Sunday, October 12, 2014

Seijo


"Is it real or is it counterfeit?"

It's a question asked of and left unanswered by museum docent, Osawa Maria (Hirosue Ryoko), by gallery visitors in discussing Vermeer's St. Praxedes shortly before being led away by the police to face criminal charges for the death of three men she's been involved with. It's also the same question that viewers are made to ask through the course of the series as they see lawyer, Nakamura Haruki (Nagayama Kento), struggle to find out whether the accused, Hijii Motoko a.k.a. Osawa Maria is really a sinner or a saint.

Is this woman merely a gold digger? Or is she a victim of circumstances and an unfortunate object of affection of rich and possessive men?  Moreso, is she a cold-hearted murderer with the face of an angel?

The scenario presented is rife with controversy and personal dilemma given that the woman on trial is shown to be Haruki's former tutor and one-time lover who suddenly disappeared from his life. He would still dream of her and often wonder if she meant it when she said that she loved him years ago when he was a teenager. Now that he's tasked to defend her before a court of law, he's faced with the temptation of rekindling an old romance despite already having a fiancée (Renbutso Misako) and risking his professional integrity should it come to light that he knew her intimately. 


Seijo suffers from an asymmetry in purpose and fractured storytelling, leading the viewer to eventually question if it's in fact a love story, a legal drama or simply a pity party of a character study. It provides two different narratives and therefore shifts voices midway. The first thread concerns itself with one man's recollection of his first love and the circumstances that would bring about an awkward reunion years later. The second plays out as a woman's confession---an account of misdeeds and an ardent but foolish declaration to live out a seemingly impossible dream.

The issues that propel the series forward entail viewers to wait for characters to make a decision even though events as depicted suggest a more dramatic or scandalous form of reckoning. The first two episodes do manage to stir up some intrigue, evoking the memory of a bittersweet love affair and the crushing reality that all of it may just be a deception. It has a fair amount of emotionally-charged scenes that are beautifully rendered but a bit too commonplace and predictable to be actually memorable. Its temperate approach, though successful in handling its more cliché elements, serve only to confirm that there is nothing truly radical or surprising about the series as a whole.

Indeed, the more interesting bits of the series involve the defense panel's line of strategy. The only downside to it is that witnesses are discredited rather too swiftly given that the case is built entirely on circumstantial evidence and any uncertainty regarding Motoko's culpability is dampened by an inkling that she will eventually be unmasked as a cold, calculating opportunist. So while it is but natural for the show to play on the idea of giving the touted villain an acceptable back story, the writing is simply unable to wipe out any lingering suspicion to maximize the impact of this revelation.


Furthermore, Seijo takes it sweet time to confirm things that have been alluded to earlier in the show. Despite having only seven episodes, a lot of things are left unresolved till the last minute, to the extent that long anticipated confrontations between characters end up being unnaturally lukewarm and abrupt.

With the exception of the surviving lover (Otani Ryosuke) and his inconsolable wife (Nakada Yoshiko), all the characters are quite subdued in reacting to stimuli. For instance, Haruki is, for the most part, shown to be on the verge of succumbing to Motoko's advances but is held back rather unconvincingly by his principles and his loyalty to an uncomplicated woman with a sunny disposition. He doesn't make a decision until the penultimate episode, and when he does, he does it without hesitation or regret, thus making light of the central dilemma presented in the previous episodes. The same can be said of the motivation and the vindictive act of the spiteful brother (Aoyagi Sho) and the fiancée's harried yet momentary reaction upon learning how Haruki's heart wavered.

