Woodpecker Detective's Office
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Woodpecker Detective's Office ?
Be careful who you fall for – they just may turn out to be a murderer. By the standards of the past, at any rate; it's interesting to note that in the context of where and when many of us are coming from, Kiku's actions would be considered self-defense, since she only killed Otojirou because he was trying to rape her. Such a verdict, however, may not have existed in the Japan of the show's setting, which adds a whole other sadness to this week's story of lost love.
Since last week's episode also played with this theme, it makes sense that it would continue into this episode. Previously Oen gave up on her love for Ishikawa (with his help) while Kindaichi did the same based on feelings of being used by the other man. While Oen is gone from the story, married to the man Ishikawa arranged for her, Kindaichi is still clearly wrestling with his feelings for Ishikawa, having taken to following him at a distance, presumably because he can't quite bring himself to give up on the poet and is worried what he might get up to. Meanwhile the unrequited love that Yoshii and the other adult writers at the café have for Kiku becomes the centerpiece of the episode, with Kiku coming specifically to Yoshii for help “solving” a murder and Ishikawa just sort of butting in. Interestingly enough, the idea of one person using another, either in the name of love or by taking advantage of the other's love, is very much in evidence here once again: Kiku is just using Yoshii because she knows he has feelings for her while Kindaichi broke ties with Ishikawa in part because he felt used by him, something driven home by the fact that Ishikawa tells Yoshii he needs money because Kindaichi cut him off. (That he knows Kindaichi is following him and relies on that to save he and Yoshii from Kiku at the end could also be framed as him “using” Kindaichi again, but that feels a little more tenuous.)
As with several previous cases, this one also has a focus on sex, and in a slight call back to the time Kindaichi was accused of murder, it's also about someone not wanting to have it. This is almost a reverse of that situation – in that case, it was the man who didn't want to sleep with the woman and was accused of killing her, while in this one, it is the woman who doesn't want to have sex with the man and does in fact end up killing him. Almost nothing is made of the fact that Otojirou was attracted to dolls and that Kiku's glass eye is what drew him to her; she's clearly made out to be in the wrong while almost nothing is said of his preferences. (Which, it must be said, probably weren't hurting anyone previous to his attack on Kiku.) It's interesting and not a little disheartening, and thematically the inclusion of Hiro Tarai (Edogawa Ranpo) points to a few of his works that use similar sexual predilections as plot points, such as The Black Lizard and The Blind Beast. (We could make an argument for “The Caterpillar,” too, but it's a bit more of a stretch.) This link perhaps exists to remind viewers that later on crimes like Otojirou's against Kiku did get punished, but more likely as a reminder of who Tarai will grow up to be while showing how earlier authors influenced him.
Going back to last week, we do find out that what Ishikawa saw on the bridge that night was Kiku's lover bringing Otojirou the doll he was involved with and who would later be blamed for his death. That Ishikawa couldn't tell initially that it was a doll is a statement about what Kiku hoped for when she blamed (or at least allowed it to be believed) Kingiko for the murder – there's something uncanny about a well-crafted doll that unsettles people. (And possibly caused Kindaichi to faint at the museum.) That the police weren't as superstitious as everyone else was ultimately her downfall; if they hadn't questioned her setup, there would have been no arrest of her lover and no need to get the authors involved.
There is one more interesting component of this case, and it's one that we can also trace back a bit: the language of flowers. Called hana no kotoba in Japanese, it's actually fairly similar to the English version, at least according to my 1881 copy of Our Deportment, so I'm not sure if it was borrowed or there's some weird coincidence going on here. In any event, as the end of the episode reveals, “honeysuckle” (kingiko) means “bonds of love,” which are what is truly killed over these past two episodes, human lives notwithstanding. But Kiku's name is also a flower – it means “chrysanthemum” in Japanese. The meanings of this flower vary by color, but the general meaning is “you're a good friend,” which is something of a hint for poor Yoshii. But more significant is the meaning of the white chrysanthemum – it means “truth.” With white being the color of mourning in many East Asian cultures, that carries an even sadder connotation – that revealing the truth will cause a loss. I think Yoshii would say that there's some truth in that.
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