Last year's award winning forensic mystery drama18 April, 2013 by Chad
There’s really nothing particularly wrong with Kagi no Kakatta Heya. Last year’s take on what must seem like the necessary yearly forensics crime mystery offering, the show features an all-star cast and an even more spectacular list of guests. But somehow manages to leave the viewer feeling somewhat, empty.
Kagi no Kakatta Heya (鍵のかかった部屋), literally The Locked Room (though changed to The Locked Room Murders in English) stars Arashi’s Ohno Satoshi (Maou), Toda Erika (BOSS, Code Blue, LIAR GAME) and Sato Koichi (Pride, Suppli). As the name suggests, the show focuses on the three solving various locked room cases.
The drama is based off the series of novels and short stories by Kishi Yusuke, which in turn may have been inspired by Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy from the 1980s. The show follows a episodic format so the various stories have been scattered in no particular order. The result though, is that there is very little, if any real overarching plot for Kagi no Kakatta Heya.
As is common with Japanese forensics stories, Ohno plays the story’s “genius”, solving cases with his keen sense of observation and his knowledge of security systems. While no fault of himself, Ohno’s character is shown to be a mysterious, eccentric character with an obsession for unlocking puzzles. He even barricades himself in a similarly cluttered basement to Fukuyama Masaharu. Ohno does a good job of portraying the role but the character itself is as generic as it gets. The shows actors are no strangers to mystery dramas, though Toda seems to be especially familiar with them. A lawyer, she approaches Ohno each episode to assist with a new locked room case.
There are many parallels between Kagi no Kakatta Heya and the classic Trick series. Kagi no Kakatta Heya borrows cinema elements used in Trick to create an uncomfortably strange atmosphere in each episode and all of the show’s characters are not without quirks of their own. The main characters are all well likeable, which makes it a waste that none of them are developed beyond the first episode.
The show also attempts to involve viewers directly in the mystery solving each episode. Balancing this right can be difficult. So often, mystery shows fall at extreme ends. Some mystery dramas stretch it too far from reality that they seem ridiculous, while others like Mr. Brain treat viewers as if they were idiots, explaining every simple action in unnecessary detail. Kagi no Kakatta no Heya greatest strength is that it strikes a pretty good balance. In most episodes at least, viewers are presented with all the clues they need to solve each mystery. Provided they know where to look.
Visually, Kagi no Kakatta Heya looks really good. The drama uses almost only creamy close ups and plenty of establishing shots, the later allowing viewers to mentally map out the crime scene themselves to help with the mystery solving. Coupled with a soft filter, this also has the side effect of making the drama look like a higher budget movie instead. It is perhaps this cinematic quality that has helped Kagi no Kakatta Hey net the best drama awards for the 3rd quarter of 2012.
If you’re a fan of mystery dramas, there are far worst than Kagi no Kakatta Heya. In fact, Kagi no Kakatta Heya might even be considered one of the better ones in at least the past couple of years. The popular cast and guests help ease things and experienced viewers of the genre might enjoy how the plot points are presented in a straightforward manner, while still being sufficiently well thought out.