Key scenes in the story as well as the performances of the actors would always suggest a looming threat to the protagonist's character or reputation but it never truly delivered. It's like being given a storm signal warning ahead of time and finding out later that it was an inaccurate forecast. The cast is serviceable, in fact, Hirosue Ryoko hasn't done anything quite this interesting in a while--- but the series, while initially engaging, somehow sidestepped into telling a more conventional tale. At the end of it all, no matter how many potential conflict is thrown in, there's somehow an assurance that all the characters in it will get what they deserve, and with that, one can take comfort.  
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Satsujin Hensachi 70


An act of desperation forces a young man to relive his childhood insecurities and cope with societal pressure in a manner that pushes him to his breaking point---which, coincidentally, is a point of no return. Satsujin Hensachi 70 plays out as a cautionary tale and an admonition of one nation's fixation in equating or measuring a person's worth according to his social standing and/or education.

In concept, it's a clear indictment of the perceived necessity indoctrinated on the youth to get into certain institutions of higher learning and the corresponding prestige attached by Japanese society to it. The featured presentation even goes on to argue that while the current system in place is facially built on meritocracy, the same has a tendency to substantially increase inequality by limiting opportunities and further marginalizing those who from the onset are already in a disadvantaged position in society. This message is delivered making use of an extreme case, providing some suspense and psychological drama similar to the style of movies like Fight Club and Black Swan with a mentally fragile character at its center.



Satsujin Hensachi 70 is the story Miyahara Keisuke (Miura Haruma), a university hopeful who has been trying for the last two years to gain admission to Tokyo University. He's about to take the entrance examination for the third and last time, knowing that he could no longer impose upon his father (Takahashi Katsumi) to financially support him for another year of intensive preparation. Furthermore, he doesn't want to disappoint his girlfriend (Takimoto Miori) who's been nothing but patient with him, despite his coming from a poor, broken family and his indefinite status as a NEET. So the pressure is on for him to succeed. Unfortunately for Keisuke, he oversleeps on the day of the exam and even though he makes haste, he knows that there is no way that he would make it on time.

In a desperate effort to salvage his final shot at getting into the said university, he sends a bomb threat via email to delay the administration of the exam. His plan works and he is able to not only sit through the exam but also pass it. Keisuke's overcome with joy, at least until he is approached by fellow examinee, Tanaka Hiroshi (Shirota Yu) who's figured out what he did and is now demanding hush money.

Driven by anxiety, Keisuke turns over all his savings to Hiroshi, and soon finds himself peddling dubious merchandise in an underground rave club just to come up with the extortion money. Cornered and unable to grant the increasing demands of Hiroshi, Keisuke decides to confront him with the aid of a woman (Kuriyama Chiaki) that he met at the club.


The initial buzz (not to mention the poster) on Satsujin Hensachi 70 provides some misdirection on what it is really about. Its first section is put together like an ordinary thriller, with Keisuke being incessantly stalked and taunted by a bitter and sadistic, Hiroshi. It's a device that is however invalidated by the show's title sequence which quickly alerts viewers of Keisuke's growing mental instability. 

The special in itself is watchable, with middling performances from Miura Haruma and Shirota Yu but there's a noticeable lack of subtlety required to shock and bamboozle audiences into believing its surprise twist. The depiction of conflict is a recurring theme not only between Keisuke and Hiroshi but also between the have and have-nots in society. It tries to replicate that sense of creeping paranoia that often drives cult movies of the same genre and in part manages to achieve it by utilizing visual cues. 

Some scenes are set up like eerie, psychedelic visions, augmenting the emotional turmoil and abject helplessness of the main character. What it lacks however is that sinister element to complement the overall mystery that's built around Keisuke's personal and internal struggle. From a technical aspect, there appears to be a concerted effort to make it look edgy and well-thought out. A rather telling shot that's consistently utilized is an image of Keisuke crossing a bridge that's literally taken sideways to show that his world has tipped over. Those who pay attention will realize that this is just one of many creative shots incorporated to clue people in on what's going on. As the color blue makes a prominent appearance and recurring motifs are effectively strewn all over the show, there should be no doubt in the mind of the viewer that no matter what direction Keisuke takes---he's crossed a bridge and is headed on a downward spiral. 
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kaseifu wa Mita!



