Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bad City

「浮気調査も金持ちの夫婦しか引け受けないし、 犬も猫も雑種は探しません。探偵業界のブラック・ジャックと呼ばれています」
「誰に呼ばれているの?」
「基本、私です」
『私の嫌いな探偵』

"I only take adultery cases from rich couples and won't look for crossbred cats or dogs. And that's why I am called the Black Jack of the private eye industry"
"By whom?"
"Mostly me"
"The Detective I Don't Like"

'No, not another Higashigawa Tokuya drama adaptation review', you might think. Sorry, I seldom plan what to read/watch/listen to next, so sometimes I accidently end up with similar reviews close to each other...

Ikagawashi series
Misshitsu no Kagi wo Kashimasu ("Lending the Key of the Locked Room")
Misshitsu ni Mukatte Ute ("Shoot Towards The Locked Room")
Kanzen Hanzai ni wa Neko Nanbiki Hitsuyouka ("How Many Cats Do You Need For a Perfect Crime?")
Koukan Satsujin ni Mukanai Yoru ("A Bad Night to Exchange Murders")
'Jisoku 40 Kilo no Misshitsu' ("A Locked Room at 40KM/H") in: Shin Honkaku Tokubetsuhen - Fukanou Hanzai no Kyouen.

Adaptations:
Watashi no Kirai na Tantei ("The Detective I Don't Like") (TV)

Watashi no Kirai na Tantei ("The Detective I Don't Like") is a TV drama which ran from January to March this year based on Higashigawa Tokuya's Ikagawashi series. Ukai Morio is a private detective who specializes in infidelity cases and locating lost pets, because they make the most money. He finds a cheap spot for his offices in the Ninomiya Building, but soon starts to regret his move: his new landlord, Ninomiya Akemi, is a big detective fiction fan and 'blackmails' Ukai (through the rent) in taking on more difficult (and less profitable) cases like locked room murders and other baffling crimes, just so she can tag along and try a bit of mystery solving herself. And unfortunately for Ukai, and fortunately for Akemi, the town of Ikagawashi is brimming with impossible crimes.

I have been following the Ikagawashi series for some time now, and I quite like how it mixes comedy with orthodox puzzle plots. But I'll be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to this adaptation of the series. Why? Because it was clear from the start that the TV series would feature some drastic changes from the original stories. Most obvious is the upgrade in importance of the character of Ninomiya Akemi. In the original stories, she's Ukai's landlord and basically has to force Ukai in taking on cases, or else he won't be able to pay the rent. She has no interest in the detective business nor detective fiction however, and most of the stories follow the detective Ukai and his disciple Ryuuhei. But because TV dramas absolutely need love interests, and because they had to push actress Gouriki Ayame as the main character, the TV drama version of Ninomiya Akemi becomes a strange amulgation of Ryuuhei from the novels, and the actual person Gouriki Ayame. And as such, she hogs all of the screentime and is the driving force behind all investigations.

So I wasn't sure whether I would like this adaptation of the Ikagawashi series, considering they made someone else the main character. It's like making Miss Lemon the protagonist of a Poirot TV series. Just play with that idea in your mind for a minute.


But because the TV series also adapted stories of the Ikawagashi series I hadn't read yet, I decided to bite the bullet. And it wasn't as messy as I had expected. Don't get me wrong though, the Ninomiya Akemi in the drama is absolutely horrible as a character. She's like a black hole sucking up all the good lines, all the great moments of the stories from the other characters. But ignoring that part (which can be difficult, I admit), Watashi no Kirai na Tantei is a fairly entertaining detective series.

The original stories are a great example of how to mix (sometimes slapstick) humour with puzzle plots: hints are concealed in what seem nothing more than just gags at first sight, and you'll often hit yourself when you realize you let such an obvious hint slide by just because it was presented in a funny way. The TV drama manages to do the same and adds in a lot of its own comedy, most of it in the form of  a good dose of meta-comedy as well as the zany (faulty) deductions made by Akemi. A lot of detective TV dramas are referenced in the course of the show, for example Galileo, Furuhata Ninzaburou, Kindaichi Kousuke, Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo and Trick, as well as other Higashigawa Tokuya-based dramas like Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de. The many, obviously mistaken deductions remind of that Police Squad! inspired classic, 33pun Tantei ("33 Minutes Detective"), which had the premise of stretching each story out to a full length episode of 33 minutes with crazy deductions, even though they always figured out who it was in the first five minutes. Watashi no Kirai na Tantei is also doing a good job at presenting the craziest deductions: the moment they posed the killer-cat solution for a locked room murder (complete with image), I knew that at least the comedy was good.


The first two episodes are based on the first book in the series, Misshitsu no Kagi wo Kashimasu ("Lending the Key to the Locked Room"), and the seventh episode on Kanzen Hanzai ni wa Neko Nanbiki Hitsuyou Ka? ("How Many Cats Do You Need For a Perfect Crime?"), so refer to those reviews if you want to learn more about them in detail. The remaining five episodes are based on the short stories, of which two I think are the best of the whole TV series.

Episode four, Shi ni Itaru Zenryou Shisshou no Nazo ("The Mystery of Running Into Death") is about an almost grotesque problem: a man is witnessed to run at full speed into a wall, knocking himself out. Does the case have to do with the summoning of UFOs by Akemi? A fantastic premise, and the solution is pretty great too: Higashigawa Tokuya is really at his best when he does these short stories with somewhat plausible, yet somehow strange scenes. Nanatsu no Beer Case no Mondai  ("The Problem of the Seven Beer Cases") on the other hand is a good example of how to tie up all kinds of plotlines together and how to present a somewhat mundane, yet mystifying problem with an almost painfully simple, yet hard to see solution.

 
I would absolutely love this series if not for the shuffle with main characters. In the novel series, the 'detective' archetype (i.e. the person who explains everything at the end) is acually someone different most of the time, sometimes it's Ukai, sometimes it's police detective Sunagawa etcetera, but this is also changed in the TV series, always having Ukai doing most of the deductions, and then Akemi stealing the last good part by deducing something even Ukai overlooked I actually liked how the novels always kept readers on their toes by switching detective roles, so this was another reason I wasn't too big a fan of the character rewrites.

Watashi no Kirai na Tantei is a pretty fun series. The biggest reason behind that is because the original stories are good, but the team also did their best injecting their own comedy in the stories. It's just the sudden rise in importance of one character that kinda makes it hard for me to just recommend it. Of course, if you're a fan of Gouriki Ayame, go for it and I quite liked Tamaki Hiroshi as Ukai, but the main dynamics of this TV series, are quite different from the dynamics you'll find in the original Ikagawashi series.

Original Japanese title(s): 東川篤哉 (原) 『私の嫌いな探偵』

4 comments :

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  2. Hi!
    You should absolutely watch a show called "Detentionaire", it's a really really fantastic series! (a canadian cartoon to be precise)
    It got me more hooked than Detective Conan, although I'm a DC fan!
    The plot moves on EVERY episode, it's very interesting to watch
    What is the story you ask? A high schooler has been framed for the biggest prank of the century, and as a result he must serve a sentense of one full year of detention. So now he has to escape his prison and discover who the real culprit is!
    It's so much better than it sounds, you should give it a try!
    link for the 1st episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxmWNzMsK34

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the link, I'll take a look!

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