Midsummer Formula or Manatsu no Houteishiki or 真夏の方程式 (2013)
Midsummer Formula or Manatsu no Houteishiki or 真夏の方程式 (2013) sees us continuing the saga of Professor Manabu Yukawa (Masaharu Fukuyama) aka Galileo. This is based on a novel by Keigo Higashino published in 2011. Misa Kishitani (Yuriko Yoshitaka) is back in the saddle as the token detective and Shunpei Kusanagi (Kazuki Kitamura) lurks in the background to give the couple official cover as they navigate tricky waters. Thematically, this is a story about two children. Now grown up, we start with Narumi Kawabata (Anne Watanabe), while Kyohei Tsukazaki (Hikaru Yamazaki) is still young and goes through a crash course of how to lose your innocence without understanding exactly what’s happening.
Galileo has been invited by Submarine Mineral Resources Development to conduct an underwater survey in the sea off the picturesque fishing village of Harigaura. The entire project is opposed by the majority of the village, led by the vocal but not very logical Narumi Kawabata. By coincidence, Galileo is staying in the small hotel run by her parents. On the train to this holiday destination, he encounters Kyohei Tsukazaki. He proves to be the nephew of the couple who run the inn. This brings all the key players to the same place. Everyone who has read or watched the adaptations will know Galileo is allergic to children. He finds their inability to think in a coherent and logical fashion so difficult to cope with, close contact brings him out in hives. However, this boy’s rather more engaging personality seems to make him acceptable to the professor. As a result, he sets out to show this naturally sceptical boy the virtues of a scientific approach to the solution of problems. In this case, the challenge is to give the boy a clear view of the life underwater not less than 200 metres from shore. The way in which Galileo solves this problem is both elegant and educational. Even the stubborn boy is forced to concede the results of the experiment are beautiful. However, this all comes at a difficult time for the hotel. One of the other men staying at the hotel has apparently fallen to his death from a nearby breakwater. However, when the results of the autopsy come back, it seems the man died of carbon monoxide poisoning before he hit the ground.
This gives the professor the first part of his challenge as a detective. How can a man be gassed in the open air and so “fall” to his death? The police naturally research the background to this suspicious death and discover that he used to be a senior detective in Tokyo Central. This triggers official interest and when Galileo is also found to be a guest at this hotel, Shunpei Kusanagi sends Misa Kishitani to find out what’s happening. During his professional career, the dead man was most interested in a stabbing case which occurred in 1998. He was never satisfied that the man who came forward to confess was actually the killer. But when the man produced the bloody knife and other evidence, the courts confirmed the conviction and he has spent the intervening years in jail, only recently being released because he’s developed cancer of the brain and will soon die. Galileo is fascinated by the question of why this retired detective should also have been in the same hotel and delegates the task of a detailed background investigation of the family to Misa Kishitani. This sends her back to Tokyo and leaves the professor quietly looking round the hotel with the assistance of the boy.
As a result of the professor’s second demonstration to the boy of a scientific truth over dinner, the father realises the professor is on the right track and so goes to the police to confess an accidental death in the hotel and the attempt by he and his wife to cover it up. Obviously, it’s bad for business if guests are reported dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in their rooms. At first sight, the police are inclined to think this a credible explanation for what happened. The professor, however, urges Tokyo to redouble its efforts to investigate this murder of 1998. Indeed, in due course, the professor goes to see the man who confessed to the crime and is now in a hospice waiting to die. This leads him to make a number of decisions about how best to proceed.
As you would expect, both the death in the hotel and the earlier murder prove to be interesting cases. But at the heart of this film, the issue is the innocence of childhood and the choices that affect them. In this instance, the problem for Galileo to solve is social rather than a simple matter of physics. The murder of the woman in 1998 resonates today and is the direct cause of the retired detective’s death. But digging out the whole truth of both events could have very unfortunate effects. It’s therefore left to the usually indifferent professor to craft a solution to protect those who should be protected. This matches a similar dilemma in Suspect X (2008) but the difficulty is heightened in this case by the unexpectedly close relationship that grows between Galileo and the boy. As adults, we’re expected to take responsibility for our actions. But as children, their intellectual and emotional development is limited. Consequently, they are not supposed to be capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Others therefore take decisions on their behalf. As a physicist, Galileo surveys the bottom of the sea off the coast at Harigaura. It’s not for him to take the decision whether to exploit any of the resources he identifies. He presents his findings. It’s then for Japan to balance the need for those resources and the economic benefits they would bring to the country, against the need to protect the environment for future generations of Japanese to enjoy. These are not values he feels he can assess — mathematical formulae cannot resolve complex social and economic issues.
When it comes to children and the decisions taken on their behalf, Galileo faces a comparable difficulty. It’s not for him to impose his choices on others. They must find their own paths. But when young, they are not competent to take those decisions. So the best he can do is protect them in the initial stages until they can ask the right questions, elicit the appropriate information, and then choose the path that’s right for them. He approaches this task in a completely unsentimental way. No matter what his personal feelings, he holds himself to a higher code. In the end, it’s for each individual adult to make an informed decision and take responsibility for its consequences. Slightly less frequently for a murder mystery film, this provides an interesting political and social subtext and gives additional power to the film. Although it’s slightly more measured and slow in its build-up than other adaptations of work by Keigo Higashino, this proves stronger because of the care taken to set the scene and allow the characters the room to develop. Hikaru Yamazaki as Kyohei Tsukazaki is particularly impressive as he slowly comes to recognise what the adults around him have been doing. There’s a moment of real sadness at the end when he suddenly understands how little in common he has with his father. Yet there’s hope for him because he may be deciding to treat Galileo as a role model.
For other work based on Keigo Higashino’s writing, see:
11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 (2011)
Broken or The Hovering Blade or Banghwanghaneun Kalnal or 방황하는 칼날 (2014)
Bunshin or 分身 (2012)
Galileo or Garireo or ガリレオ
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 1 and 2
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 3 and 4
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 5 and 6
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 7, 8 and 9
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 10 and 11
Galileo: The Sacrifice of Suspect X or Yôgisha X no kenshin (2008)
The Murder in Kairotei or Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken or 回廊亭殺人事件 (2011)
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 1 to 4
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 5 to 8
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 9 to 12
Platinum Data or プラチナデータ (2013)
Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 1 to 5
Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 6 to 11
White Night or Baekyahaeng or 백야행 : 하얀 어둠 속을 걷다 (2009)
The Wings of the Kirin or Kirin no Tsubasa: Gekijoban Shinzanmono or 麒麟の翼 ～劇場版・新参者～ (2012)
For a Galileo novel, see Salvation of a Saint.