Based on the novel by Manabu Kaminaga, The Mysterious Thief Detective Yamaneko is directed by Ryuichi Inomata and written by Shogo Muto, writer of the first two Crows Zero films. That explains Yamaneko’s badassery and I was amazed at how Kamenashi Kazuya pulled it off. He is quite adorable despite being too theatrical at times.
Until now, it seems that a lot of people can’t immediately tell the difference between Kamenashi Kazuya and Sato Takeru. Their resemblance becomes more noticeable in this drama. I’m a bigger fan of the latter though.
The drama opens with Yamaneko being captured and tortured. Then we get a time skip to present day where we see Yamaneko as a skilled thief. He loooves ramen, he’s tone deaf but insists it’s just his vibrato, he’s funny, quite eccentric, and totally hard to predict. He values the ways of a warrior as he literally carries the book, Bushido, at all times. His past still remains a mystery and it makes Kamenashi Kazuya exude darker and manlier charms here compared to his previous androgynous, cool guy shoujo roles.
Another Gokusen alum Narimiya Hiroki plays Hideo Katsumura, a reporter whose published articles caught Yamaneko’s attention. Yamaneko, however, doesn’t have any qualms about showing him their hideout and revealing his identity. Katsumura eventually ends up becoming a member of Yamaneko’s team, though the poor guy usually becomes the scapegoat who gets all beaten up on the job while Yamaneko escapes unscathed. From simple bets to dangerous operations, Katsumura always gets a string of bad luck. His toughest experience occured in the most recent episode where he infiltrated the mafia but got framed for murder. The scene when Narimiya ziplined his way to freedom and his tears just automatically fell down his face at the sight of Yamaneko proved his acting range. He’s probably one of the best supporting actors out there given his long list of films and dramas as well as the diversity of the roles he’s played.
A team of thieves isn’t complete without someone to work on data acquisition, security breach, and technical issues behind the scenes. Mao Takasugi played by Hirose Suzu is just the right person for it. She is the lead actress in Gakko no Kaidan where she starred alongside Kamiki Ryunosuke. Due to Mao’s father’s greed, she once became Yamaneko’s target. Corporations faltered and employees’ lives were lost because of her hacking skills. When Mao found out the truth about their family, Yamaneko helped her come to her senses. I love their intense confrontation scene in the first episode. I think it brought out Kame’s dramatic flair. It’s a little off-putting with the pushing and hair grabbing but it was a raw and emotional scene that made this series become something I’d look forward to.
I would’ve complimented Kaito Yamaneko so much if I wrote this immediately after watching the first episode but since I’ve already seen ’til the 6th episode, my thoughts have changed. Kame just had to do the whole dramatic preachy speech whenever they catch the culprit of a case. Just then I remembered that not only did this drama’s writer create Crows Zero, he also wrote Wakamonotachi. I guess I’d have to stop blaming Satoshi Tsumabuki now because it seems that the soap opera-ish arguments and the constant yelling are parts of the writer’s style.
On the side of comedy, I like Narimiya’s acting more than Kame’s. He’s a natural in that genre while Kame tends to exaggerate to the point that I feel like he’s almost cartoon-ish. Nanao who plays a policewoman with an obvious crush on Katsumura does some random monologues that are meant to be funny but it just doesn’t work on me since Ikuta Toma has done that many times in Hana Kimi. Hana Kimi’s female lead, Horikita Maki, who also starred in Kame’s 2005 drama had a cameo appearance in Kaito Yamaneko. The whole Nobuta wo Produce reference was awesome and I wish the show will just keep its comedy in this level: reference-filled, natural, and not overdone.
For a series with the words “mysterious” and “thief” on its title, the show sadly falls short of mystery. Fortunately, the chemistry of the leads and the bits of comedy make up for what’s lacking.