When I was a kid my favourite poet was Jean Arthur Rimbaud. I still like him a lot. There’s something about French poetry that appeals to me in an ineffable way. It’s a bit savage and the way the language bends and contorts to create so many homophones allows on to play with the rhythm and flow of sentences. In general, I’m not a huge fan of French as a language. But for poetry, it works. Or maybe it’s just nostalgia speaking. Rimbaud wrote in a surreal stye with heavy symbolism. Some have called him the first naturalist poet which sounds odd but actually works well. He is also considered a precursor to modernist poetry.

Rimbaud was a bit of a rock star to me. He started writing very young and a lot of his best pieces were written between the ages of 15 and 20 or so. He was also living the fast life surrounded by superstar poets of the time (it was a pretty sexy profession back then if you could make it!), making trouble (he was once almost shot by Verlaine who was rumored to be his jealous lover at the time) and being an all around… rock star… at 15. I remember learning that Rimbaud died in his 30s of what eventually turned out to be bone cancer and I was so sad. This happened roughly a century before I was born mind you. I just thought how unfortunate it was for the word to be robbed of a talent at such a young age. I myself was a teenager at the time and I realize now, probably suffocatingly pretentious. Still those were my honest thoughts at the time. All things considered, and when I think about how events often play out for kids who gain notoriety and fame very young with little to no supervision. Rimbaud actually made it out pretty good.

Takuboku Ishikawa was only a few years old when Rimbaud died. He would also become a poet far from the bustle of 1800s Paris. By the time Ishikawa’s career was started the naturalist movement was fairly established and that was his preferred style. He was influenced by the political strife in Japan at the time and wrote symbolic works yearning for the liberation of Japan. He was married and had friends. He seemed much more respectable from what I’ve read. Yet he was only 26 when tuberculosis struck him.

I haven’t been a teenager in a while but it still makes me sad when I learn of a life apparently unfinished. I supposed it alway will.

There are people who are likely to consider the above paragraphs a complete waste of time. Meandering and barely related to what I’m supposed to be talking about. General information aout famous poets that can be found in about a minute of googling if one is actually interested, mixed with utterly useless information about a stranger that is never going to be needed. I figure those type of people will have hated episode 10 of the Woodpecker Detective’s Agency. Who am I kidding, they dropped the show long ago, if they ever picked it up in the first place.

But there are also people that don’t mind detours. That can find a word or two in that hodgepodge that they like and build on that. I’m not sure myself where I’m going with this.

I’m sad for Ishikawa again. I thought his obvious struggle with grief was pretty difficult to watch. The self harming bit was also a bit much, what with the heavy handed red colour wash and harsh shadows. It really cheapened the moment, and for me almost of betrayed all the pain and angst the episode was building up. Had it been even a few seconds longer I would have rolled my eyes. Oh well.

I don’t like being sad. And yet,  didn’t dislike this episode and I’m really trying to figure out why so that I can tell you. Kindaichi’s kindness has been bordering on stupidity or masochism for a while but the revelation that e is in fact completely self-aware changes it all for. It makes him interesting and possibly a bit twisted instead of pathetic. So I liked Kyosuke this week. Possibly more that I ever have before.

There was also that thin thread that related back to a lot of Ishikawa’s (the real one) themes. This notion of social responsibility. That writing is worthless unless it can change society. Unless it’s talked about and has an impact. And that’s why a man cannot be a poet. That’s not a worthy venture. This sort of existential crisis was established by Tamaki in bunt exposition and has been repeated ever since.

And between the tears and the crashing and the speedy unraveling of Ishikawa’s character, that’s sort of what this episode of Woodpecker Detective’s Agency was about. Ishikawa is mourning the loss of a loved one but as everyone else pointed out, he hardly knew Tamaki. Beyond the pain of the immediate loss, Ishikawa is grieving for his own sense of worth and accomplishment. The idea of leaving the world without leaving behind anything that will be talked about, anything that is a proper instrument of societal change, is devastating to him. And it’s a pain he has no idea how to deal with. So he lashes ut, lie a child.

Maybe I didn’t dislike this episode because it tried to face something very adult. Or maybe I didn’t dislike it because there was an unmistakable sense of hope radiating from those clear bleu skies and delicate pink cherry blossoms.

Or maybe I’m just the type of person who reads three unrelated paragraphs about a bloggers fondness of a random 19th century poet and imbues it with whatever meaning suits me, regardless of what was actually there.

Or maybe ‘m just glad I got Monday over? I tend to be real generous with shows that air on Mondays…

Woodpecker Detective's Agency ep11 (33)

7 thoughts

  1. I confess, I dropped this show 2 episodes in. Not quite sure why; I just sometimes get a hunch that a show isn’t for me. Maybe because I was upset it wasn’t about an actual woodpecker that solves mysteries? Anyways, I’ve been quietly following along with you via these episodic posts, just to see if I made the right call. You’re starting to convince me to give this series a second chance, if only because I’m extremely curious to see how they tackle a topic like self-harm. Japan is not yet as progressive as some other countries when it comes to mental health issues, which might be part of why the scene in question seems so tactless. I find that a poor depiction of a real-life issue can often be as informative as a good one. It lets you look into the mind of someone who clearly has little-to-no experience with the topic, and shows you how the layman perceives it, which then helps you better explain what they got right, and what they got wrong.

