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Posts Tagged ‘Keigo Higashino’

The Murder in Kairotei or Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken or 回廊亭殺人事件 (2011)

December 5, 2014 1 comment

11_Moji_no_Satsujin-p2

The Murder in Kairotei or Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken or 回廊亭殺人事件 (2011) is a made-for-television film version of Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken (1991) by Keigo Higashino. The best way to describe the nature of the plot is as a classic Golden Age detective format in service of a revenge thriller. So where do we start? Eriko Kiryu (Takako Tokiwa) is seen arriving at the exclusive guest house owned by the Hara family. In the best metafictional style, she tells viewers she’s come for revenge. The family are attending for the reading of the will left by Takaaki Hara (Soichiro Kitamura).  She believes one of those attending was responsible for killing her lover, Jiro Satonaka (Kei Tanaka) and almost strangling her to death in an earlier attack at this guest house. Why, you ask, will no-one recognise her and therefore take precautionary measures against her? She was very badly burned in the fire and so has had substantial reconstructive cosmetic surgery. In fact, she’s been made to resemble a cousin of the patriarch — not someone close enough to the patriarch to be in line to inherit. Her presence will therefore not seem threatening to the principal beneficiaries. This will put her in the best position to act as an amateur detective to try to identify who killed Jiro, attacked her, and set the fire that left her disfigured.

Eriko Kiryu (Takako Tokiwa) announces she has the will

Eriko Kiryu (Takako Tokiwa) announces she has the will

 

This is a Golden Age type of problem because all the family members then at the guest house had a motive to kill Jiro and/or her. Any one of them could have entered her room either by walking along the corridor or by walking through the garden and passing through the sliding window. As Eriko Kiryu, she was only a personal secretary but became a target because she was the most trusted member of the group of people surrounding Takaaki Hara. Despite their significant age difference, some even speculated Takaaki Hara might marry her or leave her ownership of the businesses and the money simply to spite the money-grubbing family members. Eliminating her removed one of the possible threats to the family inheriting the estate. We later learn there was also a reason for killing Jiro Satonaka, but it’s not clear how many of the family would have been aware of it.

Chief inspector Yasaki (Takashi Naito)

Chief inspector Yasaki (Takashi Naito)

 

To stir things up, she announces to the family at their first evening meal that she has a copy of the will made by Eriko Kiryu. It’s strongly hinted that the will contains information that will help identify who killed Jiro Satonaka. Needless to say, the envelope supposedly containing the will is stolen from her room and the thief is later found murdered. This brings Chief inspector Yasaki (Takashi Naito) to the guest house and a race develops. Will Eriko Kiryu work out who killed Jiro and take her revenge before the Chief Inspector realises she’s a fake and takes her out of the picture? Obviously, the same set of people are present as guests on both occasions, so it’s probable the same killer is at work. Ironically, this second death also benefits all those in line for inheritance. One less to inherit means more for the survivors. Despite watching the ending twice, I remain uncertain about the mechanics of who precisely is present at the relevant earlier times. I can envisage how the first death and attempted strangling must have been done, but I’m not convinced that’s what we see. Despite this, the amateur and professional detective are impressive in their ability to see through some of the deceit. And there’s a nice irony that Eriko Kiryu is not quite as close to unmasking as she might have feared. That said, her haste to take her revenge does produce a most interesting revelation. That the official investigation might have identified the killer from the forensic evidence is left hanging in the air. So The Murder in Kairotei or Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken or 回廊亭殺人事件 is fairly impressive with a nice array of unpleasant relatives queuing up to inherit to choose from as the killer.

 

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)
Salvation of a Saint
Midsummer Formula or Manatsu no Houteishiki or 真夏の方程式 (2013)
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)

 

Broken or The Hovering Blade or Banghwanghaneun Kalnal or 방황하는 칼날 (2014)

December 3, 2014 Leave a comment

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Revenge is one of the natural human responses, but it’s a more complex moral issue. The implication is that injuring someone in return for an injury suffered is justified as payback in kind but, if everyone engaged in this form of personalised justice, there would be chaos. Violence would escalate and so, to protect society, we delegate the policing function and the administration of justice to the state. In one sense, it takes revenge for us. There’s a balancing of harms and the honour of the victims is upheld. Theoretically, future wrongdoers are deterred and current criminals can be rehabilitated if everyone accepts the idea that the punishment meted out is fundamentally fair.

