Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan (浪花少年探偵団) is best when it puts the mystery first, so my hopes were kindled when this episode opened with the tragedy:

The Murder Scene

But then it immediately jumped to Shinobu (Tabe Mikako) doing Christmas shopping with her mother. They bump into Honma (Yamamoto Koji), who tries to get Shinobu to have an extra-special dinner with him.

Christmas Eve EncountersChristmas Eve Encounters 2Christmas Eve Encounters 3

The Naniwa Shounen come to her rescue:

Rescue Team 1Rescue Team 2

They also report back to Shindou (Koike Teppei) for a treat, though he might have a tough time retaining their loyalty if Honma outbids him.

Shindou Treats the Team 1Shindou Treats the Team 2Shindou Treats the Team 3Shindou Treats the Team 4

You see, Honma actually treats the whole class to win Shinobu over . . .

Class Party 1Class Party 2Class Party 3

. . . though Shindou tries his best to interrupt.

Shindou Butts In 1Shindou Butts In 2Shindou Butts In 3

And with Haruna (Kimura Fumino) entering the scene, the quartet is here. My optimism about the episode’s quality quickly fades away.

And Haruna 1

Thankfully, someone finally discovers the dead body . . .

Discovering the Body 1Discovering the Body 2Discovering the Body 3

. . . but just when she screams, we go back to the party in the classroom. Shouldn’t Shindou be leaving?

Back to the Party 1Back to the Party 2

At the scene, Urushizaki investigates without his wayward partner.

Urushizaki 1Urushizaki 2

Then we get a surprise:

Surprise in the Cake 1Surprise in the Cake 2Surprise in the Cake 3

Yes! The murder weapon was hidden in the cake brought in by the Principal!

In the midst of this chaos and the horror of finding a bloodstained blade in a cake, we get some of the worst acting I’ve seen so far from Yamamoto-san and Kimura-san:

Killing the Atmosphere

Of course, the writers are really to blame, since this scripted behavior from Haruna and Honma totally killed this scene, but there comes a time when I wish actors would just step up and say “it doesn’t work.”

The mystery continues to get more interesting, though, as Urushizaki finds the word “cake” scrawled in blood on the bathtub.

Finding Ke-kiFinding Ke-ki 2

Curiouser and curiouser. Shindou calls up to tell his partner about what happened at the school. At this point, they should haul in everyone at the bakery, right?

Putting Things Together

When Urushizaki arrives at the school, he has an amusing word with Shinobu about how she’s always involved with the murder cases, wondering if she might be able to give him forewarning.

Urushizaki and Shinobu 1Urushizaki and Shinobu 2Urushizaki and Shinobu 3

Shindou questions the principal who bought the cake, and finds out that it was a canceled order.

Shindou Questions the Principal

Since Honma and Shindou both handled the blade, their fingerprints are all over it. They each use this as pretext to blame the other.

Fingerprints 1Fingerprints 2Fingerprints 3

They find other prints on the icing on the cake, but those turn out to belong to the Naniwa Shounen who wanted a taste of the cake . . .

Fingerprints 4

. . . and also Shinobu.

Fingerprints 5

They find out who ordered the cake and canceled it, but I still think those at the bakery itself should be the suspects, right? I mean, who better to slip it in? Besides, it’s way too early in the episode for this Matsumoto Goro who ordered the cake to be found the culprit . . . right?

Lining Up Suspects 1

There are a number of suspects questioned, including the deceased’s best friend.

Lining Up Suspects 2Lining Up Suspects 3

Shinobu watches the news for information on the case, then heads to the bakery (with the Naniwa Shounen, always ready for a treat).

Shinobu Begins Investigating 1Shinobu Begins Investigating 2Shinobu Begins Investigating 3

Shinobu gets in a little tiff with the shopkeeper, who suggests that she’s getting old for marriage (which is quite rude, isn’t it?).

A Little Tiff 1A Little Tiff 2A Little Tiff 3

Then the cops show up, and Shinobu points out that they owe the class a cake:

They Owe a Cake

Finally, they start to question the bakery lady.

At the Bakery 1At the Bakery 2

With Shinobu suddenly resolving that the culprits won’t get away with it, Tanaka (Hamada Tatsuomi) rushes in to tell her . . .

UFO AlertUFO Alert 2

. . . A UFO?

UFO Alert 3

This had better have something to do with the case.

UFO Alert 4

The cops then question Matsumoto Goro, who ordered the cake:

Questioning Goro

The best thing about this case so far is the number of suspects, currently at three to four by my count: there’s the best friend of the victim, Matsumoto, the victim’s fiancee Sakai, and the woman at the bakery (if you’re willing to count her).

After that, it’s all about the details, a touch of psychology, and the solution.

Some of the distractions what we mercifully avoided in the past couple of episodes returned this time, but it could have been worse.

The mystery itself was a genuine puzzle, and the viewer had almost all the facts necessary to come to the conclusion. The solution was the best one to fit all the facts we knew, but a key piece of evidence about the motive was withheld until the end.

The acting was a bit uneven on this one, even from Tabe Mikako-san. The main flaw is still in the characters of Honma, Haruna, and Shindou. While Shindou seemed a bit more human in the previous episode, he was back to being one-dimensional alongside the other two. The three characters were predictable, repetitive, and useless. As far as I can tell, their mutual bickering is nothing more than a time filler. I also felt that there was a credibility gap in the behavior of the suspects, especially nearing the end. The acting seemed wooden.

I’m also a bit disappointed that we don’t seem to be getting a grand finale mystery – a two or three-part story that would really be worthy of a mystery writer. Will it just be the same old stuff all the way till the end?