Woodpecker Detective's Office
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Woodpecker Detective's Office ?
Blink and you might miss the reference to another work by Edogawa Rampo in this week's episode of Woodpecker Detective's Office. It comes near the end, and the second part of it is much more obvious than the small piece that introduces it: a man who might well be hiding in the attic of a house to spy on the inhabitants. It's introduced very subtly, which is not only interesting but also fits the idea of this particular kind of crime – after Tamaki, the victim-of-the-week (more or less; more on that in a bit) shows Ishikawa a letter perfectly describing all of the actions she and her husband engaged in the previous evening, she notes that there is no way that anyone could have seen in the window, which is on the second floor overlooking the swollen river. She then begins to mention that she's lately felt like someone's watching her when we hear a creak from the ceiling and she and Ishikawa both start to look up. All of a sudden it's looking an awful lot like “The Watcher in the Attic,” a 1925 short story by Hiro Tarai as was, about a man who creeps around in the attic of his boarding house for his own voyeuristic pleasures. That's when you might remember that when Ishikawa and Tamaki tried to confront the presumed culprit at his home, he escaped through what looks a bit like a closet – how the narrator of “The Watcher in the Attic” first accesses the space above.
This is worth noting for a few reasons, one of which is that Tarai isn't in this episode, although almost all of the other authors are. That may mean he's coming in next week's, which will be a direct continuation again, or it could be intended to show the outsize influence Ishikawa's brief life had on both those around him and the Japanese literary scene of the early 20th century. That we won't know until next week, but it's definitely something to pay attention to, especially since there's a slightly voyeuristic quality to much of this case. That may be too direct a word for what's going on, though, because there are many degrees of watching, or at least the idea of “watching,” that are present throughout. Opening with the doctor's visit to Ishikawa during which Kindaichi paces outside the door, presumably straining to hear what's being said, things escalate to the point when Ishikawa and Tamaki realize there may be someone watching from the ceiling, touching on the idea of spectacle with both the performance aspect of Tamaki's lover's job as a “bat-man” and then the way that his death was staged so as to be part of that regular performance, as well as the way Tamaki reveals herself to Ishikawa. That Kindaichi is now watching Ishikawa ever more closely, (rightly) suspecting that there's something much more serious going on than mere inflammation, plays into this theme. Since we have yet another mention of Christianity – helping out at a church and the corruption of another – there may be a bit of an idea of someone always watching over you, although perhaps without the usual comforting undertones associated with the phrase.
Since this is a two-parter (at least), we don't get any clear answers about any of this. That it is likely to tie into Tamaki's affair with the murdered bat-man may end up factoring in, especially since she looks like she may be interested in starting something with Ishikawa from the preview. If we are to fully believe her and not assume that she's an unreliable narrator, she's looking outside of her abusive marriage for love. That's rarely a safe assumption, however, and there may be more going on than we're privy to at this point, particularly in her relationship with her husband. Her cross-dressing, or at least her unusually short hair, may factor in to this in some way as well, and in some ways the real question will be whether or not Ishikawa is seeing things clearly or whether he's just using Tamaki and her mysterious letters as a way to forget the truth about his health.
It's hard to blame him – even as he writes sad tanka about dying young, his actions say that he's more frightened than he wants to let anyone know.
Woodpecker Detective's Office is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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