 

So let’s say a woman is raped. She’s the immediate victim. If she dies in the attack, her family members are also victimised. In our constitutional systems, the state usurps the right of the individuals to seek personal revenge. By doing so, it denies the experience of the victims and their need to strike back. Indeed ironically, if the victims decide to take action, the state is obligated to protect the rapists. This is not satisfactory to the victims. Further, if the state does not administer a punishment the victims feel is appropriately severe, a further loss of confidence emerges.

Sang-Hyun (Jung Jae-Young) takes his pursuit into the outdoors

Sang-Hyun (Jung Jae-Young) takes his pursuit into the outdoors

 

Broken or The Hovering Blade or Banghwanghaneun Kalnal or 방황하는 칼날 (2014) is a Korean version of the novel Samayou Yaiba by Keigo Higashino (a Japanese film version of the novel was released in 2009). The primary character is Sang-Hyun (Jung Jae-Young). He nursed his wife for three years while she died of cancer. When she dies, he sinks into depression. He has no time for his young daughter, Soo-Jin (Lee Soo-Bin). All he can do is go to work, earning enough to pay the bills despite the unforgiving nature of the work itself. When his daughter is kidnapped and dies while being raped, his life completely falls apart. He haunts the police station but all Detective Eok-Gwan (Lee Sung-Min) can tell him is that they are working the case. He can do nothing to help. He should go home and wait for news.

Detective Eok-Gwan (Lee Sung-Min) on the right consider his strategy

Detective Eok-Gwan (Lee Sung-Min) on the right consider his strategy

 

After a while, he decides to act and spends his savings on fliers which feature photographs of his daughter and his telephone number. Plagued by his feeling of guilt, one of the three juveniles sends the name and address of one of the other attackers who has video recordings of all their attacks. When the father breaks in and watches the video of his daughter’s death, he’s deeply wounded. Unfortunately, the young man comes home at this point and the father beats him to death with a baseball bat. Before he dies, the youth indicates where the third participant may be found. This sets the father off on the hunt. The detectives quickly realise who must be responsible and, with the evidence from the video recordings in their hands, they begin to contact all the families of those involved. Not all these parents where aware their daughters had been raped and their anguish is plainly on display. The problem for the police is that all these offenders are juveniles and unlikely to spend more than a few months in jail for their crimes. Now they know one parent has already killed one of the rapists and is on the trail of another, the senior officers decide they must not speak too publicly about this situation. If they give out the name and photograph of the young man at risk, the parents of other victims or vigilantes may get to him first. Detective Eok-Gwan is to lead the hunt without alerting the media. The father gets to the man who bought the videos of the rapes and sold them on as porn. They fight and, again, before he dies, the pornographer indicates where the missing young man may be hiding.

 

Conceptually, this is a marvellous film. It shows in detail how so many individuals and the state are broken. Two of the young offenders are callous and feel no guilt as to their behaviour. The third who blows the whistle was weak-willed and participated because he feared what the others would do to him if he did not actively support them. Their families are dysfunctional. The families of some of the victims were also dysfunctional offering little emotional support or practical care to their daughters. The detective is already being investigated because he reacted with some violence when arresting a juvenile offender in an earlier case. He’s deeply frustrated that the state’s justice system is broken and fails to dispense real punishments or positive treatment for offenders to effect their rehabilitation.

 

The pace of the film is terrific during the first two-thirds, but it then overplays its hand and goes through an unnecessary contortion to produce a grand climax. While not disputing the power of the final scenes, it took too long to get there and the impact was slightly diluted. Nevertheless, Broken or The Hovering Blade or Banghwanghaneun Kalnal or 방황하는 칼날 is a thoughtful and above average thriller that gets to the heart of the problem of how to deal with juveniles who commit serious offences.

