Friday, January 15, 2021

Trick (JP, Season 1)

Jirou explains that something weird is happening on the Pokemon--- sorry, Kokumon, Island, and to the island itself. All the plants on the island are withering away one after another, and walls of rock have begun to crumble and sink into the deep sea.
It's almost as if the island itself is dying.
 

Trick season 1, episode 9

 

Jirou Ueda (left) & Naoko Yamada (right)

This is my first real experience with Japanese live action drama series in general so I decided to make a complete overview of the first season to get the most out of it. Trick (2000-) is a comedic mystery story about exposing fraud spiritualists with logic and science. Magician Naoko Yamada and physicist Jirou Ueda have taken this type of job to their heart in this story filled with grey and dark comedy. The story offers a variety of settings from our protagonists' home city of Tokyo to more rural areas that tend to deal with villagers. For example the first story arc is about a weird religion known as Mother Izumi which exists in a small village. Problem here is that the religion causes anyone who leaves it to die in mysterious ways.

While the series isn't completely fair-play, Trick has bunch of different types of tricks for watchers with a keen eye on details and foreshadowing. The series sets up a special atmospehre in the beginning of each case with pretty good narration. It's immersive and fun and it gets the watcher thinking right from get-go with the neat drawings used to visualize what we're being told about the concepts of the upcoming story arcs. But just as importantly, the series is incredibly hilarious surprisingly often and has some pretty original directing and editing choices.


EPISODE ONE - NAOKO YAMADA & JIROU UEDA


EPISODE ONE, Tôshi, opens up with an explanation that happens in a nice and kind of adventurous way, with a narrator talking over drawings. In 1922, the American science magazine, Scientific American claimed that if someone would come forth to show them a true psychich phenomenon, they would be awarded $2500. Various college professors and members of the scientific community formed a group of judges to try to find these natural talents.
One day, a man came forth claiming to have eyes that have the power of X-ray so good he is able to see through metal boxes. The scientists wrote words on a paper which was then put into the metal box the man arrived with. The man managed to read the letters after pressing his forehead on the box. Then the experiment was done over, again and again. The scientific community judges then claimed that there is no other choice - they must acknowledge this mysterious man's powers to see through metal as real.

That's when a man named Harry Houdini - the most famous magician in America - arrived and told them that he doesn't believe in the supernatural. Houdini wanted to see the man's ability, and after doing that Houdini immediately figured the trick out and claimed that it was just so much simpler of a trick than anyone would have ever guessed. But before the watcher gets to hear what the real trick behind the X-ray vision was, the story of Trick begins.

A man runs to a local police officer and claims he'll be killed. The central office sends two clown-like detectives to investigate the matter. The man explains that Big Mother, or Mother Izumi, and her followers will probably kill anyone who leaves their cult, or whatever. The man had gone to a house where group of people gathered to pray, but once he attempted to leave the group of people claimed that the man will be cursed. After running away for a while into the woods, the man came across Big Mother herself, floating high in the air, and apparently even flying over walls. Big Mama tells the dude that if he won't return, he'll be killed. And that's the story which brought this guy to the cops.

The scene then transitions on to a beautiful woman named Yamada wearing a blue kimono. She's standing outside, making something like an aluminum ball float between her hands. The problem here however is that the freaking audience is completely empty. This woman just doesn't manage to grab an audience - she's not entertaining lacks the necessary social skills to keep audience entertained, unlike the person who comes to the stage right after her turn is over.
After leaving the stage the runner of the magic show pulls Yamada into his room and shows her a picture of a famous young physicist and a super elite at Japan's College of Physics who had put out a challenge to those who have spiritual powers, claiming that not too long ago the physicist had actually learned of the existence of people with supernatural powers, and if one is able to show him a psychic phenomenon, he'll be giving a reward to those who are able to do that. So, basically her boss sends Yamada to the physics elite to get some cash, as she's now fired from the troupe & swapped for a large lizard that likes to fight chickens...

"I've had trouble laughing and making jokes since I was born. Even with practice it never gets better..."
- Naoko Yamada

We get a little bit of background on Naoko Yamada. Her father was a great magician whom she really looks up to. In the past her father had shown his daughter a great number of magic tricks so great that she really used to believe he had magical powers unlike anyone else in the world. Even though nowadays Naoko is also a magician, she actually doesn't believe in the supernatural. Anyway, Naoko loved her father but there was something in the back of her mind, something that made her angry, and she wanted to talk to her father about it. But fate isn't that lenient as before she managed to do that, her father lost his life. In her deepest memories she still remembers the words of his father which claimed to take on anyone who wants to show him the power of the supernatural, as he's going to expose them all.

I had to rewind this flashback couple of times as this show has some standout atmospheric soundtracks to it already. This gives me some kind of Eastern country feel, as if I was visiting elsewhere.

In present time. Naoko is in her room reading about the young physicist - Ueda-san - with a lot of guts claiming to expose anyone who tries to trick people into believing they know magic. At the same time the landlord comes into Yamada's house with her own keys and tells her to pay the rent of last month and the month before, like, now. No cash to give. The landlady then tells her that she just lies and lies about everything, which then motivates her to go and try to trick the young physics legend.

Next day, she gathers at the college to show her tricks. This scene is freaking hilarious as bunch of nutjobs had gathered to try to trick the guy, but with no success. There's some guitar player, a religionist, a monk, a woman with some kind of white snake, probably a sumo-wrestler, and whatever the heck...
Then it's Yamada's time to shine. She heads into the room with bunch of books on the table.

The meeting of Naoko and the physicist is intriguing. There's nice tension to it. This show's actually kind of like a comic book, very exaggarated in many ways.

Naoko asks an envelope and a 100 yen coin from the physicist to show him some magic. This trick she'll be trying to fool him with is a trick which moves one object through the other. The physicist marks the coin which she places in the envelope. He will then seal envelope with the coin in it, and then after a while Naoko claims that the coin had slipped through the envelope to her hand. Surprisingly enough she pulled it through.

However, apparently this wasn't the real test to get the 300,000 yen cheque, but just some beginner's trial. The physicist asks Naoko if she knows of a woman named Kirishima Sumiko. Ten years prior she'd started a religious organization called Mother Izumi and she's now known as Big Mother who has gathered followers that believe in the supernatural. The real test to get the money is for Naoko to expose Sumiko as a sham. The physicist claims that the daughter of a manager at his college was converted into the religion and now staying at Mother Izumi's place, never planning to return. The daughter had taken her father's fortune with her and there's a risk of her donating it all to Big Mother. This needs to be stopped at all costs.

Things take a surprising turn as Naoko refuses to take up on the challenge offer. The physicist then claims that he might wind up dead in four days as he'd visited Mother Izumi. But all the brainwashed followers never allowed him to go in the house. But Kirishima Sumiko herself visited him afterwards and claimed that she really does know magic - and from now on terrible things will happen around the physicist, and in ten days he will die.

Since Sumiko met up with him, all kinds of weird things started happening, like for example Sumiko floating in the air inside the physicist's office room. Then he fainted and didn't see what else happened.
After hearing this story Naoko gets up and pretends to rip the 300,000 yen cheque, which she in reality swaps with another paper as she steal the real money, and then she quickly makes her escape.

This is where Naoko's mother calls her and they have a chat (during which she lies a lot not to worry her mother). After the call, during the night, a huge earthquake goes down in the city. We also learn that there might be something more to Naoko's father's death than a mere accident, but it's not focused on what it could be.

The next day the detective officers from earlier visit the physicist as they want to know about whether earthquakes can be man-made. Earlier they'd happened to find a blood-stained corpse, after all. The victim was a former follower of Mother Izumi, which is why the detectives think someone might've killed the man even though it most likely was an accident. Then the floating mother Izumi appears in the physicist's room, and he immediately faints. After fainting he makes his way over to Naoko's place to get some urgent help against Mother Izumi, Big Mother, Kirishima Sumiko, and all of them together.

Naoko has a surprise visitor in physicist Ueda. She tells him to leave the house - but of course she still has the 300,000 yen cheque... or should have had, as she attempts to give it back to Ueda, he explains that the money has been used to pay her rent and she can only follow what he says now. For the attempt of stealing his cheque is a tough crime after all.


So, now we have our two main characters in place: Ueda Jirou, the physicist, and Naoko Yamada, the unsuccessful magician. The two of them make their way to the village where Big Mother is along with the people she'd brainwashed into believing that she has supernatural powers.
There are a good number of people who follow her teachings and believe of her to be some kind of god. 

Ueda and Naoko then join one of the meetings in which Big Mother will appear and supposedly read the minds of people. In this meeting which takes place during late night everyone has to write down their personal worries and wishes on a paper, which they will then put in an envelope. No one else will see the contents of the paper.
But as Big  Mother arrives she will take the envelopes one after one and seemingly knows their contents.

The moment where Naoko goes over the possible trick used by Big Mother is very nice, has this kind of original tense atmosphere to it with the weird soundtrack playing. This type of scene would be perfect for a murder case. We also get the explanation for the X-ray vision trick that Houdini figured out, but it's more thematically interesting to think about rather than logically.

