“The Cursed Man, Part 1”
A Two-Part Mystery, Including the Audience:
For the first time, Sakurako-san is breaking the episodic routine and bringing the audience into the yet-to-be-solved mystery. I was expecting this season to cover twelve unrelated stories, but as it turns out we’re already getting a two-part mystery – though I don’t actually know if it will be two, three, or four parts, but my assumption right now is two. As a result, this episode was all set-up, but it was good set-up that has me excited for what’s to come. Because we’re given twice the time with this current case, we don’t need to rush through the details or have Sakurako come to an early conclusion without the audience being able to ponder on the clues. This time around, we, the audience, are given snippets of information – some key, some likely red herrings – to encourage us to get involved in this mystery and actually make us think. Episodic stories like the previous three are fine when done well, but when mysteries carry over into multiple episodes it often ends up feeling like there’s a lot more substance to what’s going on, and that’s just what happened in this week’s episode.
What We Know:
There’s a few details I’d like to cover about this curse mystery, but first off I’d like to point out how relieved I am that Sakurako’s recycled concentration mode was left out this week. There wasn’t a time for it to be inserted, but its absence was enough for me to enjoy this episode a hell of a lot more. It’s a little nitpick, in truth, but what seemed cool the first time around has become an annoyance. However, I do expect it to return next week when Sakurako does her thing.
It’s good that this current case is involving newly introduced characters, places, and themes. This feels a lot different from the previous three that tended to focus mainly on Shoutarou, Sakurako, and a dead body. However, like the others, this one does tie to another existing cast member, the local police officer, Utsumi. He’s a bit of a goof, but likeable enough, and his contrast from Sakurako and Shoutarou makes for an entertaining dynamic. But it’s Fujioka Takeshi (Hirakawa Daisuke), his wife, and Hector, their allegedly cursed dog who are our main focus here.
The premise is a simple yet morbid one: the men in Takeshi’s family are said to be cursed, all having died relatively young. Takeshi is now of the age where he expects to bite the bullet, and believes that his death is approaching. That’s when Sakurako and Shoutarou are brought in, and they – and we, the audience – start to familiarise with Takeshi’s lush home, his surroundings, his habits, and what he believes is going to happen. Of course, Sakurako is skeptical of curses, and for most of the episode she silently watches, most likely to apply logic to this bizarre situation. Part of me was worried that we’d be delving into the supernatural from this point on, but I’m confident that Sakurako will continue to solve these mysteries with logic and reason.
I can’t say I know what exactly is going on, but there’s a few details worth pointing out, some key, some minor. First off, Takeshi is certainly up to something. I’m not sure he entirely believes in all these curses, or whether that stranger that stood outside his home and met him on the road is involved in this. His family before him seemed to have died from legitimate, albeit rare, circumstances, but I can’t help feel there’s something murderous going on here. Is it possible he’s physically ill, or is it just his smoking habit that’s causing the cough? But apparently the curses don’t end with the family line, as both Hector and a yet-to-be-seen landscape painting are said to be cursed. Sakurako bring up the painting at the end of the episode, which means it’s likely to play a role in what’s going on here, but as for the deaths caused by the pleasant, glowing dog… I just don’t know. It’s all so bizarre that it’s hard for me to apply reason to this situation. Thankfully, that’s what Sakurako is here for. This is the first time where I’m actually looking forward to hearing her deductions and seeing if she can get to the bottom of this. The clues are all there, so hopefully the resolution should appear more obvious in hindsight. That’s what makes a good mystery for me – when the hints are there, and the answer can be worked out if you piece them together, but you can’t quite envision the final picture until it’s finally revealed. Anything that’s too obvious isn’t fun to watch, as is the case when the details aren’t shown and the audience is never given the opportunity to figure it out for themselves.
Overview – What’s Next?:
I don’t know how this is all going to turn out, but I’m excited to see the answers to the questions brought up. Hopefully these curses are proven as circumstances, or that there is something intentional going on behind the scenes. It’s bound to involve the painting and the dog – whether they were scapegoats or not is yet to be seen, but I’m grateful that we’ve got an extra week to mull over this mystery before Sakurako works her magic. But now that I think about it, where do bones come into play here? Other than the butterflies in the living room painting (which are apparently drawn to corpses) there was no hint of dead bodies in this week’s episode. I expect all shall be revealed next time around.