 

For other work based on Keigo Higashino’s writing, see:
11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 (2011)
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)
Salvation of a Saint
Midsummer Formula or Manatsu no Houteishiki or 真夏の方程式 (2013)
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)

 

Brutus’ Heart or Brutus no Shinzo or ブルータスの心臓 (2011)

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Brutus’ Heart or Brutus no Shinzo or ブルータスの心臓 (2011) is the second of three made-for-television film adaptations of novels by Keigo Higashino and it starts off in a way that’s startlingly good. We begin two years before the main action with the death of an employee of MM Heavy Industries caused by the apparent malfunction of an industrial robot — he was going to marry Yumie Nakamori (Ai Kato) who continues to work for the company. Coming up to date, Takuya Suenaga (Tatsuya Fujiwara), Atsushi Hashimoto (Koji Ookura) and Naoki Nishina (Yoshihiko Hakamada) are being celebrated for their successful development of Brutus, an advanced robot developed by Takuya Suenaga. It is not only his pride and joy, it’s also critical to the future financial success of MM Heavy Industries. Toshiki Nishina (Morio Kazama), the CEO, is trying to encourage his daughter, Hoshiko Nashina (Sei Ashina), to marry Takuya Suenaga to keep him loyal to the company. Unfortunately, she has no intention of being a pawn in her father’s game and shrugs off Takuya Suenaga. This suits him because he’s having what he believes to be a secret relationship with Amamiya Yasuko (Rina Uchiyama) who works as Toshiki’s secretary. Unfortunately, she announces that she’s pregnant and that she doesn’t want to marry any of the men currently sleeping with her. She intends to collect cash from whoever the father turns out to be. In due course, it appears she’s also sleeping with both Atsushi Hashimoto and Naoki Nishina. If any of this becomes public, the careers of all three men will be finished so they decide to kill her.

Takuya Suenaga (Tatsuya Fujiwara)

Takuya Suenaga (Tatsuya Fujiwara)

 

Naoki Nishina devises a complex plan so that each of the three men will appear to have an alibi for the relevant time. The idea is that she will be killed in Osaka and then transported to Tokyo by the other two in relays. As required by this plan, Amamiya Yasuko goes to Osaka where Naoki Nishina is waiting. Following the plan, Takuya Suenaga collects the van containing a body. But when he’s handing it over to Atsushi Hashimoto, they discover they are moving the body of Naoki Nishina and not the expected Amamiya Yasuko. Since they both have alibis for what’s assumed to be the relevant time of death, they deliver the body to Naoki Nishina’s home and return to their expected places. In due course, it appears that none of the three men could be the father of the expected child, and that Naoki Nishina was an amateur magician who could do card tricks. Since the allocation of roles in his plan depended on people picking cards, it seems probable he manipulated the two into joining the plan and allocated their roles. But what’s not clear is who the father of Amamiya Yasuko’s child is and whether he killed Naoki Nishina. It seems unlikely Amamiya Yasuko killed Naoki Nishina because she would be less likely to know where to leave the body for Takuya Suenaga to collect. And even if she did know, why should she follow the plan designed for her death?

 

Like all human societies, Japan has class distinctions. The most significant is between the so-called elite and the rest of those who work. The people who distinguish themselves in the education system earn the right to go to the best universities where they are taught by the best teachers Japan can provide. Once they graduate, those with the top marks walk into the top jobs where they are venerated. In social and financial terms, they move in different circles. There’s only one point at which the worlds of the elite and the worker overlap. The robot never tires and never makes a mistake. It is the epitome of perfection to the elite, but feared by the workers because it makes them redundant. So if a robot had been used as a murder weapon, the elite at that time would probably have covered it up. Such an abuse is unthinkable. But two years later, another member of the elite might become aware of this abuse and be interested to discover who had subverted the programing of the machine. So, on the face of it, we’ve got an initial murder which may be connected in some way to the second. There’s also a major cover-up by MM Heavy Industries to preserve their reputation for infallible robot design. At a slightly lower level, there may be a form of extortion plot by Amamiya Yasuko to get three (or more) men to pay towards the cost of delivering and bringing up her baby.brutusnoshinzo

