Sunday, 22 February 2015

Just watched: Orient Kyuukou Satsujin Jiken

Or Murder on the Orient Express, to give it its English name. This adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel is written by Mitani Kouki, one of my favourite Japanese writers, responsible for University of Laughs, Furuhata Ninzaburo, The Magic Hour among others.

Despite this impressive back catalogue, his recent work has been a little, shall we say, too clever for its own good. Beautifully crafted and structured, but somewhat hollow inside. This, most recent, TV special written by him illustrates the point.

It's a two-episode special, lasting five hours in total. The first half is taken up with a fairly faithful rendition of Agatha Christie's original, transplanted to Japan in 1933. All well and good. I was confused by the way the detective spoke, though. In the original the detective, Poirot, is Belgian and speaks with an accent. However, the idea of a foreigner of any nationality being allowed to investigate and solve a murder crime in Japan in the 1930s is pretty unlikely, so the detective in this version is Japanese. Albeit one with a curious way of speaking. I cannot tell if it is an accent or just a very mannered way of talking. Once you get used to it, it’s quite adorable.

The second half, though, is where Mitani Kouki fills in the gaps in the Christie original, explaining in detail the events that lead to the murder. However, I suspect there’s a reason that Agatha Christie didn’t expand on this part of the story: because its dull. Very dull. I didn’t make it very far into the second episode before giving up and turning off.

So, by all means, watch and enjoy the first episode which is a beautifully made adaptation, but don’t feel the need to watch the second episode. And kudos to the lead actor, Nomura Mansai, who is so enjoyable and watchable that when he’s absent (as he mostly is in part two) the drama suddenly lacks interest.

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