Monsters is a comedic mystery drama starring Katori Shingo-san and Yamashita Tomohisa-kun as police detectives. In the first episode, we discovered that the mystery part of the equation was solid, but the humor was . . . an acquired taste. Let’s hope they focus more on what works and avoid excessive goofiness.

Well, maybe after the opening. It looks like they prefer to go with humor at the start of each episode, so we begin with Saionji Kousuke (Yamashita) looking for Hiratsuka Heihachi (Katori), and doing so by shouting and looking through bathroom stalls.

Meanwhile, a news report informs us about a political race in Tokyo’s 27th district between the former prime minister Saginuma and challenger Oohata.

Sounds like our case this time will feature machinations at the upper echelons of power. But isn’t this a bit too mundane a way to go about it?

I sure hope that guy isn’t the murderer. I hate knowing the solution to a mystery before the detective does.

Anyway, Saionji continues his search for Hiratsuka . . .

. . . and a death threat arrives at Oohata headquarters . . .

. . . and Saionji’s still at it. His superior, Kaneda (Endo Kenichi) is not pleased by this failure. After all, Saionji was supposed to keep track of Hiratsuka twenty-four hours a day. Unfortunately, Kaneda has a bad sense of personal space.

Then Saionji gets a call from none other than Hiratsuka himself. Remembering how Hiratsuka always popped up right behind him, he looks back to check, but picks the wrong side.

That’s good, though – it shows that Saionji is learning. Hiratsuka also doesn’t understand personal space – I wonder if Kaneda got it from him, or if he got it from Kaneda.

Back on the campaign trail, we find out that things aren’t going so well for Oohata. Doesn’t that mean there’s no reason for his political enemies (especially gangsters he’s tried so hard to rid the district of) to bother trying to kill him?

Oohata seems intent on antagonizing those closest to him.

When Oohata goes for a smoke, he gets attacked, but he survives and there’s a witness.

There doesn’t seem to be a case here until . . .

. . . the assailant goes after Mrs. Oohata, dealing a blow right to her head. But is it really the same attacker? It doesn’t seem reasonable that he should go after the wife after almost getting caught attacking the husband. And why would Mrs. Oohata be important enough to take the risk?

At night, with the police and reporters all interested in the fate of Mrs. Oohata, the scary guy with the gunsight is also present.

Kaneda questions Oohata. I was suspicious of Oohata immediately. Isn’t it convenient that the assailant smashed his hands and feet instead of going for more natural points of attack like the chest and the head?

But just as Kaneda wraps things up, he spots Saionji out of the corner of his eye. And where there’s Saionji, there’s also . . .

. . . leading to a truly funny moment in good slapstick style (you’ll have to watch to appreciate it).

Oddly, Hiratsuka decides to search the campaign headquarters first instead of heading straight to the crime scene. Perhaps he’s also suspicious of Oohata?

Once Hiratsuka gets to work, the tone of the show settles down into a better flow. It looks like we can expect most of the silliness to be front-loaded – if you can get through the first ten minutes of a MONSTERS episode, it’s smooth sailing from there.

Hiratsuka and Saionji head out to the scene of the murder, and the genius detective points out an obviously suspicious aspect to the case – the murderer apparently threw away his windbreaker precisely in a place the police would find it immediately, but no one can find the murder weapon.

As usual, I’m not going to go through all the facts of the case as they unfold because that’s tedious in writing and all the fun in watching.

The death of Oohata’s wife seems to be affecting the election. Could Oohata win a sympathy vote as a result of it? (Was that his dastardly plan all along?)

The police arrest the creepy guy, which pretty much guarantees that he’s not the culprit.

That said, Kaneda’s efforts and reasoning aren’t bad at all. As he explains it all to Oohata, you can see how it all makes sense as long as you disregard the circumstantial nature of the evidence.

Meanwhile, Oohata is taking full advantage, definitely aiming for the sympathy vote, making him even more suspicious. At this point, I really hope he isn’t behind it, because that would be too obvious (though it still leaves open the question of how he did it).

Along the way to solving this case, Hiratsuka leads Saionji all over the place, including into enemy territory:

And to meet the former prime minister:

Ultimately, the case wasn’t quite as good as the first one, but it was still a legitimate mystery. There were some interesting twists late in the episode that kept things spicy. Those twists couldn’t wipe out the fact that the solution to the murder was way too obvious. However, Hiratsuka somewhat made up for the simplicity of the answer by having solid evidence and not just a theory that explained the facts.

So, the mystery was underwhelming. On the bright side, the episode was smoother, and the pacing was very good. There were no dull moments. Best of all, Yamashita-kun wasn’t forced to make that awkward laugh all the time or shout “eh!” at every turn.

There was an unnecessary scene between Saionji and his girlfriend Emi (Yanagihara Kanako), but they at least talked about the case.

If only in episode three they can combine the mystery level from episode one with the more moderate characterizations in this episode, I might be able to recommend this series.

 

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