Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Goodbye So Soon

To say goodbye is to die a little
Just like a beginning of dying for a moment 
So long amigo
I won’t say goodbye
「さよならを言うことは」 ("To Say Goodbye"), Fukushima Rila

This is one of those rare times where I use the hardboiled tag on something that is not a review of a Detective Jinguuji Saburou game.

1950s Tokyo. The country is well on its way in its recuperation of World War II, signified by the enormous economic growth. But not everyone enjoys as much of the recovery as others. Take for example private detective Masuzawa Banji. His month is filled with work like looking for lost popular singers who are eloping with handsome men or locating wealthy, cheating husbands for even wealhtier wives, but Banji himself just makes enough to get him through the month with a few drinks as his only pleasure. One day, Banji becomes acquainted with Harada Tamotsu, a drunk with a limp leg, with whom he quickly becomes drinking pals, maybe even friends. Their bond is tested when one day Tamotsu's wife is murdered and Tamotsu turns up literally redhanded in Banji's office. Banji decides to ask no questions whatsoever and drives Tamotsu to the harbor, who flees to Taiwan. Back in Tokyo, the police thinks Tamotsu killed his wife and that Banji helped him escape the country, but Banji believes Tamotsu is innocent. While taking on a new case involving a writer, Banji also tries to find evidence of his friend's innocence in the mini TV series The Long Goodbye.

And people might have noticed from the title and despite the Japanese character names, the somewhat familiar summary above, but yes, this is indeed a TV series based on Raymond Chandler's famous The Long Goodbye, but set in Japan. The Long Goodbye is a five-part mini TV series which was broadcast on NHK from April 19 until May 17, 2014 and starred Asano Tadanobu as Masuzawa Banji, the Japanese counterpart to the original's Philip Marlowe.

One might be tempted to suspect The Long Goodbye is a cheap, loosely interpreted adaptation of the original story because the setting is changed, but The Long Goodbye is actually a very faithful adapation and a fun one too. Granted, there is a lot of US imagery in the Marlowe novels that obviously isn't present in this Japan-set adapation, but the actual plot of the TV series is very close to the original and the post-war setting works perhaps even better in the TV series' setting of Japan than the original novel's the United States. Anyway, despite the changed setting and characters names, I'd say that The Long Goodbye is a great adaptation of the book.

To be totally honest though, I am not that big a fan of the original novel's plot, one of the reasons for that being that I never got why grumpy, wise-cracking tough guy Philip Marlowe got involved with Lennox (Tamotsu) and the writer in the first place: Banji isn't the most cordial fellow around, but it does seem more likely for him to get involved with everyone compared Marlowe. Another reason I didn't like the original novel's plot that much was because it tends to meander a lot. This is partly solved because The Long Goodbye is very clearly written as a five-part series, and the episodic format does help smooth out the presentation of the plot, so again, I am tempted to say that it works better in the TV series. Overall, I still think the mystery plot is not very interesting though, as the plot jumps to the writer-case pretty fast and little happens until the end and the same holds for the TV series, though, like I said, it's a bit better here than in the original novel, I think.

So I wasn't that impressed by the original novel's plot, but I did like the way it was written. In fact, I have written a not-really-a-review of The Long Goodbye in the past, where I basically only stated I thought the atmosphere was good. The same holds for this TV series. The slightly different protagonist and the different setting does give this series a different atmosphere, but I love what they did for The Long Goodbye! It looks great as a TV series (and it obviously has a good budget as an NHK-produced mini-series) and sounds even better: the jazz soundtrack is absolutely amazing. Add in good direction and acting and you have a very solid series.

The Long Goodbye is a surprisingly well-made and faithful adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel. I am not a big fan of Chandler's novels anyway, but I had fun with this TV series anyway and I think that Chandler-lovers will appreciate NHK's The Long Goodbye despite the changes in the setting. The home release is scheduled today, by the way.

Original Japanese title(s): 『ロング・グッドバイ』


  1. This sounds pretty good. The Long Goodbye is in my top ten favorite detective novels. Does the DVD set have English subtitles?

    1. No, the official site only mentions Japanese subtitles (and strangely enough, only for the BD set and not for the DVD set...).

  2. I found this:

    Is this a Sherlock pastiche?

    (it says the book is from Nikaido Li but it's actually from Nikaido Reito)

  3. can you tell me if 'Murder on Dogenzaka' is a Kogoro Akechi story?
    I just know it's written by Ranpo

  4. By the way, can you give me a list of every Kogoro Akechi stories?

    There's a list on this page:

    but it's not complete. "The fiend of 20 faces" and "Murder on Dogenzaka" are missing for exemple... :/

    1. The correct title of that story is The D-Slope Murder Case (not Dogenzaka), so it is there on the list on Wikipedia. The very first title even.

      But sorry, I don't have a complete list in English available and I don't feel like compiling a new list, because even Japanese lists don't seem to agree about what is a Akechi Kogorou story and what isn't. But with the short stories, the novels and the Shounen Tantei Dan stories and rewrites, you're looking at a list of easily fifty titles, nearer the sixty even.