Akatsuka Detective Agency stands inconspicuously at Shimo Akatsuka in Tokyo’s Itabashi ward, right above a small snack shop run by their landlord. Akatsuka's eccentric chief Kaze Kaoru founded it with her two investigators Goro and Gure in order to take on odd cases that others are reluctant to do anything about. Their motto is "to be compassionate and meddlesome", which leads them to get involved in strange situations with their clients. Sometimesthey're motivated by the potential to sell a sensational story to the press, but sometimes they end up working pro bono. They may be rough around the edges and always a little short on rent, but they always find a creative solution by diving into the mystery with their hearts even when they aren't sure if they'll succeed. They're joined by the Ranko, who first comes to them as a client, and other friends they meet along the way.
Cast & Credits
I never read the manga, so I'm not sure how many story arcs were based on it, but the script was tight and had that perfect blend of (light) black humor, pop culture wit (and tons of riffing off old detective shows), parody and physical comedy to go along with sympathetic characters, intrigue, and heartwarming moments...which to me is a perfect sum of why this genre is such a pleasure to watch! I tend to be a poor judge of how much Japanese humor translates, but I think even people who don't catch all the cultural references (some are a bit subtle) would find the characters and situations entertaining.
The cases were diverse and unique, no matter how standard they were, thanks to the great characters and acting. The stories had heart, and were a really fun range, from family situations to a 50-year-old cold case, to matchmaking, to treasure hunting, to starring in a slapdash "hero show" play for kids. You won't see street fights or too many dead bodies (there are some, however!), but each case has just enough mystery to be compelling in itself, beyond the already compelling character and relational arcs. While it's episodic, as usual there is a definite progression that makes the whole season feel very satisfying and complete, even if you don't know all the characters' backgrounds and there's no unifying thread. Still, you can't help but want more when you get the end! And happily, it seems like there's going to be a season 2, which is a huge detective show triumph! Really hope it happens.
As for the actors, you can't go wrong with Eita and Morita Go, who are both hilarious in their roles as quirky partners who both characterize the agency's motto—to be "compassionate and meddlesome." They had great relational and chemistry with Yamaguchi Tomoko as their boss, who I wasn't familiar with and was surprised to find out how few roles she's taken over the past decades. While her character is the typical smart, tough-yet-caring, independent middle aged single female boss (and I must say, I always love those characters), her zanyness is refreshing (she's always nursing some new drink, treats her employees like bros). She has major flair, and Yamaguchi pulls off her character perfectly.
Fukuda Kyoko's character...not so much. She almost always had on one of two botoxy kawaii-puzzled expressions, and her general over-selfconscious aren't-I-pretty aura made it hard for me to warm up to her somewhat generic and distracting character. I've liked her in a few roles that forced her to be a little more complex (e.g. Second Love), but she tends to not have much range, and in that sense I think this was a casting error even if her character is a stock one. The contrast is just too stark, especially when someone with flair like Aoi Yu comes onto the scene and her interaction with Eita's character is just oh so interesting-fun that you wish she was a main character! However, eventually Ranko-chan becomes more useful to the team even if she's more of a foil, and I stopped being annoyed as the other characters somehow made her seem cooler. Nearly all the supporting and guest actors did fabulous jobs, and I felt each episode got better and better.
I loved the music, which was one of my favorite detective show jazz soundtracks next to Take Five...thanks to RADWIMPS (eclectic band that is great with soundtracks)...and make sure you watch the end credits each time...especially in the last episode. Too fun. Even though I rarely rewatch dramas—and especially not anything mystery-related—I'll probably rewatch this one sometime in the future as it's such a feel-good drama. It definitely will go on my list of favorites!