Woodpecker Detective's Office
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Woodpecker Detective's Office ?
I can't deny that my heart sunk when Ishikawa walked into the café, coughing, and announced that he wasn't feeling well. As you may recall, real-life Takuboku Ishikawa died in the spring of 1912 at age twenty-six, the cause of death being tuberculosis, or as it was called at the time, consumption. While I had initially hoped that maybe the show was taking place much earlier than 1911 or 1912, the blood he coughs up at the end of the episode gives me the depressing feel that we're not, which may explain the drop of blood we see running down someone's face in the opening theme.
All of that makes it that much more important that Ishikawa and Kindaichi reconcile this week, even if Ishikawa basically tricked Kindaichi into it. (Gotta love how he predicted Kindaichi's later-in-life moustache.) There's still a moderately mean aspect to what Ishikawa does – he solves the case himself, then leaves clues for his less-detection-minded friend to follow – but there is something kind of sweet about the fact that he did it so that they have a graceful way out of their disagreement, and I'm going to go with it was also nice that he essentially spent his reward money on Kindaichi, even though we could just as easily say that blowing 500 yen he could really have used on a batch of fake money to trick his friend is just Ishikawa being up to his usual spendthrift ways. And we won't even get into a guy coming down with consumption asking for money for a fancy brand of cigarette, although “asthma cigarettes” were absolutely a thing in the early 20th century. (And if you're wondering, no, they didn't help.)
The reason Ishikawa even hears about Figaro Cigarettes, a real brand that did in fact come in tins that looked exactly like the one shown in the episode, is because of the case he and Kindaichi solve – it's the one major clue that the police have to the identity of a man known only as “the gentleman thief.” In this case, our gentleman is more in the mold of Arsène Lupin (first published in 1905) or Flambeau (1910) and of course, The Fiend with Twenty Faces, created by Edogawa Ranpo in 1936. While we know that real-life Edogawa Ranpo (Hiro Tarai) was influenced by western authors, this episode also gives the credit to Kindaichi enlisting Tarai's help in decoding the clues Ishikawa has left for him, thus implying that both “The Two-Sen Copper Coin,” his debut story, and the adversarial relationship between Akechi Kogoro and The Fiend with Twenty Faces are inspired by his relationship with the authors in the series. It's the kind of fun detail that makes series like this not just a good mystery, but also an enjoyable “what if” story, because wouldn't it be great if it were true?
More important than any of this, though, is the fact that things are beginning to come back around to the very first episode. That's been hinted at for a while now, but this time Ishikawa just comes out and says it: what if several of the murders they've investigated are all committed by the same person? And not because they have a problem with the actual victims – the victims may have been killed so that the murderer had an excuse to write an accusatory letter. That's a horrible thought, but if you put yourself into Mystery Novel Mode, you can see how the killer might justify it: if the company accused is engaging in practices that put hundreds of people in harm's way, isn't it better to just take out one person rather than let many more die? It's an unpleasant thought, but Ishikawa may be on to something with this line of thought, and linking everything together like that would not only be a good way to make the series feel cohesive, but also to work with the later fiction written by, specifically, the two youngest cast members, Tarai and Akutagawa.
The real question now is whether Ishikawa will be alive to finish solving the case or if Kindaichi will have to use clues and skills bequeathed to him to do it. That's a very real concern now, because even though we're only on episode seven, we may be coming to the end.
Woodpecker Detective's Office is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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