So here we finally are – the last episode of Biblia Koshodou no Jiken Techou (ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖 – Biblia Rare Books Case Files). The last episode presented us with a case involving the works of Edogawa Rampo and a mysterious safe with the barest hint of how to unlock it. In her attempt to help the Kishiro sisters to decipher the code for the safe, Shinokawa (Gouriki Ayame) is pitted against her own mother (Yasuda Narumi), who has represents a party with a competing claim for the contents of the safe.

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Shinokawa suspects that her mother is a step ahead, since the key to the safe – the first of three elements required to unlock it – was missing from its presumed hiding place.

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In confronting her mother who has been missing for years, Shinokawa is clearly flustered. After we find out what they think is in the safe . . .

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. . . Shinokawa seems to give away a bit too much about the state of her own investigative efforts, on the assumption that her mother was really the one who had taken the key.

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After Shinokawa’s mother leaves, her brother Fumiya (Jesse) get to step out and, in his final part in the series, simply expresses discontent at not having the opportunity to speak to his mother. Really, Fumiya contributed so little to this series, nothing would have changed if the character had been completely edited out.

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The usual quartet – Shinokawa, Daisuke (AKIRA), Fujinami (Suzuki Kosuke), and Shida (Takahashi Katsumi) – soon gather to try to figure out the third element to unlocking the safe – the katakana combination. But first they realize there’s a time issue with the current account of events.

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Before they get too far with that, Shinokawa gets a surprising call.

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Her mother didn’t have the key before, but thanks to Shinokawa blabbing too much earlier, she figured out where they were.

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I didn’t understand the logic behind this sequence at all, and the location where the four special books were ‘hidden’ seemed unrealistic.

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Still, the scene did manage to further the tension between Shinokawa and her mother.

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Shinokawa finally gets a solid discovery of her own . . .

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. . . and proposes a deal with her mother – an exchange conjured up by the Kishiro sisters.

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Shinokawa’s mother doesn’t look ready to agree, but then something about the wheelchair-bound Kishiro sister changes her mind. Was it pity, or something else?

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With all the pieces at their disposal, the team tries to break the code and finally open the safe.

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What is the significance of the code? What’s in the safe?

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And, once they find out what’s inside, who will end up getting the contents?

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Parts of this mystery were done reasonably well, but there were also places where the logic didn’t seem to hang together, and the writers let the detective make a leap that shouldn’t have been possible. I think at least one loose end was introduced but not tied up. Some of Shinokawa’s actions also seemed uncharacteristically sloppy – especially shortly after the safe was opened.

The contents of the safe were satisfactory, as was the reason for putting it in the safe in the first place, so at least that aspect of the mystery was fine.

I did end up coming away with the feeling that it’d have been a much more interesting series if we had been following Shinokawa’s mother around instead of Shinokawa. Her mother was much more dynamic, and clearly more brilliant. Why did we get stuck with the second fiddle?

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And to sum up with the series, I have to say that it was entirely unsatisfying. Shinokawa was rarely an interesting enough character to justify a series revolving around her. The mysteries were almost all substandard, and the logic was frequently inaccessible to the viewer – that is, the viewer was either not properly presented with the clues, or the clues were not actually sufficient to come to the conclusion.

But the real problem with the series was that the pacing was deadly – or at least coma-inducing. It would have been a good half-hour drama, but they stretched everything thin to fill the hour. The writers clearly didn’t want to make the world of books to seem unrealistically exciting. Keeping things totally realistic, they made the events in this series as mundane as possible. I would have appreciated a little less realism and a little more invention.

In terms of acting, I don’t think any of the actors faced much of a challenge. Again, Shinokawa’s mother was probably the most interesting character, and I think Yasuda Narumi-san did the best acting work in the series. I can’t blame Gouriki-san – her character was crafted a certain way, and she managed the role well. It was certainly different from her normal persona, so there was real effort there. AKIRA-san’s character was also a drastic turn from his role as Onizuka in GTO, so again it’s fair to give points for effort. The problem was that both characters were frankly boring to watch and predictable.

I’m sort of surprised I managed to watch the series from start to finish, and unless you follow one of the lead actors, I wouldn’t recommend this series. It was a very interesting premise and I’m sure a manga or anime would have done a better job of the pacing and characterization.