And finally, the day has come for Big Mother to be exposed. Naoko gives her an envelope and asks her to figure out what she's thinking about. The episode ends with Big Mother claiming to have read her mind and another really jarring use of editing this show must be famous for. I didn't expect this plot to go to the next episode, so I guess it might be one of those overarching stories where one story leads to the next? I'm definitely interested in seeing more. Overall a pretty decent episode filled with all sorts of stuff from story to the characters and differend kinds of themes the show is presenting us. There was also some kind of foreshadowing for a future story as Naoko's father's death has some kind of mystery surrounding it that Naoko isn't aware of. Could he have been... murdered!?



There are two tricks in this episode: first one is the coin trick done by our main character Naoko as she tricked Ueda to believing she's able to pass objects through other objects, in this case a marked coin through a letter, without breaking anything. The answer to the trick is somewhat clever but not necessarily impressive. It just shows basics of what a magician can do and is a fine start for this show.

The main trick here is Big Mother cursing people to death and floating in air as well as being able to read through minds. The so-called "one ahead system" is really clever. But the truth behind Big Mother's schemes is revealed in the second episode. 

I must say the reason why Naoko and Jirou meet isn't what I was expecting. It's kind of ridiculous, and Jirou, despite being a great physicist, is the worse one off the two of them to try to figure out sham magicians. He just faints when he sees something hinting at supernatural and is pushed forward by supernatural threats. I must wonder if the "earthquake murder" was really an accident though as that's quite ridiculous as well.

The ending, Gekkō by Chihiro Onitsuka is one of the best ending songs I've ever heard. The art form used for representing the ending was quite interesting as well. Here's a beautiful cover of the song by kamegawa aky:






EPISODE TWO - BIG MOTHER


EPISODE TWO, Kabenuke, continues the battle against the Mother Izumi religion which was created by Kirishima Sumiko, an older woman called Big Mother by her numerous followers who believe she's some kind of priest with supernatural powers able to read minds, fly, and whatever else.


"By the honor of my late father and my pride as a magician,
I, Yamada Naoko, will expose Kirishima Sumiko's scam!"


Big Mother somehow manages to trick Naoko and Jirou once again by reading through an envelope that consists of a paper written by Naoko. Apparently Naoko's biggest worry - the thing she'd written on the paper - was that her chest is way too flat. Oh well, at least she has the looks. Big Mother then threatens that something would happen to someone close to Naoko, but it's unknown who. After the ritual praying stuff is over, our main characters are immediately forced to leave the building so that they can't investigate the place for possible trickery.

The scene then goes to some kind of Japanese school. A man  with a doctor's coat named Seta visits the elderly teacher to tell that "Kito-san's wife" had suddenly fallen ill. We learn that the teacher is actually the mother of Naoko, and Seta is a person who wants to be her lover. Seta tries to push Naoko's mother to call Naoko back home but without success. The scene with Naoko's mother ends abruptly as she looks at calligraphy left behind by her students as the rain starts to pour outside.

Elsewhere, Naoko and Jirou walk around the place with the ritualists. Naoko realizes that there are candles everywhere with smell going all around the place, and Jirou notices one of the followers of Mother Izumi carry large amounts of envelopes. These are clues towards the trick of how Big Mother
knows what's going down inside the envelopes.

Jirou is pretty cool in this scene as he figures out the method which Big Mother uses to see through these envelopes: it's some kind of alcoholic liquid that dries up fast and leaves no trace, but smells weird. But another problem arises from this, as Big Mother must've had some help from someone during the ritual. The method Momma used to pour the liquid on the envelope is supposedly a classic in magic tricks, a small jar in her sleeves.

Now, Jirou decides to visit Miwako-san, the daughter of that one guy who lost her son. One of Jirou's goals for coming to meet Big Mother (and his original goal) was to bring Miwako back home from the cultists and throughout this story Naoko and Jirou have attempted to make Miwako realize that Mother Izumi is merely a scam religion. However there is also something else binding Miwako to the cult: the fact that anyone who tries to leave, winds up dead.

Naoko tells Miwako to go talk with her deceased son whether he begrudges his mother, which is an interesting turn of events. Naoko asks Miwako to write on a paper and then put it in an envelope. Miwako then holds the envelope towards Naoko as Naoko holds her palm above the letter and says: "Nagashima Shigeyo", probably the name of the son. But here's the thing: she hasn't touched the letter at all, yet a supposed message from Miwako's son has appeared on the letter saying he's happy. But it's nothing but a trick with two envelopes.
So Naoko decides to punch Miwako and then they attempt to carry her out of the building. Rest of the crazy believers of Mother Izumi then attempt to stop their way, but, Jirou then starts to punch and kick them all and they all go to sleep. This scene where Jirou uses martial arts is really funny. I wasn't expecting that.

After taking care of the cult people our main characters carry Miwako to the car and they attempt to drive back home. Naoko tells Jirou to make more use of his skills as he's actually very strong physically. However Jirou starts to go over Bruce Lee's 85th thesis instead about "communication before the fist." Which is a cool ideology. Anyway, the cult starts to follow them and we get this car chase stuff going on.

Although Jirou is a great driver supposedly taught by none other than Schumaher himself, the escape trip stops quickly as his car runs out of gasoline. While Jiro keeps manically laughing about being able to run away. So now the three of them run away to the forest and ask for help from an older man. After getting in the house the crazy religionists start to hack on the door and the house owner threatens to shoot them up so they avoid getting in.

The man explains that throughout times many followers of Mother Izumi who have attempted to escape the cult have come to the house, and the man himself also hates the cult due to one of his close family members - his own son - being lured in by it. After returning to the house, the son mysteriously died all of a sudden.

Here we get another scene that greatly represents Trick as a series (S1E2, timestamp 22:50): Jirou gives a motivational speech to Miwako about not being afraid of any curses, even though he's also cursed to die in one-and-a-half-days. Jirou's speech is very cool, but Naoko's reaction towards him claiming he's not afraid of curses (despite fainting), is hilarious. Another hilarious thing is Miwako snoring extremely loudly.


Now, in the house, Naoko will try to prove Jirou one of her skills: she claims to be able to see whenever Jirou lies by looking at his eyes. Naoko gives Jirou a pack of normal playing cards and Jirou shuffles the pack quite throughroughly. Next, Naoko will turn the cards over one after another and makes Jirou look at each card. Naoko's plan is to look at the card and when Jirou looks at the card he'd gotten, Naoko will pick - and manages to pick - the right one. I've seen this trick before but I honestly can't remember the answer to it, but I know there are always times to "force" a card on the person the trick is being used on.

Eslewhere the cultists are surrounding the car of the two clown-like detectives while Naoko talks with her mother on the phone to warn her. Later, Miwako looks through the window to see Big Mother flying in the air and claim that Miwako will die this very night for trying to run away from the religion.
.
During the dinner Miwako is feeling threatened, and the two cops are visiting the cultists. I don't even know their names yet but this scene is hella funny: the investigators ask the cultists about the curse as supposedly people who try to leave the religion always seem to die, and the cultists say "yeah, that's right", the faces these cops make are freaking hilarious. I've laughed like five times already for the first two episodes.

Detective A: "Oh, by the way, I heard rumors that people who leave here die unhappily."
Crazy cultist: " Yes, that's right."


Reactions of Detective A (det. Tatsuya Ishihara) and Detective B (det. Yabe Kenzo) 

During night as Naoko and Jiro stand guard so that nothing happens to Miwako, Jiro figures out the trick Naoko used on him with the playing cards. We get a neat little explanation with high-paced piano that fits these mystery shows. I believe the explanation Jirou comes across is the right one but then he and Naoko play the game again and she figures the right card anyway, apparently through the reflection of Jirou's glasses... and she even claims that she'll be able to figure it out again even if he doesn't weak glasses. But there's not really any fair-play mystery going on here, this whole thing about the cards seems to be focusing on different kinds of magic trick methods, which are cool to learn about. Magic tricks are actually quite integral part of many good murder mysteries as well.

After playing a bit we get some humor but then Naoko all of a sudden stops talking (as she's behind a door, Jirou and Naoko talk while the door is closed). At the same time Naoko's mother wakes up and we get a flashback in which Naoko's magician father with his last breaths told Naoko's mother that people with real supernatural powers actually do exist. Then some kind of noises can be heard in or right outside the house.

Next morning, as sun shines, Naoko attempts to wake Miwako up, but she's not moving. Her pulse isn't there - she's dead. The two detectives then arrive at the scene in another hilarious fashion. These guys are gold.

So, now we have a scene where there's a dead body. As the detective on the scene handcuffs Naoko (she slept in the same room as the victim), they're alerted that poison was found on the corpse, and under her futon there was a vial of drugs. There was a note in her clothes saying she regretted escaping Mother Izumi so she did a suicide. The episode ends in a pretty anime way with Naoko forcing her way into the crime scene without permission to investigate the scene once more.
This was no suicide. Obviously Miwako was killed by the cult, but how did they do it? Also, what is going down with Naoko's mother? Is she in danger?


EPISODE THREE - FACE TO FACE


EPISODE THREE, Haha no shi, invites us back to this mysterious case in which anyone who tries to escape the Mother Izumi cult winds up dead. As Naoko slept next to Miwako in a closed space, Miwako still lost her life.
Naoko had suddenly fallen asleep. Miwako was asleep all the time. Jirou was outside of the room.
Now, in the room there's a water faucet that keeps dripping, as does the faucet outside the house. Naoko remembers back to yesterday as they had a dinner with pheasant broth. Inside the house there's a large photo of Big Mother. This causes Naoko to go and punch the guy they've been with as he's clearly part of the cult in reality. Naoko claims to have seen through the cult's tricks: they killed Miwako without entering the room after putting sleeping drugs on the broth Naoko and Miwako ate.

