For those who know Japanese (and now those who don’t, too), Hidarime Tantei EYE is a dead giveaway to the whole premise of the story since the literal translation of the title equates to Left Eye Detective EYE (I’m not sure what is it with Japanese and the loving of English words randomly inserted into Japanese phrases when most of the time they either don’t make sense or are a repetition of what the Japanese words already mean. Case in point). Admittedly, it’s not the most original name ever, but most dramas aren’t and I enjoy them anyway, so this wasn’t much of a problem for me.
Hidarime Tantei EYE stars one of my favourite boys from JE – Yamada Ryosuke from Hey! Say! JUMP (so he’s a little too young for me. So what?), so I was already on the look out for this when news of its release was leaked online. Suffice to say that, despite the cliches in the show, it was an entertaining hour and a half. Nothing mind boggling, well, except the twist at the end. It didn’t really catch me off guard, because I was waiting for it, but I do think it was scripted and directed well enough that it’s not obvious from the start that something is wrong. (Except, well, NOW YOU KNOW!)
I was going to finish this review in one breath, but realised I was taking wayyy too long (since it is an hour and a half, and I wanted to go into detail, so I don’t think I can fit it all into one post), so I’ll be breaking this up into two parts – so if you’ve started and you want to know the end, you can either go watch the show, or wait for Part Two of this review! So, now that we’ve got all that administrative work out of the way, let’s go into the show for real:
Yamada acts as a junior high school student, Ainosuke Tanaka, who is a gifted artist, but was born with a left eye that was blind. His older brother, Yumehito Tanaka, played by Yu Yokoyama (I almost couldn’t place him, until I realised he was in Yukan Club…which isn’t any recommendation as such), is a brilliant scientist (I think he works in the field of biotechnology, but I could be wrong) and the two brothers’ parents are apparently dead since I got the impression that Yumehito basically raised Ainosuke by himself.
The drama opens on a tense moment as Ainosuke undergoes a cornea transplant surgery, and he flashes back to the moment where his brother tells him that he’d like to get the surgery done today, so that Ainosuke can finally see and make full use of his gift in art. Although uneasy, Ainosuke shrugs off the feeling and agrees to go ahead with the surgery – which is where he ends up in now.
The scene flashes back to the surgery room as the doctor puts Ainosuke under GA and begins the operation in earnest.
The scene is then cut to a crime scene where police detectives Kenjo Ohuchi (played by Yasufumi Terawaki) and Takashi Kato (played by Yoshinori Okada) are first introduced. I took an immediate liking to Kenjo – it amused me greatly when he started clenching his fists repeatedly going, “I’m strong, I can do it, I’m strong, I can do it, I can catch them, I can solve the case, I’m strong, I can do it!” I practically fell off my chair laughing at the way he did it. Takashi’s aghast expression and his, “Look, I know self-hypnosis is in, but there’s a limit to these things -” that fell on deaf ears was absolutely classic as Kenjo took off by himself in order to catch perpetrators of the crime. The man seems like an idiot, but he has passion for his work, which is something I respect since so few of us do. Also, I thought the self-hypnosis thing was cute because it’s what a lot of sportsmen do – my tennis coach used to call it “self-talk”; he figures the battle is half-won if you’re mentally stronger than your opponent, and one of the ways to build up your confidence and thus minimise errors on the court is through talking to yourself i.e. self-hypnosis. So it’s, in a way, realistic.
