Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan (浪花少年探偵団 – Naniwa Juvenile Detective Team) is a mystery series with a humorous bent starring Tabe Mikako-san as mystery-obsessed elementary school teacher Takeuchi Shinobu. Unfortunately, recent episodes have been less than stellar, and for a few weeks, the thought of the series didn’t muster enough energy in me for a review. Let’s see if episode 7 is interesting enough that I’ll be encouraged to catch up.

Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan Title

As usual, the episode begins with Shinobu facing domestic issues – this time getting mad at her mother and telling her mother to leave (they have separate homes, but Shinobu’s mother has been staying with her).

Domestic Issues 1Domestic Issues 2

While these bits are funny (especially thanks to the voice-over narration provided by Maeda Oshiro-kun, who plays the younger Harada kid) and give texture to the story, they’ve had a bad habit of stealing time from the mystery.

Maeda-kun’s voice-over moves from Shinobu’s issue to a general observation about what people consider precious.

Maeda Oshiro Gives Some Color 1Maeda Oshiro Gives Some Color 2

This leads to a good moment where Honma (Yamamoto Koji) and Tanaka (Hamada Tatsuomi) fight over a game:

Honma v Tanaka 1Honma v Tanaka 2Honma v Tanaka 3Honma v Tanaka 4

When Honma tries to get away with the last copy of it, Tanaka threatens to tell Shinobu (who Honma is courting) about it. You see, Tanaka is a member of the Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan – the kid detectives who help Shinobu solve the mysteries. A bad word from him will definitely hold some sway.

Honma v Tanaka 5Honma v Tanaka 6Honma v Tanaka 7

Out of nowhere, though, a kid rushes by them, stealing the game:

Fast Running Kid 1Fast Running Kid 2

The victims complain to Shinobu:

The Victims 1The Victims 2

Please tell me this isn’t the mystery/case. You know, it’s an unofficial rule of mysteries: in exchange for the attention of your audience (especially for a novel, but I think it also applies to a series like this), you have to offer at least one dead body, and possibly several. It’s no fair expecting us to pay attention for an hour if the crime is petty theft – I don’t care how interesting the characters are. The last two episodes didn’t involve a murder, but instead focused on theft and the sabotage of a vaulting horse, so I’ve grown a bit impatient with this series.

Well, Shinobu gets to work on this matter, anyway, tailed by the Naniwa Shounen and Honma:

Shinobu Goes to Work 1Shinobu Goes to Work 2

They find the kid without any trouble, but he gives chase and, knowing the back alleys very well, gets away.

The Kid 1The Kid 2

After the opening, we learn that there’s a bit more going on behind the scenes in this neighborhood, and our favorite police duo is on duty:

The Case 1The Case 2

Officer Shindou Shuuhei (Koike Teppei) competing with Honma for Shinobu’s hand, and doesn’t hesitate to interrupt his work to wave to her:

Shindou Waves

With Shinobu getting pushed back by the crowd, I breathe a sigh of relief – there’s a dead body this time:

Dead Body

Lovely. Shindou and his partner Urushizaki get the basic information on the deceased. I’m not going to get into the details of the case, since discovering those and putting the pieces together is the main fun in watching a mystery. For instance, what does that kid-thief have to do with the guy who was killed? What about his landlord, who also seems suspicious?

Landlord

Incidentally, the landlord’s stepdaughter is one of Shinobu’s students:

Landlord's Stepdaughter

There are other potential suspects, including the deceased’s divorced former wife, so we’ve got options to work with.

Annoyingly, while we’re trying to get interested in the mystery, Honma is trying to get Shinobu interested in him.

Love Square 1

Worse, rival teacher Haruna (Kimura Fumino) shows up and tries to win Honma’s heart:

Love Square 2

We really, really don’t need all this. In fact, I think the character of Haruna could be thrown out of the series entirely. I don’t think she’s contributed a single useful thing in seven episodes, and she generally serves as a pointless distraction, not adding any humor nor helping us to learn more about any other character.

Sure enough, Shindou shows up, and now we’re in full love square mode when we’re supposed to be investigating a murder:

Love Square 3Love Square 4

Shinobu steers us back on course, but the entire love square, including Haruna, comes along to discuss the case, so we have a total of eight investigators when you add in the four Naniwa Shounen. Nine, if you include Urushizaki, who isn’t in this scene.

Four AdultsPlus Four Kids

This is getting really crowded:

Eight's a Crowd

When Shinobu decides to put all her resources into the case, it gets even more crowded, because the Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan mobilize every kid they can recruit to hunt for the kid-thief.

Mobilization 1Mobilization 2Mobilization 3Mobilization 4

After a slightly unfocused start, the plot tightened up, and everything proceeded at a more reasonable pace. The episode also featured a number of brilliant moments after we got past the halfway point, and the resolution had some passion in it as well.

Some Brilliant Moments 1Some Brilliant Moments 2

The conclusion they arrived at was one of several that was possible based on the facts, and arguably the most likely of those possibilities. There are aspects of it that are hard to accept, though, but that can be forgiven, because the motive was entirely reasonable.

It was a good, solid episode. Since the acting hasn’t been a problem, the only issue is the plot, and they just need to keep it tight going forward. We already know all the characters so well that the minor issues in their personal life don’t contribute anything. Shinobu’s tiff with her mother at the beginning ties in later with her reflection on the relationship between parents and their children, but we didn’t really think Shinobu was the type who would fail to value her mother anyway. We’ve seen enough of their relationship to have a good feel for it.

The preview for the next episode suggests that it’ll be exciting, but that will depend entirely on whether the writers dilute it with inconsequential material, or if they trim down the extraneous stuff even more than they did here. An episode without that love square would be ideal – the worst acting in the entire series occurs when Honma and Shindou fight over Shinobu and when Haruna fawns over Honma. It’s not even funny.