"My name is Hanazono Erika"
"That's a nice name. Yeah. Hanazono.... wait. Hanazono... Hanazono of the Hanazono Clan?"
"So let me get things straight. You are the daughter of the head of the Hanazono Clan..."
"And those two gangsters were the ones protecting you on the way from school..."
"Can't believe it, right? A student over 20 years old being protected on the way to school..."
"Well... so you shook them off and fled. And then got me involved..."
"It's more like you fled together with me..."
"OK. Got it. Get out of the car"
It's a bit worrying that three of the six posts until now this week have the tag Higashigawa Tokuya. It's getting really skewed now....
Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de novels and the TV drama based on that series. Last year, short movies and audio dramas were also made based on his popular novels. Having all these adaptations and such, makes it really tempting to try something by Higashigawa. And it does help that his work is usually really fun. Earlier this week, a TV-special was broadcast based on Higashigawa Tokuya's Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai ("I Won't Kidnap Again"). The original work is one of the few non-series stories Higashigawa wrote, but Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai is of course a comedy-mystery like all of Higashigawa's other works. The TV-special follows the original story reasonably accurate as far as I know, with some minor changes in for example the ages of the protagonists. Because Arashi's Ohno does not look like 20. Just no. Aragaki Yui might have passed for a high school student, but her character also had her age bumped a bit.
Anyway, the story starts when Hanazono Erika (played by Aragaki) bumps into the lost-in-life Shoutarou (Ohno) as she is fleeing from two gangsters. Shoutarou helps her in her flight, but discovers that Erika is in fact the second daughter of the head of the Hanazono Clan, the main tekiya in town. Erika wants to raise money for a hospital operation for her half-sister (by her mother who left Erika's father / the clan), but because she does not think that her father will give her the money, Erika plans to pretend like she has been kidnapped to get the ransom money. She convinces Shoutarou and his senior Koumoto to help her and the three of them actually manage to pull off the heist. Which is all good and well, until they find out the next day after receiving the ransom money that someone has gone off with the money, that someone has left a dead body (of someone of the Hanazono clan) on their boat and that the police was tipped off.
I have to admit, I was once again fooled by Higashigawa. Like always, he manages to lure you into a false sense of security, in a false sense of 'ha, your story is simple and consists of nothing more than humor, so no way you are going to surprise me'. I should really learn to be more suspicous whenever I feel like this when reading Higashigawa, because it always comes back to bite me. You'd think I'd have learned by now, but no. The story starts out very predictable and it takes quite a bit of time before the actual ransom-handover scene starts, but the great stuff only starts after our protagonists have retrieved the ransom money. And after the dead body has been discovered.
The first half of Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai is about how the three protagonists plan to retrieve the ransom money, which is pretty interesting on its own, but in the second half the heroes have to solve a crime they didn't commit and escape from the police and the Hanazono Clan, making things a lot more exciting. And even at this point, most viewers will just think that this is 'just' a standard mystery special, but then Higashigawa reveals something big that will definitely surprise most people. I have to admit that the main trick of this story is very much like the main trick in Higashigawa's debut work, Misshitsu no Kagi Kashimasu, but that doesn't make it less fun. It did caught me by surprise, maybe because it was so similar (even though I did solve it when I read Misshitsu no Kagi Kashimasu.... which is weird).
As a stand-alone work, the characters in Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai were surprisingly different from other Higashigawa characters. The protagonists in his series are usually simultaneously both incredibly genre-savvy and ignorant, which results in very interesting (and funny!) narration and conversation. This was not the case with Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai and I have to admit I didn't nearly laugh as much as with other Higashigawa stories. Maybe the fun conversations were cut from the story for the running time, maybe it was like this in the original story too. The TV-special had a certain pleasant light-heartedness to it and was definitely made to leave a typical drama-esque good feeling with the viewers, but does make me wonder how the atmosphere of the original book differs from this special. On the other hand, I doubt I'll ever read the book now I've seen the special... The main surprise is fun enough, but the rest of the story is not as interesting as Higashigawa's other stories.
Oh, and there was of course a small Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de guest appearance, seeing both TV shows are based on books by Higashigawa and feature Arashi members as the main roles...
And totally digging Gakki's short hair look. Yep. Liked it better in the Ranma 1/2 special, but still.
Original Japanese title(s): （原作：東川篤哉） 『もう誘拐なんてしない』