Now that we know most of the playing characters on the field, the scriptwriters decide to hit us with a curveball, just so we don’t grow complacent. Ainosuke wakes up from his surgery, and when he sees the doctor, the first thing he asks is, “Where’s my brother?” The doctor replies, “He’s gone back first.” to which Ainosuke goes, “Huh?” (Obviously this is strange, since when would a hospital really do this?). In answer to his (unvoiced) question, the ‘doctor’ and ‘nurses’ start yanking the red curtains off the ‘walls’ to reveal:
That the so-called 'surgery' was actually conducted in an empty rented room on some random street, which brings to mind a number of immediate questions like: Did Yumehito know about this? Is the surgery actually functional since it's so dodgy? SINCE THIS IS OBVIOUSLY ILLEGAL HOW DID IT EVEN COME ABOUT? (Suspension of disbelief, of course)
Nonetheless, as Ainosuke walks home, he pulls off the eye-mask that he had been given after the surgery and blinks a couple of times. When the sky comes into focus, you know the operation’s been successful (so…like…maybe all those people in the room really did have some sort of medical experience?…I just shudder to contemplate what, since a few things come to mind – and none of them are complimentary).
Ainosuke runs home in delight (he lives by himself in this tiny cramped room with the smallest window in the world), and as he hangs up his clothes (he’s oddly neat for a little boy) he notices that his brother’s left a note with 2 million yen telling him, “I may not be able to take care of you for a while, so use this money well to pay for your expenses.” The note’s a little odd, to say the least, adding one more question mark to the pile of question marks that the show’s been building. The uneasy feeling that Ainosuke had at the start comes back to haunt him but he’s still a little intoxicated at being able to see out of his left eye again, so he shrugs off the feeling again and instead starts to draw (the art on display in the show’s great by the way) and continues to do so until 8 pm.
It’s a little late, so our little protagonist decides to check up on his brother and calls his brother’s handphone, which doesn’t pick up. Figuring his brother’s still working in the laboratory, Ainosuke leaves a voice mail on his brother’s phone, “I saw the letter. Is something wrong? Where did you get all this money from?”
In the laboratory, a man with sunglasses flings open the door, smiling at the eye-patched Yumehito and telling him, “Hi. I’m the killer.” When Ainosuke rings the phone, he flips it open as it starts to record the voice mail, and he looks off camera as he says with a sneer, “It’s your brother. Are you sure you don’t have to care about it?” so we all assume Yumehito’s dead and that Mr. Killer is merely jeering at his dead body. As Ainosuke continues, “Anyway, my left eye is fine. I haven’t thanked you properly yet. Thank you, older brother. Thank you.” Mr. Killer busies himself putting a bag of blood below a table, and then setting a bomb. Obviously the laboratory is blown into smithereens about 2 seconds later.
So what connects police detectives Kenjo Ohuchi and Takashi Kato to our dear Ainosuke? Well, the two policemen are the ones who deliver the bad news of Yumehito's death to the boy the next morning, and bring him to see the body.
Ainosuke’s unable to believe that the explosion that occurred in the laboratory was an accident (good guess!) and begs the detectives to reopen the case, and Kenjo (passionate as always, while Takashi looks on in exasperation) promises, but unfortunately forensic evidence continued to state that the whole incident was an accident, and Ainosuke has no choice but to accept that this was an accident…or does he? As he walks home from the funeral/cremation of his brother’s body, Ainosuke knocks into a passerby blankly, who of course is furious at this and must retaliate by getting his friend to give Ainosuke a good kick in the back. When Ainosuke gets up in fury and looks like he’s about to lay a good one on them, the friend knocks him an uppercut.
Just as in Ainosuke lays on the ground in pain, something happens to his left eye - the one that was transplanted from his brother (since we are talking about a drama here and something must happen to instigate Ainosuke's own investigation into the whole matter of his brother's death).
He sees flashbacks, or what looks like it could be flashbacks/forwards/insights into another dimension and as he blinks in pain, he wonders what the hell all those meant and what relation they had to his brother. The next day, at school, we are introduced to another lead character, Hitomi Sayama (played by Satomi Ishihara), who is a teacher (or rather, I get the idea that she’s also a nurse, since she seems to be in charge of the sickroom in school; I’m not sure what the Japanese schooling system is like, and man, why don’t we ever get these here?).
Hitomi has a massive shopping disorder, which means she's piled up to her ears in debt (not to mention she's got that ghastly pink calculator decorated with hideous flowers and whatnots) and she's currently worrying over how to pay off her bills, adding to herself, "Now that I feel stressed, it just makes me want to buy more!" (Stuck in a vicious cycle, I see.)
