It seems slightly odd to have any show on the bubble in a season where almost everything has been postponed. But while I can lower the threshold, I can’t totally fake it – there has to be enough there to keep me interested. So whereas with most series the suspense has been if and when the suspension announcement would come, with Kitsutsuki Tanteidokoro it’s whether I’d like the series enough to care. I wasn’t so sure after last week, after being quite satisfied with the premiere – but I feel a lot better about Woodpecker Detective’s Office than I did half an hour ago.
That’s not to say that this week’s episode addressed all the concerns I had after Episode 2 – I’d say it addressed the big one about halfway – but it was progress. The mystery ended up being more interesting than the first one, Ishikawa-san more of a jerk than a psychotic, and the introduction of some new faces came off pretty well. And I continue to really enjoy the visual side of Kitsutsuki Tanteidokoro – the color palette, the character designs, and the backgrounds are all distinctive and very attractive. It’s not a bad base to build on by any means.
Initially, the writers at the cafe proved themselves to be hardly the Algonquin Roundtable when it came to solving mysteries. One silly theory followed another (the cat?), and the overall impression was that this was rather a lark for them despite their friend being in jail. Things don’t improve much when who I assume is Souseki Natsume (though he is played by the peerless Miki Shinichirou) interrupts to introduce his student Akutagawa Ryuunosuke, who waxes lyrical about everything happening in a grove (his early short story “In a Grove” would go on to be the basis for his short story “Rashomon”, which in turn would become the basis for Kurosawa Akira’s signature film, which itself has begat countless remakes and homages).
While Kindaichi and Ishikawa were known to be friends in real life, I have no idea of the rest of these writers knew each other – if there was indeed a sort of “Asakusa Squaretable” going on around this time. But they were all in Tokyo then, and they’re about the right age in 1909 as this story takes place. Souseki would have been in his 40s, Akutagawa 17, and Edogawa Rampo about 14 or 15. And yes, he shows up too – using his true name of Tarou Hirai. And it’s Hirai-kun’s arrival which starts to cut through the nonsense and turn things serious.
Edogawa Rampo is a name that should be well-known to anime fans (though perhaps Hirai Tarou not so much). His Two-Sen Copper Coin (though it wouldn’t be published until 1922) is arguably the first modern Japanese mystery novel. Here, Hirai is crashing in the next room over from Kindaichi-san, and he finds his curiosity getting the better of him as he overhears conversations through the thin walls. He’s also a bit infatuated with Otaki-san. Hirai-kun overhears something he shouldn’t, ends up going to the brothel, where he gives Ishikawa’s journal (which he’s forgotten in the tavern) to Otaki-san.
Make of the eventual explanation – Otaki’s illness (we kind of knew that) and suicide – what you will. I thought it worked pretty well myself, but there’s a larger and more interesting question to consider. If Hirai-kun hadn’t come along and seen through his fiction, would Ishikawa still have gone to the cops with the truth and gotten his friend out of jail? I get him being upset with Kindaichi over the Otaki situation, but it’s definitely a jerk move to do what he did. I had no illusions that Ishikawa was especially noble or indeed loyal, but I’m still surprised to see him go that far. It’s not as much of a stretch as him believing Kindaichi capable of murder though, so at least that matter is cleared up. Like I said, all this was not perfect – but certainly better and for now, enough. I’ll be here next week – now we just have to wait and see if Kitsutsuki Tanteidokoro will.