Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bitter End


"I got a taste of this case's mystery!"
"The Man With the Tongue of God"

The best detective series about food that I know is still Kuitan. The comic, mind you, not the TV drama.

Tomonaga Ranmaru is known as the Man With the Tongue of God, as he can recognize any taste, and even analyze what's inside anything he licks. His gift is also his curse, as he can't even kiss a woman without the kiss turning into a cold breakdown of chemicals because of his taste buds. Ranmaru arrives one day in the remote village of Houzuki, where he falls in love with the local doctor. He decides to stay in the village, working as a masseur in the local inn, when his old companions finally trace him there The reunion is however not only with friends, but also with death, as once again, Ranmaru and his companions find themselves facing a mysterious murder. As Ranmaru's made a name for himself solving mysterious murders using his Tongue of God, he's asked to solve the murder on a local young man, whose body had been hidden inside a sink hole that recently appeared. Meanwhile, the local elderly are crying something about an ancient curse that is haunting the village, and they are blaming Ranmaru for the death. Can Ranmaru find out what's behind all this in the 2016 film Ranmaru Kami no Shita wo Motsu Otoko Sakagura Wakadanna Kaishi Jiken no Kage ni Hisomu Texas Otoko to Bohemian Okami, Soshite Bijin Muraisha wo Oitsumeru Nazo no Kagome Kagome Rouba Gundan To Sankenja no Mura no Noroi Ni 2 Sas Mania with Miyaken to Goddotan, Beroncho Adventure! Ryaku Shite... Ranmaru wa Nido Shinu. Houziki Death Road Hen ("Ranmaru - The Man With the Tongue of God - The Texas Man and The Bohemian Inn Hostess Lurking In The Shadows Behind The Mysterious Death Of The Young Sake Brewer, And The Army of Old Kagome-Kagome Women Who Are After The Beautiful Village Doctor, and The Village Curse Of The Three Sages, and A Two-Hour Suspense Drama, WITH Miyazaki Kenji and God Tongue, A Licking Adventure! In Short: Ranmaru Will Die Twice. Houzuki Death Road Chapter").

But the film is usually called Ranmaru. And you may have guessed from the title, but this is a comedy (parody) detective film.

Kami no Shita wo Motsu Otoko ("The Man With The Tongue of God") was a 2016 TV drama that I have not seen, though there were some names in the production team that caught my attention back then. First of all, the screenplay of the show was written by Sakurai Takeharu, who also wrote the screenplays for the films Kirin no Tsubasa and Gyakuten Saiban/Ace Attorney, as well as for the Detective Conan films Private Eye in the Distant Sea, Sunflowers of Inferno and The Darkest Nightmare. Meanwhile, Tsutsumi Yukihiko signed for the direction of the show, and we know him as the brilliant mind behind the greatest Japanese comedy-mystery show, Trick (and he also did the first TV drama adaptation of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, as well as Keizoku among others). From some short trailers I saw, I gathered Kami no Shita wo Motsu Otoko was very much made in the spirit of Trick, so I was certainly curious to the series, but I never got around to it. The 2016 film Ranmaru is set after the series, but it conveniently starts with a five-minute recap of the series.

And... it's pretty bad. Perhaps it's because I didn't watch the series, but this film felt like nothing more but an inferior version of Trick. Everything is ripped from that series, only it's not performed as well. Tsutsumi Yukihiko's distinctive style of directing can be felt throughout, from the quick cuts to the snappy dialogue and non-secutor jokes, but it all feels... so forced in comparison to Trick. The main setting of the story for example (small village in the middle-of-nowhere, ancient village curse), with the villagers speaking with a thick accent: it's something we've seen this countless of times in Trick. The comedy too is almost cowardly compared to the bizarre comedy of Trick, as Ranmaru relies much more on actual pop culture references, and most of the time they make it a point to make sure the viewer got it. By pointing it out. Once or twice. Just to be sure. Which becomes very tedious after the first two times. There's a running joke for example about the characters recognizing that Ranmaru is dressed as Kindaichi Kousuke, but can't recall the name, so they cry out "That's Kin...Kin...Kin....." Which is kinda overkill if the joke's just that he's dressed as Kindaichi. Compare to Trick Special 3, which was completely a parody on Inugamike no Ichizoku, but without actually crying the name out to show how "subtle" the reference was.

And this could be forgiven if the core mystery plot was good, but man, I've seldom seen a full-length mystery film with such a horrible plot! The one murder that happens in the whole story is so boring it doesn't manage to carry the whole film (the death just isn't interesting enough), and the way the murderer is revealed is utterly ridiculous and lazy, as the murderer basically left their calling card, complete with name and telephone number, at the scene of the crime, with the direction making sure the viewer absolutely caught that. Now I think about it, it's precisely the same as how the jokes go in this film. It assumes the viewer can't figure anything out on their own, so every joke and clue is horribly obvious, and they still dwell on it for ages. The gimmick of Ranmaru being able to taste and recognize everything is also rendered completely irrelevant because of the clue, as taste has absolutely nothing to do with it!

While the Trick films might not have been super-complex mystery films, they were always entertaining from start to finish, with multiple smaller, simple mysteries to solve, that eventually chained into one longer story. The Columbo method, in essence. But there's only one driving mystery in Ranmaru, and it's a bad one too, so the whole film collapses because of that. And one could argue that as it's more meant to be a comedy/parody film, the mystery plot doesn't need to be that strong, but the problem is that the comedy elements of Ranmaru are also pretty disappointing.

So yeah, Ranmaru was a pretty disappointing mystery film considering the main production staff members. I had expected more of it as a comedy film, and more of it as a mystery film. It's not good at either of those genres, and it undermines its own premise by doing next to doing with the taste-gimmick. Avoid at all costs.

Original Japanese title(s): 『RANMARU 神の舌を持つ男 酒蔵若旦那怪死事件の影に潜むテキサス男とボヘミアン女将、そして美人村医者を追い詰める謎のかごめかごめ老婆軍団と三賢者の村の呪いに2サスマニアwithミヤケンとゴッドタン、ベロンチョアドベンチャー! 略して…蘭丸は二度死ぬ。鬼灯デスロード編』

No comments :

Post a Comment