    On the topic of poetry, have you watched Aku no Hana? It’s an anime inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s ‘Flowers of Evil.’ Very unique, in more ways than one. There’s also a manga, if the rotoscoping gives you the uncanny valley creeps– though I think that adds to the overall atmosphere. As for me, if I had to pick my all-time favourite poet, it would probably be Shakespeare. Or ancient Irish poetry in general– relatively straightforward as far as verse goes, but full of passion.

    1. I have and I have also read Baudelaire. I loved the beginning but I think the anime lost it’s footing. Not sure if the same is true for the manga. As for what I assume are thematic parallels to Les Fleurs du Mal (since it doesn’t have much in way of a narrative), well comparing decadence and eroticism of 19th century France which was very osé even by today’s standards filtered through the lens of contemporary Japanese culture is an exercise that’s a bit beyond me. Maybe if I knew more about literature.

      1. Yeah, trying to explain my ideas on the subject in less than 3000 words would probably be difficult. Must… resist… the urge 0_0

        Actually, now that I write it… “resisting the urge” is not a bad way of correlating the theme of Aku no Hana and Fleurs du Mal. Japan values conformity, much more so than most if not all western countries, making it an ideal setting to explore taboo topics like decadence or eroticism. Whereas 19th century France was, in a way, defined by eroticism and decadence– especially the Parisian lifestyle–, modern Japan is the opposite. In other words, the main character is a product of his surroundings. The conservative nature of his environment is ultimately what drives him into his descent into these darker emotions. Furthermore, the story takes place in Gunma Prefecture, which is infamous in Japanese net culture as being Japan’s most “boring” prefecture.

        When the main character “accidentally” steals the bathing suit, it awakens some of his more primal urges that he’s been struggling all his life to suppress. IIRC, he admits at one point that he doesn’t understand any of Les Fleurs, despite it being an object of obsession for him throughout the story. He feels a connection to the words, but doesn’t know what to make of them, as though he’s not sure whether it’s praise or admonishment of those indulgences. Baudelaire, as I recall, had similar feelings towards eroticism– indulgence vs. guilt, id vs. ego. Or maybe I’m completely off the mark. I don’t know much about Baudelaire, and it’s been a while since I read any of his stuff, so do correct me if I said anything stupid.

        And there it is: another rant, right when I said I wouldn’t. You really need to stop egging me on with all these interesting topics.

  2. This was actually amongst my favourite episodes so far. I liked the final conversation between out protagonists, even though I was also cringing and thinking Kyousuke shouldn’t promise too much (not that it would make much difference). But on the whole, the way Kyousuke accepts Ishikawa, is – if nothing – consistent.

    As for the cutting scene, my first impression was that this pose is a mixture of bloodletting a sepukko, both healing and dying honarably. A sort of expression of inner turmoil and confusion that can go either way. That’s not really my official interpretation of the scene, just my first thought at seeing the set up. I don’t, for example, know how popular blood letting would still have been at the time, or how popular it ever became in Japan, to beging with (Western medicine was mostly Dutch inspired, I think? Maybe also Christian Missionaries? We do know Ishikawa had a foreign-language diary, or something like that – bad memory acting up.), and so the scene would read differently if he’d actually had a suggestion from the doctor, or if this is just stuff he read in a (more or less outdated) book. So even with that initial impression I didn’t get very far in actually constructing an understanding. Add to that, that it actually hurt to watch the scene… But it actually felt in character, and not entirely only a matter of self-abuse, though that was definitely also a factor. I’m using a lot of words, here, and I don’t actually have a finished, coherent take on the scene. I was fine with it, though.

    I had to read your post to even remember what happened, so the episode, despite being among my favourites of the show so far, didn’t actually leave a deep impression. On the other hand, I just wrote a long and confused paragraph about a single scene, so it’s not like it didn’t stick with me at all. I’m sort of wondering how I’ll remember the show a few years from now when I come across a screen shot. I can’t make a prediction.

    1. I have no clue what the lasting impression of this show will be. I’m sticking to frustrating for the moment

  3. Not gonna lie, I’ve been so close to dropping this on so many occasions but I kept watching because, even I thought he was nothing but a naive fool, I admired the loyalty Kindaichi had for his friend. It’s not easy having that level of trust in a person and then to find out that Kindaichi knew exactly what was going on and still stood by his friend?
    It shines a new light on their interactions in previous episodes. I feel like we severely lack (and desperately need) kind and patient people like Kindaichi these days and maybe that’s why I was drawn to him and continued the show!

    1. I’m glad you found something for you. It’s a very uneven show that is though to recommend but I also think there’s something underneath it all

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