Jirou confirms that no one had entered the room during night, as Jirou was standing around back then, however, Miwako had left the room once during night while Jirou was, for some reason, doing push-ups next to the room. Miwako had gone to drink due to the pheasant broth's saltiness or something. The theory here is that the cultist had poisoned the water supply which caused her to die. Then after the corpse was found, the suicide note and poison vial were planted to the body by the old man who owns the house. The reason why the outside faucet was dripping earlier was apparently because the perps were cleaning the water supply out of the poison (though shouldn't there still be poison on the ground?).

Now, this means Naoko could've died as well. The detectives still assume it's actually a matter of suicide. This is when the cultists decide to "invite" Jirou and Naoko back to Mother Izumi.
At Big Mother's place, Naoko is offered a gamble: to put one of her fingers at stake if she wishes to doubt Big Mother's power still.

Big Mother tells Naoko to write a number on a piece of paper so that Mamma can't see it, and then Mamma will tell which number it is.
If Mamma is wrong, she'll lose all her authority in the religion, but if she's right, Naoko will give her index finger away - and her finger, if anything, is worth everything to a magician as that's one of the most important tools for magic tricks.

Naturally, our protagonist picks up this challenge. The entire room is filled with long papers of calligraphy, but otherwise everything looks seemingly normal. Mamma asks the number she'd written in the position of ones ("4") which is then shown carved on a piece of wood in front of Mamma. In the tens position Naoko had written "7", which is then also carved with white paint on another wooden plate that had been placed in front of Mamma.

As the cultists claim to now take Naoko's finger, Jirou starts laughing and then beating up everyone, the two attempt to escape but are quickly found.
At the same time the two clown-like detectives ponder what to do with the case where cultists die, and they notice a windmill which is used to draw up the "holy water" from a spring - it's the water that is drank by the cultists. The detectives then go hit the streets to eat lunch as the cultist kidnap Naoko and Jirou right behind them... the two of them are taken to the windmill.

Naoko manages to make the two of them get rid of the ropes that were used to tie them both with slight sleight of hand, and they manage to escape through some kind of slide that crosses the fields around the windmill area. The duo arrives back at Mother Izumi's ritual quarters to ponder about how Big Mother figured out the number Naoko had written earlier.

There's also been this slight sub-plot about Naoko knowing when Jirou lies, at first we went over Jirou's pupilsturning bigger and smaller, but that didn't end up being the case. Then we theorized about his fingers doing something whenever he lies. But now Jirou learns that his nose moves whenever he lies...

At the same time as Jirou is being dragged away to Big Mother, Naoki learns from the man whose house they had been hiding in (the one where Miwako died) that Big Mother has "foreseen" that Jirou will die soon - and it will be none other than Naoki who takes his life. But as the man keeps talking too much, a poisonous dart flies to his neck and he falls to the floor, dead.

Final Showdown

Naoki  goes face to face with the cultists & Big Mother, and Mamma shows her Jirou floating in the air in the background. Naoki explains that the whole thing about making anyone float and fly must be an age-old trick created by glass magic. The cultists then force Naoki to hold a shotgun and make a choice: if she really believes it is glass magic, then she has to shoot the gun. Will she shoot the gun or not?

After a long while thinking about it, she decides to pull the trigger. And lo' behold, it was nothing but glass and mirror. The whole thing got exposed as a scam and Big Mother and the cult basically now fall apart.

The explanation to this whole long story is quite emotional as Big Mother decides to take poison to kill herself and we get flashbacks to not only her past, but also Naoki's. Big Mother makes a pretty interesting reveal here: she actually does have a real superpower. She is able to read minds of people for real. She reveals that Naoki's father had been challenged to a duel and then killed by a person - a person who will kill Naoki one day. Their paths are fated to cross.
The ending to this story is quite melancholic as Big Mother's death doesn't stop the cultists from believing at all. Now that they've lost the person they believed in, things have basically gotten worse. Maybe one day some of them will realize they were crazy, and wrong, though.

So now that things have been dealt with, this whole thing comes to a close. Jirou carries Naoki from the village all the way to her home and they part ways in comedic ways. I wonder how the story will continue with the two of them though, as in how they'll be forced to work together once more.


This first story arc of Trick was kind of entertaining. It wasn't magnificent or anything but it made me laugh like five times. There are some clever explanations about magic tricks here. In general I can say that compared to these grander types of mystery stories in which there's a whole group of people to go up against, this was one of the better ones I've seen. Best part of the show is definitely our main characters, their personality comes off surprisingly strong. The weird directing of the show, and how the story moves a lot from place to place instead of being stuck in one place and time are also great. This makes the story much more entertaining and easy to watch rather than something that drags itself around monotonously. For cons I think some of the directing doesn't work at first as well as it could as it takes time to get used to the comedic and sort of jerky nature how the series is filmed and edited. I hope for something even more fair-play with the individual mysteries as well, but this was a solid start.


EPISODE FOUR - A NEW BEGINNING



THE FOURTH EPISODE, Murabito ga zenin kie ta, gives us a new arc and a new beginning. The narrator makes his appearance once more as we get another theme for the next story. The narrator explains that one of the biggest dreams for all magicians is to make massive objects disappear instantly. [This is actually quite true. Check out 'Penn & Teller: Off the Deep End, in which our magicians Penn and Teller make a submarine vanish underwater.]
We get to see drawings of large buildings; towers, pyramids, temples. Apparently the dream to go big started in the 1970s as a magician named Robert Cullman made Eiffel Tower disappear. He'd set up audience seats before the Eiffel tower and a large group of people'd arrived, although they were sure it'd be a poor man's trick.
Cullman used a curtain that was pulled up between two iron poles, so that the audience couldn't see the tower. It was up for but an instant before being dropped down, and once that was done, the tower was gone. The audience was flabbergasted.

The narrator explains to us that since the trick of making Eiffel tower disappear, magicians all around the world have made all sorts of large objects from airplanes to the Rainbow Bridge disappear - the trick to pull this off is apparently psychological, but we are asked the questions: but is that really all there is to these types of tricks that allow magicians to make large objects vanish? 

 We move to a scene with policemen and a group of people running around the woods in a village in the middle of a night, trying to find something, while panicking. All of them group together as a weird noise echoes around the woods and they notice something very shocking - but the thing that they see is not shown to the watcher yet!

The scene transitions to the two clown cops from the earlier story as they're doing seemingly random things at a sushi bar or something. Maybe a stakeout.. or not. Anyway, Naoko Yamada is now working there as a waitress, taking orders and stuff like that. She gets stuck with the detectives and we get a bit of comedic scenes as the detectives try to trick Yamada but fail miserably.

Next, Jirou Ueda, our physicist (& pro driver & martial artist &...) meets up with one officer by the name of Ootsuki, and the Chief of Public Safety, Itou Kimiyasu, whom the detectives earlier with Naoko accidentally pranked. The public safety department has come across a mysterious incident in which a village by the name of Houmengo had mysteriously disappeared overnight. All the people in the village, gone and vanished without a trace.

Three days prior a resident cop had been switched. The old one retired and the new one, Maeda, took the spot. That day when Maeda arrived, he'd called Ootsuki. He'd said the village was odd as there was no one there. Then he called again to tell that the village was cursed. As Maeda arrived back to the Police Department, he was completely nerve wrecked, and is still unable to work.

The public safety then did a large-scale search with no avail. So that's why they'd come to the physicist, Jirou, for possible hints towards answering this hard mystery. At first Ueda doesn't care a bit about the case, but then he warms up to it.. somehow.. and decides to meet up with the nerve-wrecked constable Maeda to get some information.

Because the case this time is kind of hard and magical, Jirou heads right over to Naoko's place once more. The relationship between these two characters is really weird, they seem to hate each other but still are able to work together somehow - at least have proper conversations in between the banter.
Although Naoko tells Jirou to dip, he piques Naoko's interest by asking whether or not she wants to see a person with real supernatural powers: Miracle Mitsui. Apparently the policeman had seen Mitsui in the village where everyone had disappeared. Mitsui had made large objects vanish.

Apparently one day Mitsui had awoken with spiritual powers, the ability to make absolutely anything from objects to concepts disappear. Be it stone statues, pain, diseases, or debt. Mitsui has some kind of hatred towards the village for exposing his tricks as a magician, and had once said that he can send things to another dimensions, an invisible world.

Another hilarious part happens in this episode where the head of public security tells Jirou how now that Jirou told them he'd go to the village, the nerve-wrecked officer Maeda "really felt like coming". But at the same time Maeda is screaming how he's afraid of going as the other cops are forcing him to go.
We also finally get introduced to Yabe, the dark-haired detective from the earlier story, who'll be part of the investigation squad. Funny guy.

The story gets quite intriguing as our squad arrives at a bridge - the only road that leads to the village. Yabe drops everyone else off at the bridge and he himself decides to dip and drive elsewhere. After arriving at the village, our main squad notices that there is literally no one. The village is filled with weird stone statues. The apartments are empty and kind of messy. But we do see someone watching at the two from afar.
At the woods there's a ritual site in the form of a woman's belly, and a little girl in white robes standing nearby. Although Naoko tries to talk to her, she manages to flee and disappear.

