The Devotion of Suspect X proves that a good story can spawn a series of creative products crossing media and languages. In this case, books in different languages and movies in Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Hindi(?).
The Indian version will be coming to Netflix in 2023. I am curious how the Indians will adapt the story. I am not familiar with the Indian film industry but it seems the cast members are all well-known.
The Book – The Devotion of Suspect X (2005)
The Devotion of Suspect X was written by Keigo Higashino (东野圭吾) in 2005. It is the third book in the Detective Galileo series. It is so called because it features Manabu Yukawa, a brilliant but nerdy physics professor. The first 2 were a collection of short stories. This one is the first full-length novel. It won numerous awards in Japan.
It was translated into English by Alexander O Smith and into Mandarin by Taiwanese 劉子倩.
I read the English translation since I can’t read Japanese. The story is not overly embellished or melodramatic. It tells the story in a rather matter-of-fact manner.
I enjoyed the mathematical references in The Devotion of Suspect X. I appreciated the author’s confidence in his readers to understand them too.
The Plot (Spoiler Alert)
The mystery began with a murder. A woman accidentally killed her ex-husband when he tried to beat her for money.
Her neighbour Ishigami heard the noise and came over for a look. He is a quiet high school teacher who is also a brilliant mathematician. He offered to help her.
A few days later, the man’s naked body with his face disfigured was discovered. The ex-wife was cleared because she had an alibi during the time the man was murdered. This is strange as the audience knew that she had killed her ex-husband. So, how did the mathematician do it? And that’s the hook.
To cut the long story short (spoiler alert), Ishigami killed a homeless man and manipulated evidence to mislead the police into thinking that this homeless man was the ex-husband.
He instructed the woman and the daughter to go shopping and let as many people see them as possible. By killing a second victim and masquerading him as the husband, he created the perfect alibi for her.
Until she confessed.
The Japanese Film Adaptation – Suspect X 容疑者Xの献身 (2008)
I watched Suspect X (容疑者Xの献身) before I read the book. Trailer below.
I am familiar with the characters in the movie because I have seen the Japanese TV drama series called Galileo featuring the same characters. The TV series was based on the first 2 books of Keigo Higashino’s Detective Galileo series.
Masaharu plays the nerdy genius Professor Yukawa who helps rookie police officer Kou to solve crimes with puzzling circumstances. For example, instantaneous human combustion, a haunted house, a death mask, and more.
Professor Yukawa is always able to find the scientific explanations behind strange or inexplicable phenomenon. Where Detective Kou represents emotions, Yukawa represents cool logic. I enjoy their bantering and interactions.
I find the drama series intriguing and entertaining so I expected the movie Suspect X featuring the same people to be equally good.
After Thoughts of Suspect X (2008)
I found the ending sad because Ishigami’s sacrifice or devotion came to naught. His despairing scream at the end of the movie was painful. The woman he was protecting, the woman who killed her ex-husband, came forward after Yukawa told her the truth. The futility of it all. I felt like screaming too.
If it was a Coen brothers’ movie, they would have let the murderers got away with it. But not the Japanese. Ethics and the law win the day.
The movie succeeded in getting me to ponder about love and sacrifice. Ishigami thought he was displaying true love when he sacrificed himself for the woman he loved. But true love is not to cover up or run away. True love stands up and faces judgment bravely.
I can’t seem to find the full length movie in any English streaming service. If you do, let me know. It is available on some pirated sites though. Try this link.
The Korean Movie Adaptation – Perfect Number (2012)
The Korean adaptation came out in 2012 and is called “Perfect Number”. This adaptation departed from the original substantially.
Firstly, Professor Yukawa is missing. He is replaced with a competent but bland detective. Second, it changed the psychology of Ishigami. The movie made him out to be a tortured soul. The Ishigami of the book didn’t really live in angst. He merely finds life meaningless.
After watching the 2017 Chinese adaptation, which also made significant changes to the character, I wondered if it is difficult to depict the character of Professor Yukawa with limited time. The Korean version decided, wisely, not to meddle with Higashino’s beloved character and removed him entirely instead.
The film has beautiful cinematography but is a tad too melodramatic for me. Again, I can’t find the full length movie in any English streaming service. If you do, let me know. It is available on some pirated sites though. Try this link.
The Chinese Movie Adaptation – 嫌疑人X的献身 (2017)
The Chinese adaptation of The Devotion of Suspect X came out in 2017. Nearly a decade after the Japanese Suspect X and 5 years after the Korean Perfect Number.
It has big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, it failed to do so.
An adaptation is always going to be compared with the original. I can understand the irate felt by fans of Keigo Higashino’s Professor Yukawa. He is an inquisitive physics professor and researcher. He will go to lengths to work out scientific solutions and test them thoroughly. His forte is science. He is not interested in crime. He is not a forensic investigator.
The character of Professor Tang Chuan in this Chinese adaptation is annoying. Not only was his occupation changed, his manners too. Arrogant. Proud. Professor Yukawa is quirky, not proud.
He is also deceitful. Tang Chuan pretended to be rekindling old friendship but was actually investigating his friend in secret. He took Shi Hong’s watch claiming he is going to repair it but he actually analyzed it in secret.
As for Shi Hong, he is, again, portrayed as depressed.
Some of the scenes were contrived and awkward. Brilliant parts of the novel were sprinkled thoughtlessly throughout the movie. A reviewer said it is like a patchwork of the 2008 and 2012 adaptations. Trying to please too many and ended up pleasing no one. I agree. Watch and judge it for yourself – The full length movie is available on Apple TV.
The Indian Movie Adaptation – The Devotion of Suspect X (2023)
As mentioned, a Hindi version will be coming to Netflix in 2023. I am curious how the Indians will adapt the story. I am not familiar with the Indian film industry but it seems the cast members are all well-known.
Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, it stars Kareena Kapoor, a famous Bollywood actress. She seems to be the heavyweight in the cast. I assume she is portraying the mother. This makes me think the movie will add more “meat” to the mother’s character. We shall see.
No surprise that I prefer the Japanese adaptation. But all the film adaptations failed to accentuate how the cover-up depended on mathematical thinking. Ultimately, the book wins the day.
Read the Book – The Devotion of Suspect X
- English translation at Amazon (affiliate link)
- English translation at a library
- Chinese translation at a library
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