Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Himitsu Chouhouin Erika

Sultry [wannabe J-pop singer and] actress of Battle Royale and Kill Bill fame, Kuriyama Chiaki, plays a housewife with a unique part-time job as a spy in a midnight drama that has the cheekiness of Charlie's Angels, the many guises of Sydney Bristow in Alias, and a black outfit reminiscent of the one that Jessica Alba wore during her Dark Angel stint. With basic action sequences complemented by the right menacing look and ready-for-action posturing, this is a relatively entertaining show that presents miniscule cases with an arguably feminist slant and not-so-creative resolutions. At times engaging and at times boring, this is a series that intends to showcase Chiaki's supposed versatility and singing prowess---when it truth, it's nothing more than a mixed bag of flimsy spy fiction.

Okay, so this kid has been on my radar ever since she appeared in Battle Royale as the beautiful and athletic Chigusa who stabbed a boy in the crotch (ouch!) to "defend" herself. And she probably caught a whole lot more attention from people when she landed the role of a ball and chain wielding, psychopathic schoolgirl assassin in a Quentin Tarantino film, which in turn cemented her image as a cool, ass-kicking chick. Thin and willowy, I find her oddly alluring when she's portraying a character with a murderous gleam in her eyes; however, her attempt at playing other roles such as the girl-next-door (Tokkyu Tanaka 3-Go), the awkward sidekick (Atami no Sousakan) or the artistic best friend (Rebound), I find, doesn't have the same impact.

Is she a one-trick pony or merely an unfortunate victim of character association and viewer typecasting?

I can't really say, but what I do know is that it irks me to see her sing. Perhaps the only good thing about seeing her in music videos lately is that you now get to see an intentionally seductive girl who's of legal age as opposed to a pubescent child whose pictures appear in questionable publications. Anyway, I didn't think I'd get to watch Himitsu Chouhouin Erika anytime soon after the great megaupload lockdown of 2012 but since the episodes of this series came in such small sizes, I was able to get a copy of it in no time. I also have to attribute this viewing marathon to reading jt's blogpost early this year, after which, I decided to check out the drama that "tickled him" even if it meant placing the apparently far more superior drama, Girl K, and its eponymous heroine with the short skirt and long jacket, on the backburner.

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In Himitsu Chouhouin Erika, Kuriyama Chiaki plays Takahashi Erika, a retired intelligence agent who's left behind her life of espionage in favor of pursuing a happy family life, taking care of  her loving husband Ryousuke (Tonesaku Toshihide), who knows nothing about her past, and slowly winning the heart of young Kyoutaro, her step son (Taniai Junya).

After enjoying a year or so of domestic bliss, Erika is once again called into action when her former boss and mentor, Totsuka (Sugimoto Tetta), recruits her help in solving cases for his private investigation agency in exchange for keeping her past as a spy a secret from her family. Determined to protect them from danger and intrigue, at the same time, convinced of the merit of the cases brought before them by the defenseless and oppressed clients of the agency, Erika finds herself making use of her skills as a spy, leading a double life as a simple housewife and a capable undercover agent with long loose tresses and killer heels, looking dynamite even after crawling into an air vent or coming off a fist fight...     

With the help of college tech whiz Jyunpei (Ide Takuya) working under the supervision of Totsuka, Erika manages to crack open a number of cases, bringing to justice an assembly of gangsters, fraudsters and perverts by obtaining damning evidence through some entrapment scheme and after delivering a light beating.

For those who want to check out this series, bear in mind that each Himitsu Chouhouin Erika episode features a cut and dried case with a recognizable villain who could very well be twirling a handlebar moustache for being the obvious culprit. Also, do not expect an elaborate or intelligent scheme behind the capture of said criminals for the team relies heavily on the extensive use of a voice modulator device that serves as the basic con, which brings to mind the equally exasperating use of life-like face masks in Mission Impossible 2. The action sequences are brief with very little variation, there are recurring combinations present made interesting only by the diversity of weapons used and of course, the impenetrable stare of Kuriyama Chiaki as accentuated by a dark-penciled eyeliner.

Surprisingly, the victim in each case would almost always be a woman. In fact, the series paints a rather dangerous world for members of the female species who, for the most part, are customarily  pegged to be innately weak, docile, and/or gullible---either for having neglected an important aspect of their life or for overcompensating for their assumed inferiority. As such, they're sexually harassed, discriminated against and even taken advantage of by greedy, lecherous men at every turn, and it takes another woman, in the person of Erika, to help them get out of trouble. However, even by design, the very model of strength and courage displayed by the show's righteous and impulsive super spy is likewise open to contradiction---for on one hand, you have a confident and talented heroine; on the other, you also have a timorous woman who has desperately clung to this idea of happiness at the expense of concealing a part of her identity from her family.


Episodic though it may be, Himitsu Chouhouin Erika does present a fairly engaging storyline in exploring how its main character juggles the role of spy, newlywed and stepmother, thereby producing some humorous even heartfelt moments improbably instigated by its lead actress. Superficially layered with both professional and personal conflict, the subplot pertaining to the discovery of a mole within the intelligence agency is a no-brainer; the whole story arc surrounding Totsuka's forced resignation being decidedly weak compared to the suspense built on the possibility of Erika's blockhead of a husband discovering what his wife's been doing aside from her household chores. 

The series does well to take advantage of its lead actress' cool yet dangerous image, obviously milking the espionage angle in showing Chiaki Kuriyama's transition from bare-faced homely housewife to smoky secret agent with a killer fight stance in 12 individual cases that can each be easily solved within the show's running time of 20 minutes. Combining dramatic and comedic elements with typical action stunt work, this is a guilt-free, inconsequential alternative  for those who are wary of the star-studded, over-hyped dramas that came out last fall 2011.


  1. see, what did i say? it's fun right? haha.. but chiaki kuriyama is hot. i just cant find time to finish this series though.. and some other jdramas as well. i think after a long break from real life, the present day seems to be a good time to pause jdramas/tv shows and get my life to reality.

  2. It was fun for the most part. Although I think you're better off not watching it in one sitting because the schemes and the action sequences can be repetitive.

    "After a long break from real life"---kinda reminded me of the jdorama Long Vacation, lol. But, yeah I know what you mean. I guess as you grow older, it gets harder to find the time to watch tv/dramas since you have a lot of things to attend to.