Back at the village the people come across Miracle Mitsui, dressed up in a weird get-up all of a sudden. Mitsui shows our MC's a video which he'd showed to scientists in the past. In the video he makes a car disappear. The explanation to this trick is clever enough, as it changes settings but isn't about manipulating the video itself.
 After angering Miracle Mitsui, the man decides to make officer Maeda vanish as well, but not just him, but also all records of his past and him ever existing.
Our two clown detectives then investigate Maeda's data but all of it has gone missing from the files.

Long story short, now detective Yabe is now part of the squad at the village. That night Jirou decides to go to the village while others are sleeping. He finds some kind of pamphlet with symbols, such as a flower, and writing behind it. Then he hears something odd and sees something like mechanical parts in dim light. Then he faints. As he's scared of magical things a bit too much.
But next morning detective Yabe and Naoko find a cassette tape on the futon. The tape contains a video made by Miracle Matsui, and in there, Jirou has been tied to a chair while unconscious as Matsui claims that he'll make a human body part disappear.

Matsui puts a box above Jirou's head and does some kinds of movements. Then he opens up a small door that's on the box and we'll see that Jirou is missing his head completely. Kanao explains that it's just a magic trick with a slanted mirror, so there's nothing to worry, however after opening a closet door, a body with Jirou's clothes but without a head falls on the floor...



EPISODE FIVE - MYSTERY OF MIRACLE MATSUI


EPISODE FIVE, Mura ga kie ta... kaiketsu-hen, continues from where the last one left off as detective Yabe and magician Naoko decide to flee the scene and the village of Houmengo after a supposed corpse with a missing head and the clothes that Jirou wore, appears. But their escape trip is cut extremely short as something really odd happens: the only road out of the small island the village is on, usually has a long bridge connecting the island to the mainland. However this time the long bridge has vanished into thin air. So now there is seemingly to way off the island.


Naoko starts to question whether the decapitated body was actually Jirou's. The detective and magician return to the village where they find the same scroll Jirou had found. What did the physicist want to find?

In the woods Yabe and Naoko run to Miracle Matsui once again and Naoko challenges Matsui to a duel in which she will make objects disappear. Matsui seems very unwilling to battle someone seemingly so beneath him but alas, Kanao forces a card on him from a deck, knows that it's ace of spades, then Matsui puts it back on the deck. Kanao manages to make the card disappear from the deck and appear in Matsui's pocket.

But this is very lame according to Matsui, so he decides to show them "real magic" by making the ritual site in the woods disappear. After doing that, Matsui tells Kanao that he'll make her vanish as well, to which she tells him is impossible. Next thing Kanao knows is that Matsui throws a cape over her, and she's all alone in the woods all of a sudden. Kanao then finds the little girl in white robes nearby who tells Kanao that she can't be found or she'll be killed.

So, now Kanao heads yet again back to the village and comes across the real Jirou, head on his body and all. Jirou explains that he'd found a scroll with a picture of a mother carrying a young child. Then we get some kind of theory talk about a calamity regarding this picture and a flashback to how Jirou was saved, apparently by some woman who might have some answers. But as the woman is missing now, Jirou and Naoko start pondering what to do.

This village has some pretty interesting backstory to it that we learn from Jirou. It has to do with a girl child that gets sacrificed, and then probably she is reborn in someone else only to be sacrificed again and again.
Our MC's run to the woman who saved Jirou in the middle of the night but she disappears again after saying she wants to tell something to outsiders, something about her sin.

Now things are falling back: we learn the grand scale misdirection done by Miracle Matsui to fake the disappearance of the bridge. Back at the village, the mystery about the headless corpse gets revealed for the most part. As does the mysterious stone structure in the woods that Matsui made disappear.

Last stretch
After revealing the truths one after another, 21 people of the village surround Jirou and Naoko. It gets revealer that 300 tears prior the villagers killed a child of a criminal, and since then the village has been killing young girls every 25 years to "avoid calamities". There has been a body swap trick with the cop Maeda when he arrived to the village. Maeda came across present year's sacrificial ritual and was murdered by the villagers who then went missing as if they were made to vanish by Miracle Mitsui.
In reality every time something's made to vanish, the villagers have been helping Mitsui, but only to use him.

The woman who helped Jirou tried to expose the village's secrets so he's also going to get sacrificed... but Jirou then starts to use his martial arts to try to put on a show, however he's not able to fight against guns. Even detective Yabe is now here, as a sacrificial pawn.

Jirou, Naoko, and Yabe are put into an underground temple where lava flows along with poisonous gas filling the room, however something happens as the group disappears from inside and appears outside, as if a real miracle had happened.
The woman who helped Jirou reveals that she's the mother of the little girl who was supposed to be saacrificed and who caused the death of officer Maeda.

In the village a fire alarm starts to ring as Miracle Matsui stands on top of a watchtower and suddenly jumps down, killing himself. Before he dies in Naoko's arms he claims to know the existence of a real esper, but we don't know or get to hear who it could be.



This second story arc of Trick is a mixed bag. It's actually a very proper murder mystery story in comparison to the first, with quite a few classic tricks being used here - I didn't even expect some of them even though they make logical sense to the story, but there were quite a few things that could've been handled better. Miracle Matsui in particular was handled disappointingly. I think the explanations and wrap-up for this kind of village story was just kind of too quick. The explanations themselves were fine but the characters weren't really handled well at all. Like the little girl, the victim, Matsui, the mother, the villagers, everything feels so open-ended. Even Matsui's motivations for being there and helping just wasn't fleshed out enough. I also had a problem with how much back-and-forth running around the woods and the village there was here.
Other than that, this arc had some very decent mysteries to tell. Started decently, fell off a bit, then picked up, then ended very rushedly, so the ending wasn't really up to par compared to the first arc. Hoping for the next arc to be at least as good as this one though.


EPISODE SIX - VOODOO DOLL


"To kill a person you hate, put a stake through a strawdoll to a temple's sacred tree at 2 A.M. This is an ancient belief.

Right after World War II, a doll with the name of a farmer husband's mistress was staked to a sacred tree in Akita prefecture, and the farmer's wife was arrested for using a curse to murder.

The prosecutor stated that she wished her dead, but the court declared that there was no relation between the curse and the murder. Eventually the charges were dropped. That's when the law acknowledged you can't hold a person accountable for killing with curses."


The beginning narration of episode six, Shunkan idô satsujin no himitsu, quoted above, sets up this story where a man is driving late in the night and a truck happens to drive on the wrong side of the road right at him. The man manages to barely dodge the truck with his car, but ends up driving to a sideway and ends up seemingly dying in a burning car. The people in the truck come outside and

Our protagonist Yamada Naoko gets a letter from her mother Hitomi in a rather comedic fashion (as she thinks the person bringing the letter is not a mailman). We don't get to see what the letter contains, but the mother has been acting quite anxious throughout the episodes so far, which raises questions. Naoko then heads to Japan's University of Technology to meet up with Jirou Ueda. Jirou shows her the photo of three girls he's somehow "compatible with" as he keeps drinking liters of milk one after another. This moment is pretty funny as well with some gray-dark humor.

Detective Yabe makes his appearance along with his blonde sidekick. They invite a woman in the room that Jirou really shows personal interest with. The detective says she's supposedly named Kurosaka Miyuki, a woman who has a quirk of saying english words out loud as well. The detectives ask Jirou to come outside to talk about her. I really had a laugh when detective Yabe started messing with Naoko's hair as she was trying to come outside to listen to the talk about this new woman named Miyuki.

Outside the room, the detectives explain that Miyuki has explained that she can kill people with her spiritual ability. She's asked the police to take her in to witness her ability. Thus the detectives want Jirou to keep up with her.

In the room, Miyuki explains to Naoko that she's going to kill three people with her ability. At the same time we get this damn hilarious explanation from Jirou and the detectives:

Jirou: "She's confined at Point A. And she's going to kill a person at Point B using her spiritual ability?"
Det. Yabe: "Seems like it."
Jirou: "Impossible."
Det. Yabe: "Indeed. We can't waste our citizens' taxes on such nonsense."

So, things end up in a way where Jirou ends up asking Naoko to stay the night with him as he keeps a watch over Miyuki and her supposed power to kill three people from afar. Jirou and Naoko head to Jirou's "secret private lab" in the school. But the so-called lab ends up being like an empty interrogation room or something.


So this episode began with Jirou having hots for this supernatural killer Miyuki but now that the time for the night is upon us Jirou explains that his current stance is to deny the existence of all supernatural or spiritual abilities as any phenomena can be explained with science. Miyuki counters this stance by explaining that only people who don't understand the supernatural don't acknowledge it. Perhaps ignorance is bliss?

Jirou asks Miyuki to show an example of her spiritual powers without killing anyone. This is also a pretty funny moment again and I noticed that Naoko's now the one drinking lots of milk instead of Jirou. Anyway, to give Jirou an example of her spiritual powers, Miyuki makes Jirou clinch his fist as she sprinkles cigarette ash on it. Miyuki explains that she can turn images in her head into reality. Then she does some mumbo jumbo expressions and tells Jirou that inside his gripped fist, there's now ash. Jirou opens his hand and alas, indeed, ash there is.

