At the end of the day, Woodpecker Detective’s Office is only tangentially about Takuboku Ishikawa. I think that’s probably a good thing. In this fictional incarnation of the poet, he’s pretty unlikable: he lies, he scams, and he seems to float through his life by making others do the work, even if it’s work that he himself has taken on. Even when he admits that he’s aware of his own failings, it’s not much of a relief; “stupid” was never one of his problems. No, what Woodpecker Detective’s Office is really about, apart from the mysteries, is Kyōsuke Kindaichi’s relationship with Ishikawa, and how even though Ishikawa was a terrible person, he meant something to Kindaichi, and his death means that Kindaichi is just a little more alone than he otherwise would have been.
That idea of a relationship meaning more than its component people is, as it turns out, the through-line of this series. When the true Accuser X is revealed to be Kayo (who quite frankly otherwise had outsize presence in the show given her pre-reveal role, so that’s a good clue that we could easily have missed), it turns out that it’s all due to a broken relationship in her own past: her mother committed suicide rather than stay with the corrupt Catholic priest with whom she was in an apparently romantic relationship. To her, Kayo was inadequate compensation for her situation and the easiest way she could make her point and hurt the person she held responsible for it was to die. And because little Kayo heard all of that, as well as her mother saying that she should never have had her, Kayo blames herself at least in part for her mother’s suicide.
Because of this trauma and how Kayo’s child mind processed it, it was almost an easy slide into becoming Accuser X. All she had to do was convince people in what she believed to be similar untenable situations to do what her mother had done: die pointing the finger at the one who brought them low. Therefore none of the victims in the Accuser X cases were technically murdered; they were all suicides if you disregard the psychology behind it. Even Tamaki, who was actually killed, was presumably planning suicide initially. (Figuring this out may have contributed to Ishikawa’s depression after her death.) Today we know better, but in the early 20th century? Kayo’s reasoning likely had a much better chance of holding up, even if we can guess that Ishikawa let her go because he’s had enough of death with his own approaching.
The story appears to begin and end in 1912, the year that Ishikawa’s novel Sad Toys was published and an all-around crap year for humanity. (That may be overstating, but it certainly had its fair share of tragedies.) That’s the story that Ishikawa is quoting to Kindaichi before the final scene, and it’s easy to see himself as the consumptive mother while Kindaichi is the boy studying–his work is just beginning while Ishikawa’s is coming to a close. While Ishikawa certainly could have been nicer to his friend and perhaps didn’t deserve his devotion, his personality isn’t really the main point here. Life will go on without him, Kindaichi, Tarai, and the other writers will write and publish great works, and one day Kindaichi will even marry and have children. But his friend won’t be there physically, and while the ending shows that, true to his word, he’ll be there in another way, that doesn’t lessen the tragedy for the one who lived on.
That’s where Woodpecker Detective’s Office succeeds, in showing us that how we as an audience feel about a character isn’t as important as how the people in the story feel. It’s a hard pill to swallow, perhaps, but not entirely a bitter one, and if you can empathize with Kindaichi even a little, then I think we can say that the series did its job.
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