And with this, we close the book on the summer drama season of 2012. Can Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan (浪花少年探偵団) pull a surprise strong finish, ending the season on a high note, or will it underperform as it has throughout the past few months?

The case continues from the last episode where a twenty year-old student dies, Nana’s mother falls from a balcony, and Shinobu (Tabe Mikako) decides the two cases are related. Mere moments after she makes this connection, the culprit is once again at Nana’s apartment building, and both Teppei (Hamada Tatsuomi) and Nana decide to chase him, getting themselves deep into trouble. As if she didn’t have enough to worry about, Shinobu also has to consider Shindou (Koike Teppei)’s proposal to her.

It’s funny, then, that Shinobu looks almost cheerful rather than worried as she drives in pursuit of the vehicle with Teppei, Nana, and the criminal.

Or maybe she looks tired?

Anyway, she relays everything she’s deduced about the case through the elder Harada boy (Maeda Koki) to police detective Urushizaki. With little sign of a mystery in the last episode, we get a flurry of facts here to make up for it. It doesn’t work very well as a way to start the episode.

Meanwhile, there’s a graduation going on.

However, Haradas learn that their eldest son is not in attendance, and are understandably upset with Shinobu for taking their kid along for a dangerous ride.  Mrs. Harada takes it out on Shinobu’s mother, who arrived at the school expecting her daughter to be there.

Back to the heart of the action, the truck the criminal is driving gets a punctured tire. When he sees the kids getting out of the truck, he suddenly gets the idea of taking a hostage. It’s not so easy, though, as Teppei tries his best to defend Nana.

He fails, though, as does Shinobu when she gets there just a bit too late. When the police arrive, they face a stand-off with the presumed murderer holding a knife to Nana’s neck.

Urushizaki tries to talk it over with the man.

We keep bouncing back to the graduation scene, even though nothing of interest is happening there – just Mrs. Harada crying and making everyone else feel depressed. She hasn’t give any impression of these sorts of feelings before, so it felt out of character. It also broke the pace in a bad way. I got the immediate feeling that this scene existed because they didn’t have enough material for this episode.

After that sob session, we went back to the main event, where Shinobu takes ill-advised action, but managed to get Nana safe and to corner the bad guy. That’s not the best idea because, surprise surprise, he’s a bit unstable. Unstable enough to start a fire so that they can’t get to him before he has the chance to rant about his sorrows.

Really, we’re getting a lot of crying rants in this episode, and next up is Shinobu, who tries to shout some sense into him through her own tears.

And this back and forth between Shinobu and the culprit turns out to be all this episode was about (except the necessary wrap-up stuff).

I’m sure it was all very touching, and summed up something important, but I rather hate these sorts of contrived scenes.

After a scene with Shindou, everybody returns to the graduation, where everything’s already over . . .

. . . or so they think, when the rest of Shinobu’s class comes out to surprise her. Of course, the Harada family is reunited, as well.

And naturally, Shinobu’s class had its own special graduation ceremony, where Shinobu had some (more) poignant things to say, which led to more tears (you’ll have to forgive me for not including any pictures of little kids crying).

All that was left was the Shinobu-Shindou scene at the end. Will they get together? (Do I care?)

That was it. Not very exciting, was it?

Honestly, I don’t know what they were thinking with this series. As a mystery, its cases were impossibly watered down. As a comedy, its humor was absurd and annoying. As a romance, immature.

It did succeed, however, in developing Shinobu’s character steadily from a childish and petulant girl to a responsible woman. Now, if only they had said that was their purpose from the start, maybe it would have been alright. Still, if they were going to have mysteries, they should have done that part properly, as well.

But then, why call it Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan (Naniwa Boys Detective Agency)? I’ve said it in another review, but it still bugs me – the Boy Detectives advertised in the title made a minimal contribution to the story at best. They were certainly far from the focus, and didn’t really develop during the series. It would have been nice to see them learn something in the course of encountering such horrible events. How is it that they could encounter so many murders and not be changed by it or disturbed by it? Did they learn anything about detective work from Shinobu? How could they, when she didn’t appear to have any method to her approach to solving the mysteries, in contrast to every other credible detective, real or imaginary?

The acting was hard to swallow on this one. I think Tabe Mikako-san did a reasonable job with the development of her character. As for the rest of the cast, I have nothing complimentary to say. Even for the boys. As I said, their reactions to the events around them were often not serious enough. In this, the director was at fault as well, for not giving proper guidance to them. I don’t think there was any problem with their lines, so much as their mood.

There was so much potential with this premise, I was sorely disappointed. It would have been better if it had lived up to its title, letting the boy detectives discover misdeeds (perhaps not necessarily murder, but something more age-appropriate), puzzle over them, then bring the problem to Shinobu. To keep Shinobu as the main character, at the very least the mysteries should have been given more focus, and the awkward love square – which contributed nothing to the series – should have been abandoned.

Well, there you go. Feel free to comment on this series – I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you disagree with me (though agreeing with me is fine, too).