Criminologist Himura & Mystery Writer Arisugawa (臨床犯罪学者 火村英生の推理) is a 2016 Japanese investigate mystery series with ten total episodes. It is the television adaptation of the novel series, Himura Hideo¸ that was originally authored by Alice Arisugawa in 1992. The series is about a brilliant college professor of criminal science who also works as a consulting detective that assists the police in solving tough-to-crack criminal cases, particularly murders. Due to his socially awkward disposition and psychological baggage, he is always accompanied by his quirky yet empathetic close friend, Alice Arisugawa, who is an author of mystery crime novels.
In my First Impressions, one of the things that I discussed about this series is how it’s essentially Japanese-style Sherlock Holmes. You have the impressively intelligent detective who is rather eccentric and off-putting with his eidetic memory and superior deductive reasoning skills. Then there is the more mellow and empathetic partner who adds a distinctly human quality to combat Sherlock’s—or in this case, Himura’s—more off-putting traits. This is something that worked extremely well for Criminologist Himura, and unfortunately, was its sole driving element.
Unlike America’s Elementary or England’s Sherlock, this show veers on the side of cheesy predictability in its portrayal of the classic, cocky, wanna-be copper. The combination of painfully obvious jesting and irrationally dense police officers can make the cases feel unexciting, while giving off a wholly one-dimensional vibe. Bad jokes are something that I can appreciate, honestly speaking, yet the repetitive nature of how much the force relied on Himura to solve even the most basic of criminal cases was highly disappointing and did a bit of an injustice to his so-called intelligence. A vortex of bland progression and anti-climactic resolutions quickly followed suit for nearly every single segment, which was made far worse with instalments that revealed the identity of the criminal beforehand as a poor attempt at instilling tension.
The casual approach to suspense aside, there was also the passionless acting of everyone, except for Saitō Takumi (Hideo Himura) and Kubota Masataka (Alice Arisugawa), but only when they were engaging with one another, or in Masataka’s case (no pun intended), when he was interacting with the victims or culprits. Everyone else’s acting above all else gave the impressions that Criminologist Himura was nothing more than a low-budget knock-off of other, better Sherlockian narratives. The chemistry of the male leads was the single saving grace, and the entire reason I kept coming back episode after episode.
Arisugawa is cheery and caring and gets quite emotionally invested with the people that he encounters, and this works marvellously in counteracting Himura’s cold and intimidating intensity, as well as his more dry and sardonic humour, which further highlights the bond shared between the two. The spark that Takumi and Masataka have on-screen when they are discussing aspects of a particular crime, or even when they are merely bullshitting about random things, was wonderfully natural and does a great job in engaging the audience. It felt like I was witnessing two long-time friends partaking in one another’s company. When actors can make you feel as if their friendship or relationship goes beyond the confines of the silver screen, you know that they’re doing something right in that regard.
Additionally, I will also admit that the actress, Hasegawa Kyōko, who was the Moriarty (her character’s name was Moroboshi) to Himura’s Sherlock played her role phenomenally. Quite frankly, she was the only one aside from the male leads who knew how to act and own her role like a pro! Her chemistry with Himura was so fabulous as well. I began to look forward to their time together on-screen because of how excellent their smouldering intensity was. I loved her to bits.
Even with all of its frustrating problems, Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa isn’t a complete and total waste of time. The second half is much stronger than the first. My favourite episodes were episodes six and seven, where Himura is asked to assist on a cold case; a special request from a fellow student of his. The thing that made these episodes stand-out against the others is that it breaks its formulaic mould by keeping the culprit’s identity(ies) hidden until the very end. Plus, they were decently paced and contained an air of intrigue I didn’t believe this series had the ability to put out. In some scenarios, it allowed me to use my own brain in order to solve the mystery before our beloved Himura could. As a person who watches and reads mysteries for this very reason, I appreciated this opportunity immensely.
The last three episodes of the series can also be construed as decent quality. Here we get to witness a side of Himura that hadn’t been portrayed until now—the side of him that cares deeply for the people around him. Witnessing the serious undertones of his friendship with Arisugawa and how far they have come as comrades due to the nature of their work, was intellectually and emotionally riveting. Nevertheless, the plot elements used to bring this into the forefront was completely rushed and didn’t really have any bearing in the series at all until this point. It’s tied to a secret desire that the consulting detective has, yet it was given such little attention and development in the previous five to six segments that as it’s being utilised to bring the serial to its finale, all it did was make the watching experience even more frustrating and horridly substandard. It was nothing more than a flair for adding pointless drama that didn’t have room to grow.
A facet that I did grow to appreciate a lot while trudging through the series were all of the scenic shots of the city. Seeing the different parts of Japan, especially in various lightings, was beautiful. It sang to the Japanophile inside of my heart and made me more eager to visit the country one day. I probably have more screen-grabs of the scenery than I do of anything else in the show.
Overall, Criminologist Himura & Mystery Writer Arisugawa is about as subpar as you can possibly get with a mystery series. The absence of intrigue, suspense, quality pacing and heartfelt acting, along with the extremely rushed ending, make it rather pointless to watch unless you are a fan of the leading actors, or just a die-hard Sherlockian-nerd looking to experience a fresh take on the classic.
You can watch Criminologist Himura & Mystery Writer Arisugawa over on Viki.