Jdrama Review: I Love Tokyo Legend – Kawaii Detective
Yes, a Japanese drama binge to go hand-in-hand with my Chinese/Taiwanese drama binging of late. Why? Hard to say. Japanese dramas were my gateway to dramaland and thus what I always fall back on. Chinese dramas have their own little charm as well. So weird that I’m not regularly following any Korean dramas of late.
I Love Tokyo Legend – Kawaii Detective aka Toshi Densetsu no Onna follows a young detective who is obsessed with proving that mysterious crimes might actually be due to urban legends. She’s a far cry from your typical detective with her short skirts and and brightly colored clothes. She also shows inappropriate happiness when believing a crime is proof of a legend.
I chose to watch Tohai because the plot sounded vaguely interesting and I watched Akagi due to its similarities with Tohai because I enjoyed that drama much more than I thought I would. I can’t really say why I dived into this drama. I do love detective dramas usually, but I remember when this drama was airing, the overall plot did not interest me.
Overall, I enjoyed this drama. There are shortcomings to be sure…the entire second season for instance…but the drama was interesting, especially when learning about Japanese urban legends vs. what I know as American or Western urban legends. The acting was not bad and the cast was made up of some awesome actors like Masato Ibu, Utsui Ken, Mizobata Junpei, Takenaka Naoto, and Hirayama Hiroyuki. I have apparently seen Nagasawa Masami (our leading lady) before, but I guess I hadn’t seen enough of her to be a fan. Well, I’m definitely interested in watching more of her dramas and movies now.
Obviously being a detective drama, everything is serial in nature. One episode is devoted to a single crime and a single legend. There does appear to be an undercurrent of something else going on throughout the drama as well, but it’s never covered in enough details, just pieces here and there. Otonashi Tsukiko was spirited away by a tengu when she was a child and she has no memory from the period of time she was missing. She has some mysterious connection to Take Shigeharu [Masato Ibu] the police chief or something to that effect. Their relationship is never explained. Neither is her connection to Utsui Ken’s character of Oguri Ryotaro. There is definitely a story there…just like there is a story about Haruki-kun [I guess voiced by Odagiri Joe] whom she always talks about.
Her having experienced this as a child is what makes her so interested in proving the existence of urban legends. Otonashi ends up in Tokyo assigned to Tannai Ichio’s [Takenaka Naoto] team which is looked down upon by other detectives due to their recent bad luck with cases. Even though she is dead set on investigating the truth to the legends behind the crimes, Otonashi ultimately proves that it is not a legend, but humans perpetrating the crimes. There are a few episodes here and there where the supernatural really is present, but it’s never outright done.
Helping her with her urban legend case investigations is Katsuura Hiroto [Mizobata Junpei]. I’ve never seen Mizobata playing such a character before. He’s got extreme OCD and is constantly straitening up crime scenes when he’s supposed to be gathering evidence. He doesn’t really believe in urban legends, but since he falls hard for Otonashi at first sight, he’s constantly by her side and helping her. Although Otonashi only has one man in mind – the mysterious Haruki whom we never see. All you have are phone calls or cryptic messages.The biggest fault with the first season is that so much does go unexplained. I really want to know just what it is about Otonashi that makes her so special [she’s kind of got a sixth sense] and why Oguri and Take are always watching over her. We also never fully get to hear the story of her past. Her little sister [played by Akizuki Narumi] states that Haruki is Otonashi’s ex, but then in the next breath acts as if she’s never personally met him. There has to be something more to the story, but the audience is never privvy to just what that is and that’s frustrating.
Even more frustrating is the second season. Otonashi comes back from the FBI to lead a special investigation unit created by Take to investigate urban legends. While there was definitely comedy in the first season, there was a heavier focus and things could be a little scary at times. The second season went for straight up comedy and there wasn’t as much suspense. It was definitely lackluster and just added up more and more to things that were never properly covered or explained. With the ending of the second season, it’s frustrating. Haruki has never made his appearance and Otonashi is again overseas for a new investigation.
It is interesting to note that Otonashi is not a damsel in distress. She takes care of herself even without all of Katsuura’s help. She’s very open about using her looks to further her investigations. She’s open and very confident in her looks and techniques. Should she be using her looks as an investigation tool? I can hear feminists screaming in protest. I’m not 100% certain I mind her using that since she does also use her brain and investigates herself. If they had made her only capable of solving crimes by feminine wiles alone, I probably would not have watched both seasons of this drama.
A drama does not need romance, but since this drama introduced Katsuura as a potential love interest and he’s so loyal and nice to Otonashi, it’s a shame that the relationship goes nowhere. But, even though there are some pretty sad drawbacks, learning of the Japanese urban legends and seeing the great dynamics between Otonashi and Katsuura definitely make up for them. I would like an SP or third season to put a nice finish on things, but I won’t hold my breath since it’s been 2 years since the last season finished. It’s not impossible to have another one after several years, just less likely.