Naoko however immediately gives a very sound logical explanation to this trick with how Miyuki managed to transfer the ash inside the palm. Miyuki gets up and immediately starts to say that now he's going to kill a "hateful man" named Umeki Ryuuichi. She claims to be able to strangle the man. Then she does explains that she has a belt in her hands as she starts making strangling gestures. After the gestures stop she tells Jirou and Naoko to "search below the cliff" nearby to find out the truth.

Jirou heads to the cliff in the middle of the night with a pretty crappy flashlight. The second spot Jirou is looking at is basically similar looking to the Raiha Pass in Detective Conan, the curvy road and the night setting really make it stick out. Then, when Jirou sees the strangled corpse he immediately faints in that original Trick-style quick and comedic transition shots that are easy to miss.

So, the corpse this time is indeed of Umeki Ryuuichi. He was killed on the cliff and then thrown off. What's crazy is that his time of death was also about an hour prior, at ten o' clock at night. We flashback to the moment where she used the strangulation trick and see a clock that shows exactly ten o' clock. Investigators also find a belt at the scene of the crime. What makes things crazier is that the victim was grabbing hair as well as the fingerprints on the belt both happen to be from Miyuki.

Now it's time to find clues towards this trick that Miyuki pulled. At the cliffy roads Raiha Pass place Naoko remembers her mother's letter - apparently she's heading to the city tomorrow to meet her and have a calliography show. Then when Naoko sees a passing truck, she realizes the truth behind the trick. What does a driving truck prove about the death a strangled person...?

The trick?

Naoko starts to theorize about the truth she claims to have found out. She explains that Miyuki had called the victim to a place only a minute away from the room where she was being watched where she'd had killed the victim and from where she managed to transport the victim to below the cliff. Basically:

A) Naoko and Jirou were watching over her as she was claiming to be able to kill people with spiritual powers.
B) She does the act where she claims to be killing the victim with a belt in the room.
C) She tells them to go check the nearby cliff (about 2,5 km away) to see the body. But before that both Naoko and Jirou leave the room to do rock-paper-scissors for couple of minutes to choose who goes and who watches over Miyuki.
D) Miyuki hurried nearby to where the victim was apparently waiting for her as she'd called him as Jiro and Naoko weren't in the room to watch her. The vic was smoking as she used the belt to strangle him.
E) After doing the deed, Miyuki threw the victim on top of a truck that had conveniently been parked down below.
F) The truck headed for the dump and the victim fell from top of it and flew down the cliff about 2½ kilometers away. The body apparently fell during a curve on the road.

Miyuki then gives bunch of counterarguments which boil down to Naoko's theory all being bunch of coincidences. The body could've fallen at any point, let alone how would it be possible for her to expect that there was a truck for sure. And there was no need for both Naoko and Jirou to leave the room to give Miyuki a chance as one of them could've stayed behind. Also how could she have called the victim when she didn't know of Jirou's "secret lab" and where it would be.


The second murder


As Naoko claims that spiritual powers still aren't real, Miyuki begins her second spiritual demonstration. She claims that she has a knife in her hand this time, invisible to others of course. She claims that the blade is about 20 cm long as she grabs it. The lights in the room get messed up and she does the stabbing motion, but then something crazy happens as a splatter of liquid that looks like blood starts being sprayed on Miyuki in the empty room. Then she does the stabbing motion countless times. At the end the lights begin to calm down.

It's five o'clock as Miyuki claims to have stabbed another man, Takeshita Fumio, 41, to death. The episode ends with a man walking near a river in the city with a knife in his chest as he falls down, scaring people nearby. Our main characters get a call from detective Yabe and they confirm Fumio's death, time of death and murder method to be exactly as Miyuki claimed them to be.


EPISODE SEVEN - SUPERNATURAL MURDERS


The previous episode introduced us to Miyuki Kurosaka who claims to have the power to kill people with the supernatural. She already seemingly took two lives: one victim was strangled and thrown down a cliff and the second victim was stabbed to death. Miyuki seemingly always gives away the time of death, the identity of the vic along with the murder weapon itself to try to prove that she's the one killing these people - however, as long as she does the deed with the power of the supernatural, she's not going to get convicted of anything and science doesn't acknowledge these mysterious powers she claims to have.

EPISODE SEVEN, Enkaku satsujin igai na torikku, begins with Naoko and Jirou pondering about how in the world Miyuki could kill the second person who was stabbed. Naoko heads home to get change of clothes to Miyuki who is completely bloodied up - or at least completely in red liquid. As Naoko tries to find something for Miyuki to put on, she recalls her father's last words. When she was very young, Naoko's father told her that magic doesn't actually exist, so she shouldn't get fooled by it. However in his death bed her father told her mother that people with spiritual powers actually do exist in this world. The people who have died so far in this series also said that same - for example Miracle Matsui claimed that he knew someone that actually possessed such power.

As we see Naoko's mother head over to Tokyo, we learn from the detectives that the blood that mysteriously sprayed over her clothes in the empty room actually was from the victim himself. Naoko then arrives to where Jirou is and starts to now theorise that someone must've done the real murders as substitute for Miyuki.

Later on Miyuki claims to leave as the detectives don't have a warrant for her but Naoko claims that she'll just go plant the seeds for the next murder. Naoko wants her to kill the final victim right on the spot. Surprisingly enough Miyuki agrees and starts doing her act again. She crouches and claims that in her hand she now has an iron pipe that she'll use to kill a man named Matsui Kazuhiko. As she begins her swing Jirou grabs her hands and stops her mid-swing. After doing that Miyuki leaves and promises to kill the person the next time they they're there as witnesses.

Naoko then remembers that her mother's soon in Tokyo so she asks Jirou for a favor: pretend that Jirou's quite grand home is hers instead as she's lied to her mother about how good her living spasce is in Tokyo (in reality Naoko's apartment doesn't even have a shower). Sooo, now Naoko's mother is in Jirou's house. It's quite hilarious to see Jirou walk around almost naked while Naoko tries to hide his existence to her mother. But that moment is soon over as Jirou claims to have seen through the trick of Miyuki as he watches his favourite TV show... the trick must be twins. But Naoko and Jirou feel embarassed to even ask Miyuki as it's such a bad done-to-death cliche in the magc industry.

Funnily enough, it ends up being true. The fact that Miyuki does have a twin sister, that is. This time however Miyuki asks her sister and her to be watched over as she kills the next person: Matsui Kazuhiko. However detective Yabe has already contacted Kazuhiko and asked him to call the detective if any danger approaches. Miyuki doesn't care much about that and then begins her next act while she and her sister are being watched.

Her act this time is to pick up an invisible rifle and shoot the next victim! This happens at the same time as the victim calls detective Yabe. The phone call ends up being recorded.


It doesn't take long for the MPD to find the shot-dead corpse. The performance this time also happened at the same time as the time of death. How did Miyuki do it if she and her twin sister were being watched?

Naoko listens to the record of the phone call where the victim asks for forgiveness and hears a timer-like sound at 2.45 PM. A rather weird time to set a timer.

Naoko and Jirou head to the victim's apartment where the body was found and investigate the place to see a catfish in a tank. The catfish apparently has a feeding timer set up at 1.00 PM, and coincidentally enough, the timer gives the same sound as what was on the phone.

So now it's time to gather the culprit - Miyuki and her sister, and explain what the trick was. In this explanation there's a psychological aspect to the trick as to how the perpetrator could assume the best time to kill the victim: the culprit - Miyuki - overheard that Jirou would be watching the TV show which has twins, so Miyuki killed the last victim at 1.00 PM and waited for Jirou to contact her to confirm the twin theory. Quite dangerous assumption for sure. It does make sense but feels kind of rushed of an explanation.

After the trick got exposed, Miyuki's twin sister explains that twelve years ago those three men they killed murdered their father. They basically give themselves up now. Miyuki's sister then claims that she killed all three of them, and then she starts spitting out blood. It seems that Miyuki took her twin sister's trust in her for granted, then killed her by poisoning as she started claiming she did all three of the murders (even though Miyuki logically could've killed the last one by shooting at 1.00 PM). Miyuki claims her sister killed herself because she wanted to repent... Did the perp this time get away with murder?

At the end of this story Naoko goes home and notices her her mother's letter on the table. But how did her mother know of her real apartment when she took her mother to Jirou's apartment to pretend that much grander house was hers?


This third story arc of Trick was alright. The comedy in episode six was some of the best in the series as there was so much of it, but the story itself was mostly about a rather bland supernatural killer. Miyuki herself did not have the presence of Miracle Matsui or Mother Izumi from the first two arcs and there wasn't really anything too grand that could blow your mind, they even said the twin-trick was terrible in the show itself, basically parodying themselves along with all other cliche mystery series that use that type of tricks while they were at it. 

The most annoying part is definitely the story-bait of Naoko's mother feeling something ominous and doing ominous things and always remembering the last words of Naoko's father (about how people with superpowers apparently actually do exist). That ominous aspect has no substance to it so far and is kind of cringeworthy as it just keeps reminding that there is an overarching concept of trying to find if people that have special abilities actually do exist (as the story is also about exposing people that claim to have powers).


EPISODE EIGHT - PSYCHIC POWERS

The beginning narration on episode eight, Senrigan no otoko, this time takes us to the year 43 of the Meiji era of Japan, a time during which a woman named Chizuko, who could pinpoint sources of diseases with clairvoyance, lived. The mystery of whether or not Chizuko's powers were real is still open-ended and apparently some people are willing to pay huge sums to those who research her legacy.

