Monday, October 9, 2023

Fairy Tale Media Fix: Once Upon a Crime.



What's this? An actual Fairy Tale Fandom post?

Yes, I thought I'd still show up and post every once in a while when some fairy tale thing still managed to catch my interest even though my interest in fairy tales and storytelling proved to be less of an ongoing interest and more of a years long, but still temporary hyperfixation.

Anyway, what caught my interest is a Japanese Netflix movie titled Once Upon a Crime. See trailer video below:

The movie is based on a Japanese book titled Akazukin, Tabi no Tochu de Shitai to Deau, which roughly translates to Little Red Riding Hood Encounters a Corpse Upon Her Journey, by Aito Aoyagi. I won't be commenting on fidelity to the book because, as near as I can tell, it has never been published in English and thus I have never read it.

Japanese book cover from 'Little Red Riding Hood Encounters a Corpse on Her Journey'

The movie follows Little Red Riding Hood, who is apparently on a journey to see the world and improve herself. As she goes along on this journey she runs into Cinderella who is, as is generally the case with Cinderella, abused by her stepfamily. However, with the help of two witches, one who can transform clothes and other things and one who can create glass footwear, Cinderella gets the chance to go to the ball and Red Riding Hood gets to go with her. But along the way things take a turn for the sinister when their coach runs into the corspe of Mister Hans, the King's royal hairdresser who has apparently been murdered. As things unfold, it falls to Red Riding Hood to solve the mystery and bring the killer to justice.

Netflix image for Once Upon a Crime.

Definitely a different take, huh? You don't see a lot of fairy tale murder mysteries out there. It also seems to play awfully fast and loose with the tonal push and pull that fairy tales and their adaptations are frequently subject to. It's a murder mystery and thus is dark enough to have a murder in it. Yet, the plot itself is a tongue-in-cheek thing about the killing of an overzealous and over-the-top hairdresser. Plus, visually, the movie is a big, bright, candy-colored confection. Some of the credit for this might go to the fact that it's a Japanese movie, and they have a very different cultural understanding of tone and what might be appropriate for different types of material. Personally, I rather like the variable tone. After years of seeing the back and forth of whether fairy tale adaptations should be dark like many of their written variations or lighter to appeal to a wider audience, it's nice to see fairy tale projects searching for a middle ground or finding some third path.

But now the question comes up of how it stacks up as a murder mystery, and the truth is that . . . I don't know. I mean, I'm not completely unfamiliar with the mystery genre. I've read some Sherlock Holmes books as well as a not-insignificant chunk of the manga Case Closed (also known as Detective Conan). And I've become rather fond of the recent Kenneth Branagh Hercule Poirot movies (and before some fans tell me, I have already been told that they're supposedly not as good as the books or the David Suchet series. But I'm more interested in having something interesting to go to the movies for than having the “Optimal Poirot Experience”). However, there are significant gaps in my mystery experience. For example, I've only ever read one Agatha Christie novel (And Then There Were None back in high school). And I've never really sat and thought about what makes for a good mystery. One thing I could call foul on is how Red Riding Hood's deductions are depicted. It seems she's supposed to have some kind of total recall, but it's depicted as images flashing before her like she's got some kind of psychic power. I'm not sure that's what they were intending. On the more positive side, I did not see the solution to this mystery coming. So, there's that.

Red Riding Hood looking at a glass slipper.  Could it be a clue?

Personally, I'm going to say Once Upon a Crime is not necessarily a must-watch, but it is definitely something to check out if you want to see something different done with fairy tale characters and settings.

As for me, I'm thinking maybe I should dip my toe more into the worlds of mystery and crime fiction. After all, if I'm not going to be obsessing over fairy tales, there's no reason I can't expand my horizons a bit.