Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan (浪花少年探偵団) showed a bit more promise in the last episode. Will we continue to see strong plots, leading up to a big finish? The beginning offers up some hope:

There's Been a Murder

Normally, we start with some sort of domestic scene with Shinobu (Tabe Mikako), but here we begin immediately with the crime, and our two police detectives – Urushizaki and Shindou (Koike Teppei). The victim was bashed with a croquet mallet – certainly a novel weapon. The presumed attacker was an old woman defending herself from an intruder.

MalletPresumed Assailant 1

She was understandably nervous about intruders, because she had recently taken out 4,000,000 yen (about $50,000) from the bank, and had thought she was being followed after that withdrawal. The money was for the fee for an elderly home.

Lots of MoneySelf-Defense?

After a brief voice over from Harada Osamu (Maeda Oshiro), we see Shinobu tutoring a group of girls from her class (though they seem curious about practically everything except what they’re supposed to be working on):

Tutoring Tots 1Tutoring Tots 2Tutoring Tots 3Tutoring Tots 4

Then the boys pop over with food.

Shounen Arrive 1Shounen Arrive 2Shounen Arrive 3

We continue to get the facts of the case from the police, but since it’s just a matter of self-defense, is there really something worth detecting? Well, they find out the victim’s identity and address, and that seems to take them by surprise.

Identity of the Victim 1Identity of the Victim 3Identity of the Victim 4

Back to an inconsequential domestic interlude . . .

From Tutoring to Feast 1

. . . and an odd encounter at the Harada household/shop . . .

Odd Encounter

. . . and soon enough, the police are at Shinobu’s door. It turns out they need to question Shinobu’s neighbors, who recently moved in, because the victim was living at that address, and was presumably a member of the family. No wonder Shindou and Urushizaki were surprised when they heard the address.

Official Business 1Official Business 2Official Business 3Official Business 4

And with that, the mystery begins in record time. This is probably the best start this series has had so far. We get a rundown of the victim’s details. All of it seems to corroborate the idea that he was the type of person who would, after seeing an old woman leave the bank with a ton of money, tail her and attempt to rob her. The youngsters take notes.

Taking Notes 1Taking Notes 2

But the cops aren’t just running with the self-defense line, so Shinobu asks:

Smelling a Case 1Smelling a Case 2

Before the cops can answer, though, the neighbor – Anzai – returns. They take her to identify the body, leaving her young daughter at home alone (not without first checking that she’d be all right, of course).

Inquiries are Proceeding 1Inquiries are Proceeding 2

The Haradas point this out and Shinobu goes over to invite the little girl over until her mother returns.

Invitation to Juliet 1Invitation to Juliet 2

Her arrival at Shinobu’s home has an unfortunate effect on Osamu, who’s been reading a (no doubt simplified) version of Romeo and Juliet, and identifies the girl as Juliet:

Romeo and Juliet 1Romeo and Juliet 2Romeo and Juliet 3

I think this qualifies as puppy love. He listens intently as Juliet (her name is Chizuru) tells her story.

Chizuru Speaks 1Chizuru Speaks 2

Then he mentions that he plans to take over his parent’s pork skewer shop after she reveals that she likes them.

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When Shinobu tries to turn the discussion to the victim (who is apparently not Chizuru’s father), Chizuru decides that it’s time to go home.

I’ll omit further facts of the case from here on, because there was a flurry of them – from bank cameras to high heels to drug trafficking – and there’s certainly no shortage of clues. There are also at least two suspects – the old woman and Anzai – though we have no idea why the old woman would admit to the crime if someone else had done it.

When Osamu hears that Anzai (Chizuru’s mother) might be a suspect, he shouts his objections and rushes off in a huff.

Osamu Incensed

His elder brother understands what’s going on with him immediately.

Big Brother Explains

The next day, the other members of the Shounen Tanteidan are informed about the case. Will Tanaka (Hamada Tatsuomi) and Hatanaka have more of a role to play after being absent in the last episode?

The Tanteidan 1The Tanteidan 2

While there is the usual tiff between Shinobu and Haruna (Kimura Fumino) . . .

Haruna and Shinobu 1Haruna and Shinobu 2

. . . this episode is very focused on the case, as I like it. Sure, we get some amusement from Osamu’s attempts to woo Chizuru by bringing her food, and when he thinks “she’ll definitely make a good wife”:

Osamu and Chizuru 1Osamu and Chizuru 2Osamu and Chizuru 3Osamu and Chizuru 4

But is this setting us up for some tragedy? Or is Shinobu’s instinct that Anzai isn’t the culprit correct?

As in the last episode, we got a more mature and thoughtful Shinobu, completely lacking in the comic behaviors her character featured through the first half of the series.

Mature Shinobu 1Mature Shinobu 2Mature Shinobu 3Mature Shinobu 4

We were also free from the antics between Shindou and Honma. Honma wasn’t in this episode at all, and Shindou behaved normally around Shinobu. In other words, all the annoyances and distractions of earlier episodes were absent here.

Mature Shindou

It was a solid and credible mystery, and the viewer had enough facts to solve the mystery before the answer was revealed.

There was only one downside that I could see – the Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan didn’t contribute to solving the mystery at all. It was all Shinobu and the police officers. So, why wasn’t this called Naniwa Sensei Shinobu or Naniwa Tantei Shinobu? But, that’s a trivial annoyance.

Altogether, there’s no question that this series is getting better, looking more like a real mystery series with every week.