A tale of  festering greed and deceit in a renowned family, Kaseifu wa Mita! is a dramedy that is told through the eyes of a housemaid whose services are engaged by the underdog of a household that's in the midst of a power struggle. As a one shot special, it operates on the conceit of having the story rest on not just one but two premises, both of which are, unfortunately, not strong enough to warrant the suspension of disbelief. In fact, one can even go as far as to say that the end product is downright ludicrous.

Sawagura Nobuko (Yonekura Ryoko) is a beautiful and statuesque woman who prefers to disguise herself as an awkward, shabby creature when performing her job as a housekeeper. Clad in black and hiding behind large-rimmed glasses, she catches the eye of Nakamura Akemi (Kitano Kii)---the professed illegitimate daughter of patriarch, Uehara Hidemitsu (Shito Ito), who's about to lose her standing in the Uehara Family after her paternity and status as an heir is challenged by her so-called brothers.

Nobuko enters the Uehara household after being offered an exorbitant amount of money and becomes witness to Akemi's quick wit and use of feminine wiles to secure her place as the reigning queen of the family. And though Nobuko frowns upon Akemi's choice of tactics, she can't help but play the part of confidante and ally to this desperate and shunned child.



Despite attempts at gravity, Kaseifu wa Mita! is a highly predictable drama that is tonally defective, as if it never really made up its mind on whether it's a comedy or a tragedy. It awkwardly shifts from one mood to another in the same way that Nobuko transforms herself from a condescending goddess to servile housekeeper. There's a lot of physical comedy in it that serves no actual purpose, neither does it derive any laughter. The characters are prone to sudden outbursts and all the scurrying about gets old quite fast after the first half hour. It can't even be classified as a parody since it's too serious about upholding dignity and justice as virtues, nor can it be considered an allegory since the characterization of the Uehara household is too cartoonish to demand further reflection.

But perhaps the biggest hurdle to the enjoyment of this special is that it requires a wide latitude for artifice. For example, viewers are asked to believe that to be born beautiful can be a tragic curse, such that a woman so blessed with good looks would go through great lengths just to hide herself on the supposition that her appearance has brought her nothing but trouble. This irrational contempt that the main character has for her natural beauty is utilized not only as a comedic device but as a major plot point which would allow her to become an unwitting participant in a scheme that would decide the standing of members in the said family. Much like Kaseifu no Mita, it posits an extreme explanation for why its main character behaves a certain way, the only difference is that this special does not have the same consistency as the former, having Nobuko change both her looks and demeanor at her own convenience.  


Second, and the cardinal of the two premises offered, is the suggestion that housemaids are duty bound to keep in confidence everything that they see and hear in the exercise of their occupation. This is invoked as a matter of principle; a given, that is forced upon its viewers as a source of conflict. The apparent dilemma created by this tacit agreement between master and servant, however, is later shown to be inconsequential as it is negated and dispatched with ease by the show's resolution.

To make matters worse, none of the characters are likable. Akemi is both victim and perpetrator, while the head of the family is a sleazy old fart who does not pay his taxes. The members of the household are money grubbing sycophants and the law enforcement officers are bungling idiots. Even Nobuko is a hard pill to swallow---she's prone to pontificate about how superficial and materialistic people can be while she herself is leading a life of duplicity. In the end, all the talk about beauty being skin deep and the confidential nature of housekeeping is nothing but a useless pretense to get Yonekura Ryoko to look dowdy, perhaps in a futile attempt  to demonstrate her range (or lack thereof) in acting. 
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kamisama no Beret


Networks, in general, have been known to produce television specials to commemorate a historical event or an illustrious figure, at times, even an iconic artist and his work. In celebration of 40 years since the manga Black Jack hit the stands, Kamisama no Beret shines the spotlight on its creator, Tezuka Osamu and the circumstances that led to his comeback in the 1970s.

Tracing the inception of this popular manga would have obviously been the more interesting feature, but the special itself seems to be more than satisfied with merely extolling the virtue of hard work. It disputes the commonly accepted notion of the said artist's God-given genius and instead offers a portrait of a man who perseveres amidst times of failure.

