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EARLY IN A Study in Scarlet, Holmes tells Watson, “I suppose I am the only one in the world. I’m a consulting detective.” It was 1881.
One obviously treads lightly in disagreement. However, it has been argued that C. Auguste Dupin preceded Holmes in this trade; see Edgar Allan Poe’s account of The Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1841. Others offer E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Das Fräulein von Scuderi, 1819, as precedence.
Here, I propose to cap them all with Kumedera Danjô, the consulting detective hero in Kenuki (The Whiskers Tweezers), from Eighteen Favorite Plays of the Ichikawa Danjûrô Family, 1742.
Kabuki actors have hereditary stage names. Ichikawa Danjûrô I (aka Ebizō I) originated the aragato (tough guy) style in the late 1600s. His son Danjûrô II was the first Kumedera Danjô in 1742.
By 1812, Danjûrô VII had inherited the family name, through adoption, as well as the persona of the consulting detective.
In our own time, their artistic descendant Ichikawa Danjûrô XII passed away only recently, February 3, 2013. His son, also a Kabuki actor, has the hereditary name Ichikawa Ebizō XI.
A Kabuki-za program from October 2009 provides the information on Kenuki that follows.
There are troubles indeed with the Ono clan. Princess Nishiki is supposed to marry a court noble, but the wedding is delayed by a strange illness—unless held in place by a rope, her hair goes flying every which way. Quelle embarrassment!
There’s also bad blood between senior retainers of the clan, the wise Hata Minbu and evil Yatsurugi Gemba. Think of Minbu and Gemba as being the local D.A. and mobster, respectively.
In struts consulting detective Danjô. He is sent to figure out what’s wrong with the princess and to solve some other clan hassles. From here on, the action of Kenuki gets decidedly ハードボイルド , (ha-do boi-ru-do, hard-boiled). Danjô makes a move on a pretty young thing—who happens to be Minbu’s son. Bad form. Then a lady-in-waiting brings in tea, he makes another move, but is rejected again.
Thinking it must be his appearance (they always do, don’t they?), Danjô decides to freshen up by tweezing his whiskers. This may seem improbable, but remember the name of the play.
Amazingly, though, the tweezers float mysteriously in the air. He tries this with his pipe, which is made of silver, and it doesn’t float, then his dagger, which is iron, and it does.
This calls for a mie, the classic cross-eyed Kabuki grimace expressing high emotion. Danjô fixates on the floating tweezers and then the ceiling.
He is deducing.
Then there’s a complex side plot (isn’t there always?) including Danjô, another lady-in-waiting, several other characters and a missing poem card. Suffice to say, Danjô unravels the mystery of the card and returns it to its rightful owner.
A bit more strutting, and Danjô assembles all the principals in a room (sound familiar?). He tells them about the floating tweezers, removes several hair ornaments from Princess Nishiki’s hair—and her hair returns to normal.
Then Danjô yells “Yattoka totcha untoku na!” which my source says is nonsense that aragoto heroes shout before doing anything. Think “got’cha!” He stabs the ceiling with a spear and down drops a spy—obviously Gemba’s henchman—carrying a huge magnet.
Elementary, my dear Ono. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013