Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dial M for Murder


"You can't escape from 70.000 people"
"70.000 People Detective Nitobe"

Reading how Lt. Columbo used a cellphone in The Columbo Collection, was a small surprise, but it didn't feel strange. Columbo is just a timeless character. I was also one of the persons who rejoiced at how Holmes and Watson used their cellphones in Sherlock. Because it was quite logical: nowadays everybody seems connected to each other, through phones, the net, SNS like Facebook and the like.

So in hindsight, the concept of the 2009 TV drama 7 Mannin Tantei Nitobe ("70.000 People Detective Nitobe") is actually quite realistic. Young student Nitobe Tsugumi (played by Kutsuna Shiori) doesn't have many real-life friends, but she does have a very popular cellphone blog, Octopus Net, with over 70.000 readers. She usually takes pictures of anything that interests her, is funny, annoys her, etc. One day, she gets involved in a murder case inside a bus and it seems like she was the only person capable poisoning the poor victim. In her desperation, Tsugumi uses her cellphone to ask for help on her blog, uploading pictures of the murder victim and the crime scene, and what do you know, the combined knowledge of 70.000 readers is a force to be reckoned with! By collecting the comments people leave on Octopus Net, she manages to solve the case and prove her own innocence. Well, that is, until the next episode... Rinse and repeat for several episodes, that include locked room murders, impossible crimes and other crimes that one person might not be able to solve, but 70.000 can.

The series itself is a run-of-the-mill comedy-detective, with over-the-top and at times cringeworthy acting. It seems that Japan has a lot of these comedy-detectives, which seem to focus a lot on slapstick comedy (a bit like Monk at times), but I'm always surprised at how these series still manage to present classic murder problems. They are hardly masterpieces, but not really bad either. This is only about the standard comedy-detective that seems to run every season in Japan by the way: Trick is absolutely awesome. In everything.

But I like 7 Mannin Tantei Nitobe despite its cringeworthiness, because I absolutely love the concept. We all know the great detectives with super-intellegence, photographic memory, knowledge about everything esoteric etc., but let's face it, in real life very few people are like that. Few people have all these abilities. But what if you harness the power of many? The manga/anime/TV drama Tantei Gakuen Q ("Detective Academy Q") already did this with Q class, with the five members having specific fields they excelled in (deductive power/pure logic/photographic memory/IT/martial arts). 7 Mannin Tantei Nitobe is a bit more realistic, as it's much more likely that one person might know this, and another person might be able to crack a code. A third might notice something on a picture that is uploaded, while another might be able to help Tsugumi in real life as he's in the neighbourhood. 'Cause you can't run from 70.000 people. Considering the speed at which information is exchanged on SNS like Facebook and other sites, I could almost see this happen in real life.

I would love a more serious remake of this. Imagine, someone with a detetive-related site gets involved with some kind of superspecialawesome locked room murder, and uploads pictures and information, asking for the help of his fellow genre connoisseurs! How long would it take them to solve the case?

Oh, and audiovisual clues, pictures and the like. I really need to write something about them one of these days...

Original Japanese title(s): 『7万人探偵ニトベ』


  1. Why don't you concoct a superspecialawesome locked murder mystery yourself? I think can drum up enough contestants to make a Ho-Ling Locked Room Challenge worthwhile.

  2. The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic. I'm more of a detective than a criminal, I'm afraid.

    Which reminds me, for some reason a friend already claimed the role of the assistent to the detective if I'm ever to write a detective story. Does she has the power of foresight?

  3. I don't think it has anything to do with the power of foresight, but more with recognizing one of the next phases in addictive behavior – and we both know that we'll eventually try our hands at a detective story ourselves.

    It's been already suggested to me that I should start writing detective stories after outlining a brilliant scheme to lure a contemporary audience, hooked on thriller, to read a traditional detective series, but the problem is that I don't want to write Dutch detective stories.

  4. Note to self: learn proper English before attempting to write anything, let alone a detective story! >__<

    What I meant was: "...after outlining a brilliant scheme to lure a contemporary audience, hooked on thrillers, into reading a traditional detective series, but the problem is that I don't want to write detective stories in Dutch."

  5. I wonder whether I'll ever try writing my own story. Of course, I've thought about tricks and stuff, but I lack both the creativity needed for creating tricks, as well as writing talent. Which is probably needed I want to write a proper detective story.

    Which also remidns me, I did create a locked room once in Japan and had to ask the friend mentioned above to help me get back in my room, as much as I wanted to stay outside in the night on my balcony ^_~

  6. Well, I have one or two very clever tricks knocking about in my head, but I think putting them to paper will prove to be a laborious challenge to the author. I'm too sloppy and proof reading is still an alien concept to me.

    Now why would you want to spend a night on the balcony... oh... wait... I get it. ;)