Set in a period when emerging young comic artists exhibit their own style and readers are on the hunt for something new and interesting, Black Jack is acknowledged as a product of Tezuka's tenacity and one chief editor's unwavering confidence in the former's ability to craft a story.

Designed for the appreciation of kids and young adults, Kamisama no Beret is an inspirational but fantastical account of Tezuka's inquisitive nature and relentless energy. Detractors can argue the same to be a sanitized depiction of a revered personality's troublesome work ethic and questionable management skills, but his talent, his quirks, and whatever shortcomings as depicted comprise two sides of the same coin. Those who want more insight on the man and his work habits are better off watching the 1985 NHK Tokushu Tezuka Osamu: Sosaku no Himitsu documentary, but as a primer, the special does well in keeping things light and palatable.



Using unexplained time travel as a narrative device (just like in Superbook), the special is told through the point of view of new hiree, Odamachi Sakura (Oshima Yuko) of Akita Publishing, who is transported back to 1973. 
A crucial time for Tezuka (Kusanagi Tsuyoshi), the renowned mangaka hasn't had a hit in years and is saddled by debt with a company that's on the verge of bankruptcy. Through the help of Chief Editor Kabemura Taizo (Sato Koichi) of Weekly Shōnen Champion, he is given a break and commissioned to create an original 4-volume manga.

From hereon, Tezuka is shown to diligently work on conceptualizing Black Jack on his own. He gathers materials for his background research and spends hours contemplating on how to make his stories interesting and current. Despite having a team of artists working for him, his most productive hours appear to be spent working alone. And it's in his private workroom that the so-called magic happens, where he relentlessly and personally drafts each installment of his manga to his satisfaction.

Ever conscious of feedback, he strives to keep his work fresh; not thinking twice about delaying the submission of his work should he find it unfit for publication to the utter consternation of his colleagues and editors. He is said to be famous for missing deadlines and is often criticized for accepting more work than he is capable to deliver at any given time, but all misgivings about frazzled editors and over fatigued subordinates are brushed aside, seemingly justified by the magnitude of his body of work.


As an editorial assistant, Odamachi bears witness to the amount of time and work that goes into putting out a volume of manga. She is also made to realize---by having observed Tezuka's indefatigable spirit---the virtue of dedicating one's self to one's work. The primary tenet of this special argues in favor of "talent" and "perfection" acquired through persistent practice and revision as opposed to it being an inborn trait.  It's just a shame that for a special that recounts how a famous manga is made, Kamisama no Beret  provides absolutely nothing about the thought process and inspiration behind the composition of Black Jack as a character and a serial.

With thick black frames and the signature beret (not to mention a lumpy pillow for a belly), Kusanagi Tsuyoshi is able to replicate the familiar and amiable aura of Tezuka to moderate effect. Together with Tanaka Kei, Okada Yoshinori, Kohinata Fumiyo and Asari Yosuke, all playing bit parts but with equal reverence, this is one drama special that curiously pays tribute to a man who's been dubbed as "the god of manga" by making him appear ordinary when clearly, he's anything but. 
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Saturday, September 06, 2014

Nana to Kaoru


In stark contrast to the flock of pure love manga series that have been recently made into film, the live-action adaptation of Ryuta Amazume's Nana to Kaoru comes off as a black sheep, having at its core an innocent young love that's expressed in an untraditional manner. With an oiroke manga as its source material, this movie is simultaneously childish and funny, but also wistful and erotic. Those with a prudish disposition are advised to stay away, given that the subject matter of the movie involves two teenagers' accidental and awkward immersion into bondage and sadomasochism. Its premise may be weird and reprehensible but in the end, it does manage to do more by offering some insight into this alternative lifestyle than say, far-fetched, gratuitous bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey.

