A-Z Drama Challenge: Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de

Hey, I finally got back in the saddle for this challenge. This title is really nostalgic for me since this has been sitting on my plan to watch list for almost a decade now. Now I can finally cross it off.

I found this title thanks to a ye old ‘get to know Arashi through their dramas’ blog or something similar back in like… 2012. Probably. I had just started getting more into Jpop and by default Arashi, and had decided that Sakurai Sho was my favorite. He’s actually still my favorite. His top recommended title from that article (which I can no longer find) was this one, most likely since it was his most recent lead role then.

Without much thought, I hand wrote all those titles into a ‘Jdramas to watch ASAP’ list in one of my high school notebooks and eventually threw it away. And with my discovery of MDL in 2016 – somehow that title came back to me and I put it on my plan to watch list. Which I only just barely finished watching 2021 literally on January 30th. Can’t say I’m not determined here. With that tangent out of the way, let’s talk premise of Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de i.e. Let’s Solve the Mystery after Dinner.

Reiko Hosho (Kitagawa Keiko) is a rich heiress, who doubles as a detective with debatable deduction skills. She is joined by her new hire butler Kageyama (Sakurai Sho), whose attention to detail allows him to solve most of her cases. Kageyama isn’t afraid to take the haughty Reiko down a notch or two either when she asks him for his skills. A story of a sharp tongued butler, and rather naive heiress adapted from the novel of the same titles by Higashikawa Tokuya.

Our main characters chart.

My general impression is that, between the star power of Kitagawa Keiko and Sakurai Sho as well as the rather easily digestable cases I get why this was so popular back in the day. It is also for those exact same reasons that this drama has aged like milk since then.

The biggest problem is the set up of the story – an old money heiress (Reiko) whose concealing her privilege and a new money male heir (Kazamatsui) are out playing detective because they’re rich and bored. It’s the average income butler whose actually solving these crimes. Back in the day this was a fun form of escapism, but in 2021 this just doesn’t read the same way. The characters, collectively, irritated me more then they entertained.

A lot of other elements just didn’t hold up either. The sets were pretty clunky looking and dated, along with the costuming, and technology. Points for nostalgia, but with the non-entertaining premise I nearly dropped this drama after two episodes. As you know, I still powered through it and finished.

The saving grace is that Reiko and Kageyama have really good chemistry. Reiko is an heiress that never got dressed down as a kid, and Kageyama isn’t afraid to call her to the carpet with how stupid she is. While Reiko might threaten him with being fired – she does come to respect and seek out Kageyama’s ideas. Coupled with this is there are some rather sweet moments, human to human, between the two that help the show along, it’s fairly wholesome.

I give them credit for at least having chemistry.

I think Kitagawa Keiko did a stunning job with Reiko’s character. I rarely get to riled up by a fictional character, but Keiko really got me heated with her performance. Admittedly, Sakurai Sho didn’t particularly do a lot of heavy lifting here. He’s known for having a sharp tongue, but the skills to soften the blow after the barb which he displayed here. I don’t think he really did anything impressive per say. I will give him that he’s got the talent to maintain the cast chemistry super well.

The problem with this story, outside the dated and irrating main cast is that this style of dectective show just isn’t satisfying to watch. It’s not there’s a piece of evidence, some deductions that lead to more evidence, which leads to a conclusion the audience can follow along with. It’s literally one tiny detail only Kageyama sees and that we the audience are not made aware of until he speaks, coupled with ten minutes of his speculation, and somehow it’s the right answer every time. You don’t even have to watch the first half of the episode, just check in around the half way point and you’re still fine.

This lack of being able to follow along, is then dragged by a repetitive formula for solving, and every case being nearly identical (murder or attempted murder). Given Kageyama’s rather dry if not condescending tone of explanation, it’s further grating to watch and rarely deviates from this.

As my final thoughts, I don’t regret watching this drama. I’m certainly not going to be watching it’s sequels which it somehow scored, but it was passable. It’s not not something I’d really recommend either since it’s aged so poorly. For me though, it was a weird, close that particular chapter of fandom I opened way back, moment. Even as someone who doesn’t watch detective shows much – there’s certainly better ones out there.

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