Just as she’s deep in the midst of recounting her bills (as though that would make a difference), she hears noise outside the window, and so she goes out to take a look, and who else would it be but our Ainosuke getting into trouble once again, and being beaten up?
Ainosuke experiences another rush of flashbacks, and this time he even sees himself amongst those flashbacks, which is the first hint he has that what he's seeing could be his brother's memories (imprinted on the cornea of his transplanted eye).
Hitomi yells at the boys to stop, and rushes out of the sickroom flailing her arms, and the boys take off (only, I think, because she’s a teacher and could give them black marks for beating up a fellow student, and not because she looks lethal, since she strikes me as scary as, say, Paris Hilton could look in a furry pink coat). She helps Ainosuke up and brings him to the sickroom, applying medication on him, and since she is a teacher first and foremost, she asks Ainosuke what happened, guessing that it was related to his brother (since his matter had been discussed in the teachers’ morning meeting).
Running gag throughout this show though, is that despite the way Hitomi looks, she's actually pretty rough/tough - look at the way she applies medication on Ainosuke's chin! And the way she prevaricates punching him later, but really socking him one.
She rattles on about how she’d like to make the sickroom a resting paradise for those between school and home (you get the feeling she’s a slacker, right there), and then realises our dear boy isn’t listening. The bell rings, and he goes off to class, and she goes back to calculating sums – except she gets a shock when Ainosuke calls out, “Sensei (Japanese for teacher). You know a lot about the human body, right? After a person gets a cornea transplant, will the memories of the ex-owner of the cornea be transplanted along with the cornea?”
To which she goes, “Huh?” (A normal reaction.) And he goes, “Well, my left eye is generally useless, so I underwent a cornea transplant. But from then on, I could see…” Hitomi, “…see…?” Ainosuke, “Some strange men. Wearing masks. A sticker of a chicken and a pig, and some numbers I don’t understand. And a bundle of money stored in a safety box.” And Hitomi dumbly repeats (like a parrot), “…A bundle of money?” Ainosuke gives this little snort and goes, “Never mind. I was a fool to ask you.” And as he strolls out of the sickroom, Hitomi dumbly repeats, “..A bundle of money that you can see with your left eye. A bundle of money. …a bundle of money…A BUNDLE OF MONEY??!” (Light finally clicks on in that empty head of hers I see, LOL).
In the meantime, Ainosuke's drawing what he remembers seeing through the flashbacks in class. (They're having English class by the way, which is funny cos the teacher's trying to explain how to use plural articles with plural pronouns.)
He’s made a number of these drawings (as many as the number of flashbacks he’s seen), and he’s trying to figure out what they actually mean, and what his brother had gotten himself into to get himself killed (since there’s no way he figured that was an actual accident). Just as he is musing over this, class is dismissed and he prepares to go home – except he hears this hissing, “Ainosuke-kun!” and when he turns around he sees Hitomi clutching the edge of the classroom door, beaming at him.
As they walk down the hallway, or rather, Ainosuke strides really quickly down the hallway and Hitomi’s practically skipping to catch up to him, Hitomi’s trying to convince him that she’ll help him figure out the mysteries of what the images he’s been seeing through his left eye really mean. (It’s really funny how she let slips, “Especially the money – I mean, your brother’s death is important to you. And you’re my student.” It’s a running gag through the hour and a half, how she switches from being a teacher to being someone really money-minded back to a kind-hearted teacher)
Ainosuke's finally convinced when Hitomi brings up her ace - she's got a car, which means transportation to originally inaccessible long-distance places. Certainly, it would make Ainosuke's search much shorter.
