"But you're still having your dinner. Let us do the mystery solving after dinner"
"Mystery solving is after dinner"
Ah, TV dramas in Japan. There is usually too much to keep track off (with morning / noon / evening dramas), and the majority is not interesting at all. Yet I tend to check what's on TV just to be sure I don't miss some sort of mystery drama. Which doesn't mean that every mystery drama series is good (ha!), but I usually try most of the series and especially those based on novels by writers I know (a lot of these series tend to be based on popular novels / manga). Anyway, my experience with Kudou Shinichi e no Chousenjou taught me not to do reviews of every single episode, but I had been looking forward to Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de (Mystery Solving Is After Dinner), which started last Tuesday, so a short impression based on the first episode!
Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de ("Mystery Solving Is After Dinner") is a TV drama based on the same-titled best-selling novel by Higashigawa Tokuya. The concept of the book seems a bit similar to Miss Marple's Tuesday Club Murders: incredibly wealthy heiress and rookie police detective Houshou Reiko tells her butler Kageyama about the difficult cases she handles during dinner. Like Marple though, the butler is very shrewd and he always manages to solve the cases that are troubling his mistress without even taking a step outside the dining room. But the answer to Reiko's questions always have to wait until after she has finished her dinner...
Like I wrote in a previous review, Higashigawa Tokuya specializes in comedy mysteries and Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de is certainly fun. The relation between heiress Hosho and butler Kageyama is really funny, as her butler is intellectually superior and isn't afraid to make that clear to her (actually calling her an idiot for not being to solving the cases herself). Kageyama's lines have just the right touch of sarcasm and the dialogues between him and his mistress are fast and witty.
Actually, I think that Higashigawa's style of mystery writing seems perfect for TV adaptions. Not only is his humorous writing style with a focus on fast dialogues perfect for a prime-time TV series, but his mystery plots have two characteristics that make them easy to adapt for TV. His mysteries seem to be mostly set in urban areas, with an emphasis on movement of the principle characters within the urban area. Which means that his mysteries can be filmed without having to go to locations where mobile phones can't receive any signal (which was the pretty much the standard with filming Trick). These 'urban' mysteries are also easier to sell to the public, because of the (feigned) realism. Again, a series like Trick (or Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo) does require a bit more suspension of disbelief for the normal viewer due to the uncommon settings.
Another point is that Higashigawa's plots are not impossibly complex like something by Nikaidou Reito, which would be hard to translate to a one-hour TV drama episode. Which might sound like Higashigawa writes overly simple plots, which isn't true. But his plots are of the kind that are probably just complex enough to satisfy a more experienced mystery reader, but are also easy to convert to a working TV script.
For example, the first episode revolves around the problem of a murder victim who was found dead in her apartment with her shoes on. Which is not-done in Japan. The problem seems like a mundane, trivial one, but the solution to the problem is wonderfully easy and urban and while I haven't read the original novel, I bet this story works just as well as a written story as well as on the screen.
Call me a cynic, but my gut-feeling says most people watch the TV drama because Arashi's Sakurai Shou plays Kageyama and not because they heard of the original novel or because they know Higashigawa Tokuya. But ignoring that, I have to admit that the production values to the drama are pretty good. The original novel features some neat art by Nakamura Yuusuke, but the drama also has a distinct look, with many comic book-esque visual effects on the screen and splitscreens. The series is certainly fun to look at.
At the moment Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de seems like a series worthwhile to watch. Like I said, I'm not going to bother with reviews for every single episodes anymore, but I might want to revisit this series when it has ended.
Original Japanese title(s): 『謎解きはディナーのあとで』 (原作： 東川篤哉)