The Wings of the Kirin (2011) Movie Review

Hiroshi Abe in The Wings of the Kirin (2011) Movie Image

Abe Hiroshi returns as popular Japanese literary figure Detective Kaga Kyoichiro, appearing on the big screen for the first time after several popular television adaptations of the Higashino Keigo novels. “Wings of the Kirin” sees the thoughtful sleuth dealing with a stabbing case which is quickly revealed to be far more complicated than initially suspected, with series regulars Mizobata Junpei, Kuroki Meisa and Yamazaki Tsutomu all returning, joined by new cast members Aragaki Yui (“Hanamizuki”), Tanaka Rena (“The Tale of Genji”), and Nakai Kiichi (“Once in a Blue Moon”).

The film starts in intriguing fashion, with businessman Takeaki Aouyagi (Nakai Kiichi) being found dead on the famous Nihonbashi Bridge in Tokyo, having staggered there after being stabbed, for some reason choosing to collapse beneath the Kirin statue rather than trying to reach a hospital. A young man called Yashima (Miura Takahiro) is discovered near the scene with some of the victim’s belongings, though is hit by a lorry after fleeing and falls into a coma before he can be questioned. Although Yashima certainly seems to fit the bill, being a disgruntled former worker from the dead man’s factory, Detective Kaga soon comes to believe that there is more to the case, and along with his partner and cousin Matsumiya Yuhei (Mizobata Junpei) starts to dig deeper, questioning Yashima’s girlfriend Kaori Nakahara (Aragaki Yui) and even Takeaki’s own son.

Hiroshi Abe and Tori Matsuzaka in The Wings of the Kirin (2011) Movie Image

“Wings of the Kirin” was directed by Doi Nobuhiro, known mainly for his work on series like “Manhattan Love Story”, and so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the film does feel rather like an extended television episode, closely resembling the earlier hit Detective Kaga special “Shinzanmono”. The film is certainly more measured and slower paced than many other big screen genre outings, though this works in its favour, giving it a different and more thoughtful feel. Doi Nobuhiro balances plot and character drama very effectively throughout, and while the film is at over two hours quite long, it never feels overstretched, weaving an intricate and multi-layered stabbing mystery. Playing out through grounded detective work, the narrative does for the most part revolve around conversations and flashbacks, never resorting to the usual kind of chase scenes or action which other similarly themed films tend to throw in to try and keep things exciting. Instead, Doi Nobuhiro’s direction is mature and confident, the film never rushing and keeping the audience engaged through subtle clues and emotional character development.

As well as it’s well constructed script, the film’s other main strength is the strong central turn from the ever dependable Abe Hiroshi, who’s great as Detective Kaga. With a performance that’s both understated and charismatic, he suggests an intellectual and philosophical approach to life and his work which makes him a likeable and interesting protagonist and one of the more memorable screen bloodhounds of late – it’s easy to see why the novels and prior adaptations have proved so popular. The rest of the cast understandably play second fiddle, though the film is generally rich in character, with a lot of thought obviously having gone into fleshing out their various motives and relationships. Although the film does get a bit melodramatic in places, it is as a result a very involving and substantial tale, and one which has many rewards for patient viewers.

Hiroshi Abe in The Wings of the Kirin (2011) Movie Image

“Wings of the Kirin” is definitely catching, both for fans of Detective Kaga and the Higashino Keigo novels, and for newcomers and Japanese crime aficionados in general, no prior knowledge of the character being required. Though clocking in with a weighty running time, there’s more than enough going on to hold the interest, and the attention paid to both character and story makes it a gripping and pleasingly adult watch.

Nobuhiro Doi (director) / Keigo Higashino (based on the novel by), Takeharu Sakurai (screenplay)
CAST: Hiroshi Abe … Kaga
Yui Aragaki … Kaori Nakahara
Junpei Mizobata … Yuhei Matsumiya
Tôri Matsuzaka … Yuto Aoyagi
Masaki Suda … Tomoyuki Yoshinaga

Buy The Wings of the Kirin on DVD or Blu-ray