Ainosuke shows Hitomi the note his brother left him (once again, Hitomi’s fixated on the money HAHA) and when he’s about to go off in exasperation, Hitomi’s all like, “Wait, what are you planning to do?” Ainosuke, “First, go to the place where my brother really lived.” (Since he found out that although his brother said he was living in the company’s hostel, he really wasn’t.) Hitomi, “And have you figured out how to do that?” Ainosuke (rather cautiously), “Er, no. I thought I would figure it out somehow.” Hitomi, “Leave it to the adults to do this sort of thinking!” and she gleefully slings her arm around Ainosuke’s shoulder. (Poor Ainosuke! He keeps trying to get rid of her, but she hangs on to him like a bad smell.)
It turns out that Hitomi’s great idea is to ask the police detectives for help, and Kenjo immediately agrees. While he’s looking up the address for her though (his computer skills = zero, which means he takes ages retrieving the information, not to mention the other officers are occupied trying to crack a laptop that was left behind by some high profile criminal) someone else, a police woman with a really bad smirk which should have alerted Hitomi and Ainosuke but didn’t, gave them a different address to look for. The duo thank her, and head off for the address stated on the piece of paper. (LOL I died laughing when Kenjo comes back, saying the only address he’s got is the company hostel one, only to look up and realise that another couple was sitting in the sofa that Hitomi and Ainosuke had been sitting in, and he’s all like, “Where did they go??!”.)
Some scheming's obviously underfoot since they ended up at this posh looking apartment that costs millions of dollars to own. Ainosuke insists that it can't be his brother's, since, "Where would he get all that money from?" but Hitomi is completely overwhelmed by the feeling of richness.
However, just as they are debating whose house this is (Ainosuke: “It could be the bad guys’ nest,”), they hear someone unlocking the main door to come in. Hitomi and Ainosuke immediately dart into one of the other rooms, and Mr. Killer comes in (so now we know that Ainosuke’s right, and it was a place belonging to the criminals – although Ms. Smirking Police Woman should have given viewers a headsup).
He introduces himself to the empty room, and hits a button on the wall to bring the curtains down, before sitting down on the sofa for a smoke. As he lights up, and lets out a breath of smoke, he calls out, “Come out. I know you’re here.” Ainosuke has a feeling that there’s something he’s missing, and that he needs to see now, but he puts his hand up to his eye and realises he needs to get hit before his eye will show him anything (man, the scriptwriters needed to throw in this bit of sadism, didn’t they?) so he asks Hitomi to punch him. Hitomi doesn’t want to do anything of the sort, but socks him a good one when he provokes her.
Ainosuke stumbles through a door, and lands on the carpet of the living room, where Mr. Killer is sitting. Just as he expected, his left eye does its flashback thingamajig, and he sees more images (which he doesn’t understand, and neither does the audience at this point). As his eyesight focuses back on the present, he sees Mr. Killer standing in front of him. (What I don’t get is why Mr. Killer doesn’t realise that he was punched, which is why he came flying out of the door in the first place, which means that there is therefore another person in the house?)
Mr. Killer: "Your brother has asked me to pass a message to you. Forget me, and prepare for your upcoming exams." Ainosuke: "Brother would never say such things!" Mr. Killer, "Although brotherly bonds are touching, too much holding on could lead to death, you know? No matter how much you struggle, the brother that's been burnt to ashes can never come back. Anyway, isn't your own life more important, hm?"
Everything Mr. Killer says just strengthens the conviction that Ainosuke has that his innocent brother had been murdered for being involved in some criminal case (he’s a third right, there). In fury, Ainosuke staggers to his feet and goes, “Was it you? Was it you who killed him?!” and lunges towards Mr. Killer. (Can’t say our boy’s very smart.) Mr. Killer dodges the lunge and instead punches him in the face, so he finds himself on his back in the space of 10 seconds. Again, more flashbacks (since he’s just been hit) and while he’s still groggy, Mr. Killer taunts him, telling him, “If you continue being like this, your brother’s spirit won’t be able to rest and rise to heaven.” Fueled by more anger, Ainosuke gets back up on his feet and tries another lunge (dear boy, if it didn’t work the first time, you need to find another way to bring the man down, not repeat your mistakes) and Mr. Killer catches him in the solar plexus (damn that’s got to hurt) with his knee and punches him a third time. (Man, all Ainosuke’s getting out of this is pain.)