While scandalous in some respects for tackling behavior that is taboo, the film in itself is somewhat ero-lite. It's not as radical or provocative as Moonlight Whispers because despite the deviant display of fanservice, it often pulls back and settles into a teen romance. Yes, it has the ability to shock but it never goes into extremes, which is why it's in an unusual position to repulse viewers and at the same time touch their hearts. 

Would I recommend it? It really is a tough call to make for there are elements in it that work well and still elements that could have been done better. To appreciate it, one must keep an open mind and, since Nana to Kaoru firmly belongs in B-movie territory, a high tolerance for instances of poor acting. Be that as it may, it's certainly a leg up from manga-based adaptations of the same genre like Sundome.


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Childhood friends and next door neighbors, Sugimura Kaoru (Tochihara Rakuto) and Chigusa Nana (Nagase Maho) have slowly drifted apart through the years on account of seemingly different pursuits and interests. He's a slacker who has an S&M fetish, acquiring the nickname "Creepymura" for hanging out with horny boys in his section who oggle at girls and collect porn. She, on the other hand, is a natural beauty according to the movie anyway and  a model student who excels at pretty much everything she sets her mind to.

Kaoru knows that Nana is out of his league and has resigned himself to admire her from afar. His status as a pariah in high school prevents him from getting close to her, that is, until one fateful night, when he finds an embarrassed and insecure Nana on his doorstep in need of his help. He soon discovers Nana wearing the leather one-piece bondage outfit that his mother confiscated and is surprised to  see how it elicited such a visceral reaction from her. He's equally pleased to find out how receptive she is to his attempts to subjugate her and is beside himself with joy when he's solicited by Nana to help her out with her "breathers".

Armed only with the teachings of his beloved S&M guru Sarashina, Kaoru sets out to fulfill Nana's wish by preparing for and assisting her with her breathers. Together, they embark on this journey in secret, ushered by the satisfaction that they derive from being with each other and the thrill of being discovered doing something so... uhm, unconventional. 


The beauty of this Shimizu Atsushi adaptation is that it doesn't stray from its source material. The film endeavors to be sexy and erotic but is devoid of any nudity or sexual intercourse. It pays sufficient attention to Nana and Kaoru's relationship by following the progression of their S&M play, but more importantly, it underscores the level of trust, devotion and love involved in it. Aside from the apparent thrill and the perceived perversity of engaging in such activities, the screenplay doesn't fail to take into consideration the emotional connection that allows for this kind of intimacy. This much can be seen by how much Kaoru is shown to genuinely care for Nana and her well-being. Conversely, the same can be seen in Nana's willingness to submit to Kaoru even when she's shown to be naturally steadfast and domineering.

What sets Nana to Kaoru apart is its ability to balance its more risqué content with tender, heartfelt moments, this notwithstanding the fact that certain scenes as depicted have the inherent tendency to turn odious without proper direction. Viewers can witness the beginnings of first love, as often seen in countless movies, the only difference is that their red string of fate manifests itself through a leash and a collar. The smattering of comical sequences also tend to lighten the tone, they serve to emphasize the relative inexperience of its characters, though it would probably have worked better if they weren't made to vocalize their inner thoughts and emotions in the same batty air as manga and anime characters do.

Of the two actors, Tochihara Rakuto has the more worrisome task of transforming into a lecherous teen when playing the dominant role to turning into a lovestruck young man, plagued by self-doubt. He often goes over the top when Kaoru is at the height of their breathers but does a good job at conveying the softer side of the character. With Nagase Maho, it's more of a struggle. There's a duality to the role of Nana which is quite difficult to capture and more often than not, she ends up portraying her as a cute, whiny teen who tends to lick her lips at the thought of being called a bad girl. To be fair, the two of them do manage to create one or  two memorable scenes, which is more than a film of this kind can hope for. 
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Keiji no Genba


Keiji no Genba provides a no-frills look at old school investigation work, focusing on the daily challenges encountered by those charged with the country's law enforcement in a mini-series that doesn't have the commercial appeal of BOSS, the highly dramatic backdrop of Gonzo: Densetsu no Keiji or the attention to forensic detail of Rinjo. On the flipside, its pedestrian quality can be considered its selling point, for though the episodes often lacked the element of surprise, it managed to do away with the pretense of trying to pull a fast one on its viewers at the expense of a logical narrative.

