Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan (浪花少年探偵団 – Naniwa Juvenile Detective Team) is a mystery series with a humorous bent based on a novel by Higashino Keigo. It centers on mystery-obsessed elementary school teacher Takeuchi Shinobu (Tabe Mikako) and her cohort of similarly curious students. This episode begins with Shinobu putting her usual overabundance of energy into softball training with the kids.

Softball 1Softball 2Softball 3

Meanwhile, a suspicious old man looks on:

Suspicious Old Man 1Suspicious Old Man 2

Shinobu at least cleans up her mistake, though rival teacher Haruna (Kimura Fumino, who is also playing naïve teacher Haruka in Kuro no Onna Kyoushi this season – how many teachers are you allowed to play in a single season?) isn’t very grateful.

HarunaShinobu Cleaning Up

Following Haruna, we find her beset by unpleasant types when Honma Yoshihiko (Yamamoto Koji) steps in to save her. Honma is in the middle of wooing Shinobu, so the fact that his rescue suddenly gives Haruna ideas is a problem. Don’t tell me we’re actually going to get a love triangle in the middle of a comedic mystery series!?

Honma InterventionSmitten

Actually, I almost forgot that we already have a triangle – between Honma, Shinobu, and police detective Shindou Shuuhei (Koike Teppei) – though I’ve sort of classified that as “comedy.”

The Original Love Triangle, With Friends

When Haruna suddenly steps into the picture, does it become a love square? Actually, it seems like Haruna totally hits it off with Honma, leaving Shinobu in the dust:

Haruna Pops InHaruna and HonmaIs That Jealousy?

And what’s with the old man stalking Shinobu?

The Old Guy Again

Well, as you might expect, she’s soon the one doing the chasing, with the Naniwa Shounen behind her:

The Chase 1The Chase 2The Chase 3

He quickly tempts them with an offer of a meal, though, after offering his business card. It turns out he’s an eccentric company president . . .

Business Card

. . . and he’s looking to offer Shinobu a position in his company.

The Offer

Okay, so we know something fishy is up, but what? Naturally, Shinobu turns the offer down . . .

The Rejection

. . . but then a blood-curdling scream grabs her attention, and they rush out to find a man has fallen from a high window.

Stopped in her tracksWhat Happened?The Body

Ah, good, a case. Well, we don’t know if it is one or not yet, but the Naniwa Shounen sure smell a case, and though they were told to go away by the old man, they insist on following him up to the scene of the crime.

Smell a CaseStuff into the Elevator

There, the old man doesn’t hesitate to conclude that it was a suicide, even though he says he has no idea why the victim would do such a thing.

The Old Man Comes to His Conclusion 1The Old Man Comes to His Conclusion 2

Showing the gradually increasing organization of the Naniwa Shounen, Shinobu instructs them to take notes about the scene. Shinobu, perhaps in hope, decides that this is a murder disguised as a suicide, and the old man angrily insists that she’s watched too many detective dramas. Sure makes him seem even more suspicious, doesn’t it?

Shinobu's Conclusion 1Old Man's Rebuke

The old man makes it worse for himself when he notes that it was a locked room. That just encourages the amateur sleuths.

Locked Room ?Locked Room !

The kids ultimately have to go home, but Shinobu continues to stay at the scene to consult with her two police buddies who are tasked to the crime – Shindou and Urushizaki.

The Adult Trio

Past this point, we get into the details of the case, with the old man constantly insisting that it was suicide. Really, if he is the culprit, he’s doing a bad job of hiding it.

Again With the Suicide

Shinobu goes back to softball training the next day, but she seems a bit distracted:

Shinobu Distracted

And the police visit the Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan on their home turf to conduct a full briefing.

Police Briefing 1Police Briefing 2

Shinobu will soon have other distractions on her hands, though, as Honma suddenly gets convinced that he should fully confess his love for her:

Honma Plans to Confess His Feelings

Will Haruna let Honma slip out of her grasp? Will the old man turn out to be the murderer? Wait a minute – what’s with him telling the company manager that she’s the new secretary?

What Do You Mean Secretary?

What continues to jump out as endearing about this series is how forward the kids are – how enthusiastically they involve themselves in everything. Actually, none of the characters are passive, from the police to the kids to Shinobu and Haruna . . . except Honma. The fact that Shindou and Urushizaki show up at the school to work with Shinobu and the boys, and later at Shinobu’s home (mainly because Urushizaki’s fallen for Shinobu’s mother) makes them feel like active players. The net result of having all these engaged characters is a lot of energy, making it easy to keep things moving even when the focus isn’t on the main character.

While I love the characters, the case felt like a bit of a miss. The explanation of what happened was lacking a bit – especially in the distinction between Shinobu’s first hypothesis and her second. Too much time was spent on the “moral of the story” at the end. The motive was extremely weak – at least, it’s not the sort of thing that usually ends in a death.

This was probably the weakest episode so far, with the resolution of the mystery largely to blame. That’s been the soft spot of this series so far, and I really hope they do better in the episodes to come, since it’d be a shame to waste these characters on flawed plots.

Thanks to Eric Paroissien for the subtitles.