Mr. Killer's tired of being lunged at so many times too, so he pulls out his weapon and points it at Ainosuke's chest.
And just when we think Ainosuke’s on the brink of death (which technically, he was), Hitomi gives a good kick from behind to Mr. Killer’s most sensitive area, which leaves him clutching his groin in pain, paralysed as Hitomi grabs Ainosuke and runs off. (Oh, so now she turns up? Where was she the first two punches, eh? Also, I can’t believe no one thought of grabbing some furniture – they must have left something one person could lift up) Hitomi calls the security/ police telling them they’ve met some suspicious figures in the apartment as they run down the stairs and out into the sunlight. In the meantime, back in the apartment, a woman slowly approaches the prone Mr. Killer. “What a pity. I had high hopes for you. No matter how perfect the crime, if someone like you is involved in it, it will be ruined.”
So saying, she puts together a silencer on a laser gun, and aims it with unwavering accuracy at Mr. Killer's forehead (I think it'd be kind of hard to miss when she's barely 30cm away, but anyway). "Goodbye." She says. (For the record, she's Noriko Komukai, played by veteran actress Nagisa Katahira - I only recognised her from Kurosagi to be honest)
Late at night, and it’s back at school for Ainosuke and Hitomi (plus scene of Yamada’s nude upper body!…although the boy is only 16, so it feels like a crime just to be looking, but hey if they’re putting it out there…) as Ainosuke changes out from his school shirt into his – well, it looks like his school’s gym shirt to me. Either that or the boy has a limited wardrobe. Hitomi gets off the phone and stares at her trembling fingers with a wry sort of smile. Ainosuke comes out from the curtained-off area where he was changing, and realising that Hitomi looked rather strange, he comes forward to ask, “Are you okay?” (This was very sweet, albeit I kept thinking, OH NO! A teacher-student secret love!…but fortunately, no, it never came to that, phew)
She tells him she’s fine, and that the police called to tell her that there was no one in the apartment by the time they reached it. She hesitantly adds, “Shouldn’t we stop investigating?” to which Ainosuke says, “…No.” She sneaks a look at him and replies with a sheepish sort of smile, “We could really be killed.” to which Ainosuke replies, “I won’t be stopped. No matter what, I want to know the truth behind my brother’s death.”
Insert moment of heated exchange of gazes between the two. Hitomi perserves a bit, saying, "But..you know...it feels like someone's been watching us...and that what happened just now was a warning. Although from a different perspective, you could look at it as evidence that we're heading in the right direction, a feeling like the box of money is near!" (LOLs at her last comment. Very classic)
She walks over to his bag, saying, “Where’s that sketchbook where you drew all your flashbacks?” So saying, she rummages through his bag, and pulls the sketchbook out, adding, “Let me photocopy this, so that way, even when the two of us are apart, we can do our own separate investigating.” Ainosuke looks at her and, in his very perceptive teenage way, tells her, “Stop forcing yourself, Sensei. To me, my brother was my only relative in the world, but you’ve never even seen his face. There’s no need to risk your life for a person like that.” Her only comment to this though is, “What are you talking about? I’m a teacher. Of course I’ll try my best, for my cute students.” Ainosuke seems a bit lost at how to retaliate, and so he decides to cut it short by saying, “Anyway, let’s head home for today. There’s been so much happening lately, I’m feeling a little confused.” He grabs his stuff, including his sketchbook and heads off. Hitomi is left staring blankly at the photocopier.
I liked this scene a lot since you could tell that, even though Hitomi has a debt problem, and it seems as though she’s nothing but a money-grubber, she’s actually a teacher who puts her students first when push comes to shove (as it does here). More on that, later too.
