In the review for the fifth episode of MONSTERS, I pointed out that all the cases except for the first have centered on two individuals competing against each other in a professional setting, and a possible third character who is their boss. The similarity between the cases didn’t stop there. They tended to involve a time trick and a murder location trick to create a false alibi. In every case, it was pretty clear who the culprit was and what the motive was, and the only question left was method.

With the cases having such a similar structure and resolution, I could only conclude laziness on the part of the writers. They’ve basically come up with one mystery with blanks for the names and occupations, and have spent all the past episodes photocopying the template and filling in the blanks.

So, will this episode be the same way or will the writers finally get their act together?

The show begins with Saionji (Yamashita Tomohisa) getting rejected by his girlfriend Emi (Yanagihara Kanako) because she wants him to focus on his work and get his dream job before they get married.

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The news gets worse, though, as Saionji’s progress has been too slow for the taste of the chief, so he’s getting sent back to his old peripheral post in Koishikawa.

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He writes a goodbye letter to Hiratsuka – clearly depressed by this fate, but not blaming Hiratsuka for it.

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While Saionji is dealing with his demotion, there’s strife in a corporate research lab working on super-thin threads. Honma accuses Kagawa of stealing data.

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It turns out that some of their research has leaked to a competitor, Noguchi, the guy in charge, says there will be an independent investigation (Noguchi himself will be under suspicion as well). They cannot leave the premises until the investigation is complete.

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Here, Kagawa says he knows who the culprit is, and has evidence he will present to the investigator. It seems pretty clear that he’s accusing Honma.

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So, here we go again. the characters are basically the same, and the presence of an internal investigation mirrors the one in episode four. This doesn’t bode well.

Kagawa suspects that the culprit may try to kill him, so he tells his wife that he’ll mail her every thirty minutes, and that she should contact the authorities if he doesn’t.

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Well, I think you can guess what happens:

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Honma looks distraught, but we don’t really have another credible suspect.

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As it turns out, this research center is in Saionji’s territory, but only the Tokyo guys in the first division can investigate a murder case. He’s left with the unenviable job of putting up the police tape in the rain:

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Kagawa was holding the only other key to the room (except the one the guard used to open it), so this is a locked room mystery.

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They find the evidence Kagawa was supposed to hand over hidden behind a cabinet, and it seems to point the finger at the chief rather than Honma. Is this really Kagawa’s evidence or something doctored by the perpetrator? Even a mystery novice should be able to see through this.

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Not the lead detective on the case, though:

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Enter Saionji. And even though he’s no longer with the investigative unit, where there’s Saionji . . .

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. . . there’s Hiratsuka:

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It’s just like the good old days when they were partners.

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While the police head off to pursue the main lead they have, Hiratsuka and Saionji take a more detailed look at the presumed scene of the crime. MONSTERS Ep 06 034 MONSTERS Ep 06 035

Could it all be about that thin wire this lab was producing?

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Questioning the research chief doesn’t seem to produce anything major . . .

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. . . but Saionji takes great interest in a record player.

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But really, Honma’s definitely the murderer. All they need to do now is to figure out how he did it.

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Since they’re making a big deal of the 9:50 to 10:00 window within which the crime was supposedly committed, I’m guessing that this is yet another time trick, and the murder definitely didn’t happen within those ten minutes.

Saionji has his own ideas, though, trying to figure out the locked room trick with a combination of the thin thread, the record player, and the gap at the bottom of the door.

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Can Saionji unravel the case himself, and thereby win back his position on the investigation division?

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Well, more likely he’ll come up with an interesting theory, fail miserably, Hiratsuka will solve the case, and let him take the credit.

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I think the shape of this case is pretty clear at this point, and I’ll leave out everything that might give away the resolution.

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The way the clues come together is actually quite clever and difficult to foresee. They even threw in some red herrings. Unfortunately, the result is unsatisfactory, because it is, in fact, the same thing we’ve already seen over and over in this drama – a time trick and somewhat of a location trick.

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I’ve probably said it before about this series, but the writers don’t seem to be mystery fans. They seem completely unaware of the myriad ways to pit the suspects against each other. They also don’t seem to know of any way to create a false alibi other than to mess with the timing of events.

Most annoyingly, they are uniquely unimaginative with regard to the motive. We know right from the start who the murderer is. If they simply denied us that knowledge by obscuring the motive, it would make for a much more interesting mystery.

I haven’t had to complain about the characterizations since the first episode. Those, at least, have been smooth enough through episodes 2-5. This time, though, Saionji was starting to take an annoyingly silly turn again. Even worse, Hiratsuka was actually dull. How can they have managed to make it boring to watch Katori-san – normally the least predictable of TV personalities? Well, it’s because his mannerisms have gotten a bit stale and the writers haven’t developed the character at all. He’s weird and off-putting, but that’s all we know about him.

Compared to Hiratsuka, Ohno-san’s character in Kagi no Kakatta Heya, Enomoto, was an open book. And Enomoto could get away with being mysterious because he was so quiet. It’s not reasonable to keep all details about Hiratsuka so hidden when he’s such an in-your-face person, and one of the characters is explicitly tasked to find out more about him.

Since they said Saionji was supposed to be investigating Hiratsuka, it would have been a great idea for them to actually let him do it, finding out little tidbits in every episode – perhaps even contradictory facts and red herrings. Why not? I’ll tell you why – the writers don’t know Hiratsuka. They have no clue whatsoever about his background, what motivates him, why he is the way he is, and why his superiors want him investigated. Perhaps they’ll come up with something for the finale, but for most of this series, they’ve tried to get by without figuring him out, so I don’t expect much. They’re procrastinating – waiting for the last episode to figure out their main character. Sad. And I don’t think they’ll pull it off, given the results so far.

So, that’s probably the biggest problem with the series (though the actual mysteries are a close second) – the writers themselves don’t have any sense of the main character, so they have to limit the content of his personality to silly mannerisms and the ability to put the facts together. Contrast this to the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, in which Watson gives a rather detailed assessment of his roommate’s abilities and proclivities before the first case even gets underway.