Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 1 to 5
Keigo Higashino is a phenomenally successful Japanese author specialising in crime novels and short stories. The eleven episodes making up this television series of adaptations under the name, Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) are drawn from three novels “Hannin No Inai Satsujin No Yoru”, “Ayashii Hitobito” and “Ano Koro No Dareka”. All the episodes have an introductory scene set in a mystery writer’s office. The writer has been murdered. For our greater edification, the ghost of the victim offers insights into the murder scene and its evolving investigation. At the end of the episode, there’s a hook as another witness or possible suspect to the murder comes into the office. It’s an elegant procedural device to introduce each episode and set up the next.
“Sayonara Coach” Junichi Ishigami (Toshiaki Karasawa) is the coach for Naomi Mochizuki (Rena Tanaka) who comes tantalisingly close to winning a place in the Japanese Archery team for the Olympics. Apparently depressed by her failure, she makes a video recording of her suicide note and kills herself. The case falls to Kazuma Suzuki (Tokuma Nishioka) who finds certain inconsistencies in this scenario. He becomes even more convinced something is wrong when Yoko Ishigami (Naho Toda), the coach’s pregnant wife, is attacked. This is a darkly elegant plot. It plays on the stereotypical dispassionate nature of a coach. He or she is supposed to be able to deconstruct the technique used by the sports person and put training in place to remedy identified defects. Psychologically, the sports person must not be afraid or anxious — the bow trembling slightly in nervous hands as it is to be fired could be the difference between success and failure. Confidence and positive thinking must prevail. The coach is also ultimately selfish. The success of the sportsperson means reflected glory and the possibility of more people to coach.
It’s therefore not surprising the coach does not turn away when the anxious archer throws herself at him. She’s desperate, having lost self-confidence. By sleeping with her and making her feel good about herself, he turns her into a real contender. Although she loses in the Olympic trials, it’s by a hairsbreadth. She comes so close. Unfortunately, that’s an end of her career. At her age, she’s not going to continue training for the next four years. She must make decisions about her future. The video seems to resolve all these issues. Better still, the coach is free to continue in his loving relationship with his wife who’s pregnant. How convenient (in a dispassionate kind of way). Yet the fact we might all suspect the coach is not proof he did anything wrong. The way the story peels back the layers of the relationships is captivating with the precise mechanisms in play producing a completely appropriate outcome, although not in the way the coach might have expected.
The second episode is one of these pleasing stories in which a family with some level of wealth and status has been unlucky enough to produce a younger son who has limited mental ability. On the day we arrive in this household, he attacks the new young lady who was employed to help tutor him. He runs to the kitchen covered in blood and when the rest of the family examine the body, she’s pronounced dead. This is profoundly embarrassing to the family and they wish to avoid any interaction with the police. Fortunately, they also employ Takuya Sato (Kenji Sakaguchi), a young man who dropped out of university where he was studying as a medical student. When approached, he reluctantly agrees to help the older son dispose of the body. So begins the fairly standard plot and we sit back in anticipation the entire cover-up will come unstuck. And, sure enough, a man claiming to be the victim’s brother turns up at the house and has to be chased away. Then, despite burying the body deep in the woods, an unexpectedly heavy rain storm washes the soil away from the body and now the tension ratchets up as the brother goes to the police. How and why the whole plan fails is great fun as Detective Takano (Takeo Nakahara) turns up. Although there’s an early sign, the plot is constructed in such a way that the precise sequence of events only becomes apparent at the end. It’s an entirely satisfying answer and shows up the key person involved as remarkably focused on getting what he/she wants out of the situation.
The third episode titled “Endless Night” is not so much a police procedural murder investigation as a crime story in which we’re invited to explore the state of the murder victim’s wife. Yoichi Tamura (Koutaro Tanaka) decides to go to Osaka to open a branch of his family’s business. His wife, Atsuko Tamura (Nao Matsushita) flatly refuses to accompany him. Some months later, she’s called from Tokyo to identify her husband’s body. He’s been stabbed in the shop. Detective Juuzo Banba (Ren Osugi) suspects the wife from the outset, but he’s completely baffled as to why she might have done it. He therefore spends time with her just walking round Osaka, trying to work out why she’s so uncomfortable in the city. As a window into Japanese culture, the last fifteen minutes of the episode is fascinating as the detective and wife stand on the roof of a hotel and talk without actually looking at each other. Indeed, most of the time, the detective stands behind the wife. In a sense, both reveal personal tragedies in their lives. They are not in any sense connected, but they do share a bond of sorts.
The fourth episode is the least successful in the series so far. We begin with Yoko Asano (Arisa Mizuki), an attorney, being interviewed after doing her best to keep the treatment of a juvenile offender as fair as is possible in the Japanese legal system. When she returns home in a downpour, she finds Reiko Yamashita (Ito Ono), a young woman, soaked to the skin in her garage. We’ve already seen a stabbing but, at this stage, it’s not clear whether this is the woman responsible. Later, the lawyer searches the garage and finds both a still wet umbrella and a bloodstained knife wrapped up in a small towel. Our lawyer is friendly with Shinichi Fujikawa (Eisaku Yoshida), a psychologist, who quickly diagnoses multiple personality disorder. This sets us off down the path well travelled to decide whether a murder committed by one personality requires a conviction of the other personalities (which may be less guilty or more innocent depending on their point of view).
However, the story then veers off track with a twist and more backstory. Although the twist is reasonably ingenious, it’s rather thrown away because the lawyer’s motivation is given equal, if not greater, prominence as the plot unwinds. I have no problem with the lawyer feeling more obligated to help young offenders because she herself was abused as a child. Nor that she should have the idealism to believe, given the right treatment, the good in everyone can be discovered and come to be the dominant personality trait. But this script does not handle the emergence of her abuse in a very coherent way, and the explanation for the accused murderer developing multiple personality disorder is fudged. The result is a failure to make the quickly formed relationship of trust between lawyer and client credible. The ending, subtitled “One year later” is also rather gratuitous and not particularly satisfying. I’m also less than convinced the script has this young woman in the right healthcare setting. It looks like a completely open general hospital, rather than a dedicated mental healthcare facility which would have the security in place to deal with potentially homicidal patient awaiting trial.
Episode 5 is one of these tragic stories where the failure of a couple to be completely honest with each other sows the seeds for a possible murder. This is not a police procedural. Indeed, the first death is almost immediately ruled accidental with the couple left to mourn the death of a child. Put simply, Nobihiko Nakagawa (Takashi Sorimachi) is working from home but is called out of the house for what should have been a five minute trip to the local convenience store to use its fax machine. Unfortunately, two men decide to rob the store and he’s collateral damage, waking up in hospital later on. Because he was not able to return home, his daughter died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Some time later, the couple go away on a holiday together but all is not well between them. The man suspects Naomi Nakagawa (Ai Kato), his second wife, of killing the daughter from the first marriage. Stepmother and child did not get on. It was souring the marriage. He thinks she used the kerosine heater to kill his daughter. On their first night in the hotel, they argue and he puts his hands around her neck. The problem actually arises because they have failed to discuss what each one did. It takes Shigeo Fujimura (Toshiyuki Kitami), another guest at the hotel, to force the husband to review what happened. That just leaves the question of whether this is all too late to prevent a second tragedy.
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)
Midsummer Formula or Manatsu no Houteishiki or 真夏の方程式 (2013)
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 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.