Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 9 to 12
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) continues the story from the Keigo Higashino novels Naniwa Shonen Tanteida (1988) and its sequel Shinobu Senseni Sayonara (1996). Episode 9 sees us in full teacher mode as our doughty hero, Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe), has some of the girls over to her apartment for study. Except, of course, they are far more interested in using her make-up and machines for a facial than actual studying. The studying gets even more remote when the boys turn up with pork skewers to eat, closely followed by Taeko Takeuchi (Keiko Matsuzaka) with other goodies to snack on. Meanwhile Shuhei Shindo (Teppei Koike) and Susumu Urushizaki (Yasunori Danta), our two detectives, have been called to what could be a burglary gone wrong. An elderly lady, about to move into an old folks home, has withdrawn a large sum of cash from the bank to pay the first year’s fees. That night, a man enters her home and she kills him by bashing him with a mallet (the sporting variety or unsporting since she may have hit him from behind). What follows is outstanding as our hero’s neighbours, a single mother and her young daughter, get sucked into the investigation. It’s the balance between the mystery and the social pressures that produced this particular situation that makes this such a perfect episode. Perhaps if the neighbour’s parent’s had not so strongly disapproved of her marriage, or if her first husband had not died in an accident, or if the little girl had not broken her arm. Life is full of these what-ifs and, for once, everyone on the system proves to be full of understanding. At first it looks as though our hero has opened her mouth and will cause great problems for everyone but, albeit in a sad way, it all comes out right in the end.
Episode 10 is another of these very ingenious mysteries in which we have a young woman found dead. There are drugs in her system and her wrist was slashed with a knife. She bled out in the shower-room of her apartment. Remarkably the knife turns up in one of these quite exotic fresh fruit and cream cakes the Japanese so love. It’s a unique way of disposing of the weapon used to cause death (to prove the point, the local CSI units confirms the blood on the blade is indeed the victim’s so there’s no cheating). But why would anyone put the knife in such a place? Then there are the stories going round the neighbourhood of a UFO. This is not just one person making a sighting. There’s a pattern to people reporting something strange in the sky.
The last two episodes run together to make the grand climax to this serial. There are three parts to the ending. Obviously, there’s a mystery, we need some resolution for our hero and guidance on what the future holds for her, and there’s a general paean to the profession of teaching and this teacher in particular. For the final case, there’s a murder and one of the mothers who has a child in the hero’s class has a very odd accident. The Japanese culture comes very much into focus with an interesting insight into the attitudes both of the “elite”, i.e. those who have been to the top universities and so command the maximum respect in whatever professions they choose to enter, and of those lucky enough to work for or with these elite individuals.
There’s also a fascinating discussion of how best to air a futon. Although this thread in the plot is not without interest, the solution ultimately depends on the coincidence of our hero happening to have the girl in her class. There’s also a chance for the junior detectives to get into the action as we have an overly long confrontation with the killer about two-thirds of the way through. The romantic climax plays absolutely fair as one of the two suitors makes a proposal and the other decides not to make a fool of himself — I leave it to you to guess whether Yoshihiko Honma (Koji Yamamoto) makes the proposal. Her answer is predictable even though you can see she’s tempted to give a different answer. It’s the element dealing with the teaching profession that emerges as the most problematic. I don’t in principle object to a series deciding to make such a feature of the role of teachers, but this is excessively sentimental and goes on far too long. No matter how interesting a character, and this teacher is certainly interesting, there comes a point when you just wish the end had come, but see there’s still ten minutes to go. This is a shame because the serial almost manages to go out on a high, but this two hour finale overruns by thirty minutes.
Looking back, Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida is a very pleasing ensemble piece with the community strongly represented through the children and their parents. It’s been good to see Yoichi Nukumizu and Yuki Saito as the semi-comic relief. They run the pork skewer bar and represent a social hub through which all the main characters pass. With their older son off fighting crime alongside his teacher instead of going to the graduation ceremony, they have a chance to shine in straight drama terms in the last two episodes. Put all this together and this serial emerges as fairly undemanding in mystery terms but a nevertheless enjoyable set of twelve episodes with Mikako Tabe as Shinobu Takeuchi creating a memorable character on screen.
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
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.