The Curious Case of Okitegami Kyouko

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From now on, you will live as Okitegami Kyouko — a detective.

Okitegami Kyouko’s daily life begins with those words. A sentence engraved on her ceiling – almost like a curse – that binds her to the identity of the detective ‘Okitegami Kyouko’ (掟上今日子). Her motto is ‘speedy resolution’ – she solves her cases within the day; her fees collected in cash before she leaves the client. The only catch: her memory resets after a day – once she falls asleep, she forgets everything that happened. Thus, she leaves notes all over her body to remind herself – written memos (置き手紙 okitegami) for her to read when she wakes up.

Okitegami Kyouko only has today to live.

Memory and identity are inextricably linked. For someone like Kyouko who forgets everything upon going to sleep, it’s as if she dies every single day. As a detective, her greatest mystery is herself – a closed room murder where the clues are erased whenever she falls asleep. The ‘Okitegami Kyouko’ of yesterday is no longer the ‘Okitegami Kyouko’ of today – in her case, it’s as literal as it gets.

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Okitegami Kyouko’s case is certainly one of a kind. She is a rarity even among detectives, owning up to her title of being ‘the fastest and most forgetful’.

The (Mis)Fortune of Okitegami Kyouko

At a glance, Kyouko’s situation might be heartbreaking, even tragic. She has no fond memories to look back upon, and no close ties to rely on. It’s like she dies every day and is replaced by a completely different person with the name ‘Okitegami Kyouko’. One might think that such an existence is nothing but a curse.

On the other hand, her special condition does not choose what memories get erased. Bad memories get erased along with the good – any trauma or unpleasant experience for her will just be condemned to oblivion, never to be recalled again.

But more importantly, Okitegami Kyouko only has today to live, thus every single day is a treasure to her. New discoveries await her at every single turn. Every single book is a fresh experience, every single meeting a precious encounter. She can go into a museum exhibit every day and be marveled at every wonderful piece of art she encounters. Her idea of happiness is simple, yet poignant: enough money in her pockets and a little bit of mystery in her life. What an irony it is, then, that the young woman who dies every single day is also the one who enjoys the wonders of life the most?

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The Chronicles of ‘K’

Despite the excitement she experiences with the start of each new day, there is one thing that her memory reset does not erase: the sense of loneliness that afflicts her upon waking up. Kyouko’s condition isolates her from the rest of the world, preventing her from making new connections with other people except those who are absolutely indispensable to her everyday life. Anything weaker than that would be mercilessly erased from her memories.

Still, there is one person stubborn enough to try and reach out to her. Our unlucky protagonist, Kakushidate Yakusuke, happens to be that person: a person stubborn enough to record Kyouko’s exploits – chronicles of the forgetful detective’s cases, records of the lives touched by her skills in solving crimes. Even though she might not remember every case she encounters, she undeniably made an impression on the clients she helped out.

Okitegami Kyouko is a fragile existence; her identity is based completely on the one sentence on her ceiling that binds her to that name. But there are people who remember her – men and women from all walks of life whom she had helped out at some point. There are those who are willing to reach out to her, write down her exploits and tell the world around her. Thus, ‘Okitegami Kyouko’ may be a fleeting existence, but someone will always be there to remember her legacy.

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Is Okitegami Kyouko fortunate or unfortunate? I believe that the answer is neither, because despite her peculiar condition, she’s no different from you or I. Her memory may reset every day, but the marks she leaves on others is indelible. Like the written memos on her body, those marks pile up and reflect back to her, solidifying the persona of ‘Okitegami Kyouko’ to everyone else she meets. And perhaps someday, enough of those marks will pile up to crystallize as her ‘memories’.

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3 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Okitegami Kyouko

  1. Have you read the other novels? The J-Drama IIRC actually just adapts the first novel and the series goes to another direction ala Monogatari in the second novel.

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