Japanese detective and logic loving scientist Dr. Yukawa returns in “Midsummer’s Equation”, following on from the highly successful “Galileo” television series and the big screen outing “Suspect X”. Helmed by series director Nishitani Hiroshi and based on “Manatsu no Houteishiki”, the sixth book of the popular crime series by author Higashino Keigo, the film sees Fukuyama Masaharu again taking the title role, joined by series co-star Yoshitaka Yuriko, upcoming actress Anne (“Platinum Data”), plus veterans Fubuki Jun (“Like Father, Like Son”) and Maeda Gin (known for his roles in the “Tora-san” series). Revolving around a possible murder in a small seaside town, the film was another hit for the series, ranking as one of the top ten grossing Japanese films of the year.
The film opens with Dr. Yukawa Manabu (Fukuyama Masaharu) heading for the small port town of Harigaura, where he has been asked to mediate between the locals and a resources development company keen to start mining offshore. Soon enough, he’s caught up in a murder mystery after a former policeman is found dead on the rocks, and detective Kishitani (Yoshitaka Yuriko) is sent from Tokyo to lend him a hand. Yukawa quickly uncovers links between the victim and the Kawabata family, with their marine activist daughter Narumi (Anne) seeming to be at the centre of a dark secret from the past. At the same time, he ends up spending time with the family’s grandson Kyohei (Yamazaki Hikaru, “A Boy and his Samurai”), and forms a bond of sorts with the young lad while teaching him about the wonders of science.
“Midsummer’s Equation” is actually quite different to “Galileo” and other Higashino Keigo adaptations, with much more of a focus on emotions and melodrama than on logic puzzles. Though the film still basically revolves around the theme of love overcoming everything and pushing characters to do desperate things, its exploration of the subject is far less complex or creative. Shying away from major twists or revelations, the central mystery is fairly straightforward and the resolution signposted from early on, the emphasis instead being on the characters and their relationships. While it’s still an engaging and well-told story, the plot may come as a bit of a let-down to anyone expecting another “Suspect X”, lacking the same driving reasoning and application of scientific principles which made it and other Yukawa outings stand out.
This isn’t to say that the film isn’t engaging, however, and its humanism and focus on the why rather than the who of the crime works well, and it’s actually quite moving for all its predictability, making good if manipulative use of past secrets and tragedies. Wisely, Yukawa is at the centre of things throughout and is very much the same as ever, aloof and obsessed with his beloved logic, though likeable and fun to watch as he goes about his investigations – the film does have a potentially sappy subplot involving him and the young lad Kyohei, though thankfully this isn’t too overdone, and is vaguely charming in its own way. Fukuyama Masaharu is excellent as ever in a role which he has very much made his own, and it’s undoubtedly his performance which anchors the film and should be its main attraction.
Director Nishitani Hiroshi of course knows the series and characters inside out by now, and does a fine job again here, taking a measured and meticulous approach that reflects Yukawa’s character and methods. Though deliberately paced the film is never dull, even during several lulls in activity or drama, mainly due to some great cinematography and visually stunning use of the gorgeous rural seaside scenery. The film as a whole has an idyllic feel, partly thanks to some graceful diving scenes and beautiful shots of the crystal waters and corals, which again makes it rather different to other franchise outings.
Obviously a must-see for fans of the series, “Midsummer’s Equation” is another solid adventure for the always interesting Dr. Yukawa. As a well-crafted murder mystery that offers surprisingly emotional rewards, it should also be enjoyed by newcomers, thanks in no small part to Fukuyama Masaharu’s entertaining and genial turn as the amusing analytical detective.
Hiroshi Nishitani (director) / Keigo Higashino (novel), Yasushi Fukuda (screenplay)
CAST: Jun Fubuki … Setsuko Kawabata
Masaharu Fukuyama … Manabu Yukawa
Hakuryû … Hidetoshi Senba
Kazuki Kitamura … Shunpei Kusanagi
Gin Maeda … Shigeharu Kawabata
Naomi Nishida … Nobuko Miyake