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) is based on the Keigo Higashino novels Naniwa Shonen Tanteida (1988) and its sequel Shinobu Senseni Sayonara (1996). Our first view of Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe) comes as she berates a driving instructor for being overly critical of her driving skills. In its own right, this is a bravura performance, inciting fear in all who see her in full flow. However, she’s been lucky enough to land a temporary role as a homeroom teacher at Ooki Elementary School in Osaka, Japan. Her mother Taeko Takeuchi (Keiko Matsuzaka) has begged her to keep her temper in check. Since this is a probationary post, any violent outburst is likely to be her last. Half the fun of watching this serial is waiting for the chance for her to show her volcanic side. Fortunately, the head teacher Yukio Nakata (Fumiyo Kohinata) is one of these world-weary professionals who’s seen everything in a long career and is prepared to see people as a mixture of good and bad. So long as the bad does not dominate, he’s prepared to see only the good. The problem comes with Mika Haruna (Fumino Kimura) who has tenure and strongly disapproves the exuberant enthusiasm of the newcomer.
On her first day at school, one boy does not appear and she quickly learns his father has been murdered. As a lifelong fan of detective fiction, she can’t resist tuning in to all the gossip about the boy and his family. She’s very quickly as knowledgeable as the two detectives assigned to deal with the case. There’s Shuhei Shindo (Teppei Koike) the good-looking young detective, and Susumu Urushizaki (Yasunori Danta) the seasoned detective who’s most likely to get on the right track. We therefore get a twin-track view of each investigation. In this first case, the detectives go carefully through all the locals who might have had motive and opportunity but can’t find a suspect. The only piece of information that might mean something is an older lady’s assertion she saw a truck being driven by a ghost. From the other side, Shinobu Takeuchi soon crosses swords with Shuhei Shindo and is quicker to understand the significance of where the truck used to be parked when father and son sold hot meals from the back. It’s a really pleasing moment in a completely delightful first episode. Our first view of the titular junior detectives is also encouraging. They are Tetpei Tanaka (Tatsuomi Hamada), Hiroshi Hatanaka (Akira Takahashi) and Ikuo Harada (Koki Maeda) with Osamu Harada (Oshiro Maeda) allowed into the team through the cronyism of his brother. The parents of the latter pair are Masao Harada (Yoichi Nukumizu) and Hideko Harada (Yuki Saito) who run a bar/eatery.
They feature in the second episode. Their marriage has been under strain as she enters a form of midlife crisis, preferring the fantasy of a Korean soap star to the reality of her life in the eatery. She decides to learn to drive as a gesture at establishing her own independence. Unfortunately, the driving instructor is handsome and looks not unlike her star, so she’s tempted into the idea she will stray. Unfortunately, before she can act on this, there’s a serious crash while she’s driving. Her instructor ends up in the ICU. So the problem is to decide who’s responsible for the accident and why dog shit has been appearing outside Shinobu Takeuchi’s home. Yes, unlikely though it is, there’s a connection. Although it’s a slight story, there’s an essential amiability about the emerging sense of community on display as local people wander the streets and keep out an eye for each other. The faintly comic car chase at the end seals an enjoyable episode. To help get everyone involved, Susumu Urushizaki is also smitten by Taeko Takeuchi, offering us the chance for the two police officers to marry into the same family — no wait, Taeko Takeuchi is married, but not averse to feeding the detective his favorite dishes whenever he’s in the area.
The third episode sees a potential triangle emerging as Yukio Nakata, head teacher, sets up a “blind date”. In Japanese society, he and her mother both go to a neutral venue to meet Yoshihiko Honma (Koji Yamamoto), a potential young man with the right qualifications of status and salary for marriage. Of course, he’s not only completely unsuitable, he also seems to have used this meeting as his alibi to commit a murder. This gives an edge to the investigation as Shuhei Shindo is jealous and has the power to make life for the rival difficult. So this all comes down to a question of opportunity with the three (or possibly four) suspects having an alibi. Naturally, our girl is quick to see the problem with her potential fiancé’s story — it’s all to do with when it started to rain and where he might have been when that happened. This is quite pleasing. Susumu Urushizaki is able to trick the real killer into an admission which is a bit contrived but it does just about tie up the loose ends before it all gets too confusing.
The fourth episode treads a narrow line between entertainment and a learning opportunity for viewers. We start off watching our heroic teacher team-building through softball. During this happy hour, she impresses both Mika Haruna with a softball through her classroom window as she’s trying to teach music, and Senbai Nishimaru Keizo Kanie http://asianwiki.com/Zen_Kajihara , an old man who allowed his son, Shoichi Nishimaru (Zen Kajihara) to take over the running of the family company. Unfortunately, the son is making a mess of this task and the old man wants to headhunt our teacher to show him how a group should work together to get the best results. Interestingly, the old man is magnificently miserly, but apparently has a heart of gold. Except, when our hero and the three young detectives are in his house, one of his employees dies. This may be a murder, suicide or accident as the man is found dying under a broken fourth storey office window. The old man runs inside the office block while our hero calls for ambulance and police. When she goes into the office block, the old man is just coming out of the lift. Reluctantly, he allows them all up to the office. He unlocks the door and lets them see the office which has the dead man’s shoes in front of the window. When she looks, she sees the man’s keys on his desk. So it seems he locked himself inside the office and then jumped, i.e. it’s a suicide. Our two police officers then arrive and our hero brings them up to speed — she’s now very much a part of their team. Indeed, when she later goes home, she finds them waiting for her eating her mother’s cooking. Susumu Urushizaki is distinctly more interested in her mother than the case. The answer to the case is actually very clever and fits in nicely with the message to give the autocratic son as manager. The other feature of this episode is that Yoshihiko Honma has met Mika Haruna. They share exactly the same interests and would be ideally suited. The problem now is for our hero to realise this is her escape from a marriage fate worse than death. All she has to do is push this pair together.
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 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.