The After Dinner Mysteries or Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de or 推理要在晚餐后 (2011) Episodes 1 and 2
The After Dinner Mysteries or Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de or 推理要在晚餐后 (2011) is a Japanese comedy crime series based on the novel “Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de” by Tokuya Higashigawa that manages to amuse despite my Western tastes. Better still, the quality of the puzzles to solve is pleasingly high yet the script plays fair with the viewers most of the time. The format of the show follows that of The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie, and gives us three stereotypes from which to draw humour. The first is the hero of the series, Kageyama (Sho Sakurai). This follows in the tradition of the Jeeves and Wooster stories by P G Wodehouse where a fairly dim person of high status employs a butler who contrives to pull the fat out of the fire whenever it’s necessary. In this case, the butler is young and powerfully intelligent. The reason for his selection to carry on in the role is that, as the rich heiress has now decided to hide her background and enter the police force, the older butler can no longer keep up with her to provide the necessary protection demanded by her father. He therefore passes on the bow tie of office to the more sprightly youngster.
Reiko Hosho (Keiko Kitagawa) comes from a zaibatsu, i.e. a family wealthy and powerful beyond even normal Japanese standards and, as the heiress, she should be married off to another family to protect the inheritance position. Except she has decided not to comply with the conventions of the family and is now a rookie detective at Kunitachi Police Precinct’s Criminal Affairs Division. It’s not exactly that she’s dim, but she has yet to acquire enough experience of life outside the cocoon of wealth to be able to understand how “real”, i.e. poor, people live. This makes her not particularly well suited to investigate crimes. Nevertheless she’s willing to learn and has reasonably good instincts. This should work well except for a piece of bad luck. She’s assigned to work for Kyoichiro Kazamatsuri (Kippei Shiina). Like Reiko, he comes from a rich family — that controlling Kazamatsuri Motors — and works for the police. Unfortunately, he’s terminally stupid, only surviving in his position as head of the Serious Crimes Unit because of his family’s status.
The structure of each episode gives us a “comic book” view of the crime to solve. We see the crime scene through the eyes of Kyoichiro Kazamatsuri who spouts nonsensical interpretations of the primary features of the crime scene. Most of the time, Reiko Hosho is able to puncture the buffoon’s opinions. The rest of the time she keeps her doubts to herself. One of the games is to try spotting Kageyama who shadows his mistress to ensure she is safe. He can be working as a cleaner mopping floors, hiding in boxes of fruit and vegetables, or cutting a very large ornamental bush into the shape of a dinosaur (he likes to stay inconspicuous). We then cut back to her palatial residence just before dinner, hence the parallel with The Thirteen Problems. She’s deeply depressed that she cannot solve the case so he accuses her of being stupid, blind or mentally disabled. Naturally she would normally fire him for insubordination but, if he can solve each case and she can take the credit, she will rise through the ranks and get out of the shadow of the idiotic Kyoichiro Kazamatsuri. She therefore swallows her pride and, after we are allowed to sit in on all her interviews with witnesses, the brain-power of the butler solves the case.
The first murder is beautifully Japanese, depending on the custom of removing shoes before entering the home. A woman is found dead in her bedroom wearing lace-up boots. There’s no mark at all on the wooden floor in the sitting area so she cannot have walked in. Kyoichiro Kazamatsuri therefore believes we have a man strong enough to kill her outside the apartment and then carry her into the bedroom. The butler carefully deconstructs what all the witnesses say and then reconstructs the sequence of events so that everything fits together. Although there’s an element of padding to get the script to the right length, this is a wonderful format. As viewers we get to see and hear the same information as the butler (the show breaks this in the second episode in one respect when the butler views the crime scene himself and spots an anomaly in the bookcase next the the desk where the body is found). It’s therefore up to us to apply our own reasoning abilities to beat the butler to the right answer. I confess to failing miserably with the first puzzle which is just wonderful when you can look back at the chain of reasoning. The second episode is not quite as strong. We have a locked house mystery in which we’re to assume there are five people who could have done it. In fact, such is the ease with which our butler gets into the crime scene, any killer could entered the house and put all but one of the right elements in place for death to occur. But the script assumes our killer is one of the five. There are pleasing clues but, as with one of the Agatha Christie short stories, I’m not sure this is an entirely fair solution.
Despite my reservations, this is a very strong opening pair of episodes and bodes well for the rest of the season so long as the scripts do not endlessly recycle the same jokes. To maximize enjoyment, forget to think about the failure of the police force to investigate Reiko Hosho’s background and give her higher status because of her family connections.
For reviews of the other episodes, see:
The After Dinner Mysteries or Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de or 推理要在晚餐后 (2011): Episodes 3 and 4
The After Dinner Mysteries or Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de or 推理要在晚餐后 (2011): Episodes 5 and 6
The After Dinner Mysteries or Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de or 推理要在晚餐后 (2011): Episodes 7 and 8
The After Dinner Mysteries or Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de or 推理要在晚餐后 (2011): Episodes 9 and 10.