In present time, someone is knocking on Naoko's window in the middle of the night. Then, someone with a flame in their hands starts to talk about it being "cold". Naoko goes to see who's out there talking about cold, and sees a person with a ghost robe on him. This makes Naoko faint in the hallway, and she's awoken by a mailman and the landlady the next morning...

 The landlady wants Naoko to join 'Randon Surprising People Contest' as a magician to get a chance to win free tickets to a spa for the landlady herself. 

At the contest Jirou has also arrived there to do a rather stupid trick that impresses no one. After bunch of participants clowning themselves, Naoko gets on the stage as a user of the 'Zombie Ball'. She's also doing preeetty pathetically however, but the jumps in cuts and jerky edits make this scene stand out quite a lot.

Anyway, after Naoko, the 'clairvoyant' arrives and claims to be able to show real supernatural power. The clairvoyant somehow manages to 'see' any numbers written on a paper while being blindfolded. It doesn't take long for Naoko to realize the speaker of the contest is in on it and using code language to mention the numbers.

This entire fourth story arc of Trick was merely one episode (45 minutes) long in length, but it was suprisingly decent. The story focused on exposing the swindler psychic by exposing his different fraudulent methods that he uses to trick people into believing he actually can 'see' anything. The last trick used japanese language to catch the perp in similar ways that's also been used in Detective Conan. Some don't really like those type of misdirection tricks to catch the villain of the story, but I think it was handled with enough care here. The ending of the episode was pretty quick but well handled as well here as a young child asks the swindler psychic if he'll ever be healed (as the boy is unable to walk) and the psychic tells the boy that his dream will never come true. Pretty powerful but needed a bit more of time to get the full impact of it as the episode immediately ends after that scene. I think the author was expecting us to think about how some things are better left unknown as the truth can hurt more than the lie.


EPISODE NINE - BACK TO THE BEGINNING

EPISODE NINE, Chichi o koroshita shinhan'nin, begins the last story arc of season one of this Japanese TV series called Trick (2000-). According to the narrator (who seems to always begin each story arc), in Okinawa, there are women called Yuta. These women let themselves be possessed by spirits and convey their words. In other words, they are 'shamans'. I'm sure many already know that shamans are said to exist all around the world, and their legacy is tied into curing sicknesses and stopping calamities. So, the last story arc of TRICK is tied to this concept.
By the way, this concept of Yuta is tied to the spiritualism aspect we are familiar to in the Ace Attorney game series where the spirit mediums summon and talk to the dead - especially in Trials and Tribulations (AA3) and Spirit of Justice (AA6).

The episode kicks off with a man dressed in animal fur (a shaman's usual gear in fiction and nonfiction) claiming that every 120 years, something called a messenger of god, a 'Shinikami', comes from the Eastern seas to begin a calamity - the dead will rise to bring judgment upon humanity. The shaman orders other villagers to 'bring back the woman who abandoned this island'.

In Tokyo, Jirou and Naoko talk about weird plants - drugs - that exist on a specific island that could be used to trick people into believing in spiritualism and magic. Drugs to show hallucinations and maybe even make people fall in love. Something that Jirou accidentally happens to drink...

Later in the evening back at Naoko's home, as Naoko for some reason practises turtle race with her miniature turtles, a shocking phone call happens where the person on the other end of the line was none other than her late father, or at least someone with his voice. The person tells Naoko that he's nearby and will knock on her door three times. Once the knock happens, Naoko notices no one out there, but we as viewers see a person with Naoko's father's face. 

The next morning Naoko gets a letter that's given to her by the landlady. It's from a person who claims to 'know Naoko's future'. The sender claims to have psychic powers. The letter claims to know of things that will happen 'today' which is a day after the letter was sent.

The first thing the letter predicts is that an explosion will happen in Hatsuda. Right as Naoko reads that portion of the letter, nearby people shout out about an explosion in Hatsuda. The second thing the letter predicts is that Naoko will meet a 'great man who will bring her a surprising future'. Naoko decides to track down the letter's sender and happens to meet two men. Naoko quickly realizes that the date and address was faked, which was why they knew of the accident (since it had already happened). 

But the men actually had a special motive for luring Naoko out: they want her to visit a place named Kokumon Island, south of Tokyo. That very island was the place where her mother was born. The men tell Naoko that she and her mother need to 'repent for the things Naoko's mother did on the island'. So, the woman who 'abandoned the island' seems to be Naoko's mother.

As Naoko doesn't know what the men mean by 'repenting for her mother's deeds' on Kokumon Island, the men tell her to go and ask her mother about it instead. The men claim to wait for Naoko in the same apartment, but she tells them that she's never coming back. However they claim to know who killed Naoko's father... and once Naoko asks them if they were behind the prank the other night (during which a person called her, claiming to be her father), the men get shocked and start talking about the 'Shikigami' who brings destruction. 

Talking on the phone with her mother doesn't lead to much so Naoko asks the detectives and Jirou to investigate the Kokumon Island and her father's death for her.

At the police department, Naoko learns that her father Yamada Kouzo died in year 59 of the Shouwa era of Japan, on July 23rd, while practicing an underwater escape from a glass box. It's a simplistic trick that shouldn't have been hard for Naoko's father to pull off. Before leaving the police dep., Naoko rips couple of pages off the files that investigated her father's death.

After getting back home, Naoko once again gets a call from the person claiming to be her late father. The man asks Naoko to take out the card deck her father gave to her as a child, to take out a card from the deck and focus on it. Naoko pulls up a spade card with the number three on it. The person guesses the number exactly right. Naoko leaves the house and starts looking for the person as they must be nearby to see the card, but once she seemingly finds her father, he disappears. After getting back home again, she meets Jirou in the building.

Jirou explains that something weird is happening on the Pokemon--- sorry, Kokumon, Island, and to the island itself. All the plants on the island are withering away, and walls of rock have begun to crumble and sink into the sea. It's almost as if the island itself is dying. Even though scientists have visited the island to investigate this unnatural phenomena, but there have been no scientific answers. 

A long time ago there used to be a priestess who had dipped out of the island and due to that, had caused anger in the islands spirits.

At night, Naoko theorizes that the two men he'd met in the empty apartment before must've been the ones who folded the three of spades card in her deck when she visited them the last time. The next morning she decides to visit the men again to ask about her mother's history on the island. 

Apparently Naoko's mother had a husband chosen for her on the isand but she decided to flee the island and look for her own happiness instead. The two men ask her if she knows of a concept called Kaminuri, which is about how the island's priestess has to marry and stay on the island.

The two men want Naoko to return to the island in her mothers stead to join a ritual to marry a man and bear as many children as possible. There are a lot of foreign phrases here like the ritual, the sea monster, the priestess, etc. The bloodline of the priestess is known as 'Kaminuri' as well.

As Naoko goes to meet her mother again in I believe the Nagano prefecture we get these pretty atmospheric melancholic soundtracks playing in the back as Naoko's mother Hitomi explains how she and Naoko's father escaped from the island.

Then we get a surprise reveal from Naoko: she theorizes that her father was murdered by the people who stole the key to the underwater prison. Someone had taken the key that he used for the lock to escape the box during training.
Outside her mother's apartment there is a shack that Naoko isn't allowed to open, so she decides to head into it the next night. 

In the shack, there's Naoko's old magic box that was given to her by her father. But... once she opens the box, the key to her father's underwater prison is inside of her old trick box... just after she finished saying the killer must have the key.
Naoko realizes that she'd stolen the key and decides to go home. And then she basically goes crazy. 

The next morning she goes to Jirou's place. The last five minutes of this episode is a bit emotional with Naoko telling Jirou to not go after spiritualists anymore and then she even says goodbye to him. At the end of the episode we get a reveal that the 'Shinikami' will appear in three days to destroy the island and Naoko ends up deciding to be the spiritualist to save it as she goes to the dying Kokumon island in her mother's stead.

EPISODE TEN - DIALECT

Episode number ten, Shinhan'nin wa omaeda! !, wraps up the first season of Trick. Naoko learned that she has the blood of spiritualist known as Kaminuri flowing in her veins and she's invited to Kokumon Island to stop the island from dying. The main problem's here are that a mysterious power from the seas known as Shinikami is going to appear and cause calamities in three days' time, and the only way to stop it is for the person with the priestess's blood to return to the island and marry some guy there, apparently. 

Naoko first declined returning to the island, but something huge happened as she realized that she'd most likely caused her own father's death. This causes Naoko to leave for the island and say goodbye to his new friend, Jirou Ueda.

As Naoko enters the island, her vision starts to get messed up. Jirou wants to head to the island to bring her back but Naoko's mother is against it as then the people on the island would be against it.

The ritual ceremony on the island is filled with a lot of grey to dark humor but it's also quite beautifully directed. We even get to hear Gekko, the ending song of the series, play during it like how many anime series have the first opening of the series play in the last episode.

The ceremony of Kokumon Island consists of Naoko getting married to this older man with a beer belly, apparently. Naoko decides to not go through it after all and to make a flee for it. Then, he comes across Jirou who has arrived on the island to get her back to Tokyo. But before that Jirou decides to check out the village which leads him to come face to face with the villagers of Kokumon Island, but also Naoko's mother who's apparently the final obstacle here.

Naoko's mother, Hitomi, tells Jirou to pick one of five spoons as she decides to show Jirou some magic with bending metal with her mind. The trick is rather simple, but why's she on the villagers' side?

