Seeing the preview of this episode of Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan (浪花少年探偵団 – Naniwa Juvenile Detective Team), I had hopes that it would continue building on the better aspects of last week’s episode. The goal here is to reduce the subplots that never go anywhere (especially the love square involving Honma and Haruna) and maximize the participation of characters who actually try to solve mysteries like the Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan, who are often marginalized, and police detective Urushizaki.

Naniwa Shounen Title

As it did last time, the show begins with Shinobu (Tabe Mikako) facing issues at home, with her mother distraught:

Domestic Issues 1Domestic Issues 2

The reason this time is truly trivial – a lucky charm.

Domestic Issues 4

Thankfully, we move to school life, where a letter from a former student – Nakanishi Yuta – gets the class excited.

Letter From Yuta 1Letter From Yuta 2

The letter has some kanji mistakes in it, so Shinobu uses it as a teaching opportunity.

Letter From Yuta 4

The rest of the letter, though, can’t be taken as lightly, since Yuta takes the time to detail his troubles in his new home, especially with regard to his parents and lack of friends.

Letter From Yuta 5Letter From Yuta 6Letter From Yuta 7

They decide to write a letter back.

Letter to Yuta 2

After that, we get a scene with Honma (Yamamoto Koji) and Haruna (Kimura Fumino) – in other words, what I’ve been dreading. But Shinobu is purely interested in doing research about Tokyo, where Yuta now lives, and Honma is a good source, so at least she’s properly focused.

Road to Tokyo 1Road to Tokyo 3

And I completely agree with Shinobu about Haruna:

Getting on my Nerves, Too

It turns out that the Harada boys (Maeda Koki and Maeda Oshiro) want to go to Tokyo, too, but their parents refuse to let them without supervision. I think we know what’s coming.

Making Tokyo Trip Plans 1Making Tokyo Trip Plans 2Making Tokyo Trip Plans 3

Unfortunately, Honma will be in Tokyo as well, so Haruna insists on going. I despaired at the thought, then Shinobu put her foot down.

The Threat of Haruna 1The Threat of Haruna 2The Threat of Haruna 3

So, it looks like Shinobu and the boys will escape at least one member of the circus, and possibly detective Shindou (Koike Teppei) as well.

Flash to the Nakanishi residence, the mother receives a call from the kidnapper of Toshihiro – Yuta’s younger brother. Immediately, a very familiar plot springs to mind – the one where the kidnapping is faked by the kids trying to get the attention of the parents. I cross my fingers that this is not that simple.

Youngest Nakanishi ChildA Hefty Ransom

The ransom money is 30,000,000 yen (around $375,000), and the kidnapper warns the mother not to call the police (as usual).

At the other end of the line, we see a black-gloved hand holding the receiver.

The Hand of the Perpetrator

Interestingly, the mother actually thought Toshihiro was upstairs, and goes up to check, only to find him not there. Yuta says he was there only a few minutes ago, so the abduction couldn’t have taken place very far away. Could she really not have noticed him leave the house?

Disappeared in a Blink 1

Well, she searches the house, and then the immediate vicinity.

Disappeared in a Blink 2Disappeared in a Blink 3

Meanwhile, Shinobu and the Harada pair are rushing to the Shinkansen. Little do they know that there’s a case waiting for them.

Late For the Train

Once in Tokyo, they travel in style and take in the sights and smells.

Traveling in StyleAt the ShrineBreathe Deep

Then they bump into Yuta:

Reunion

When they enter the Nakanishi household, the mother is clearly worried, but doesn’t say why. Shinobu’s sixth sense for crime gets a ping.

On Alert

When the father returns, Shinobu gets snoopy, and overhears the argument between Yuta’s parents upstairs.

Listening In 1Listening In 2Listening In 3

We also find out Yuta has an older sister, when she returns just as Shinobu starts to ascend the stairs.

Keiko Arrives

The mother then asks if everyone could stay in a hotel over night instead of in the house. Shinobu was already staying with a friend, but the Harada boys were supposed to stay with the Nakanishis.

Change of Plans

At this, Shinobu decides it’s time to inject herself into the situation. When the parents try to push her out, their daughter intervenes, also wondering what they’re hiding.

Time for an Intervention

The parents insist that Shinobu doesn’t tell anyone (of course). Still not fully on this case, Shinobu plays a little trick on Honma to get a free meal for herself and the kids . . .

Honma Has His Uses 1Honma Has His Uses 2

. . . and at the hotel, she contacts the Nakanishi to find out what’s going on. The abductor has called again – this time with all the Nakanishis except Toshihiro present in the room.

Checking In

The perpetrator outlines the plan for the exchange, which involves both of the remaining Nakanishi children.

There’s a problem with this case, though – we lack suspects. It really has to be a family thing – something going on within the Nakanishis – since we haven’t met any alternatives. That also leaves the range of possibilities very tight. The two obvious options are that the kids are responsible – possibly Toshihiro himself – or one of the parents is. But while the motive for Toshihiro or the kids is clear, the motive for the parents is not. Again, my hope at the halfway point of the episode was that the real answer was neither of these obvious options, but then the abductor is a third-party we haven’t met, which makes this more a matter of suspense than mystery.

While the limitations of the plot meant that I couldn’t be very satisfied with it, the execution of the plot was good. More importantly, I got what I asked for – minimal side-issues. The episode was wholly focused on the Nakanishis and their problems.

Perhaps the best aspect of the episode was how mature Shinobu acted in all respects. Instead of playing the character humorously, Tabe-san pulled off a more seasoned Shinobu without any trouble at all. I think this, more than any episode so far, will be a showcase for those interested in hiring her for more serious roles.

As expected, leaving out some of the extra characters kept the episode tight. Two characters who were missing, but didn’t have to be, were the other two members of the Shounen Tanteidan – Tanaka Teppei (Hamada Tatsuomi) and Hatanaka.

Thanks to Eric Paroissien (paroissien.com) for the subtitles.

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