We all know by now that I’m a sucker for atmospheric mystery shows, even if the basic premises behind them are… um… unlikely. I guess all the “unlikely detectives” and “impossible mysteries” of the Golden Age trained me to ignore mere narrow naturalism.
So it’s probably no surprise that I’m a sucker for The Strange Casefiles of Ryoko Yakushiji.
The show is apparently adapted from a long-running but seldom-appearing series of novels by the author of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Sohryuden, and Heroic Legend of Arslan. Unlike these sprawling epics set in strange worlds, The Strange Casefiles of Ryoko Yakushiji is set in modern-day Tokyo.
The narrator/Watson is Junichiro Izumida, a hardworking, kindly assistant inspector (keibuho) of the Tokyo police. He’s been assigned to a new unit of the Tokyo police that deals with inexplicable crimes and incidents. Unfortunately, he didn’t go to the right college so he’s not a “career bureaucrat”. Superintendent (keishi) Ryoko Yakushiji did; so even though she’s much younger than him and he supervised her when she was an intern, she’s now his boss.
His annoying boss. His irresponsible boss. His boss who sexually harasses him (because she won’t just come out and say she’s got a crush on him). His boss who solves cases in mysterious ways, treads on the powerful, and uncovers strange supernatural occurrences that everyone else is ignoring or being paid off to ignore.
Ryoko (aka O-Ryo) doesn’t get away with all this just because she went to the right school. She’s also insanely rich, and the heir to a security company which employs a lot of police bureaucrats after they retire. So nobody wants to reprimand her, lest they lose their revolving door. If that wasn’t enough, she also has access to background information on prominent people and doesn’t hesitate to use it.
(So picture Lord Peter Wimsey as heir to Boeing, working for the Air Force in the Pentagon, crossed with Colonel Genghis John Boyd, except he’s investigating the X-Files and…. um… Doesn’t work, does it? Okay, ignore that part.)
The show spends a lot of time on the humor of the situation of a detective whom nobody can rein in, and on the serious Japanese national problem of government and business and Yakuza all being happy little corrupt bedfellows. (Yes, we do plenty of it too, but honestly, the extent of this stuff in Japanese society is mindboggling.) O-Ryo is always outrageous but usually right, and she constantly bets her life on her deductions. But it’s also strongly implied that behind the brash facade, she is practically suicidal. (Which is how you’re supposed to feel, of course, when you break the conventions of Japanese society all the time.)
Meanwhile, O-Ryo and Junichiro end up battling a lot of odd people and things. Most of the problems are caused by humans doing something they shouldn’t, usually with a big glob of misappropriated government and/or corporate cash. The feel is something like an episode of The X-Files in which a whole lot of trouble on the Metro occurred because some guy at the Library of Congress got himself a grant to study the Necronomicon, under the guise of doing a children’s literature promotion. (So maybe it’s more like Bones and NCIS meets The X-Files and The West Wing?)
The monsters and dangers tend to have a native Japanese flavor to them, which makes them very interesting. Some of the ideas are really horrifying, at a gut level; others are almost more wonder than horror. It’s an interestingly mixed bag.
So anyway, cool creepy stuff happens. Watch and enjoy (except for the sexual harassment theme, which is stupid).
Oh, and the opening credits are stupid and derivative. Skip them. The real show starts about 01:30.