July 22, 2015

The book detectives

Shioriko Shinokawa (Ayame Gouriki) runs the "Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia" in the old historic town of Kamakura. She's quiet as a mouse, pretty as a picture, and brilliant as Sherlock Holmes.

The series begins with Daisuke Goura (Akira) coming to sell a collection of Natsume Soseki books that once belonged to his grandmother. In particular, one prized volume that appears to bear the famous author's signature, along with a mysterious dedication.

Shioriko concludes that the signature is a forgery, and that Daisuke's grandmother was the likely forger. That she would do so in a book she had always kept to herself only points to another mystery, one that reveals a curious truth about Daisuke's own past.

This first episode gets our two protagonists together so they can solve more mysteries of a literary nature. Each episode involves a specific classical work or famous author and Shioriko's exhaustive knowledge of world literature and the book collecting business.

Many of the episodes don't even involve a crime per se. The A Clockwork Orange episode starts as a shoplifting case and revolves around the missing last chapter in the first edition. An actual felony occurs at the end of that episode.

But nobody gets murdered, so this Kamakura isn't like those sleepy English villages where people are dropping dead right and left.

Ayame Gouriki pulls off the tricky task of being preternaturally pretty but more that bookish enough for the part. Despite the physical mismatch (he's eight inches taller), Akira (née, Ryohei Kurosawa of the band Exile) nerds it up and makes a good Watson.

Akira shares the Watson duties with veteran character actor Katsumi Takahashi, who also doubles as the Mrs. Hudson.

Thirty miles south of Tokyo, the ancient city of Kamakura is an ideal setting for a musty old bookshop. Minamoto no Yoritomo established Japan's first shogunate there in 1192, though it's better known today as home to the enormous outdoor statue of the Great Buddha.

Much of old Kamakura has been preserved as a veritable walk-through museum, a cozy place for cozy mysteries about books.

Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia's Case Files is based on the best-selling novels and manga by En Mikami (tragically, no English translations yet). The live-action 2013 Fuji Television series can be viewed on Crunchyroll (subtitled).

(The "free" version of Crunchyroll requires putting up with their obnoxious ad engine, whose primary purpose is to annoy you into buying a subscription. The free-market capitalist in me shrinks from pointing this out, but Adblock Plus works on this site.)

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