The Wings of the Kirin or Kirin no Tsubasa: Gekijoban Shinzanmono or 麒麟の翼 ～劇場版・新参者～ (2012)
The Wings of the Kirin or Kirin no Tsubasa: Gekijoban Shinzanmono or 麒麟の翼 ～劇場版・新参者～ (2012) is based on the ninth novel in Keigo Higashino‘s “Kyoichiro Kaga” mystery series. It focuses on guilt, one of the most powerful and destructive of human emotions. Why is it so powerful? If others are aware of the “offence” committed, the wrongdoer can accept the judgment of those others and show contrition. But when you judge yourself as having broken either moral or secular laws, how can you forgive yourself? Guilt is not just self-policing, but internalised self-punishment as well. Thematically in this film, we’re into the layering of responsibility. Taking it step by step, what is the responsibility of parents for their children when they “innocently” make mistakes? When the children attend school, teachers stand in the same position as parents and must also act as moral compasses to show the inexperienced how to navigate the difficult waters of condemnation, acceptance of responsibility and redemption. When children become adults and enter the world of work, employers have a duty to provide a safe place and a safe system of work. Being human, any authority figure can fail when supposed to show others how they should behave when they have done “wrong”. The worst outcome comes when the original “offenders” and the authority figures conspire to hide the “offence”. This creates a situation in which guilt drives the continuing need for all involved to hide the offence, and to generate a potential motive for murder when the secrecy is threatened.
In the Nihombashi area of Tokyo, a man staggers on to a bridge with knife in his stomach, managing to get far enough across to be able to release a piece of origami into the river and die under a statue titled The Wings of the Gryphon (Kirin). Detective Kyoichiro Kaga (Hiroshi Abe) is called in to investigate, conveniently interrupting what was to him an embarrassing discussion about whether to attend the religious ceremony to acknowledge the anniversary of his father’s death. A first impression of the investigation shows the victim walked a significant distance after being stabbed, but did not ask for help. It seemed important he get to the bridge. Not too far away, Yashima, a young man, is hiding in the bushes. When the police notice him, he runs and is knocked down in the road. He has the dead man’s briefcase and wallet with him which makes him a suspect. He lies in the ICU in a coma.
The way the investigation unwinds is fascinating. Yuhei Matsumiya (Junpei Mizobata) Kaga’s cousin and young assistant during the investigation, establishes that Yashima worked at the factory where the deceased was a manager. He was injured in a workplace accident because of old and defective machinery. Later he was fired. When Yashima dies without regaining consciousness, the senior police officers leak the information so the mass media will treat this as a motive for the suspect to have taken revenge. They want a quick result and blaming the dead suspect is not going to be controversial. Except, of course, there are consequences, Haruka Aoyagi (Seika Taketomi) the deceased’s daughter, attempts suicide when bullied at school. Her father is being blamed for covering up an accident that almost killed Yashima. Yuto Aoyagi (Tori Matsuzaka) the deceased’s son is also very disturbed when he learns his dying father struggled to get to the statue of the Gryphon.
Meanwhile Kaga is wandering around Nihombashi trying to work out what the deceased was doing there. It seems to be connected to the seven shrines in the area. In the midst of all this, Kaori Nakahara (Yui Aragaki) the girlfriend of the suspect is fired from her job. It’s guilt by association. This is hard on her. Not only is she pregnant, but she had also been angry with Yashima for not making greater efforts to find work. She blames herself for pushing him into doing something bad. Indeed, she’d refused to tell him of the pregnancy because she was afraid he’d run away from the responsibility. In fact the young man loved her dearly and had been diligently looking for work.
When Kaga and Yuhei Matsumiya tour the shrines, they find the deceased had been leaving origami cranes made from paper bought in a local shop. Yet Ami Aoyama (Meisa Kuroki) the deceased’s wife, denies her husband was in any way religious. This leads to a kind a battle between the senior detectives who just want to close the case and blame it on Yashima, while Kaga manipulates the situation to keep the investigation going. This makes the police procedural aspect of the story particularly interesting. Naturally, the solution depends on the significance of the statue on the bridge. Historically, it was the centre of Japan, the point from which all roads begin. However, for these purposes, the meaning is a reference to a past tragedy. I confess to odd moments of weepiness leading up the end as the truth of the matter exposes so many layers of failure. This was an avoidable death. Although Japanese culture takes saving face very seriously, I suspect the same result would have occurred in other parts of the world. No-one likes to admit they are in the wrong even though there may be no punishment, formal or informal. Cover-ups are commonplace. As a result, The Wings of the Kirin or Kirin no Tsubasa: Gekijoban Shinzanmono or 麒麟の翼 ～劇場版・新参者～ is a thoughtful and powerful film dealing with issues of social importance with a strong sense of drama as the mystery is systematically resolved. It’s yet another impressive piece of fiction from the pen of Keigo Higashino.
For other work based on Keigo Higashino’s writing, see:
Galileo or Garireo or ガリレオ
Galileo: The Sacrifice of Suspect X or Yôgisha X no kenshin (2008)
Salvation of a Saint
White Night or Baekyahaeng or 백야행 : 하얀 어둠 속을 걷다 (2009)