of subtle creepiness, that something terrible is going to happen but we don’t yet know what, builds masterfully. The art captures the symbolism of change and transformation, but also of the soul and the fragility of life, in the butterfly flights shown.
This volume is less of a mystery and more of a thriller than others in the series. There isn’t so much a puzzle to solve as a slow wait for the killer to either reveal itself or make enough mistakes that Kindaichi can identify the person behind the murders. It’s a substantial read that builds an inexorable feeling of menace. As with most volumes in this series, the eventual motive winds up being an example of how past actions, thought long forgotten, will cause trouble in the present day.
Love is often confused with possession and revenge in these books, providing festering motives for murder. I was pleased to see the other side of love, of its potential for a fresh start, portrayed as well.