Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tensai Tantei Mitarai SP (2015)

Another seinen manga gets a live-action adaptation in Tensai Tantei Mitarai--- a special with a premise that bears a striking similarity to Gatiss and Moffat's reimagining of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock, even though its modus is really more in league with network precursor, Galileo, in  terms of exposition. Fuji TV appears to be testing how receptive people are to another detective series, making case file Kasa o Oru Onna a soft pilot for a future series or at least the first installment in a series of television specials featuring yet another genius consulting detective.

Tensai Tantei Mitarai features two childhood friends who, in addition to sharing the same living space, share a penchant for detecting and solving complex mysteries. Mitarai Kiyoshi (Tamaki Hiroshi) is a neuroscientist, who inexplicably spends his time aiding the police in solving cases as a civilian consultant while his flatmate, Ishioka Kazuki (Domoto Koichi), is a crime novelist, who documents every criminal investigation that they've figured in. Cold and supercilious, Mitarai tends to rub people the wrong way but it's quickly established that he, along with his affable investigative partner, has a reputation for cracking the most baffling cases; making them an indispensable component in local crime enforcement.

The special begins with a midnight caller going on the the air to recount how a woman in a white dress caught his attention in the midst of a downpour. This rainy tale is relayed by Ishioka to a bored Mitarai, who immediately discerns the commission of a crime based solely on the curious behavior of the woman as described by the caller. The police are notified and true enough, a murder is found to have taken place in the area where the woman was spotted. However, instead of one victim, two bodies are found---one of which turns out to be that of the woman in white. Intrigued by this unexpected twist, Mitarai and Ishioka assist in the investigation, working alongside long-time collaborator, Detective Takahashi (Katsamura Masanobu) and the ever skeptical Detective Kashikawa (Sakai Maki).

Judging the show by its initial offering, it gets brownie points for the original way it introduces the case using an utterly random diversion such as retelling a story heard on the radio. It's a fresh take on an opening sequence, slightly ominous and vicarious in tone, yet demonstrative of the type of cases that Mitarai and Ishioka stumble upon. The mystery is set up nicely within the first few minutes, the main problem is that even though the show is successful in stirring up one's curiosity, whatever interest is derived from it eventually wanes because of the dry and dour pace of the special.

By piecing together clues and reviewing a slideshow of photographic evidence, Mitarai is able to formulate an explanation for every bewildering aspect of the murder case ahead of everyone else. He comes by such answers with relative ease and unparalleled certainty, providing a plausible narration of events even though the same may not be logically apparent or immediately conceivable to the audience. In doing so, the show treats its viewers with a certain level of condescension, with one character having a monopoly on the lowdown of the case. 

Tensai Tantei Mitarai is the type of show that relies heavily on armchair sleuthing, it's like a procedural drama minus the likable ensemble cast. The fact that the lead character is aloof and cerebral indirectly strips the show of its humanity and the audience is reminded of this intermittently when the veracity of the guesswork done is announced in percentages. It lacks the thrill and danger that usually accompanies stories of this genre, which in turn detracts from the force and fury of the commission of the crime. This is one of those cases wherein the show is simply too occupied with being clever to the extent that it marginalizes the viewer and it's unintentionally stripped of any emotion beyond feeble attempts at wry humor.

Perhaps the biggest letdown is that the duo eventually unravel a case driven by an unfortunate series of events culled from a news incident that is belatedly introduced and ancillary to the crime in question. The suspect is easily identified and there's very little build up towards pinning such person to pay for the crime because Mitarai has an exclusive handle on how the mystery unfolds. His languid and indifferent demeanor  (in spite of proof to the contrary), overpowers the inquisitive attitude and earnestness of Takahashi and Ishioka, making the show such a chore to watch. The emotional blows do not land as intended because of the phony artifice of the show and its characters, making it difficult to care about the perpetrator even in the presence of mitigating circumstances that led to the homicide of a despicable person.


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