 

This is all a great set-up but, as we come closer to the end, it becomes obvious who the original killer must have been. Under normal circumstances, this would not have been a problem. The fact we can all see who committed the original crime does not distort the plot. But in this case, there’s been significant attrition and not many people are left standing. The climax is therefore very poor melodrama as we get accusations traded and admissions made. Unfortunately, although we do get to know who the father of Amamiya Yasuko’s child is, the show grinds unexpectedly to a halt just as I was waiting for the detectives to come in to try working out exactly what happened and what, if anything, should be done about it. By my reckoning, this adaptation finished between ten and fifteen minutes before it should. The result is distinctly frustrating because quite a lot of what happens is somewhat obscure. So Brutus’ Heart or Brutus no Shinzo is worth watching for the first two-thirds, but be prepared for disappointment as it comes to the end. Perhaps the novel is better.

 

For other work based on Keigo Higashino’s writing, see:
11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 (2011)
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
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.

 

Bunshin or 分身 (2012)

Great Rift - Programme One

Bunshin or 分身 (2012) is a five one-hour episode serial based on Keigo Higashino‘s novel “Bunshin” published September 20, 1996. To give you the theme, “Bunshin” literally means “Doppleganger”. Over the course of the first two episodes, we meet two women, Mariko Ujiie and Futaba Kobayashi. They are played by played by Moka Kamishiraishi as children, and by Masami Nagasawa as adults. This is mystery meets near future science fiction. We’ll leave all questions surrounding the precise mechanisms involved before and during the birth of the children to one side and focus on the early life of Mariko Ujiie. She’s deeply concerned because she looks nothing like either parent: Kiyoshi Ujiie (Shiro Sano) and Shizue Ujiie (Sawa Suzuki). Yet when she gets a copy of her birth record, it shows her as the natural child of her parents, not adopted as she had assumed. To make the parent-child relationship even more distant, they send her off to a covent boarding school. When she comes home for the Christmas break, there’s a fire at her home. Her mother is killed and her father is injured. When she recovers consciousness, she’s outside the burning building. When she analyses her memories, she thinks both she and her father were drugged by her mother, who then turned on the gas and used a cigarette lighter to commit suicide. She assumes her father rescued her first, and was then injured by trying to rescue his wife. Now she’s grown up and has begun to specialise in child welfare.

Mariko Ujiie (Masami Nagasawa) and Megumi Shimojo (Asami Usuda)

Mariko Ujiie (Masami Nagasawa) and Megumi Shimojo (Asami Usuda)

 

Futaba Kobayashi was brought up in Tokyo by a single mother, Shiho Kobayashi (Satomi Tezuka). Although there have been times when she felt in social difficulties because she did not have a father, her mother always explained this as an advantage. Fathers, it seems, are constantly telling their daughters what not to do, whereas single mothers are benign and encourage their daughters to be positive and world-beating at whatever they do. Yet when she thinks back, she also remembers her mother sitting quietly in her bedroom weeping. In fact, Futaba Kobayashi is the trigger for the the modern sequence of events because she’s interviewed as a student in a television news item on the reaction to the latest earthquake (curiously, a government minister, Shunsaku Ihara (Masato Ibu), is deeply shocked when he sees the television program). In fact she’s pretty well known around Tokyo because she fronts a band popular on the university circuit, so she’s very surprised when her mother tells her she must never appear on television again. This instruction comes at entirely the wrong time because the band is approached by a television producer who wants them to appear in a series of Battle of the Bands. Mother and daughter have a big argument. The daughter goes off and, after getting drunk, sleeps with Yusuke Takizawa (Ryo Katsuji) one of the band members. That night her mother is killed in a road accident as she’s cycling home. Mariko Ujiie also comes to Tokyo and with the help of her friend, Megumi Shimojo (Asami Usuda) who’s studying medicine, begins to track down the story of her father at university. They are lucky enough to find two professors who remember him and one promises to dig out old photographs from their days in the hiking club. But things start to heat up when several students “recognise” her as the singer. Now she knows the “twin” is real (down to having a mole on her shoulder), she’s out to find out the truth.

