The MRI Scanner

The Ultimate Intrusion of Privacy

The technology behind the MRI scanner takes center stage in the series, offering immense potential in its new area of application. The ability to look into a victim’s or criminal’s mind promises a wealth of new information — information that may otherwise be impossible to retrieve due to lack of leads —, such as the culprit’s features, weapon, time, location, and even motive of the crime.

Fast-forward Five years after the pilot, this new investigation method has already seen use in ten cases, sporting a success rate of nearly 100 %. The enormous threat that the method poses to privacy and human dignity raises opposition from conservatives, human rights organizations, ethics commissions and the general public alike. Weighing the ethical choices, the government acknowledges that not all crimes can be solved through conventional methods, and has conceded the use of the MRI scanner in the investigations of the most atrocious of crimes as well as cases of great public interest. For this sake, a special unit within the police’s national scientific research institute has been established. They are the Ninth, short for the 9th Laboratory of Forensic Medicine. Comprised of a handful of elite graduates, they are the sole unit in all of Japan to be authorized with the use of this highly controversial technology.

At first sight, the possibilities that the MRI scanner introduces sound like a potential deus ex machina that render the mystery around the cases obsolete. In Shimizu’s capable hands, however, that is not the case; the technology remains fascinating throughout the series, always having more surprises in store as the cases take unexpected turns. Reasons for this can be found in the intricacies of its functionality:

Perhaps what contributes to the series’ mood more than anything else is this careful and encompassing consideration of its very setting. Shimizu writes thrilling cases that are technically and emotionally complex, but what makes them so memorable, what makes the reader connect, is that the series never ceases to ask what the right course of action is and whether the use of this new technology is truly justified in every single instance. Its usage is never allowed to become a matter of routine, and any decision made with regard to it is not automatic, but a result of careful assessment. More than just a convenient crime-solving tool, the MRI scanner is thus instrumental in engaging with the questions and themes at the series’ core. And beneath all the heinous crimes and disturbing images, the story that is explored always addresses deeply intimate — and often unspeakably lonely — aspects of the human condition. (More on this on page 6.)