Showcasing just four episodes in its initial run in 2008, this cop show with an all too familiar premise of pairing a rookie cop with a veteran detective was appealingly short, however ostensibly incomplete, until it came back for a second season in 2009 wherein main character Kato Keigo appears to be under the tutelage of a different senior officer.

I've been meaning to write about this series for a while now but kept pushing it off since I wanted to see the second installment of this series to determine if it was actually any good or just some random mid-season insert in NHK's programming schedule. Unfortunately, despite years of waiting, its second season slipped through the cracks and never caught the attention of subbers. Come to think of it, I also never got around to securing the raws after the Feds took down Megaupload.

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Keiji no Genba essentially chronicles the on-the-job training of fledgling cop, Kato Keigo  (Moriyama Mirai) with soon-to-retire detective, Isesaki Shoichi (Terao Akira). The series starts with the investigation of a bomb threat at a local supermarket and proceeds to immerse viewers into the variety of incidents and cases that the members of the police force are asked to respond to on a daily basis. As mentioned earlier, what differentiates this show from others is that the depiction of events are always kept grounded, and law enforcement as an occupation is neither shown to be glamorous and exciting. It even gives particular emphasis to debunking the nobility and heroism often attributed to self-sacrifice, impressing upon the main character the value of staying alive in order to help others. 

Keigo's foray into police work is a lesson on calm logic and keen observation, patiently imparted upon him by a kind yet firm mentor. The difficulties faced by a newbie cop is highlighted in each episode -- the first one pits the rookie's zeal against a seasoned detective's intuition; the second, highlights the difficulty of remaining impartial when the person interrogated is someone you know; the third, shows how stakeouts and the apprehension of the criminal can be a tedious affair; and the last episode, pretty much demonstrates how rash decisions based on good intentions can be as lethal as not taking action. In all the cases, the culprit is shown to be an ordinary person. Criminal masterminds or psychopathic villains are not in attendance, for neighbors, housewives, teachers and doctors dealing with their own set of circumstances are shown to be equally capable of breaking the law. Serious crimes are portrayed but never in a sensational light, as such the show doesn't have a sense of urgency or intrigue, which sadly means, that it doesn't come off as particularly compelling or must-see television.

 

In Keiji no Genba, crime solving is more a matter of discipline and a product of a good work ethic. It is acquired through hard work and field experience; if one were to believe the elderly officers tasked to guide the new recruits that will soon be occupying their posts. The differences in attitudes and approaches could not have been more pronounced---as the older generation of law enforcers do their best to impart whatever knowledge they have to their younger counterparts (in view of the absence of intermediate officers given the country's aging population). The mini-series plays up this dilemma by focusing on the existing generation gap in the characterization of its two leads. Less subtle but equally effective, the same can also be seen in the general hair and wardrobe design of the series.  

Moriyama Mirai is adequate in the role of Kato Keigo, however it's the veteran actors, Terao Akira and Uzaki Ryudo, that lend credibility to the series and provide its moral core.

All in all, the first season of the series is watchable but extremely slow and uneventful going by today's expectations of the genre. As a buddy-cop series, the characters harken back to Kurosawa's Stray Dog, which means that any disagreement between them is handled in a civil manner with no prolonged conflict. As a police procedural, it does not have a penchant for violence or detail, neither does it attempt to be clever in any way or form, making this mini-series a middle-of-the-road entry.  
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Higashino Keigo SP: Brutus no Shinzou


Credited for producing gripping, unforgettable tales and commercially viable serials that translate well to mainstream media, Higashino Keigo's stories seem to be considered by television and movie execs as a safe bet. It's the only explanation why numerous adaptations of mystery novels have been made-- no doubt in the hopes of amassing the same viewership as its reader-fan base, leveled only against the off chance of screening to less critical acclaim. And though much can be said about the relative popularity and success of certain drama adaptations, this only serves to prove that all are not created equal, as poor casting choices and inconsistencies in quality, and possibly an inherent weakness in the story, continue to plague such feature presentations.

