Saturday, May 21, 2011



"There are three kinds of lies. 1. A lie to protect yourself. 2. A lie to deceive others. 3. A lie to protect others."

I've reviewed books in Higashino Keigo's Kaga Kyouichirou series before, but I actually didn't get to know this character through the books. It was through a television drama that ran last summer, based on the (then) newest Kaga Kyouichirou novel. I only finished watching the series this week though. No, it's not that long, I'm just slow.

Kaga Kyouichirou series
Sotsugyou ("Graduation") (1986)
Nemuri no Mori ("Forest of Sleep") (1989)
Dochiraka ga Kanojo wo Koroshita ("One of the Two Killed Her") (1996)
Akui ("Malice") (1996)
Watashi ga Kare wo Koroshita ("I Killed Him") (1999)
Uso wo Mou Hitotsu Dake ("One More Lie") (2000)
Akai Yubi ("Red Fingers")  (2006)
Shinzanmono ("Newcomer") (2009)
Kirin no Tsubasa ("The Wings of the Kirin") (2011)
Inori no Maku ga Oriru Toki ("When the Curtains of Hope Come Down") (2013)

Police detective Kaga Kyouichirou had been working mostly in Nerima ward, but a transfer to Nihonbashi, Ningyouchou makes him the titular Shinzanmono ("Newcomer") in town. And his first big case also concerns a newcomer in Ningyouchou: the murder of Mitsui Mineko, a divorced translator, who was strangled in her own apartment. She had only come to live in Ningyouchou just recently, so who would have any reason to kill her? It is up to Kaga Kyouichirou to investigate what lies behind the Mitsui murder.

You know when in a mystery story everyone seems to have something to hide? And that the detective seems be forced to chase after countless of red herrings before he finally reaches the truth? This series actually turns this idea around and makes it the focus of the story. Every episode focuses on a different suspect who lies to the police. Some might be hiding a terrible family secret. Some might be lying to keep up appearances to their family. Some lie to protect their family. Like Kaga says: people lie to protect themselves, to deceive others or to protect others.

Kaga Kyouichirou is still very much like Furuhata Ninzaburou and Columbo; he picks up little discrepancies and doesn't let go till he has gotten an explanation. Annoying his victim in the process. The difference between Kaga and the others is that the latter two usually close in on the true culprit rather quickly, while Kaga has to wade through a sea of suspects, everyone of them a little pile of secrets. Every episode turns out to be like a short human drama story in which Kaga shows up to reveal why people lie to the police and each other, clearing up many misunderstandings between people. Is Kaga a detective of the heart? No, not really. He is a nice guy and all, but he is out to uncover every little contradiction in the case and it just so happens that most of these contradictions arise from lies made by innocent people. And he does slowly closes in on the culprit behind the Mitsui murder by his meticulous investigation.

An aspect that I really liked about the show was the focus on Nihonbashi, Ningyouchou as not just an background, but as an entity. Shinzanmono tells a story of old craftsman, popular cake stores, ningyouyaki,  and local customs of Ningyouchou. It's a romantic depiction of a small town as an environment with its own personality. You usually see this kind of 'characterization' with popular areas like Shinjuku or Shibuya, but not so much with smaller towns in Tokyo.

I liked Abe Hiroshi's Kaga by the way, even though it was quite different from the books. In the novels, Kaga is like a beast in the shadow; you never get to see him clearly (the books are written from the viewpoint of the suspects) and he always strikes when you least expect him. Here the story follows Kaga, and Abe Hiroshi plays him the best way he can; by playing himself. Inserting a healthy dose of humor in the character and giving him real presence has made TV!Kaga quite different from Novel!Kaga, but not in a bad way.

Once again, Higashino Keigo came up with a story that mixes human drama with mystery in an interesting way. Shinzanmono is not a pure detective, but pretty fun nonetheless.

Original Japanese title(s): 『新参者』, based on 東野圭吾『新参者』

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