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Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 6 to 11

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Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) continues with more stories drawn from three novels “Hannin No Inai Satsujin No Yoru”, “Ayashii Hitobito” and “Ano Koro No Dareka” written by Keigo Higashino, the phenomenally successful Japanese author specialising in crime novels and short stories. Episode 6 could have been much better, but it confuses the viewers by failing to clarify questions of identity. When Shigehisa Bitou (Masanobu Ando) first meets Aoyama Yayoi (Masami Nagasawa), he unnecessarily misrepresents himself. I can see no good reason for him not being honest from the outset. Similarly, when the two team up to meet with Kiyomi Hatakeyama (Maiko), they pretend to be brother and sister. This is absurd. Hatakeyama already knows Shigehisa Bitou which is why they are allowed in to see her dying father. She should (a) address him by his real name, thereby alerting Aoyama Yayoi to the deception, and (b) know Shigehisa Bitou does not have a sister. However, the basic plot is actually interesting, depending for its solution on the way the Japanese write their characters. Whether this would have been what the murder victim chose to hint at in his final dying moments is quite a different matter. Some might say the whole episode is woefully contrived in the same spirit as Ellery Queen’s The Scarlett Letters. But I was prepared to overlook the set-up because I was curious to see how the writing would solve the case.

Masami Nagasawa

Masami Nagasawa

 

Episode 7 is another slightly underwhelming whydunnit rather than whodunnit. I’m not against exploring the psychological side of crimes but I was disappointed that the logic of why this particular death was not an accident or suicide was not properly developed. It’s an elegant idea and deserves better but, in the rush to make a point about the dangers of smoking, whether active or passive, everything else is reduced to a rather perfunctory level.

 

Episode 8 does its best to obscure a simple coming-of-age story set in the final year at school. Three students, Ryo Nakaoka (Haruma Miura), Tatsuya Yukihara (Takuro Ohno) and Yoko Saeki (Haru), have been together throughout their school career and then Tatsuya Yukihara “falls” from the top of a school building. It’s fairly obvious what must have happened, but the way the narrative is structured and shot goes above and beyond the call of duty to obscure the precise order of events. That way, we viewers can’t get to see who knew what and when. The outcome is everyone damaged because the culture of young people is often very protective of their emotions. Rather than risk exposure and loss, they prefer to hide their feelings. I suppose you can admire the technique on display, but the story proves uninvolving.

Ryoko Hirosue

Ryoko Hirosue

 

Episode 9 proves to be the most successful of the stories. Tomomi Iida (Ryoko Hirosue) a young woman has lost her fairly prestigious job and is wondering whether to take a drop in status and pay when she receives an unexpected letter from a woman she’d known at college. It seems her friend has married but, when she looks at the photograph, it shows a man and woman, but not the woman she knew. This piques her curiosity so, unannounced, she decides to travel to the sender’s address to explore this minor mystery. Except, it may not be a minor mystery. Her supposed husband, Masaaki Yamashita (Koji Ookura), is very evasive when they speak on the telephone, and refuses to meet with her when she goes to his office. No-one has seen Noriko Yamashita (Sayaka Yamaguchi) for days. Her cellphone is switched off and goes directly to voicemail. While talking with Yuji Sakurai (Takehiro Hira) the next-door neighbour, she gets the feeling she’s being watched. When she runs to the end of the corridor, she sees a figure carrying an oddly-coloured bag running away. When someone pushes her off a cliff, it’s obvious something is seriously wrong. Although it does become somewhat melodramatic, this nicely weaves suspicion and paranoia together to produce an entertaining episode.

 

Episode 10 has us back in a coming-of-age scenario when Asako Yamaoka (Ryoko Shinohara) worries about her relationship with Teruhiko Murakami (Seiichi Tanabe). He has nightmares and, for reasons he will not explain, does not want children. Uncertain whether he has a mistress, she decides to follow him when she sees him buying a big bunch of flowers. What follows is one of these stories of guilt when young boys are their usual selfish selves and may indirectly have been responsible for the death of a young girl who was one of these slightly annoying hangers on. The set-up is reasonable but, even in Japanese culture, I’m not entirely sure it would have worked out like this. In a way, it ends up rather frustrating because we’re only left with an inference. Nothing is properly explained.

Akiko Yada

Akiko Yada

 

Which leaves us with episode 11 as the final contribution to this collection of short stories. This is delightfully macabre and, as with any really good episode, nicely creeps up on the viewer. It all starts off perfectly innocently with a highly reputable doctor, Yumiko Kanzaki (Akiko Yada) who runs a fertility clinic, responding to a couple’s desire for children by finding a baby boy for them to adopt. The baby looks and behaves quite normally. As you would expect, both parents seem delighted. There’s just one oddity. Whereas they were expecting to pay a fee for this service, the woman doctor refuses payment. Uncertain how he’s supposed to react, Minekazu Negishi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), the husband, contacts the doctor again and is surprised to be invited to a meal at a restaurant he used to visit regularly. She orders the wine and food he likes. It seems her background research into the suitability of this man to be an adoptive parent has been remarkably efficient. Except perhaps she wants something different as payment. Does she want sex with him? The answer to this and other questions is slowly revealed. It’s wonderful and stands alongside episode 9 as the joint best episode.

Kiichi Nakai

Kiichi Nakai

 

This just leaves me to say a few words about the murder investigation which frames each episode. This is inventive and nicely illuminates the themes of the plots from the individual episodes. The victim and editor of the mystery magazine who introduces each episode is played with considerable wit and style by Kiichi Nakai. From the outset, he claims to have been murdered, but no-one else who comes into the room agrees with this diagnosis. They all seem to think it was an accident (or, possibly, a suicide). Only in the last frame of the last episode do we get a clear indication of which way it’s likely to turn out. It was a very pleasing moment. Taken overall, the standard is slightly uneven, but the majority of episodes are very good to excellent.

 

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 1 to 5
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.

 

Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 1 to 5

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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.

Junichi Ishigami (Toshiaki Karasawa) as the coach

Junichi Ishigami (Toshiaki Karasawa) as the 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.

Detective Juuzo Banba (Ren_Osugi)

Detective Juuzo Banba (Ren Osugi)

 

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).

Reiko Yamashita (Ito Ono)

Reiko Yamashita (Ito Ono)

 

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.

 

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