Sometimes, it takesÂ a death for oneÂ to find whatÂ one really want in life.
For free on Youtube. The subtitles start coming in a couple seconds late about twenty minutes in and the last eight minutes or so are without audioâ€¦which is not a total loss, since there is no real dialog, but can still be a little off-putting. Approximately 100 minutes.
Naomi is a rich college kid with some…quirks. We first see her sneaking back into her house early in the morning, despite the fact that it was completely unnecessary for her to do that and the only other person in the house was her maid, Miss Hasenumaâ€¦who has pretty much no authority over her. She is going to go to the United States to reunite with her father in about a week, but still goes to class on this day to say goodbye to her professors and says farewell to the other kids in her extra-curricular activities club. One of the guys in the club, Nagai, decides to hang out with her a bit by the beach
That walk by the beach becomes dinner, where Nagai starts hitting on Naomi pretty blatantly. Naomi was under the impression that Nagai had a girlfriend, since she saw him talking with a girl before they went to the beach. He says that the girl was just a classmate from cram class and then basically says that they should go to a hotel for sex. Naomi does not seem excited about the idea, but she is open to it. They check into a hotel and are about to commence when there is a knock on the door. It is Naomiâ€™s uncle.
Once Nagai opens the door, Naomiâ€™s uncle barges in and slaps Naomi in the face. Actually, it is not Naomiâ€™s uncle. It is this guy who had following Naomi all day, though neither Nagai nor Naomi knew this. By this point, Nagai has pretty much left, so he probably did not hear Naomi yelling at the man or threatening to call the policeâ€¦which she does.
At the police station, the man is revealed to be a Mr. Tsujiyama, a private detective. While Naomi asserts that he tried to assault her, Tsujiyama says that he was hired to protect her, though he claims to be unsure of who hired him to do so and he is not really forthcoming as to why he barged into the hotel room and slapped her. Naomi assumes that Miss Hasenuma hired him, after which she decides to drop the charges and leave, telling the police to do whatever they want with him. They let him go and he accompanies her home, much to her annoyance.
The next day, Naomi goes out and tries to avoid Tsujiyama. She also tries to call up Nagai and apologize for the incident at the hotel, but she gets hung up on. She tries unsuccessfully to find Nagaiâ€™s address, but then Tsujiyama swoops in and, with a little bit of outright lying, manages to get Nagai to give out his address. They go to Nagaiâ€™s apartment building and Naomi goes in to try to find him, while Tsujiyama waits outside. Nagai does not answer the door, but Tsujiyama can see him through the window, along with the girl whom he had told Naomi was simply a classmate. Naomi comes back out, thinking that Nagai was not in.
At Naomiâ€™s farewell party, some of Naomiâ€™s friends notice Tsujiyama just hanging around, they start questioning him and teasing him until he bores them away. He goes to Naomi and asks why she isnâ€™t dancing. Perhaps it is because she was waiting for Nagai, but she asks Tsujiyama to dance with her. He refuses at first, but then she orders him to dance with her.
Once Tsujiyama takes Naomi home, he goes a Playboy Club-type club and meets Sachiko, his ex-wife who is now a singer and is going out with the owner of the club. Sachiko gets extremely flirty with him, but he seems to be having none of it. Eventually, he makes his way to the restaurant portion of the club only to see Naomi motion him to a table. He is very upset to see her here, particularly since his job was to keep her safe. Still, she considers it fair game to follow him the way that he followed her, and even plays detective for a bit, coming to the conclusion that the singer is his ex-wife. It is still all fun and games for her until she notices that their waitress in the playboy bunny outfit is the girl whom Nagai had talked with. She also realizes that she was at Nagaiâ€™s apartment. Once the girl says that she hopes that Naomi leaves for America soon, Naomi then realizes what was going on with Nagai, and feels like an idiot. Eventually, Tsujiyama carries a drunk and sleepy Naomi home. Naomi asks why Tsujiyama and Sachiko were separated. Tsujiyama says that she cheated on him, but reasons that maybe she did that because he was useless.
The next morning, Sachiko shows up at Tsujiyamaâ€™s apartment. Her boyfriend, the nightclub owner, was murdered in a love (sex) hotel. Since she was the only person there with him, she is the main suspect. Worse, since the guy was a high ranking Yakuza member, she is a target for gangsters. The case of the dead Yakuza member hits television news, which Naomi notices. Realizing that they are talking about Tsujiyamaâ€™s ex-wife, she somehow finds his apartment. And not a moment too soon, as some Yakuza members show up. Tsujiyama tries to get Sachiko to flee out the back window, but she is too scared to leave, so Tsujiyama and Naomi come up with a bizarrely brilliant plan to get the gangsters to get out of the apartment before they find Sachikoâ€¦and then slip past them all the way to Naomiâ€™s house.
Miss Hasenuma is not happy to see Sachiko and Tsujiyama at the house, but Naomi insists that they use this place for their base now that his apartment is compromised. Naomi has decided to trust Sachiko and treat her as innocent in the murder. She has also decided to assist in the investigation, and there is not much that Tsujiyama can do to stop her.
The movie is called A Detective Story, but it would be misleading to say that it is about a detective, since Naomi does quite a bit of sleuthing herself after throwing herself into the case. So, it is a detective story, but it is a story about detectives, with Naomi being no less important to solving the case. It would also be misleading to call it a mystery. Sure, there is the murder case, but that actually takes up less than half the runtime and the resolution is more thematically ambiguous than narratively justifiable. Instead, what could have been a kind of modern film noir plays more like an adventure, with Naomi deliberately sneaking into the seedy underbelly of her city on a quest for justice. Really, though, I would call this the type of film that Japan does quite well. I am not sure what the style is really called, but I would call it the mild comedy drama, where it elicits more chuckles and raised eyebrows than outright laughs and is better for it. Maybe it is a little quirky, but only a little.
If one wants to dig a little deeper, one could view this film as being about two lost souls and the unexpected bond that they form. Naomi seems to have it all, but she is lonely, restless, and has little control over her life. She is supposed to be an adult, but her father has called her to Americaâ€¦which would have been fine except for she believes that someone else is involved. Her future is uncertain and out of her hands. Jumping into this detective work gives her purpose and power; she jumps into it with almost no regard to the consequences or threats, which becomes a bit of a point after the mystery is solved. Tsujiyama is poor and downtrodden, with a very low opinion of himself and his prospects. He is haunted not necessarily by a traumatic past, but one of failure and inadequacy. He has no future; just a constant present that will probably get worse. Detective work is all that he has. I am not sure if either character could carry a movie alone, but they make a great team and it is fun to watch the tentative and fragile development of their bond.
Simultaneously subdued and slightly over the top, A Detective Story is some good entertainment.
WTF ASIA 92: The Wooden Manâ€™s Bride (China: 1994, approx. 115 minutes)
WTF ASIA 93: Boat (South Korea/Japan: 2009, approx. 115 minutes)