In this episode, Naoko and Jirou attempt to leave the island, and then with some help they manage to dip, but then they decide to come back.. only to find the dead corpse of the person who helped them escape. And the villagers who killed them attempt to frame the two for his death on top of that. Rest of the episode however focuses on figuring out the meaning between these weird concepts and ideas such as the Shikigami.

It's all tied to the special dialect of the island. I doubt many people can really figure this 'trick' out, but these different names the villagers have given to things are transformed from normal Japanese words. I personally don't understand any of it, but there seem to be proper clueing towards the solution when we look at what the villagers are saying and try to decipher their meaning. 

In the bottom of all of this, there is a story about an ancient pirate treasure that ends up being not that surprising in the end, I think. The treasure appears for three hours once every 120 years as the sea goes down from the gravity position of the Earth and the moon. Quite a grand idea.

 At the end of the final episode, there's a surprise appearance - by none other than Chihiro Onitsuka, the singer of the ending song "Gekko". She sings the ending song one last time while Jirou and Naoko fool around in the backgrounds on the beach of the island that's about to sink under the sea.

This fifth and final story arc of Trick's first season was quite entertaining. When it comes to bags of tricks for detective fiction fans to figure out, there weren't too many, and the biggest one required knowledge of dialects. However the plotting was quite decent for the most part and took us places. This story shared many similarities with the first story arc as well as our main characters went up against villagers there too. I think they could have focused more on explaining how they killed Naoko's father, though, as that was the biggest overarching aspect of the story, but it was left rather unfocused. Naoko's mother also did a lot of weird things in the backgrounds like prayed in a ritual to the seas which was forgotten after the scene was shown. 

The atmosphere was quite strong in this one. It had some funny moments but not as many or as impressive as the earlier stories. The comedy mostly came from the directing and weird shaking camera shots. But with these words, I'm finally done watching Trick season one. 

It actually looks like the island that Jirou and Naoko are on is really going to the depths in real life as well, hopefully they didn't have to swim away...

RATING THE STORY ARCS OF TRICK SEASON ONE

Trick (2000) has five story arcs that I went through pretty throroughly so I decided to rank them as follows:

5) The third story arc about a woman named Miyuki who announced she was going to kill three men with spiritual powers. There were good aspects to this story but I don't think the journey to the ending and the ending itself flow together as well as they could. It's just Twins! All of these stories have bunch of little things to them luckily that allow us to figure some parts of the story out.

4) The second story arc about Miracle Matsui. This arc was kind of mixed bag of goodies. The grand trick of making an entire bridge disappear is always very welcome, but otherwise the general plotting was very haphazard. Our main characters ran back and to the village and the jungle like seven times in a row without accomplishing much. The ending was kind of original since Matsui seemed to believe he really could do magic. Some of the illusions were decent.

 3) The fifth story arc, in other words the final story. There weren't that many things for us to figure out but the atmosphere was on point and the director and camera team did a great job. Was kind of disappointed we didn't get more on Naoko's father, however. 

2) The fourth story arc about a swindler psychic. This one was merely one episode long but it had everything you'd want from the story and characters: comedy, some serious parts, decent tricks to figure out one after another. Pacing was good and it was just entertaining episode in its own right.

1) The first story arc that introduces us to Jirou and Naoko who went up against Big Mother and the Mother Izumi religion. The comedy was hilarious here as well. The tricks for the viewer to figure out were basic magic tricks, but that's alright. The camera work really pulled through here. I think the thing I liked most was how the story moved to places here. It didn't try to be a too proper detective fiction story with locked room murders and all that, but it did manage to be a pretty good story in its own right.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tantei Gakuen Q / Detective School Q Volume 8 (F57-64) Review

In the previous volume of Tantei Gakuen Q, two of our Q Class members - Ryu Amakusa and Minami Megumi - happened to get a mission to infiltrate a high school institution meant for the most intelligent as the Dan Detective School got wind of rumours being spread on the internet about an unknown "Collector" who collects snuff films, in other words video tapes in which a real murder is being committed. Almost the entirety of the previous volume - Volume 7 - aside from the first two chapters was spent on this case in which Ryuu & Meg attempt to identify the Collector's true identity. But as they do that, couple of bodies start to drop while getting filmed. The culprit is basically creating a snuff film setting to trick the characters into looking at the time of death which are present on the videos. 

In previous volume's review I mentioned how although this case has some nice serious tension to it at the time when the first murder was committed, it didn't feel like there was much going on, most of what's happened has been kind of uninteresting and uneventful. The only interesting thing's been the culprit's hinted connection to the criminal organization Pluto which sells murder plans to clients for a great price (though even that dream was crushed by the end of this case. Spoiler: there is no connection to Pluto even though the perp knew the duo was from DDS and somehow knew to break Megu's wristwatch when the perp kidnapped her...).
So far, the case is alright but literally could've been trimmed in half and I wouldn't notice.


Volume 8 continues the Murder Collector Case with the explanations of who the culprit is and how they managed to trick the "time" which was taped on the videos to get themselves an alibi (obviously the culprit killed the victim at different point in time in reality as we've been constantly hinted at). We get the revelation of the culprit from a slip-up that no culprit would really make, and the main trick used to create the fake alibi with the taped murder was something I already knew of because I could swear I've seen this exact same trick before. The trick consists of knowing about the existence of a certain type of hidden material that has no actually proper foreshadowing in this case aside from subtle circumstantial evidence that still won't make one aware of the existence of such material, so it's not really that good of a twist either. While I didn't 100% suspect the real culprit, he was my most likely suspect of the bunch so I'm not shocked to learn of their true identity... but this slip of the tongue the culprit made to get cornered is quite disappointing. It's one of those things that sometimes are slip-ups and sometimes aren't as there was a transitional time jump to that moment where the characters were gathered when the slip-up happened, so the reader won't know if it's a slip-up or not for sure as we won't know for sure what they talked about, but we have to think about it and then realize what our main characters logically could have said to pin-point the fallacy in the culprit's words. Which is more work than most people're willing to put into working out a case as the translations of a foreign series could be terrible.

There is a somewhat nice twist relating to motives at the very end of this case. The motive for the first murder is quite basic at first but gets revealed to be a massive misunderstanding caused by the anonymity which internet offers to us, while the motive for the second murder is 50/50 as it's quite coincidental but I do like how it has to do with just murdering a person who figured out the truth in order for the culprit to hide their identity, rather than just killing everyone because of a tragic past. Although looking back it does feel like the twist for the first motive might've been pulled out of a hat, but at least it works to give an extra punch related to the theme of internet anonymity that this case presented us.
It's odd though as the case ends in a way where the culprit had zero connection to the criminal organization Pluto, even though that was sort of hinted at as a reason Megumi was kidnapped during this case again. I guess it's whever.

After the mysteries've been solved the Q Class returns back to DDS where they get introduced to a new character, a transfer student who is on the level of the best of DDS. The new Q Class member to attempt to become the heir to the legendary detective Dan Morihiko, Tooya Kuniko, who is actually a case-only character from the 'Collector' murder case. Previously Kuniko was a timid and shy personality who went over a complete make-over in a way that she's not even recognizable anymore. She'd come to DDS because of a strong crush towards Ryuu. The case ends in a comedic note as we move on to the next story...


Mystery of the Home Economics Classroom Case

We are almost 60 chapters into this series filled with tense adventures about the Q Class of Dan Detective School. Just before the end of previous case in which Tooya Kuniko joined the Q Class, the class had only five members who all aim to become the successor to the legendary detective Dan Morihiko. These five members are our main characters; the protagonist Kyuu, the trusty and physically strong side-kick Kintarou (Kinta), the semi love-interest Megumi (Meg), the antagonistic but not really Ryuu and the nerdy Kazuma. Or that's how it was supposed to be but hasn't actually been as although Kazuma is part of the big five (apparently now big six due to Kuniko joining) amateur detectives of the Q Class, he hasn't had any screentime whatsoever. In the beginning of this series, in the very first volume, he was introduced as this rich-brat heir to some company. Kazuma is a genius inventor who uses his computer to find important data to solve cases... but so far he hasn't actually really been useful, nor have his gadgets. I was intrigued at first about him because he was kind of an asshat for talking about murders as if they were a game, but that interest has long since dissipated.
Kazuma's solved no cases, but that would be O.K. as neither did Kinta until just two volumes ago, but there's a bigger problem relating to Kazuma than that: he's the only one out of the five who's not even been a useful part of any crime solving up to this point. He's failed constantly at everything due to needing his computer, and his moments have amounted to like two panels of looking through the net for information that we could've got via other means. He's been freaking irrelevant.

If we look at the archetypes our main cast of characters has been created through, we can see that it's actually like a group of Beyblade characters down to a T. I could swear that Kazuma was created just to fill in the nerdy computer-using slot for the main cast with the treatment he's gotten from the authors...

So, when I saw this next story, the Mystery of the Home Economics Classroom, begin with the focus on Kazuma and his middle school life, I knew I could finally at least breathe a sigh of relief for the first time regarding this character.

