Saturday, November 9, 2013

Risky Room

『レッドシアター』: ジャングルポケットX牢屋

Guard: "Why do you want to escape from this prison that much? What is driving you to do all of this?!"
Prisoner A: ".... Prison Break!"
Prisoner B: "A television series! You serious?! That's just stupid!"
Guard: "...Damn. I have to admit, that is really a cool series!"
"Red Theater" Jungle Pocket X Jail Sketch

I said to myself last month, I have a review backlog of four, five items, so I should post a bit more often in November. And then I noticed we're already about one third into the month with just one review finished. Aaargh. Man, november? It's almost time to start thinking about which pieces of mystery fiction I consumed this year were the best!

The 2013 film Kankin Tantei ("The Confined Detectives") starts with a fateful encounter between Ryouta and Akane. Might sound like the start of a romantic movie, if not for the fact the two are standing in the apartment across Ryouta's one, and that the inhabitant of this apartment, the model Rena, lies dead on the floor. Both claim to have just discovered the body, but seeing the doubtful eyes of Akane (a friend of Rena), he decides to take Akane prisoner in his room, until he can find evidence to clear his own name. Akane, tied to Ryouta's bed, however seems not even fazed by her imprisonment and claims she will be able to solve Rena's murder even from the confines of this room. The time limit is the next morning, when Rena's absence from her work will be noticed. Can Ryouta and Akane solve the murder from within this 'locked room'?

When I first heard about this film, I was really interested. It is based on a comic written by Abiko Takemaru (who seems to dabble a lot in 'modern' media like games and manga) and the concept of basically an armchair detective movie, only with the detectives confined to a room, i.e. a locked room mystery of sorts (if you interpret the words in a different way), seemed awesome.

I used the part tense, because while the concept was fun, the execution was less... intellectually stimulating, as it was basically actress Natsuna in a variety of alluring poses tied to a bed. Which is definitely an effective way of making the detective genre film a lot more atttractive.

As a detective story, Kankin Tantei does a lot wrong, but also a little bit good. The first half hour has a great sense of speed, as Akane and Ryouta slowly learn more about each other through deductions (in a Sherlock Holmes way), and try to find out why both of them were in Rena's room. It never goes really deep, but I guess it works for a film (which just offers less room for really deep, abstract deduction chains). It's also in this first half where Akane and Ryouta slowly find out who might have killed Rena and why.

The fact that they first used 'normal' deductions to figure each other out kinda sets the viewer on the wrong track, because a lot of the inital discoveries surrounding Rena's murder is done by the Wondrous Internet and Magic Applications and Hacking For Dummies. Which... is kinda lame. The truth behind Rena's murder is very disappointing too, and the 'hints' laid down are ridiculous; as if they suddenly remembered they actually needed a murderer, and hints leading to him, and forcefully wrote them in the script. A lot of the happenings in this movie feel like script filler (especially the second half of the film), which is seldom a good thing, and especially not in a detective movie, which ideally is a neatly structured story presenting a good mystery.

There is also the 'problem' of Akane sorta trying to escape from her imprisonment. The first few minutes are quite tenseful, when she's tied to the bed (and Ryouta for no other feasible reason but to live out his fantasies sits on top of her as if that is the most logical way to keep a kidnapped girl quiet), and you're not quite sure what's going to happen and if she's going to escape, but after that first part, you'll see plenty of chances for Akane to get help, but she doesn't. The concept of a confined detective, a detective being forced to solve a crime can be quite exiting (see the last story in volume 38 of Detective Conan for example, but here there never seems to be any real danger. Akane teases Ryouta a lot, even though he is supposed to be her imprisoner. It doesn't help that a lot of the scenes of Akane tied up are obvious fanservice shots with actress Natsuna, so it's kinda hard to take them serious.

But I said the film did some good, right? Well, the puzzle of Rena's murderer was solved kinda badly, there is one aspect of the mystery that was actually done quite well. The hints were nicely spread across the whole movie. During the whole film, I had wondered about little bits and pieces of the plot, thinking they were just signs of bad writing, but all these little things actually came together in a logical way and it was quite well done, I think. If only the whole plot had seen this much care.

While not a great movie by any standard, I am glad I can say Kankin Tantei isn't a total wreck and I did find several aspects quite amusing. Not something to really recommend, but if you have nothing else to do, want to see a bit of mystery, a bit of Natsuna tied to a bed, then it's not that bad a film.

Original Japanese title(s): 『監禁探偵』

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