In 2011, Fuji TV increased its stockpile of the above author's work, commissioning three drama specials as a precursor to the anthology series (a.k.a. the poorly received drama entitled Higashino Keigo Mysteries), that was released a year later. The triumvirate made up of 11 Moji no Satsujin, Brutus no Shinzou and Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken proved to be an interesting selection---for though based on early material, each special managed to distinguish itself from the rest by drawing different scenarios and motives for murder.

Essentially stripped down and traditional representations of the genre, each one had something different to offer, though certainly, the appreciation of each would depend on one's literary and cinematic predisposition. 


Front act, 11 Moji no Satsujin  was the equivalent of a paint by numbers thriller about a writer that sets out to investigate the sudden death of her lover. The most cohesive of the three, it had a story that was easy to follow, marred only by the weak depiction of the relationship between the victim and the protagonist, making the whole investigation more of a dangerous past time than a quest for justice. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, revenge thriller Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken ran high on intrigue and personal drama from the get-go but played out like a convoluted excursion into a jilted lover's demand for retribution. Heavily atmospheric and set in a different time period, this special had in its center a warped romance with a psychological twist brought to a head by a scenario which could have been drawn from cluedo. 

And so, between the banality of the former and the soap operatic tendencies of the latter, if I were to recommend viewing only one of the three, my personal pick would be Brutus no Shinzou. Deriving inspiration from the adage that "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry", this special managed to mesh elementary story-telling with Hitchcockian sensibilities.

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Software designer Suenuga Takuya (Fujiwara Tatsuya) will do anything to rise up the ranks of an industrial company and further his robotics design research with the latest prototype, Brutus. He's managed to gain recognition for his work and present himself as a viable match to the CEO's daughter (Ashina Sei). But when his intermittent trysts with a secretary (Uchiyama Rina) threaten to derail his ascent to the top, he resorts to drastic measures to ensure his bright future. Along with two colleagues who share the same dirty secret, they plot to commit the perfect crime only to find themselves as the target of an unknown enemy.

The first hour of the special beautifully sets up the dilemma of the characters and ratchets the tension with the planning and the commission of an ingenious crime. The second half, however, was not that strong as things slowed down to a snail's pace with the subsequent elimination of  would-be suspects. What many might find issue with is the forced manner in which two seemingly unrelated events are sewn together to explain the flow of events but to be fair, this is a common device used by the genre.

Side characters and tangential storylines can be expected to comprise a bigger piece of the puzzle and whether or not they fit in perfectly can be attributed to how well or how little is revealed. In this case, the denouement was an awkward affair due to the heightened attention bestowed upon the main character and the consequences of his actions.


Delivering yet again, a ruthless tenacity to a character that is broken and morally corrupt, Fujiwara Tatsuya managed to effectively convey the arrogance and desperation of a man driven to succeed at all costs. Since the special is told from the point of view of Suenuga, it was important to get an actor who can be intense and emphatic, vile and resolute; and for this purpose, Fujiwara's repertoire of roles is of great service. The only drawback to this approach was that the revelation of the identity of the killer was ultimately sidelined by the more pressing question of what would await such a man who had such a low regard for the life of others. 

As a mystery thriller, it had pacing issues and took on an overt moralistic tone. The portrayal of Suenuga's skewed sense of morality and purpose tend to dominate the story but further reflection would reveal the absolute brilliance of the drama's title in capturing its beginning, middle and end. The primary strength of Brutus no Shinzou can be found in its thematic consistency---it's a tale about a friend's betrayal and of one man's cold and traitorous heart; moreso, it's about the folly of committing one's self to another who is incapable of reciprocating the same love and devotion.    
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