July 29, 2023

Murder, they wrote

The traditional police procedural is one genre where Jdrama handily holds it own. Hollywood could do a lot worse than license a series like Partners just for the premise and the plots.

Much of the credit goes to Ranpo Edogawa (1894–1965), a tireless promoter of the mystery novel in Japan. His pen name puns on the Japanese pronunciation of Edgar Allan Poe. He is best remembered for the Kogoro Akechi and Boy Detectives Club mystery novels, published between 1936 and 1962.

His efforts are widely acknowledged today. The mystery genre is prominent not only on prime-time television and the best-seller lists, but has long been a staple of young adult manga and anime.

Kindaichi Case Files, based on characters created by mystery writer Seishi Yokomizo, has been published by Kodansha since 1992. Case Closed ("Detective Conan") was launched by Shogakukan in 1994 and is likewise still ongoing, with the accompanying anime totaling more than 1000 episodes.

The main character in Case Closed sports the nom de plume of "Conan Edogawa," a double tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle as well. There is no shortage of detectives named "Akechi" in contemporary Japanese crime fiction.

Speaking of Conan Doyle, Great Britain and Japan share similar cultural elements that make them ideal settings for the cozy mystery. Namely, generally accepted rules of propriety and a veneer of "polite society" easily disrupted (but not deeply damaged) by an otherwise "ordinary" crime. The world need not end in every episode.

Like a returning tide, we expect the greater cultural forces at work to wash away the disruptive elements and reset the stage for next week. So we shrug off the comical murder rates in Midsomer and Cabot Cove, and body counts in Kindaichi Case Files and Case Closed that can exceed that of the entire country on a weekly basis.

To be sure, a gun is rarely the murder weapon. But watch out for knives, rope, and all manner of blunt objects! Reality forces Japanese crime writers to get creative, and they embrace every plausible variation available. It follows that the geeky appeal of the CSI subgenre has made it a favorite with audiences.

The CSI guy on Partners has played a supporting role for twenty-one seasons. Kasoken no Onna ("Woman of the Science Research Institute") is in its twenty-third season. Like Crime Scene Talks (seven seasons), the plotting is pretty much by the numbers. But the reason we follow a recipe is because it works.

Viki has a handful of localized live-action police procedurals. For now, though, your best bet for subs or dubs is anime.

dLibrary Japan has a (badly closed-captioned) season of Kindaichi Case Files and Crunchyroll has a boatload of Case Closed episodes. Sticking strictly to the puzzle-solving cozy mystery formula, five of my anime favorites are Holmes of Kyoto, Hyouka, In/Spectre, Beautiful Bones, and Onihei.

Hyouka and Holmes of Kyoto are classic whodunits that closely follow the classic formula, even though the cases often don't involve any actual crimes.

I love the clever English language title for In/Spectre, a supernatural detective series. It can get overly talky, especially in the first season, but Kotoko takes us through her reasoning process step by step. Though she is an often unreliable narrator, manipulating events to produce the outcome she prefers.

In Beautiful Bones, Sakurako Kujo is an even more eccentric osteologist than Temperance "Bones" Brennan, the series that inspired the English language title. The Japanese title translates as "A Corpse is Buried Beneath Sakurako's Feet."

Onihei is an action-heavy Edo period police procedural that doesn't flinch from depicting the complete lack of due process rights for suspects at the time.

And although she only appears in a couple of episodes in a series that can't be classified in the genre, the hard-boiled vampire-hunting private eye in Call of the Night is such a great noir character that I'd like to see her get a show of her own.

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# posted by Blogger baihaki
8/01/2023 2:19 AM   
Love Hyouka with its low stake cases. Guess gonna look into Holmes in Kyoto.