REVIEW: Inspector Kurokouchi Vol. 2 (2012)

A Manga by Nagasaki, Takashi (Story), Kouno, Kouji (Art)

When we last left Inspector Kurokouchi, he was wrapping up his dealings with corrupt local officials, barely avoiding certain death or at least imprisonment, but it appears he’s onto bigger problems including one of Japan’s most notorious unsolved cases. Kurokouchi feels that the infamous 300 Million Yen Robbery is within his grasp, and suspects dirty officials likely had something to with it. He starts poking around and we begin to learn about a secret society that apparently runs Japan from the shadows called The Sakura Council. It’s apparently filled with old retired cops and some serving officers and doesn’t want anyone snooping. Multiple attempts are made on The Inspector’s life, but as always he has the upper hand yet again.

“The one black sheep of the Kanagawa Police Prefecture. On the surface, Kurokôchi is a corrupt policeman working at the second brigade of the prefecture, and thus responsible for investigating organized crimes and white-collar crimes. He uses the intel he gets to get bribes from practically all the local politicians and lives a luxurious life. However, behind this facade, Kurokôchi also seriously investigates cases whose perpretrators are normally beyond the scope of the law and works to bring some justice to them through guile, manipulations and stunts so crazy that he becomes unpredictable. Together with Seike, Kurokôchi slowly unveils the many conspiracies hidden within the National Police Agency.”

I thought it was cool that they are using an actual cold-case crime as the basis for this story, I looked it up since I vaguely remember seeing a reference in another movie in the past (called San Oku En Jiken – Beat Takeshi was in it, I was super into him for a while), and sure enough it’s akin to the D.B. Cooper mystery over here in terms of age and popularity. Here is a rundown from our old friend Wikipedia for those that have never heard of it. It’s assumed in the comic that the reader is familiar, so not a whole lot of time is wasted talking about the minutiae.

“On the morning of December 10, 1968, four Kokubunji branch employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko (Nippon Trust Bank) transported 294,307,500 yen (about US$817,520 at 1968 exchange rates) in the trunk of a company car. The metal boxes contained bonuses for the employees of Toshiba’s Fuchu factory. They were stopped in the street next to Tokyo Fuchū Prison by a young uniformed officer on a police motorcycle. They were a mere 200 meters from their destination. The police officer informed them that their branch manager’s house had been blown up, and they had received a warning that dynamite had been planted in the transport car. The four employees exited the vehicle while the officer crawled under the car to locate the bomb. Moments later, the employees noticed smoke and flames under the car as the officer rolled out, shouting that it was about to explode. When the employees retreated to the prison walls, the police officer got into the car and drove away.”

The manga makes the claim that most unsolved crimes in Japan are unsolved because the “can’t be solved”, meaning that public safety or The Government itself would be called into question if they were. It seems in this fictionalized account, The Sakura Council needs money, and the easiest way to get it is to stage crimes that will later be poorly investigated (due to orders from above) in order to obscure the real culprits – perhaps people working for the police department themselves. I’m not familiar with the other cases that were mentioned, but I’m sure the writer is well-researched.

This was a solid manga, and I absolutely loved the cold-case stuff. After reading, I did some research on the cases, and it’s a wild conspiracy presented here for sure. Not being in Japan, I of course have no cultural heritage of these cases that shook the country, but I can see why people still talk about them. We get a lot of character development here, and are leading towards big revelations for Police Commissioner Shingo Seike. Who exactly are in The Sakura Council, and what are they up to? Hopefully we will find out soon!

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