Woodpecker Detective's Office
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Woodpecker Detective's Office ?
Kidnappings are hardly unique in mystery stories, and even less so after the 1932 kidnap and murder of little Charlie Lindbergh, upon which Agatha Christie based her 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express. (The Lindberghs, or rather the Morrows, summered in my hometown and I used to know people who remembered “Baby Charlie.”) It's hard not to think of that particular case, or at least Christie's variation on it, when mystery dips its toe into the kidnapping pool, and while that may be the first association this week for some viewers, there's actually a bit more of a link with the Biblical story of King Solomon and the two mothers fighting over a child. The story is more tangled up in a mother wanting simultaneously what's best for her baby and what she feels she personally is due, and while Ishikawa is hardly a Solomon-like figure, that's essentially the role he plays this week, which once again brings the story around to ideas from western religions. That's because what at first looks like a straightforward serial kidnapping case similar to what the infamous Black Hand used to do in turn-of-the-last-century New York, this is really about family politics and collateral damage. Those things can be far, far uglier than any other form of crime.
What's perhaps more remarkable about the case, though, is the fact that we can only barely say that Ishikawa was involved in it. He took it on, yes, but almost immediately then found something he was more interested in, a murder that seems to tie back to the Accuser X case he thought he'd solved with Tamaki. In that case, a servant was killed by their master and a letter was found, the exact same basic formula that all of the other Accuser X murders used. What's more, when Ishikawa goes to view the body (possibly lying that he has permission), he recognizes the dead man, making it seem all the more likely that while Tamaki was involved in the other deaths, she may not have been working alone. Obviously Ishikawa can't just leave this alone, never mind that he's been offered the astounding sum of forty yen to solve the kidnapping case, so he does what he always does: gets Kindaichi to take over the case he's less interested in.
On one level, I can understand why he'd do that. He's dying, and even if he won't admit it out loud (he has to know that Kindaichi is aware, though), he knows he can't handle both cases. Because his romance with Tamaki ended so tragically and was twisted up with the Accuser X murders, he feels that he has to work on it, even if the other case is the one he's being paid for. Whether or not he's actively manipulating Kindaichi into taking on the work is up in the air–I keep going back and forth on it–but what's also clear is that Kindaichi truly wants to help his friend out, no matter how uneven their relationship is.
I do think that at this point Kindaichi is well aware of the fact that he gets a lot more out of the friendship in terms of emotional needs being met than Ishikawa. We still don't know why he's so devoted to him, but presumably it's some variation on the age-old theme of the heart wanting what it wants, no matter how unhealthy it is. Whether we see it as romantic or platonic love almost doesn't matter; Kindaichi loves Ishikawa, knows he doesn't have a whole lot of time left, and wants to do as much as he can to make his life easier. If that means doing his job for him and then handing over the money (we'll notice Ishikawa makes no offer of sharing), well, then that's what he'll do. None of the others quite understand it, which may simply boil down to them not being aware of just how sick Ishikawa really is, but Nomura at least is willing to step in and help out, even if a little minor emotional blackmail is involved. He may just feel badly for Kindaichi, caught in a relationship that will never be equal.
That idea of an unequal relationship is what drives the kidnapping case. The man involved has two sons, one with his wife and one with the mistress he broke things off with when he learned his wife was pregnant. This could very much leave Ochou, the mistress, feeling lost and angry, especially since she was only a month behind his wife in terms of pregnancy. Why shouldn't her son have what his half-brother does? That Ochou murdered her husband and switched children speaks to the fact that she was motivated by her (twisted) love for her child rather than personal greed.
There's probably a metaphor for Kindaichi and Ishikawa's relationship in there.
Woodpecker Detective's Office is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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