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Woodpecker Detective's Office
Episode 5

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Woodpecker Detective's Office ?

There's a lot going on in this episode of Woodpecker Detective's Office, and I suspect that almost all of it is building towards next week's show. Seen individually, the actions we see play out are, if not completely disparate, at least very loosely linked together: Ishikawa stays up all night reading a book, the other writers gather in their usual place to moon over the same woman, only to find out that she has a man, Kindaichi grows increasingly disenchanted with Ishikawa, cats move through the night, and, finally, Kindaichi vows to cut ties with Ishikawa after the other man brokers a marriage for the sex worker Oen with another man, leading Ishikawa to be out alone, where he may have witnessed a murder(er?). Thematically, there's a vein of lost and impossible loves flowing through all of the various storiettes, but how that's all going to come together – along with the cat thing – remains to be seen.

In some ways the cats are the most interesting piece of the puzzle the episode is crafting. While Japanese culture doesn't share the superstition about black cats that we see in the west, the powerful imagery of a black cat barely seen in the dark of night is undeniably powerful, no matter what your feelings about the fur color. The use of a cat poem in the episode is a testament to this, but more important may be the scene that ends the episode – the quick imagery swap of a cat with a dead rodent in its mouth to the blood-stained face of a woman. That this comes sandwiched between Ishikawa hearing a feminine scream and a shot of an elegant woman standing on a bridge in the moonlight seems especially symbolic. Is the scream the mouse she's caught? Or is it the cat's triumphant yowl? And is any of it really happening, since Ishikawa is, if not three sheets to the wind, at least two, which definitely means that we shouldn't trust his perceptions implicitly.

That's another recurring theme this week, actually – drunkenness. Not as a habitual state or a statement on drinking, but rather as something that keeps popping up as the seemingly unrelated story threads unfurl. The writers' group ponders whether it's a benefit or a detriment to composing poetry while later only Kindaichi remains sober after he cuts ties with Ishikawa (or at least, we don't see him drinking; his flushed face could be from cold). That it calls into question who and what Ishikawa sees is probably the most important detail, but it seems too deliberately placed within the episode to just comfortably write it off as an accident of storytelling and imagery.

There may also be a link back to the original case from episode one, which in terms of the overall mystery narrative is definitely exciting. Over the course of the episode, we see Ishikawa desultorily following a case in the newspaper where a wealthy young man is supposed to have killed someone and later someone else involved in the man's shipping concern is revealed to have committed some sort of white-collar crime. Ishikawa muses that this may be similar to his first case where someone was framed, but he pretty much leaves it there, which allows us to draw our own connections about wealth, crimes, and fall guys – could the real culprit be the same in both cases? And if a woman is the victim in the second case, that goes back to another early link between episodes, if not necessarily cases: the red light district, although we don't yet know enough about this new case to say that with any certainty. I am hoping for a connection, though, because while case-of-the-week is fine, linking things together into one big master crime would be much more fun.

Obviously Kindaichi isn't going to follow through on his threat to dump Ishikawa as a friend, because we've seen the first episode where he thinks back on their time together. But he is learning some things about the poet that he's really not fine with, from his basic selfishness to his willingness to use a woman's love for him to his own benefit. (Although he makes a good point – Oen had to be okay with the marriage to some degree, because she agreed to it.) No one's perfect, of course, but it seems as if Kindaichi is in the middle of learning that painful lesson. How it impacts the mystery that's building remains to be seen.


Woodpecker Detective's Office is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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