Futaba Kobayashi (Masami Nagasawa) sings with the band

Futaba Kobayashi (Masami Nagasawa) sings with the band

 

The explanation for the police believing Shiho Kobayashi’s accident to be murder is simple and elegant, but none of the obvious people would have had either motive or opportunity. At the funeral, we get some information of the circumstances in which Futaba Kobayashi’s mother briefly came home to the family farm and then disappeared. Later she came back for a quick visit with a baby in her arms. When Mariko Ujiie looks through an album of photographs of the hiking club, a number of the photographs have been removed. Studying the notes beside the empty slots shows all the missing photographs feature one particular woman. Now things heat up as Mariko Ujiie overhears her father talking on the phone and distancing himself from the “murder” in Tokyo. When Mariko Ujiie discovers Shiho Kobayashi has died, she goes to the flat where she meets Futaba Kobayashi’s boyfriend. When they look around the home, they find out she cannot be an identical twin because the evidence on display suggests there’s one year between the girls. That means they must be the result of in vitro fertilisation with donor eggs from the woman missing from the photographic album. Meanwhile Futaba Kobayashi has agreed to go to Hokkeido to meet with a professor who knew her mother. It’s only when Mariko Ujiie finally tracks down a photograph of the missing woman that the identity of her mother becomes clear.

Yusuke Takizawa (Ryo Katsuji)

Yusuke Takizawa (Ryo Katsuji)

 

The story now morphs into a gentle political thriller, i.e. it’s a rather poor melodrama, and a quietly sensitive meditation on what it means to have a different form of conception and birth. I confess I’d assumed the basic plot mechanism from the outset, but made a number of critical errors in predicting how the plot would be worked out. The explanation of Mariko Ujiie’s mother’s death proves genuinely more tragic than I had expected. The reason for killing Futaba Kobayashi’s mother is also more interesting. All in all it boils up into a good climax which is mostly talk and all the better for it. Too often shows which have deaths and some political overtones become fixated on the need for some “adventure” or just general violence. Although this does have a little chasing around, it’s most a question of our two young women deciding how they are going to adjust to their new understanding of how they came to be born. This is made all the more difficult by their meeting with their “mother”. In the end, single mother Shiho Kobayashi and married parents, Kiyoshi and Shizue Ujiie, come out of it quite well. The situation in which everyone found themselves produced pressures difficult to resist. That the same pressures reassert themselves at the end is somewhat ironic, but no less dangerous. When you put all this together, Bunshin or 分身 is an impressive attempt to deal with a difficult emotional and ethical issue, and well worth watching.

 

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)
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
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.

 

Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 9 to 12

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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.

The teacher and the cohort of detectives

The teacher and the cohort of detectives

 

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.

Yoichi Nukumizu and Yuki Saito running their BBQ pork shop

Yoichi Nukumizu and Yuki Saito running their pork skewer shop

 

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.

Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe) and Shuhei Shindo (Teppei Koike) walk beside each other

Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe) and Shuhei Shindo (Teppei Koike) walk beside each other

 

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.

 

Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 5 to 8

July 22, 2014 20 comments

Naniwa_Shonen_Tanteidan-p1

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 5 sees the serial shift to a more personal and less investigative mode with our hero, Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe), sidelined from the main action by an attack of appendicitis. Naturally both Shuhei Shindo (Teppei Koike) and Yoshihiko Honma (Koji Yamamoto) are dancing attendance in the hospital ward. The only result of their competition is to annoy our patient who prefers peace and quiet. After all, she’s due to go before the school board to see whether her position can be made permanent. That’s why she’s delaying the operation. But, of course, the old woman in the bed opposite behaves in a way that attracts interest. She and her husband run the tobacconist shop in her neighbourhood. They are known as solid and reliable people (and sharp traders). Yet there’s something distinctly odd when her husband comes to deliver a change of clothing. When he returns to the shop that night, he’s tied up and the shop searched. This brings Shuhei Shindo and Susumu Urushizaki (Yasunori Danta) into play, but the old man offers no explanation for this attack and search. The next night, someone breaks into the hospital ward and tries to attack the old woman but, despite the pain, our hero chases him away. One of the schoolboys in the junior detectives’ class is also acting oddly and the detectives are on the job to find out what’s wrong. In the end, they follow him to a police station where he drops off some banknotes. In due course these are shown to be forgeries. Now it’s just a case of getting a confession out of the boy, persuading the old woman to tell the truth, and extracting the appendix from our teacher.

