Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dias Police: Ihou Keisatsu (2016)

Dias Police conjures up Tokyo as a city teeming with illegal immigrants, living on the fringes of society under the protection and guidance of an underground government. By procuring the services of such government, undocumented aliens, political refugees and criminal fugitives alike get a new lease in life, finding for themselves a safe haven on foreign soil. They coexist and thrive in one district, following certain rules of conduct, forming a community that looks after their own.

Peace and order is enforced by one man named Kubozuka Saki (Matsuda Shota), who plays the role of trouble shooter, dispute broker, neighborhood patrolman and criminal investigator. Widely recognized and referred to as the sole member and self-appointed chief of the dias(pora) police, Saki investigates and responds to any incident involving any member of their community. He identifies malefactors who pose a threat to their way of life and occasionally puts himself in harm's way just to save those in his ward. His duties range from giving street directions to the elderly, to facing off with hired assassins and gang members, to catching the culprit behind a string of murders that specifically target foreigners. Along for the ride is his sidekick, Suzuki (Kenta Hamano), a former bank employee who's on the lam for allegedly embezzling funds.

The series basically follows Saki and Suzuki on the job and on the trail of unsavory and dangerous characters in five cases served up in two episode installments. What sets this apart from other dramas is that it touches upon delicate issues that one won't normally see on prime time television and refrains from making any grandiose lectures, allowing each episode to speak for itself. The cases dealt with are gruesome and lurid in nature---the show features organ harvesting for profit, human trafficking, black market trading and hate crimes, all in a span of ten episodes. These scenarios are presented with honest brutality, often mitigated by some form of hilarity, in addition to some ridiculous maneuver on the part of the dias police that would send the bad guys running. The outcome of each incident is often oversimplified to the point of incredulity but each episode has enough disquieting imagery to hammer in the injustice, hostility and peril that these illegal immigrants face on a daily basis.

As a dark comedy that indirectly castigates the country's insular attitude, Dias Police essays an alternative to a homogeneous society by showing the potential of a diversified community. The series tries to bring this vision to life by having a supporting cast of foreign actors converge in a restricted locale, exemplifying a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. Furthermore, the overall set design has a retro-ghetto vibe to it that does not lend itself to a specific time period which deceptively makes the show feel current without committing itself to a specific time frame. It has a unique look which is dingy but whimsical, where back-alleys and seedy rooms give way to a specialty restaurant abuzz with friendly folk, and crime scenes are paled by a roof deck where a replica of the Statue of Liberty looms above a group of women doing basic yoga poses.

No matter how serious or dire the storyline gets, or how many trigger warnings it may set off, the show is simply unable to shrug off the comic attributes of its source material. And while it has its share of human scum and violent thugs, there are also numerous characters in it seemingly lifted from the pages of the manga that make the show skirt reality. The sickle-wielding female enforcer, the conspicuously dressed and inked assassin, the large-nosed male porn-star wannabe and the silver-haired xenophobe leader are just some of the characters that make this series a tad outlandish and laughable. Combine that with the ways in which the only police officer in town comes to the rescue armed only with his wits and the odd household item (e.g. hand drill, mouse trap and a lighter), Dias Police tows the line between crime drama and satire, and it doesn't work all the time since over the top acting inevitably undercuts the drama. 

Another thing that might bother viewers is that the series ends without revealing the true identity of its protagonist when such information was treated to be of some value or, at the very least, a point of interest in the story. The episodic format provides very little by way of character exposition despite constantly showing Saki in action. His roots remain a mystery and all that is known of him is that he speaks several languages and is resourceful enough to perform his job effectively. It has been alluded to that he arrived in Japan as a war refugee, but beyond that, the question of how and why he came to be the dias police does not appear to be of particular concern to the series. 



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