August 08, 2011

The Bow-wow Detective


The prize for the police procedural with the goofiest premise goes to Deka Wanko ("Bow-wow Detective"). Based on a manga by Gokusen creator Kozueko Morimoto, it's about Ichiko Hanamori, a rookie cop who possesses a dog's olfactory powers.

"Something about this case stinks!"

For unknown reasons, Ichiko runs around in impractically poofy outfits and manages several costume changes an episode. Well the reason is that Mikako Tabe looks really cute in them. She's the moe version of Abby Sciuto (NCIS).

Tabe makes the whole thing work because she's an excellent comic actress and plays the whole thing with a straight face.

The show is flagged as a goof from the start. The give-away is that Ichiko carries a gun. Cops rarely carry guns in Japan. The entire country can go years without a single police shooting (Utah is lucky to go a month without a police shooting).

A nice touch is that Ichiko can figure out things with her nose that would never stand up on court. So she has to work with her "ordinary" detective partners (who don't necessary believe in her superpowers) to provide the proof that will convict the bad guys.

Hollywood could make a go of the concept, albeit toned way down, something like Lie to Me, which I consider more a superhero show (and perhaps is even better when considered in that context).

Most manga premises of this sort tend to turn the volume up to eleven, which might work when you're maybe doing a dozen shows, max. But in a continuing series, they end up burning out the actors and quickly burning through all the plausible plots.

Here are three more quasi-superhero shows based on manga that would make good Hollywood properties (again, toned way down and paced for longevity):

Hellsing
Someday's Dreamers
Ghost Talker's Daydream

My version of Hellsing would be Angel, except with an only grudgingly good Spike in the lead (and who might actually be the devil himself, but got bored with modern evil). And I'd lose the whole X-File-ish backstory.

The last one is basically Ghost Whisperer, except the heroine works in an S&M club (because ghosts don't hang out in S&M clubs) and she hates dead people. She also has a head of hair that strangles people who piss her off.

She gets talked into working for the local exorcism agency that cleans up crime scenes after the cops are done (and ends up playing detective). Like Someday's Dreamers it posits the existence of the supernatural in a very workaday fashion.

The manga can be quite good (I haven't read the English translation). A hacked-together anime version is quite awful. Incidentally, the anime version of Gokusen is quite good. A live action television series was hugely popular and I loathed it utterly.

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