 

Pursuing this rather quieter theme, the next episode gives us a little history as to how our hero came to fill a vacancy in this school. A slightly overweight boy was injured when trying to use a vault. No-one is entirely clear how the vault could have become so unstable, but one thing is clear. The teacher was not properly supervising the pupils in his class. The parents complain and he’s moved to another school. This leaves a minor mystery and, when our hero thinks one of her students is bullying another, she intervenes in the family situation and, by accident, solves the mystery of the unstable vault. It’s not a great episode in amateur detective mode, but it has a heart-warming quality as difficult emotional relationships are managed and improved.

Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe) and  Taeko Takeuchi (Keiko Matsuzaka)

Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe) and Taeko Takeuchi (Keiko Matsuzaka)

 

The next episode begins with a not untypical argument between our hero and Taeko Takeuchi (Keiko Matsuzaka), her mother who accidentally breaks the softball trophy most prized by her daughter. In the heat of the moment, the daughter throws her mother out. This sets the theme as the need for all children to have an adult to depend on. The meat of the story is that the stepfather of one of the girls in our teacher’s class lets out a rundown building to an unemployed man who can’t afford to pay. They get into an argument and a pushing-match sends the stepfather into the wall and unconsciousness. When he wakes up, he has a knife in his hand and the man is dead. The key to understanding what happened is the unemployed man’s son who has gone missing. The teacher and her detectives organise a sweep of all the streets and eventually track him down. She takes him home and cooks him a meal, thus releasing the inner parent. Now all she has to do is solve the problem of how the stabbing occurred and make up with her mother.

Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe) and Hiroshi Hatanaka (Akira Takahashi) and Osamu Harada (Oshiro Maeda)

Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe) and Hiroshi Hatanaka (Akira Takahashi) and Osamu Harada (Oshiro Maeda)

 

We now have one of these slightly clichéd episodes. The problem is not so much the fact this is less a mystery and more a commentary on the nature of family life in Japan when a working husband moves from a provincial city to Tokyo, it’s that the mechanism involved is obvious from a very early stage. Although there’s one element of uncertainty even that disappears about three-quarters of the way through. So we’re left to reflect on two of the continuing threads. I’m increasingly of the opinion our hero is never going to marry. For all she’s twenty-five and people keep suggesting she could be left on the shelf if she does not take action soon, she’s seems oblivious to the two men so ardently pursuing her. This episode gives her the chance to completely ignore one and treat the other very shabbily (much to the amusement of the junior detectives). The other issue is the realism of the ending. Personally, I would have expected there to be shouting screaming and bloodshed. It’s very disappointing things seem to settle down again so quickly.

 

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 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.

 

Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 1 to 4

Naniwa_Shonen_Tanteidan-p1

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.

Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe)

Shinobu Takeuchi (Mikako Tabe)

 

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.

Shuhei Shindo (Teppei Koike)

Shuhei Shindo (Teppei Koike)

 

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 junior detectives

The junior detectives

 

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.

