Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan (浪花少年探偵団 – Naniwa Juvenile Detective Team) is a mystery series based on a 1988 novel by Higashino Keigo (東野 圭吾), writer of Galileo and Ryusei no Kizuna among other dramas. There is a separate series of Higashino Keigo Mysteries airing this season as well, with different stars in each episode. This drama, though, focuses on mystery-obsessed Takeuchi Shinobu (Tabe Mikako – 多部未華子 – star of Deka Wanko) and her cohort of similarly curious elementary school students.

Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan Title

The first episode is a two-hour special, and the story begins with Shinobu in the midst of a driving lesson getting pissed off at her instructor and making a very public scene.

Shinobu's Intro 1

Already, I like her. She’s got spirit. Tabe-san played a spirited character in Deka Wanko as well, though, and I found that character irritating, so maybe I’m jumping the gun here. As long as she doesn’t go around sniffing stuff, maybe it’ll be alright.

Shinobu's Intro 2

Among the people in the crowd watching her tell her instructor off are the young stars of our show. Hamada Tatsuomi (濱田龍臣) plays Tanaka Teppei, a kid from Tokyo. Comedic duo Maeda Koki and Maeda Oshiro play the Harada brothers, Osaka natives, with Maeda Oshiro-kun handling the voice-over narration for the series.

Hamada and Maeda-Maeda

I was actually caught by surprise when I heard the narration. It was a pleasant surprise, though, because hearing the thoughts of characters always adds a bit of depth and comedy. Sometimes it can be done badly, but so far it definitely contributes to this drama.

The Maedas

We find out that Shinobu is a lecturer working to prior to taking an exam that will allow her to teach permanently (which is the situation with Great Teacher Onizuka – how many wacky probationary teachers can the Japanese have at one time?).

In her first classroom scene, we also learn that her elementary school kids are quite precocious, with the boys discussing her skirt and her measurements:

Classroom Scene 1Classroom Scene 2

I must be getting old. I don’t remember anyone talking like that about teachers at that age. Am I wrong about that? Anyway, it looks like the classroom scenes will be fun.

Shinobu gets called out of class, with Tanaka, the elder Harada, and Hatanaka (Takahashi Akira) rushing close behind to see what might be up.

In the hallway 1

She finds out that the father of one of her students, Fukushima, was murdered, and her first thought is that she should investigate.

The Murder 1The Murder 2

The head teacher tries to make it clear that she should avoid getting involved, because it might endanger her chances to get a permanent position.

We jump to the crime scene  where we find the police hard at work, and meet the character who will undoubtedly be Shinobu’s police liaison – Shindou Shuuhei played by Koike Teppei (小池徹平).

Koike Teppei

Right away, we start getting all sorts of information, as we follow along with a very robust police investigation. This is not a story where the police are clueless and the detective does all the work.

Police Inquiries

At the same time, Shinobu can’t avoid being curious, and so starts to question her class to see what they know.

Amateur Inquiries

Lest we think things are getting too serious, the police end up questioning Hisamoto Masami-san who is playing . . . well, who always plays herself, I think. Anyway, she “accidentally” stumbles and manages to spend the better part of a minute groping Shindou Shuuhei.

Hisamoto Masami 1Hisamoto Masami 2

I hope the information they got out of her was worth the price. She even returns later for a second attack, and a third . . .

Hisamoto Masami 3Hisamoto Masami 4

Back at school, the elder Harada and Hatanaka are in the middle of a fight:

Fight 1Fight 2

Yup, the classroom scenes are going to be fun.

Fight 3Fight 4

But what’s this all about? Well, we’re starting to get into the meat of this episode – the formation of the Naniwa Juvenile Detective Team – so it’s time to pull away from giving details.

A few minutes after this, we get a brilliant chase scene:

Chase 1

Just what is this all about? I’ll tell you what – it’s continuous fun and wonderful storytelling. Each of the characters is vividly and distinctly crafted, with the kids acting both realistically and with unique personalities. I like it that the kids are mischievous and outspoken. The main character, Shinobu, is much more palatable than Tabe-san’s character in Deka Wanko. Koike Teppei-san was also delightful as the affable Shindou. Why don’t I just say I love all the characters and get on with it?

The Kids

Since this was a two-hour special, everything was evenly paced. But what about the mystery?

First of all, the field of suspects was wide open, so it really had the viewer wondering and thinking up all sorts of possibilities. There were plenty of characters that could have done it. As I prefer, the focus was on motive rather than method, which means everything is down to the psychology of the various characters that might have committed the murder. The key for me is whether the audience could have figured out the answer before the detectives, and the answer there was no – we were not told a certain necessary piece of information before the answer was revealed. So, as far as the mystery was concerned, I wasn’t really satisfied.

Great Scene

There were many great moments in this episode, and thanks to the rich characters, I’m very confident that the rest of the series will be entertaining. However, I hope the mysteries will be more intricate, and will give the viewers a fighting shot in future episodes. The preview for the next episode looks hopeful.

Thanks to Eric Paroissien for the subtitles, and for taking on these projects this season.