This case is about Kazuma's middle school class.  Although Kazuma is known as an overconfident and annoying kid as he loves to show-off his family's wealth and his own intellect, he does have his weaknesses. For example we learn that he has sort of crush towards the homeroom teacher Tachikawa Hitomi (23) and seems to does what she asks of him, such as telling others in the class where the next class is being held. Hitomi herself is new in the school  (she wears short skirts etc. to school as well...) and thus has problems working along with her seniors, such as the bossy music teacher Ebe Kyouko (29). And since Hitomi's young and new as a teacher there are other teachers who flirt with her such as the science teacher Iwadome Morihito (32).

Kazuma's middle school
The lectures at Dan Detective School sometimes overlap with the lectures our middle school student main characters have in their normal schools. You see, the DDS students go to two schools at the same time, so their schedules sure are busy. But as DDS takes priority, Kazuma is one of those characters who skip class in middle school and head to DDS. Not this time though. In fact, it's the complete opposite in general what happens in this case: As our main cast are waiting for he class to start at DDS, it gets cancelled as new serious cases came up suddenly so the homeroom teacher Hongou also has to head over there to solve cases. Kazuma stayed until middle school was over and even finished cleaning up on the 6th period because of his crush towards teacher Hitomi, so it's time to hurry towards DDS as he's late and doesn't know that the DDS class is cancelled. But before that, Kazuma heads to his classroom to get his phone he forgot behind (he also hopes that Hitomi-sensei is in the classroom as well). On his way to the class we get to see some kind of sixth sense type of stuff from Kazuma as he feels something weird after opens the door to the classroom in which the lights are still on.

In the room, a microwave seems to be on or at least contain some items, while Hitomi-sensei is on the ground in pain with a poisoned dart on her leg. Hitomi was sitting on her bench as she was hit by the dart that assumedly came from a blowgun that the vice principal brought to the school after visiting an amazon tribe for folklore investigation. The blowgun had been put in-between a closed door and the wall. It doesn't take long for Kazuma to analyze that the poison is quite lethal, but that doesn't matter as it's time to confront the culprit as a member of DDS - there is nowhere the perp could have escaped to other than the kitchen or the home economics classroom... but obviously the perp is nowhere to be seen and Kazuma has to use his authority as a DDS student with a DDS notebook to order the teachers to call the police as he preserves the crime scene and attempts to solve the crime that also includes a legend of a moving object in the classroom.

This is actually another short two-chapter case. It's technically a 'who-of-the-three', but pinpointing the criminal by thinking of how relevant (or more like irrelevant) the other suspects are to the case is surprisingly easy. The case has this atmosphere of a proper mystery, and although I guessed the form of the trick that was used here with the blowgun and the dart... I wished the trick which, while a great as an idea, was used better. The way the culprit pulled this murder attempt off really does feel kind of haphazard - it feels like it could be taken straight from scooby doo..
However! I do think this case is considerably better than Kintarou's case which was before the previous case. Kinta's case also had a silly answer to it but this case feels more fleshed out despite both being just as long. This Kazuma's case just has the air of a more classic mystery... and most importantly the ending was Amazing. I knew it would happen yet still I loved it as a character moment. This is the case Kazuma deserved to shine, to get to act like a hero in his own way. It's in clear contrast with the type of character Kazuma is. [I listened to a fitting Persona 5 song while reading this moment as well.]


Let's Board the Alibi Train! Case

This time around we have an inverted case where we see the culprit in action.
Kinta and Kyuu are on a mission. They got a request from Dan Detective School to meet up with a client on a train. As the duo spends a lot of their time talking about food, eating and bickering, they get introduced to Minazuki Kaori (32) who works as a picture book author who doesn't have pure intentions as we learn that her aim is to steal either Kinta's or Kyu's contact information in one-hour's time before the train arrives at Toyatori terminal. We learn that Kyu used to read a lot of her books in his younger, like pre-school, days. The woman then starts to pretend that she gets a call and has to leave and asks the duo to keep watching over her bags as her call is going to "take a long while".

After leaving the room she sprints out of the train on the nearest station and hops on a car she'd prepared there (as she claims to have rehearsed this event numerous times so that it will work). Then, she meets up with a man named Taga Kenji (30), the Otowa Editorial's member who got a fake threatening letter from Kaori claiming that she will crush Kenji in the place of all the new authors he's destroyed. Kaori had asked Kenji to meet up with her in the middle of nowhere. As Kenji tries to say something to Kaori she pulls out a kitchen knife and stabs him in the stomach... all because Kenji had dumped her in place of Kaori's assistant and because he'd called her drawings "old-fashioned"!

As Kaori had finished the deed she heads over to the next train station, to hop back on the train where Kyuu and Kinta are watching over her bags. With 40 minutes left she thinks believes that the rest'll be smooth sailing, however, the tunnel she must drive through is blocked by a fallen rock. If she can't use that tunnel, she'd never make it in time for the train. But she stillbarely manages to make it while driving and running at full speed. Her perfect alibi deed is now successful, the only thing she needs are the addresses of her so-called witnesses, our main characters' addresses, that is. So! It's time for us to see Kinta and Kyuu figure out she'd even left the train let alone killed anyone.

By sudden whims of fate we learn that the client of  Kinta and Kyu was actually the person Kaori had just killed, and what's worse the duo sees that the client's photo is on Kaori's mobile phone, and even that turns worse as blood stains got splattered on an envelope Kaori has due to the victim touching it right before he fell to the ground. But no problem as she's an artist she quickly manages to draw over the blood splatters to hide evidence.
As Dan Morihiko caught up on the client's death mere 15 minutes after he was murdered, Dan calls Kyuu & Kinta to tell them to head over to the crime scene and figure out who the perp is, however that doesn't seem to be necessary as Kyuu seems to have already figured out who the murderer is somehow at the end of chapter 62. Chapter 63 on the other hand focuses on how Kyuu and Kinta manage to trick the perp to expose herself.

The case is fine. It's obviously a filler case but manages to be entertaining enough. It does a really good job at being a solid inverted murder mystery meant to waste time and be forgotten right after. While there are no big twists or anything here, the case also doesn't fall on its own stupidity by having a ridiculous answer to the main trick. In that sense this case is more solid than the other two-chapter cases we've had in the past few volumes (Kinta's Case & Kazuma's Case), however, this case also didn't really try to flesh out our main characters nor did it have anything memorable to it.
This whole thing about our main duo going to the train, meeting up with the culprit, us seeing the inverted murder and the culprit managing to pull off the alibi & Kyuu realizing who the culprit is, all happened in one mere chapter. Safe to say this might be the most eventful chapter in the series so far. There have been chapters like some of the first few Q vs. A deduction battles where we had like two deduction battles in a single chapter. Those were really condensed as well. I'm impressed. Interestingly enough we learn here that Kyuu's father had passed away when our protagonist was but a lad.


The Beauty Trio, Crisis!

Volume 8 ends conclusively this time (in other words there is no story that continues over to volume 9). We have a case at a girls-only high school, which obviously means that any males who go to investigate are going to be called out as perverts. But worry not, as the perfect fix for this problem is the beauty trio heading out: Megumi of Q Class, Yukihira of A Class and our new Q Class member Tooya Kuniko reporting for duty! (Reminder that Kuniko joined DDS at the end of Murder Collector case due to her crush on Ryu.)
Just like the previous case, this one-chapter quick short story is also train-themed.

 Meg and Yukihira have conflicting personalities and Kuniko is completely antisocial which causes problems in their team spirit. But on their way to the high school the trio meets up with a challenge they must face against together as on the train trip a pervert molester attacks Kuniko (who doesn't want to tell anyone she's being attacked due to her personality). Anyway, Megumi managed to catch that the man has a green shirt and a watch on his right hand. Megumi even remembers how the man in his suit looked like from behind. The girls then manage to pinpoint one man who could've been the perp and take him to the police station to be questioned, however the crux of the issue here is to prove that this man traveled on the train when Kuniko was being molested, as the man offers a different kind of solution (and by that I mean, he has a trick to claim he's innocent). The case is over very quickly however and through it we learn that Kuniko's father's an aikido martial arts master and she's also been training aikido enough to one-shot adult males if she so wishes, despite her timid personality telling a different story. Don't judge a book by its cover.

This case was just ok. I wasn't really interested in trying to remember anything about this case. It does do an okay job at using visual clues to let the reader figure at least parts of the alibi trick the culprit pulled off, but other than that it's a very short filler story focusing on the three girls of Dan Detective School.


Last rites

 Not a bad volume to say the least. While there was nothing that jaw dropping here, I felt that 'solid' is the best word for I can come up with. The volume began with the last three chapters of the Murder Collector case which told us a story about a supposed snuff video creator and the case also utilized internet to create motives. It was a creepy story with tense atmosphere (though not as tense as Kamikakushi Village Murder Case), and the answer to the alibi trick was decent, however it was too long of a case for its own good in my honest opinion.  
Home Economics Classroom Case or in other words Kazuma's Case had a lazy/dumb answer to its main trick, but it also had a really great ending to it and rest of the case actually felt properly crafted as a short story. It's the first time Kazuma was actually relevant to a case, and here he actually got to completely solve a case by himself and act as a hero in his own way.
Alibi Train case told us an inverted story with a murderer trying to make it by using the train and its passengers to create an alibi by leaving and boarding the train at different stations. It was a properly crafted filler story (as in it didn't show us anything new about the overarching story or its characters) that however didn't have the same impactful ending that Kazuma's case had.
The Beauty Trio case also had the theme on trains and its schedules but was a much shorter story meant to show-off our main three girls together as they expose a molester on a train. It was an okay filler story.