 

11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 (2011)

July 15, 2014 17 comments

11_Moji_no_Satsujin-p2

11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 (2011) is the first of three made-for-television adaptations of novels by Keigo Higashino. Rikako Yuki (Hiromi Nagasaku) is a mystery novelist who’s suffering from writer’s block. After the breakdown of her marriage, she’s been growing closer to a man who works as a freelance journalist. Of late, however, his work has been drying up and debts have become more of a problem. In their last meeting, he tells her he thinks someone may be targeting him. When she asks why he feels threatened, he’s very noncommittal. When he calls her that night, she’s in a meeting with her editor, Fuyuko Hakio (Mari Hoshino) and feels unable to come out to meet with him. The following morning, she’s woken by the police. Her lover has been found dead in the river. It’s not certain whether this is an accident or suicide. Naturally, for all his problems, she doesn’t believe he would have committed suicide. She favours the idea it was murder, but has no idea who would have motive. She therefore decides to investigate. In part, she’s doing it to protect the reputation of her dead lover, but she also hopes it might help her break the writer’s block, i.e. give her a story to write. This latter reason makes her editor supportive and she decides to offer practical help as and when required.

Rikako Yuki (Hiromi Nagasaku) and Fuyuko Hakio (Mari Hoshino)

Rikako Yuki (Hiromi Nagasaku) and Fuyuko Hakio (Mari Hoshino)

 

When our now formally anointed amateur detective goes round to her ex-lover’s apartment, she finds his sister removing all his things. She begs everything connected with his writing, hoping to find some clue in his latest research. With everything packed, a carrier comes to take the boxes away, but this is interrupted by the arrival of a young lady. She identifies herself as a photographer who was working with the man on a story. She wants to recover some of her photographs. With everything already packed, it’s arranged she will come round to collect the material after it’s been delivered. Meanwhile, Fuyuko Hakio has arranged for our detective to visit her lover’s publisher. While there, there are hints of a boating accident about a year earlier in which her lover had injured his leg. This ties in with an entry in her lover’s diary which shows a meeting with Takuya Yamamori (Ken Ishiguro), the president of a large gym who had sponsored the boat trip which led to the accident. Ever quick off the mark, Fuyuko Hakio lines up an appointment but, when they arrive at the gym, there’s a delay. To fill in the time, they are given a special short session working out. The actual meeting with the director proves slightly inconclusive. When she arrives home, our detective immediately sees the boxes which were delivered have been opened. All her lover’s most recent material has been removed.

Ishiguro Ken

Ishiguro Ken

 

This sets us off and running fairly quickly through an interestingly complex plot. The only time it slows down is for a flashback showing exactly why our mystery author has writer’s block. As a mystery, it doesn’t seem to be going very far very quickly until we get to the last death when there’s a most interesting alibi for everyone who might have done it. It’s moments like this that make the author of the source novel, Keigo Higashino, so interesting. Up to this point, we seem to have a fairly routine serial killer who’s systematically killing off everyone connected with that boating accident (the title of the book/film is a reference to the eleven character message sent to each victim). But this last death not only fails to fit the pattern. It also seems to be “impossible” because there’s no doubt where everyone is at the relevant time. So this leaves me with good news and not-so-good news. My dislike of coincidence in a work of fiction is well documented in all these reviews. There are times when it’s unavoidable to get everything started off, e.g. that two people just happen to get on the same train, but in the main, I find the use of coincidence rather depressing. This time, there’s a clear explanation for the coincidence, so Keigo Higashino and his scriptwriter were aware of the problem. Ecept explaining it doesn’t make it any better. That said, this is one of these stories which deals with the grey in human relationships. In fiction, it’s always easier when the author decides to paint characters and situations in black and white. We readers or viewers are left with very simple moral choices about who to sympathise with. Here, very little is morally cut-and-dried. Indeed, the more you look at the picture which finally emerges as all the relevant people confess what happened, the less you want to make any decisions about it at all. I suppose that’s what makes 11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 a very good story and explains why our mystery writer will probably join in the conspiracy of silence.

 

For other work based on Keigo Higashino’s writing, see:
Broken or The Hovering Blade or Banghwanghaneun Kalnal or 방황하는 칼날 (2014)
Brutus’ Heart or Brutus no Shinzo or ブルータスの心臓 (2011)
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
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.

 

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

Thursday_Theater_Keigo_Higashino_Mystery-p1

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

Thursday_Theater_Keigo_Higashino_Mystery-p1

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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