Monday, September 26, 2016

No Time To Die

"It belongs in a museum!"
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"

Oh man, it's been more than six months ago since I last did a review on a TV drama! I used to do these more often... Anyway, two Japanese mystery specials today for the price of one today!

Hanzai Shiryoukan - Hiiro Saeko Series: Akai Hakubutsukan ("The Crime Archive - Hiiiro Saeko Series: The Red Museum") is a TV special broadcast on August 29, 2016, based on Akai Hakubutsukan, a 2015 short story collection by Ooyama Seiichirou. Terada Satoru was a promising police detective until he made a major mistake handling evidence. He is transferred to the Red Museum, a place inspired by New Scotland Yard's The Black Museum. Files and evidence concerning cases of which the statute of limitations has already passed are stored in the archives beneath the old brick mansion. While the function of the museum is simply preservation of cases of which the police can't arrest the culprit anymore, the slightly difficult-to-handle director Hiiro Saeko still thinks there's merit in finding the truth and often starts new investigations in closed cases on her own. One day, Terada is witness to a traffic accident. Before the victim died however, he told Terada he once commited a murder exchange in the past, two decades ago. Digging in the victim's past, they find out his wealthy uncle was murdered two decades ago, while he himself had a perfect alibi. Hiiro concludes that for a murder exchange to have happened, there must be another unsolved murder featuring someone with a perfect alibi and starts poking around, but not everybody is happy with the interference of the Red Museum.

Ooyama Seiichirou's output as a writer is a lot less than I had hoped it to be, because I really enjoyed the stories by him that I've read. His mystery stories fall under the Queen-Norizuki school of logical reasoning. Misshitsu Shuushuuka for example was a brilliant display of doing locked room murders in the form of a pure, logic-driven puzzle plot. So I had high expectations of this TV drama, which would also be the first TV adaptation of Ooyama's work.

I was a bit disappointed though. From what I understand, the TV drama is mostly based around one of the stories in the original short story collection, with some elements from the other stories, but the TV drama itself was rather chaotic. One problem is that it tries to address too many past cases at the same time: not only do we follow the investigation about the murder exchange (so that's two murders), the story also puts a spotlight on two personal tragedies in both Hiiro and Terada's past, bringing it up to four cases, and that's just at the beginning of the story! One storyline in particular felt like nothing but time-filler, making the whole feel less cohesive than it should've been.

As for the mystery plot, it was a bit bland. It wasn't precisely what I had expected (I had expected something more firmly set in the Queen-Norizuki school), but it was also not fair to the viewer. Not only was there a convenient piece of evidence that simply told Hiiro the truth behind the murder exchange, this piece of evidence wasn't even shown to the viewer! I mean, they intentionally didn't show it on the screen. Well then, you kinda lose my goodwill then. The mystery about the tragedy in Terada's past was good though. I do like the concept of the Red Museum and it seems they might want to do a sequel one day (about Hiiro's own past and her relation with her father), but I can't say I'm really looking forward to it, if they're going to present the mystery plot like this again.

Note: I translated Norizuki Rintarou's short story The Lure of the Green Door.

Yuukai Mystery Choukessaku: Norizuki Rintarou- Ichi no Higeki ("A Kidnapping Masterpiece: Norizuki Rintarou - The Tragedy of One") is a TV drama special broadcast on September 23, 2016 and is based on Norizuki Rintarou's 1996 novel Ichi no Higeki ("The Tragedy of One"). It also marks the first time a work of Norizuki has been adapted for television. I already reviewed the original book some years ago, but to give a short summary: the well-to-do Yamakura household is shocked by a phone call telling them their son Takashi has been kidnapped and demanding ransom money. However, Takashi is safe at home. It appears the kidnapper accidently took Takashi's classmate Shigeru, who came around the house in the morning to pick Takashi up on their way to school (Takashi didn't go because of a fever). The kidnapper doesn't appear to have noticed their mistake though, so they demand Yamakura Shirou, father of Takashi, to bring the ransom money. But Shirou doesn't succeed in his task because of both bad luck and almost insane demands of the kidnapper, and Shigeru's body is dumped somewhere on an empty lot. Police investigations bring a man called Miura in sight, but this man has a foolproof alibi: he had spent the whole day with Norizuki Rintarou, mystery writer and son of the police superintendent in charge of the kidnapping-murder investigation.

Overall, I'd say this was a pretty competent adaptation. Highlights were definitely the violin music (I wish they'd release this soundtrack!) and Hasegawa Hiroki's take on the role of mystery writer Norizuki Rintarou. While it's often hard to get a hold on a character through just one TV special, I'd say that Hasegawa's Rintarou is already almost perfect, and I'd love to see a series starring him based on the Rintarou short stories.

In terms of the mystery plot, there were some changes. Some were to streamline/simplify the story, other changes had to be made because of the difference in medium. A bit of a shame they pulled the "let's not show the decisive piece of evidence to the viewer" card again though. And while I said I thought this was a competent adaptation, I'd also say it's a weird adaptation, in the sense that yes, all the things that needed to be there were present, and the overall gloomy atmosphere of the original book was depicted very well, but there were also some very characteristic elements that didn't made the jump to TV. In fact, one of the reasons the book carried the title The Tragedy of One is because it was written in the first person (the sequel was naturally written in the second person). There was another reason why the book was titled like that, which was related to the mystery plot, but that too didn't make the jump. So the title The Tragedy of One doesn't even really make sense in the TV drama, because all the connections to "One" didn't appear on TV. 

In the original book, the story was written from the POV of Yamakura Shirou and because of that, Rintarou didn't appear that often on screen. But you can't do that with the leading actor in a TV production, so we see a fair amount of him. Because the character is not particularly talkative though, they added a new character to the Norizuki household. In the original novels, it's just father and son Norizuki, but in this special they added a very talkative housemaid with a love for TV mystery shows. This Djuna to the Norizuki's Queen household is supposed to add a 'relatable' POV for the scenes at home, I think, but her bright personality doesn't really fit the overall atmosphere of the story, I think.

Original Japanese title(s): 大山誠一郎 (原) 『犯罪資料館 緋色冴子シリーズ 赤い博物館』、法月綸太郎 (原) 『誘拐ミステリー超傑作 法月綸太郎 一の悲劇』


  1. I saw the trailer for the Zaregoto anime, I was wondering if you could tell me why was that tongue girl was licking someone's hand (also is there yuri in it ?)

    1. Don't remember that particular scene, but there's no yuri in the book. The book's available in English by the way, if you're interested in the original story.

    2. ok thanks, actually I'm not sure what I should do. Should I read the book or wait for the anime ? the dilemna... :/