Back home, Ainosuke spreads out on the floor a copy of all the flashbacks that he's drawn, and picks each of them up, trying to puzzle out exactly how each of them relates to the other, especially the ones with the masked men standing in front of branches of the same bank.
The next day, just as Ainosuke is walking into school, Hitomi grabs him and hauls him off to the sickroom without letting him go to class, and sheds some light on this matter. Apparently the woman’s done some pro investigating into the sketches he’s drawn, and come up with some amazing results (on her pink laptop no less).
She managed to figure out that all those sketches of the men in front of the banks had a connecting link. Just as she's about to reveal what, Ainosuke casually replies, "Bank robberies?" to which Hitomi's all taken aback and disappointed, "What, you knew already?" Ainosuke, "No, just a gut feeling."
Of the four sketches that Ainosuke drew, Hitomi’s managed to do a direct match for three, and there’s only been three bank robberies anyway, so Hitomi figures that the last bank is a futuristic match for a last bank robbery. She wanted to find which particular branch it was, but since the bank’s branches numbered over 300, she didn’t have enough time to do the matches (man, I don’t know what kind of computer skills she has, since I wouldn’t have been able to do the matching either), and she’s all like, “Why don’t we use this computer to do the last match?” to which Ainosuke coldly replies, “Forget it. I give up. I want to go for classes properly.”
As expected, Hitomi’s confused by this change of heart and goes, “Huh?”, but Ainosuke continues, “I’ve changed my mind. I give up. Anyway I don’t really want to know the truth of the matter.” to which Hitomi despondently replies, “…but that bundle of money…” (HAHAHA) When Ainosuke stops to go, “Huh?” in return (I love the mirroring here), she slaps her hands on the table and goes, “Have you thought about the fact that the robbers could be making their rounds to this next bank soon? Since we know, shouldn’t we at least make an effort to warn them in advance? In that case, we could even be rewarded!” (Her money-mindedness amuses me.)
Ainosuke’s all like, “But…I don’t need any rewards. (HAHA) Anyway, I give up. I’ve made up my mind. I. GIVE. UP.” (LOL, I love how he practically yells and punctuates the last bit, just in case she doesn’t get it that he’s apparently giving up.)
The bell rings, and Hitomi’s walking down the hallway muttering to herself, “I don’t want to go to the meeting. I want to go shopping, but I have no money. And that kid’s annoying.” As she walks by a broken water fountain, bearing a sign, she pauses.
So apparently she's got yet another psychological disorder that compels her to do everything that she's been exclusively told NOT to. Because she leans in to press the water fountain. And it starts spurting water like mad. (This habit of hers is significant later)
END OF PART ONE.
I’ll elaborate more on Hitomi’s strange idiosyncrasy later, which only seems strange now, but makes a lot of sense later as a plot device. The writers who wrote this drama weren’t too bad. On the whole, the drama was entertaining; I don’t particularly feel for this show as much as say, Buzzer Beat, or even Tantei Gakuen Q, but I suppose just watching the special may not be enough to fully flesh out the characters and plot yet. Amazingly enough, although Hitomi seems like an annoying character, and she would usually be the kind who makes me want to drop dramas like hot potatoes, Satomi pulls her role off quite well – to the extent that I found myself actually liking Hitomi for some strange reason. Perhaps it’s because Hitomi pulls some damn straight punches (always important in a woman). Perhaps because even though normally she panics and is very annoyingly girly, when it comes down to the crunch, she’s got some pure guts. I find the contrasts in her behaviour understandably realistic (even though others may disagree; please, feel free) and very charming. I’m a little disappointed in Yamada – I do think he can do better; in fact I wish they’d, please, put him in some different roles. I think he’s getting stereotyped here, like Oguri Shun was (and in fact, still is).
There’s about another 40 – 50 mins of the show left to cover, so I’ve stopped right in middle, and will continue shortly once I have time.
By the way, Shoukoujyo Sara is out, for Shida Mirai fans. I’m downloading the first episode, and will probably do the review for that (at least), so keep an eye out for that too! Many dramas coming my way suddenly….