This season’s Higashino Keigo Mysteries which airs on Fuji TV every Thursday night has been suffering from sluggish viewership ratings and many negative comments. At the presentation of the completed first episode, actor Nakai Kiichi’s declaration on stage that “There’s no reason why it should be uninteresting with such a cast. If the viewership ratings are bad, it would be better not to make dramas anymore,” became the topic of conversation. Had Nakai bothered to ask fellow actor Karasawa Toshiaki, he might not have been so smug about the drama’s prospects. It was not so long ago that the much anticipated Fumou Chitai performed dismally in the ratings game.
Based on writer Higashino Keigo’s short stories, Higashino Keigo Mysteries is a mystery drama told in one-episode omnibus format. Nakai is the navigator who appears in all the episodes and each episode stars popular actors and actresses like Karasawa, Toda Erika, Nagasawa Masami and Suzuki Kyoka. Perhaps this star-studded cast of lead actors and actresses is what prompted Nakai to go so far as to say that “If it isn’t interesting, the fault lies with Higashino-san’s original work.” The drama premiered with 11.3% for its first episode, but has sunk and remained in the single digits which is certainly not good form.
In addition to the poor viewership ratings, there is a turbulent atmosphere at the network, according to Japanese media.
The article alleges that Higashino had in fact protested against the use of his own name in the title when he saw the broadcast. It appears that people around the production also talked about the watered down content because the stories were being squeezed to fit the airtime and its much poorer quality in comparison to the original work. In future, it may be difficult to be allowed to broadcast a sequel, not to mention a Higashino Keigo original drama in the same time slot, an insider observed.
There are many writers among original authors with the principle that “Once a work has passed from the hands of the writer, it will take on a life of its own.” But it is a different story for a writer to have his own name used for promotion and to also be unhappy with drama itself. The original author of Hagane no Onna, a recent TV Asahi drama which starred Kichise Michiko, made the network remove his own name from the ending credits because he objected to the absence of the original story from the script.
Not so coincidentally, Fuji TV put out comments from Higashino on the drama’s website yesterday evening a few days after the article. He is quoted as saying, “I was able to watch all of the episodes of Higashino Keigo Mysteries that have been broadcast so far and I’m happy with the very good production. I can feel the ingenuity behind each elaborately planned episode based on the original short stories. The performances of Nakai Kiichi-san and the actors who have appeared have also been wonderful. It is an excellent drama and the feedback from my friends and acquaintances have been good too. I look forward to the rest of the episodes.“
Why Fuji TV decided on an omnibus format for a prime-time drama timeslot is anyone’s guess when it could have easily made them for its ‘Friday Prestige’ drama specials and done justice to much of the cast it had assembled.
In Higashino Keigo Mysteries, the choice of a stand-alone mystery for each episode makes characterisation difficult, although the twists with the show and tell have been rather interesting. But this somehow completely unravelled in episodes 5 and 6 which seem like misfits. Jarring and befuddling.
Was episode 5 even a mystery because it seemed like something else that came with heavy-handed sermonising and nauseating parallels. And Kato Ai while very lovely can never act to deliver the depth required. Then in episode 6 there were bizarre moments of sentimentality and comedy alternating with levity, a very irritating Nagasawa Masami, bumbling, unfunny cops and a nasally cameo by Tsumabuki Satoshi who spent most of the time with a bright burst of light for his face. To royally mess up a drama episode with movie actors Ando Masanobu and Tsumabuki, who rarely appear in dramas, and the talented Ikewaki Chizuru takes the cake.