When there’s a detective and/or crime drama, there’s usually a key character who’s either a genius of some sort or having exceptional brainpower useful in case-solving, but in Okitegami Kyōko no Bibōroku, the titular tantei has a weak point instead: she’s forgetful. Not because she’s a scatterbrain but because her memory resets whenever she sleeps. She only remembers things up to the point this peculiar disorder started to manifest, although how far her memory goes or how long it’s been remain a mystery till the end.
The premise, however, sounds unique and refreshing enough for me to check it to see how the show tackles the issue, because aren’t problem-solving and analytical skills perfected with time and experience? Then, how can someone be an effective much less a great detective when none of it is retained? Starting a day with a clean slate allows her to see things with fresh eyes, without prejudices, but how will she establish relationships, know who to trust or simply how to move about if she won’t have any recollection of these things upon waking up?
More and more questions piled up as i watched more episodes which i expected to have answers or explanations to in later episodes as the first few episodes are understandably very surfacey — we’re introduced to the main players of the show, a brief background of their profiles, and how things work. Due to this limiting condition, she only takes on cases solvable within a day, which calls for simpler non-convoluted types like theft, blackmail, and vandalism. While it does touch suicide and attempted murders, the circumstances are watered down to the point that it seems neither grim nor alarming, which is good.
The series’ light tone, relatively quirky but not campy characters, and unsilly humor make each episode a breeze to watch. There isn’t a boring episode, even if there’s no case/theme/motive/message that sticks with me after it’s closed. In fact, i looked forward to the next installment for the amusing interactions between the silver-haired detective Okitegami Kyouko (Aragaki Yui) and the resident unfortunate guy Kakushidate Yakusuke (Okada Masaki) as well as any development between them. Because i wanted to see some progress, her faulty memory notwithstanding; because the show throws us this thought-provoking question early on: are feelings dependent on memory? Because while their meeting is attributed to Yakusuke’s bad luck*, he himself isn’t sure whether their acquaintance is a good thing or a bad thing. Well, being drawn to a person who will forget about your existence the next day — is it lucky or unlucky?
*) the “yaku” part of his given name (厄介) means misfortune, which he believes to be the reason why he’s always entangled and suspected in a lot of cases. And while it’s not spelled out in the drama (kindly note this is purely my own interpretation of it), i found the kanji for Kyouko (今日子) aptly encapsulates the character’s life as well — “kyou” means today, “ko” means child; and she lives only for today, which she lives to the fullest so as to not make it the day she regrets, even though she won’t remember it.
Together with the premise, Kyouko’s short memory span lends itself to the episodic format of the show, because every day, in each episode, she’s meeting everybody for the first time. This invariable beginning may get old quickly, so i appreciate Show’s effort to tweak the part’s delivery for each re-appearance that it doesn’t feel like one scene shot ten times over. Or a tedious repetition but a routine instead.
My only quibble is that Okitegami Kyōko no Bibōroku doesn’t give enough weight on neither Okitegami Kyouko nor her memorandum, which should have been the focus, as i don’t care about the weekly cases that are remotely related to Show’s main mystery. Frankly, who would care (more) about how great her deduction skills or how fast she cracks a case when there are lots of (more interesting) loose ends regarding her identity, backstory, and memory disorder? These parts are indeed brought up and centered on, but only in the latter half of the show, the point where people wanting to be hooked early in the series might have stopped watching. The same goes for the budding relationship between refreshingly frank Kyouko and exceedingly patient Yakusuke. I don’t mind the baby-steps progress but i couldn’t help thinking how bringing these plot lines forward by just a few episodes would even out the development arc and better the story’s compellingness as a whole. Because the way it’s done, the show is over right where it’s starting to get really interesting.
For instance, we’re only privy to Kyouko’s morning drills of familiarizing herself with herself at episode 8, while the inception into the truths of her past commences only in the penultimate episode. Naturally, there isn’t enough time to deal with everything, or even answer enough questions in the finale. Although i’m fine with open endings, i still want the core questions/mystery to be addressed and given proper closure, which this drama never did. It’s pretty much bait and switch: hinted at unraveling the truth and then gave us the twist of Nah, it’s all false positive turns. We’ll leave it at that. Hahaha…
The non-reveal didn’t rile me up or anything, largely because it ended on a cute, teasing ending, yet i won’t deny that i felt cheated. Despite the bad vibes Kaname Jun’s character was giving me, i was pleased to his appearance mainly because he could shed light on Kyouko’s history. But until now i still can’t wrap my head around his last-minute addition — was he a plot device or an out-and-out red herring? Was everything he said and ‘explained’ a lie? Dammit if it’s a yes cuz then i was getting all excited for nothing.
But then this mystery arguably is the most complex and labyrinthine case ever fall into her lap that’s also most likely impossible to be solved within a day. When push comes to shove, she can stay awake for several days, but this isn’t a job she’s hired to sort out, neither is it a life-and-death situation that she can freely opt to not face it or leave the rest of the mysteries to tomorrow’s Kyouko. The former seems to be the case though, given her disinclination to document her day-to-day life except for a few notes inked on her body for her tomorrow’s self. However, i hope that she does plan to have everything figured out, now that she has found a trustworthy partner =)
If anything, i was happy with where our leads ended up because all series long i was praying to dramagods to give us any kind of progress and cursing at Kyouko’s resetting memory especially after she’s feeling something toward Yakusuke, since their interaction will be back to square one the moment she wakes up. And while i admit to groaning/awwing that she reverts to saying “pass~” to his harmless advances (after 10 episodes of baby-step development given her condition), i was appeased by his positivity and perseverance to woo her again from the start, no matter how many times it takes, no matter how many rejections he’ll receive, over and over again. That was her request after all ❤
Even though i wasn’t fully enthralled by the focus and direction of the show, i really enjoyed the directing, editing, and acting. This isn’t my first project of Gakki or Okada, yet this is probably the first time i liked their characters and portrayals. The roles weren’t too demanding and their performances weren’t mind-blowing per se but are enough to make me root for them, amused by their exchanges, and invested in their relationship. The love line was mostly only hinted at as well as few and far between, but even the tiniest sparks had me squeeing — something even the recent Getsu9 brand of romance like 5-ji Kara 9-ji Made couldn’t.
I mean, who are not on cloud nine when Kyouko says dreamily what a wonderful person Yakusuke is, when she adds his name to her ‘memory bank’, or when she declares that she “choose[s] to be the me you wrote.”?
I thus had mixed feelings about these closing remarks:
BUT~! The punctuation changes from “.” to “?”, so there’s hope?
There must be a reason behind Horo-san’s comment that “the body remembers experience and emotions, so it may bear fruit one day.” So i’ll hang on to that hope.
A second season, perhaps?
Director: Sato Toya
Production: NTV, 2015
Cast: Aragaki Yui, Okada Masaki, Oikawa Mitsuhiro, Arioka Daiki, Uchida Rio
Genre: Detective, Mystery, J-dorama (10 Episodes)