「巡りあうオパール」 (Meguri au opaaru)
“Opal of Encounters”
Housekishou Richard-shi no Nazo Kantei isn’t setting the world on fire but it’s distinctive, smart, and at times genuinely moving. There’s nothing else airing that’s telling these sorts of stories, and I enjoy the fact that the drama is of the everyday human kind rather than magical realism or sci-fi. I wouldn’t want every series to be like this one but by cracky, it’s nice to have one that is on every schedule (and I wish we did). That’s what an effective change-of-pace is really all about.
Indeed, I really only have one complaint with this episode and that’s the totally unrealistic coincidence that kicks off the gem story of the week. Not just that Seigi would run into his old karate sempai after talking about him and expressing a wish to see him, but immediately (and I do mean immediately) after Richard predicted it would happen. Unless we really are in the speculative fiction realm and Richard is an esper in addition to being possessed of Siddharta-like good looks and serenity (and knowledge), that required more suspension of disbelief than I’m prepared to extend without a demerit going on the ledger.
However, that sort of stumble kind of exists in a vacuum, since it doesn’t directly despoil anything that comes after. And that was all good, sometimes very good. The sempai in question is Hase Keigo (Takeuchi Eiji), the “King of Destruction” who Seigi admired for always standing up for him during their karate days (when Seigi was a middle schooler). The two literally bump into each other on the street (just after Richard’s prediction) and immediately start reminiscing about the old days, a conversation which eventually extends to a local yakitori joint over a grill and a few mugs of beer.
The thing is, you know, Seigi really is quite a goober. He’s a busybody, as Richard notes. He has no sense of decorum and doesn’t know when to shut up. And while we’ve only seen him apply it to Richard and Hase-san, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other objects of hero worship in-between, as Seigi seems addicted to it. He’s not a bad guy by any means and I feel sorry for him more than I dislike him, but if I was forced to interact with him every day I’d surely find him annoying as all get-out. As indeed Richard and Keigo do sometimes…
The story Hase tells at the restaurant isn’t a happy one – he’s been forced to quit college to support his family – and while we don’t know it at first it’s full of lies. When he shows up at Richard’s with a fire opal he wants to sell, spouting Seigi’s story from the premiere exactly as his kouhai related it to him, it’s clear Hase-san has a strained relationship with integrity. Seigi overhears that lie but chooses not (or simply can’t) reveal himself. The fall of a hero is well underway, and it’s striking how childlike Seigi is here. And pretty much all the time, in fact – he’s a man-child generally speaking, too innocent for his own good and lacking any sense of propriety.
For all that, Seigi seems to understand what the whole “hero of justice” thing is – a mask, an overcompensation for personal insecurity and an overpowered desire to please. It’s truly sad to see his relationship with Hase splinter because we know how much it meant to Seigi, and how badly he hurts when his bubble of fantasy is damaged by reality. It’s only too fitting that it’s a Miyazawa Kenji story (Kai-no-hi) that forms the spine of Hase’s, because no writer’s works seems more imbued with a sense of loss than his. In the end Keigo does the right thing – but when he says he can no longer bear to look at Seigi’s face after that, I can’t help but sympathize – that look would depress the hell out of me too.
Richard knows all of Seigi’s faults, obviously, but he chooses not to judge, and to see the goodness in him anyway. Everything Richard does is composed and inferential (he’s more Japanese than most Japanese people in that way), but to follow Seigi in his car (a tasteful and stylish roadster, naturally) and rescue him from the rain and his despair was an act of considerable human kindness. And Seigi’s comment about wishing he could send a box of cakes to the drunks responsible for his meeting reflects the fact that he understands just how much that means.