I love watching Jdramas for one simple fact. They have some of the best and most imaginative mystery shows, and I love mysteries. Over the years we’ve watched a lot of detective Jdramas, and one of the best is Galileo. It’s about a physicist who helps the police solve mysteries. The series is based on the prose series Detective Galileo written by Keigo Higashino, a prolific mystery writer. His novel, The Devotion of Suspect X was the first full novel featuring the physicist detective, and won Higashino numerous nominations and awards in both Japan and the US. It also got a movie adaptation featuring the TV drama cast.
I recently finished reading the book, and then went back and watched the movie. I was surprised by how faithful the adaptation was. I not only recognized lines and full scenes, but the whole plot was intact! Watch enough Hollywood adaptations, and you will understand what an amazing achievement this can seem like. While there were a lot of similarities, there were some differences. First is the change to the cast to make it fit in with the drama more. Kaoru Utsumi is a character created for the drama. A rookie detective, she works with Yukawa on the suggestion of her superior Kusanagi, who is a friend of Yukawa’s. Kusanagi appears in both the movie and the novel, but there is no Utsumi in the middle. Kusangai and Yukawa are friends with a comfortable relationship. They went to college together and despite different majors, became friends and remained so. I enjoyed this relationship in the novel a lot. Utsumi’s insertion into the movie felt awkward. The story really hung on Kusanagi and Yukawa’s relationship and she just felt in the way.
Another change that had to be for TV was the portrayal of Ishigami. His characterization wasn’t changed. It was dead on. It was his physical attributes. In the book, he is described as being on the larger side, his nickname from college being “the Buddha”. In the movie, he didn’t have that same feeling of gravitas. Also changed was Hanaoka’s status. In the movie she was shown as the owner of the bento shop, while in the book she was just a worker there.
While I enjoyed them both, I liked the book much more. The movie was well done, and was very faithful to the book, but it struggled balancing between the jdrama and the novel. Yukawa is a very different person in the jdrama. He was made to be very rigid and cold. He wasn’t interested in any mystery unless there was some element of the impossible for him to investigate. In the novel, he was much more human. He had emotions and he expressed them. They let some of that characterization in to the movie, but it really conflicted with the TV characterization, and through the movie off just that much more. The jdrama also played up this whole thing with him, when he makes the final connections to figure out who did it, he would go into a trance-like state and start writing equations on any flat surface. This looks fun and cool on TV, but it never showed up in the book.
That isn’t to say either iteration is better than the other. I still enjoy the jdrama for what it is; a police procedural with a male and female lead with lots of will they/won’t they get together vibes. It’s a lot of fun and the chemistry between Yukawa and Utsumi is very good. They did a second season with a different actress, but I don’t think she worked as well. The novel is a straight detective story. I really liked the chemistry between Yukawa and Kusanagi as friends who took different paths but stayed friends though it. Yukawa’s more emotive personality really grew on me and I found I was liking him as much if not more than his jdrama version.
There are currently three novels and several short story collections featuring Detective Galileo. But unfortunately, only two of the novels are available in English. The second novel, Salvation of a Saint is available from Minotaur Books, and if you like eBooks, it is currently available for $1.99 on Amazon Kindle. I would highly recommend The Devotion of Suspect X. It’s a great read. I’d also recommend the jdrama. It’s available for streaming on Crunchyroll.